Some might think it narcissistic, but Googling yourself gives you a glimpse of what the rest of the world sees when someone is interested in discovering more about you. In social situations, like after a first date, the consequences of unflattering search results can be embarrassing to be sure (oh, that’s why they never called me back…). However, the real danger is the damage that can be done in professional situations like when you are looking for a job and recruiting managers decide to do their due diligence. That being said, stop reading and Google yourself right now, I’ll wait…
OK, now don’t hyperventilate; everything’s going to be just fine (probably). Your main focus should be the first page of results that comes up since most people don’t bother going any further than that when casually doing background internet snooping. What you saw on that first page of results can basically be sorted into one of three categories:
- “Oh no, I totally forgot that I posted those photos from Cancun on Facebook!”
- “Hmm, apparently there is a drug dealer who has the same name as me and their mug shot is the first search result.”
- “Everything is fine, there is nothing that I wouldn’t want my grandmother to see.”
While specific details will vary, there are steps that you can take right now to address each of these situations:
For the situation where you have unflattering pictures posted from one of your social networking accounts, just delete them or make certain that you have your privacy settings set so that only your friends have access to your information and photos. If it happens to be one of your friends or family that posted an unfortunate picture and tagged you so that it appears in searches, untag yourself or contact them and explain how you would rather not have pictures of yourself be public without your permission.
If you happen to have a rather common name or are just really unlucky and discover that there are some unsavory characters coming up when you Google your full name, I have some good news and some bad news. Bad news first: there is really nothing that you can do to take the bad results down. The good news is that you can send the bad results down indirectly by creating new results that outrank the bad stuff, hopefully pushing your evil namesake off of the first page of results. How might this be done? Create some new web pages that display your name prominently!
- Set up a free blog through a site like Blogger.
- Do you have a personal website? Get one! Be a big spender and plunk down $10 for your own domain (JohnDoe.com) and use a site builder like Weebly or WordPress to put together your website.
- Not willing to shell out any money for your own website? There are still other ways to set up free personal sites through companies like Vizify.com, About.me, and BrandYourself.com. BrandYourself also has the added benefit of walking you through other ways to improve your search results.
- Are there any social networking sites that you haven’t joined (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Foursquare, etc.)? Join them all and use your full real name when setting up the account. These companies do a great job of making sure that their accounts show up prominently when people search for names.
Once all of these steps are taken, you’ll be surprised how quickly you and your accounts/web pages dominate the first page of search results. Even if you don’t have anything negative show up and you fall into that third category of being able to show your search results to dear old grandma, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by taking these steps to show that you are an active member of the internet society (there aren’t that many companies these days that consider technophobes viable candidates).
The bottom line is that the content on that first page of search results when someone Googles your name is not something to be taken lightly. In addition to any social consequences of embarrassing search results, there’s also a very real chance that the negative things listed could prevent you from getting that dream job that you’ve had your eye on. You now have the tools to fix those blemishes so no excuses, hop to it!