If you’re not satisfied with the results of an online search of your name, odds are that a potential employer won’t be either. Fortunately, with the rise of social media, a growing selection of tools is available to help monitor and control the information that is published about you on the Internet. With the Internet, anyone can say anything about anyone on forums, websites, or blogs. Entire sites have sprung up dedicated solely to trashing companies and individuals. Such information is probably not what you want accessible to anyone wishing to find you online. For people in the professional realm and those in the job market, it is especially crucial to create a good online reputation and have the ability to lead people to personal information in a controlled way.
Possibly the simplest and most popular tool to monitor your online information comes from the provider of the majority of search results: Google. Google Alerts is designed specifically to monitor the Internet for certain searched phrases and alert you to where the phrase entered Google’s search index. Google Alerts cover virtually every form of electronic data sharing on the Internet such as news articles, videos, blogs, and mailing lists.
Technorati, a specialized blog search engine, indexes blog posts and tracks the flow of information throughout the blogosphere. Subscribing to Technorati allows you to know each time someone searches for your information. A third option, Board Tracker, tracks forum boards and keeps you informed of personal mentions in these ongoing discussions.
Depending on the information you find in your searches, you might find instances that require fact correction or filling out. One way to approach this need is to create your own blog to directly address the issues in question. Refute, rebut, or correct the information you found elsewhere and regularly update your blog so that it remains at the top of the search results. Regularly updating with useful content is key to reaching the most number of people through search engines (especially Google).
Another tact involves social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube; all high-traffic sites favored by most search engines. Try using the following tips to get better search engine exposure from the various social platforms:
• Make sure your Facebook privacy settings are arranged so that your community profile is available to search engines. All Facebook profiles are searchable by default, but do not offer information set to any privacy setting other than “Everyone.”
• Snag your full name as a username on Twitter, fill out the bio, and actively tweet information you want to be available to employers and other interested parties.
• When posting relevant images on Flickr put your name in both the title and image description and be sure to use tags.
• On YouTube, focus on titles that will potentially draw in lots of viewers since the more popular the video the higher it ranks in search results.
Perhaps the most influential method for controlling your information on the web is to participate in the greater community. Network with others in your field, write about your passions, speak out in community forms on social media and news sites, and directly address criticism. Sometimes you can communicate directly with the source of inaccurate information to have it corrected but when that fails, take the proactive approach and counter any negative or false information with your own web pages and profiles.