Being able to rank well for your name in the SERPs is a crucial part of building your personal brand. When’s the last time you searched for your name on Google? Did you see something there that wasn’t true? Something that was about another person with a name similar to yours? What people see attached to your name – whether it’s true or not – has a major impact on how you’re perceived online.
When it comes to your personal brand, the wrong thing at the top of the SERPs may cause people to doubt you. It may cost you opportunities to earn money – such as brand partnerships or speaking engagements. It may even cause people to leave negative reviews about you or your company. That’s why it’s so important to work to control the information that appears on the first page (and even a few after) of results for our names. But that’s easier said than done.
Why is it so important? 70% of human resources departments research candidates online going beyond social media to search engines, too. They look to see what kind of things people are saying, whether or not the candidate has a professional persona, and some even look for reasons not to hire candidates.
Let’s take a closer look at how to handle it.
Start with Your Assets: Your Digital Homebase
If you don’t already own it, purchase your name as a domain name. Work to get a website on it as soon as possible. Make it possible for visitors to sign up for your email list and easily visit your social media profiles, should they decide to connect with you there.
Fill the site with content relevant to you and your work. Create a series of images, videos, articles, etc. to keep the content varied. Apply all SEO basics to any and all content you create for your site.
If you’re established with other online publishers, republish content there that you’ve previously published online. Just make sure you’re clear with the publisher’s rules and regulations about how to do it. Usually, this means relying on a canonical tag, linking to the original content, and waiting a certain amount of time after the content was originally published to post it on your own site.
If you’ve already got a site up and running, take the time to conduct an SEO audit. Edit the content where necessary to keep it timely and relevant.
The asset is one thing, but simply having a website isn’t enough to influence ranking for your name. Because there’s less competition for your name than a commercial term, you won’t need as many links, and those links won’t need to be as authoritative for them to accomplish your goal.
Include a link to your website on all your social media profiles, and on your author profiles of websites you contribute to on a regular basis. Create profiles on sites like BrandYourself, too. Make sure you have a LinkedIn profile that includes a search-friendly version of your resume.
Build Awareness and Drive Traffic
Unless you get the assets in front of the right people, they are pretty much useless. Work to build awareness of your personal brand through booking podcast interviews, hosting webinars, partnering with other brands, etc. If you need a bit of help in this department, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to a public relations expert.
Use social media and search engine advertising to drive traffic to your website, where people can learn more about you. This helps to increase the links to and from your website, which can be helpful for Google.
As you work to grow your audience and awareness, it’s crucial that you don’t rely on simple link dripping campaigns. You want to share your content in a way that provides value to your audience and work on engaging them in other ways. Failure to do so turns you into a self-promotional broken record that ultimately gets you ignored. Work content you’ve created into your social media feeds alongside content from other sources that are useful to your audience.
Keep Maintaining Your Personal Brand
Don’t just set and forget. New content is added to the internet every day, any of which may have the potential to impact your rankings. That’s why it’s important to check on things periodically to make sure they are still what you expect.
Create a Google Alert for your name, so that any time a new result that includes your name, you receive an email. This way, you can take a closer look at the content to determine if it is a positive or negative result – or actually attached to you.
If the content comes from a major news site, it will be nearly impossible to beat, so if it is negative, you’ll need to enlist help from a professional SEO expert to handle it. At that scale, the DIY option is not going to be enough to address the issue.
Ask people for reviews. Negative reviews are more common in a lot of industries, and they carry weight, so you’ll need plenty of positive reviews to balance them out. That said, incentivizing for reviews is not a good idea because it is against the terms of many review sites. If you choose to take the risk, don’t put it anywhere in writing.
Use all the features of Google My Business to provide the search engines with as much information about your business and brand as possible. Add images, news, videos, and more. The more information you have, the better for you, your target audience, and Google.
Every quarter, check your site’s analytics to see which content is most popular and use the information to inform your strategy in the following months.
Remember, this is an ongoing effort, and results don’t change overnight.