What comes up if you search for your name on Google? Go ahead, try it.
For those of you that share a name with a famous celebrity, it will probably be a lot of press coverage and news articles. But for most people, the results can be somewhat chaotic and irrelevant. A few months ago, the first page of results for “Hartley Brody” had stats from my little league baseball team, some notes about my middle school swimming career, and links to random people-finder websites.
None of this was relevant to someone who might have been trying to search for me. As you start a job search and put yourself out there for the first time, there are many reasons it is important to “own” the search results for your name.
Here are five steps to help you get relevant content onto that all-important first page of results for your name.
1. Start a blog
Blogging is the most important thing you can do, because search engines love blogs for a lot of reasons:
- Content is updated regularly, so the site isn’t stale. Search engines favor fresh content over old, static pages. You’ll be much more likely to rank highly if your site is regularly updated.
- Blogging creates many pages your site, and generally more pages equals more authority in the eyes of the search engines.
- Studies show that blogs attract way more links and social shares than static websites. Which is really important since the number of inbound links a site has is the most important factor Google uses when ranking sites in search results.
Blogs are also great because they give you a chance to establish credibility and expertise in a certain field. Write about what you know and love, whether it’s photography, music, playing a sport, or whatever else you’re passionate about.
Once you have established a blog and have been writing for a few weeks, you will have created a repository of content that people will find when they search for you, which automatically makes you seem savvy, trustworthy and authoritative. Pretty cool, right?
2. Build links
Once you have a presence on the internet, you want to ensure that it isn’t buried on the 20th page of results for your name. The easiest way to do this is to build inbound links to your website.
Try to get links to your site from as many legitimate places as you can. If you have social media profiles or accounts on various websites, make sure you add your URL to you account so that you get a handful of links right away.
Another thing that’s important is the anchor text of your inbound links.
Anchor text is the text that is underlined whenever you see a link. As an example, here’s a link to my homepage with “Hartley Brody” as the anchor text:
If there are websites or blogs where your name has been mentioned, try contacting them and asking politely if they’ll turn your name into a link to your homepage.
This will help you build both the number of links to your site, and the quality of those links. This is key to getting your homepage to rank well.
3. Make your social media profiles public
This one might be a little controversial for some people. As college students, we’re constantly being told to worry about our privacy online, so that strangers (and employers) don’t find out any information we wouldn’t want them to know.
But remember, we’re trying to build a public presence here. You can use your social media profiles to fill up the first page of search results for your name and crowd out other, irrelevant content. Keep them somewhat clean, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed to have them rank highly for your name.
Maybe only make your LinkedIn & Twitter public, and hide your Facebook. However you want to do it. Just know that the more websites that rank highly for your name, the more control you have over what people see when they search for you.
4. Own the URL with your name in it
If you haven’t already, I would HIGHLY recommend buying the domain name with your first and last name. Even if you don’t follow any of these other steps, this one is critical. You don’t want someone else to have control of YourfirstnameYourlastname.com.
It might sound ludicrous that someone else would buy the domain with your name in it, but there are people who make a living by buying hundreds of thousands of domain names and hoping to resell them to individuals later at a higher price.
Quick story: Fresh on Campus started out as freshoncampus.blogspot.com and a few days after we launched, someone else purchased freshoncampus.com. When we made the switch to our own URL, I had to buy the domain name from him at a much higher price than I otherwise would have if I’d have bought it right away.
Plus, having the URL that contains your name almost guarantees that you’ll rank at the top of the results when people search for you. You should probably host your blog on this domain.
5. Setup Google Alerts for your name
Google is constantly crawling the internet and indexing new content. They’ve setup this cool tool called Google Alerts that lets you monitor certain keywords and receive a notification any time Google finds a new piece of content containing that keyword. You can have these emailed to you, or you can setup an RSS feed that you can subscribe to for the latest updates.
This a great chance to keep an eye on what new content Google has about you to make sure your site stays relevant. It can also help you identify new link building opportunities to keep your site at the top of the results.
Optimizing you presence in search engines can take awhile. It might take over a week for Google to find your site, even after you start building links to it. And it’ll take even longer for it to rank on the first page of results. But optimizing results around your name is a great investment in your personal brand and has lots of long term value.
What are you doing to own your search results?