How far down the page do you look when you google someone? According to Google, not very far: 79% of searcher click on the first three links for any given search, and fewer than 10% go to the second page.
So what do you do if your name doesn’t show up at the top of your Google search? Not appearing in the search results can be bad for your Internet reputation—you need people to find accurate and useful information. Otherwise, they will be left to draw conclusions about you based on nothing at all—or worse: one-sided, false and potentially negative content.
Luckily, there are simple and effective steps you can take to maximize your chances of appearing at the top of a Google search, even if you don’t know the first thing about online reputation management or search optimization techniques.
Controlling your Google results: getting started
1. Create a profile on the main social networks
Compose tasteful LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles, and make sure you use your name in the handles and profile URLs. For instance, your Twitter username (or handle) should be something like @yourname. On Facebook, make a limited public profile and claim your own custom URL with your name as the address, like this: www.facebook.com/yourname
2. Start a website for yourself
If you don’t have it already, get www.yourname.com or something similar, then put up a basic website (many hosting companies can auto-configure a basic site for you so you can avoid dealing with the coding aspects).
Next, you want to add content. Start with a short biography of yourself and a photo. The biography should include your name a few times, but don’t overdo it—it should read naturally. (If you’re web-savvy, you should also consider marking up your biography with structured data like schema.org or another standard syntax.)
It’s also good to have non-biographical information on your site that will be useful to searchers. You might want to post a couple of short articles about topics you’re interested in or that are relevant to your profession. Just make sure the content is interesting and unique (don’t copy it from somewhere else). Also try to write something substantial. Google prefers sites that have longer articles, 800 words and up, over sites with short snippets.
3. Optimize for keywords (tastefully)
Keywords are terms that help search engines decipher the content of sites. For instance, if you’re a pediatrician named John Doe, someone might search for “john doe doctor”. The word “doctor” would be a keyword associated with your name, and Google would look for the word “doctor” on your website.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can show up for any term just by listing it on your website. Context is key. That’s why it’s a good idea to write some articles for your website that are on topics that you’d like to be associated with. As a handful of related terms become associated with your name in different ways, search engines will gain confidence that your site is actually about you. That’s why Dr. John Doe might write some articles about childhood nutrition, growth milestones, tips for new mothers, and so on. (More advanced readers should also do a bit of keyword research to figure out which topics will deliver the most bang for the buck, but this isn’t necessary if you have virtually no web presence.)
At the same time, don’t overdo it with keywords. Back in the early days of the web, you could rank just by listing your favorite term (say, “water filtration systems”) over and over. But that approach hasn’t been successful in over a decade, and Google will penalize you for trying to take shortcuts. Simply write good content on topics that are relevant to your life and you’ll be fine.
4. Start cultivating site links
Search engine algorithms reward frequently linked sites by moving them to the top of their results pages, but this works best when the links are non-reciprocal: you want sites to link to you without you having to link back to them.
There are a few ways to start generating site links:
- Post your content to social media: the more other people see your content and share it with others, the more likely someone will link to you
- Support a good cause: many charities and non-profit groups will provide a link back to your site if exchange for your contributions
- Sign up for professional directories: if your industry has professional organizations that list members on their websites, see if you can get them to link to you
- Write a guest blog post: if you like to write, you can approach a blog for your industry and ask to do a guest post on a topic that interests you