Have you Googled yourself lately?
When I hear about someone who’s supposedly an expert in some area, I type that person’s name into Google. (Don’t you?) If I don’t see a likely link on the first page of search results, I add a keyword to the search and re-run it.
Here’s a simple example. The newly appointed dean of our journalism school has a common-sounding name, John Wright. So let’s look at two Google searches:
As you might expect, there are a lot of men named John Wright: a hockey player, a California pastor, and a British folksinger, to name only a few. No pages about our new dean appear on the first page of Google search results. But then add that one keyword — journalism — and what do you get? A results page on which almost every link refers to our dean. (Good for him, and good for our college too.)
If you’re a journalist — or a journalism student who hopes to enter the field — this should concern you. First, what results do you get when you Google yourself (first name, last name, no quotation marks)? Most important, what are the top two or three links? I hope they do not go to pages about you that make you look like an idiot, a sex fiend, or a drunk.
If you have a relatively common name, like our dean, then add a single likely keyword. If not journalism, then maybe photography or design. Try to think of a keyword that a potential employer might use when searching for YOU.
Now you should see yourself in the top three links. If not, you’d better get to work!
According to a December 2007 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project:
Fully 60% of internet users say they are not worried about how much information is available about them online. … Just 38% say they have taken steps to limit the amount of online information that is available about them.
I’d like to point out that the majority of Internet users do not work in media industries — but you probably do (or want to). In addition to making sure people don’t uncover unflattering information about you, you should take steps to make sure that what they do uncover is flattering and accurate.
Steve Yelvington wrote about this last week:
“Digital identity” is just plain identity. Either people know who you are and what you stand for, or they don’t.
The Internet isn’t some fringe thing. Every day, more people use the Internet than read daily newspapers. If you want fringe, take a look at newspaper editorial pages, read by a tiny minority. If you want [to] enhance the marketplace of civic conversation, go where the people are and show some leadership.
Steve’s right on the money, as usual. Here are three ridiculously easy steps you can take TODAY to ensure that people who go looking for you will find you when they Google you:
- Create a profile and post your resume at LinkedIn. It’s free. (Look at my profile.)
- Start a free blog at either Blogger or WordPress.com (I recommend WordPress, but I did start at Blogger). Ryan Sholin put it this way: “If you’re a journalist, starting conversations is your job.” If you call yourself a journalist and you don’t have a blog, I think the boat is going to sail without you.
- Buy a domain name for your real name (e.g., mindymcadams.com). You can purchase a domain name only (no services) for about $7/year. You can purchase a domain name and 12 months of Web hosting for that domain for about $70 – $85/year (U.S. prices; you can find cheaper hosting in some other countries). Try out Google Apps — for $10 a year, you get both a new domain name AND Web hosting, and everything is quite easy to set up. You don’t have a ton of flexibility, but if all you want is an online resume, this will be perfect for you.
Think about your future in the journalism field and what you want people to see when you type YOUR name into Google.