Do you exist on Google and why should you care?

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This was the title of the breakout sessions I delivered as part of the London Economic Development Corporations Student To Business Networking event last week, as well as the keynote to over 700 students and local company employees and it was interesting to note how many of them came up to me afterwards and admitted that they had not been paying as much attention to this as they obviously needed to as part of their personal brand management.

So I thought I would blog an article that I had published a while ago that speaks to this subject and what you can do about it. We also filmed both sessions and will be creating a number of products from this the first of which is a bundle package "Building your Personal Brand Online and Offline" and includes two presentations on DVD - the keynote on Personal Branding for Career Success and the breakout session Do you exist on Google and why should you care? along with two completely revised and updated publications, (in both e-book and printed format), one specifically about creating unique career marketing documents other than the resume "STOP Sending the Resume" and the other "Google ME! – 10 easy steps to building your online brand".

After launch this is going to retail for $197 plus applicable taxes and shipping, but if you pre-order then you can recieve an additional complete set of books and DVD's FREE! – thats two complete "Building Your Personal Brand Online and Offline" bundles, AND we will pay for the shipping – thats better than two for the price of one.

E-mail [email protected] to reserve your copies now.

Why having an online presence is critical to job search and personal success. It is over 10 years since Tom Peters first wrote about the concept of personal branding in his Fast Company article “The Brand Called You” and only now are we starting to realize and embrace the importance of branding for ourselves – identifying and communicating our differences to stand out, get noticed and secure that deal or be hired for that next great project. 

Much the same as branding is no longer just for the large corporations like Nike or Coca-Cola the same applies to having a presence on the web. You can be assured that as you use the web for research that your business contacts and prospects are checking you out online by Googling you and it is critical to know what is being said or not being said about you. 

A survey of executives by Execunet reveals that while the vast majority (82%) expect companies and recruiters to enter their name into a search engine during the course of their next job search, one-in-three (33%) have never actually conducted a search of their own name to determine what information about their personal or professional lives exists online. This is more than just ‘ego-surfing’ to see if you even exist, other surveys have identified that significant numbers of business people are using search engines like Google as one of the first steps in gathering perceptions and knowledge about people that they want to do business with and it’s imperative that you come up in those searches if you want to get ahead and not be left behind.

A survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for search engine Dogpile, said about 23 percent of adult Internet users in the United States have searched online for their clients or customers, workers or potential employees, and supervisors or prospective managers.

So where should you start? Firstly it’s a good idea to get a baseline of where your online identity is now. That can be done quickly by looking at your ‘Google score’ and seeing how many hits you have on your name, if it’s a common one then it might take a little more work in sorting through which one’s are yours. If you have no online identity or very little that is okay, its something that can quite quickly be built upon, but if there is digital dirt out there on you then that’s a whole different story.

 In an Execunet recruiter survey of those who use sites such as Google and Yahoo! to check the background of job seekers, 35% have eliminated a candidate from consideration based on the information uncovered online – up significantly from 26% just one year ago. You will need to be working a little harder in ensuring the positive online identity items start to come up above those carrying the digital dirt, but websites such as Zoominfo, LinkedIn and Ziggs can start to help get you on track.

 A new site takes it a stage further and for a monthly cost will place Google Adwords in your name to ensure you come up on the first page and optimize your bio in your profile to ensure more content gets picked up.

Once you know what your baseline is then it’s a good idea to spend some time in uncovering and developing what your online identity should be saying about you. Personal branding works well for you because it’s all about identifying and leveraging your unique abilities, allowing you to be yourself and maximizing what you are naturally good at.

 You should be looking to do some introspective work in this area but also taking the time to gather some external perceptions about who you are from colleagues, friends, managers and even clients. Also you must identify your target audience, who needs to know about you so that you can start to attain those goals you have set yourself.

With all of this information collected you can now define your brand statement – that 15 or so words that grabs your audiences attention. Then ensure that this statement is consistently used across all aspects of your online and offline identity, it needs to become an integral part of your profile so that people start to recall and describe you in that same way. 

How do you start to build an online identity? You can begin building your online identity now by posting your profile on the likes of QAlias, Zoominfo, LinkedIn and Ziggs as a start, or find other more relevant social network sites that you know your target audience are using.

But none of us have unlimited budgets or time to start doing all the things that global brands do, nor do we have to. Communicating your brand online narrowly will increase the likelihood that you start to get noticed by the people who matter – your target audience. The key is to stand out from others who may have a similar position in your industry or marketplace – you need to differentiate and stand out as an expert in one or two areas, not try to be something for everyone.

A blog is one of the best and fastest ways to get an online identity built and it does not take more technical know how than being able to use any word processing software and entry costs for a blog are extremely low but still can provide a professional look and feel. The challenge with web sites as an alternative is that they can take a lot more time and money to establish and then updating and maintenance can be either technically challenging or keep adding to your costs. Blogs meanwhile can also help you to build relationships with your readers because they are set up to be two way conversations. They give you the advantage of mass exposure but still allow direct one to one contact and dialogue. Also you can start to track other blogs that are relevant to your area of expertise and start to post comments that add value to their conversations. Each time you post something this all helps in raising your Google ranking.

 What else can you be doing? For those of you in professional organizations or associations many have online forums where you can contribute advice to questions posed and in turn again raise your profile.  And if there are books that you have read that are again relevant to your target audience go to Amazon and other online book stores and post a book review – again this raises your Google ranking.

But a word of caution – remember that whatever you post on line is available for the world to see. There have already been some high profile cases of business people being exposed for either fictitious claims or worse and then there are always those photos or videos of your doing something that you probably did not want many others to know about. 

The best advice is that before you put anything out there online would you be happy for your mother to know about it or to see it appearing on the front page of your local newspaper? – it’s a good test.

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