If you’re seeking to protect your identity online in the wake of the all the hacking scandals that seem to occur every second day, Googling yourself is one of the most important steps you can take. It's a simple process, but in order for it to be truly effective, you’ll need to understand why it’s important, how to find the most information, and how to handle what you find.
One of the first things that hiring managers, university admission offices, and even potential friends or dates will do (we all love to do some background digging) while considering whether or not to associate with you is search for your name in Google and social media. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since in many cases there’ll be information that will reflect positively on your reputation. Volunteer work, your online portfolio, and your LinkedIn are the sort of thing you want people to find when they search for your name.
Unfortunately, there may also be information at the top of your search results that don't give a fair or accurate impression of who you really are (like that messy night out you had on the weekend for your friend’s hens). Even if the results aren’t embarrassing or damaging to your reputation, they might not be exactly what you want people to find when they search for you. You can’t begin crisis management if you don’t know what’s out there, so we’ve put together a helpful guide on how to get the most information with your search.
You may not see exactly what you’d expect when looking at your Google results. If you have a popular name, you probably have to sift through a lot of pages to find yourself. If none of the returned results are about you, you may need to consider creating properties that will rank highly for your name. Having no web presence at all can raise suspicions and potentially be just as damaging as negative content.
Keep track of what you find as you delve into your results. A spreadsheet can be helpful, as it allows you to note which search results are relevant, positive, neutral or negative. You can also make note of any action you’ve taken on each result. Consider how well your Google results represent the real you. Is the information positive and accurate? Is your personal information up to date, especially on your own website or social media profiles?
A single search won’t give you the whole picture – you’ll need to keep an ongoing look at what’s available about you on Google. It’s a good idea to set up Google Alerts for your name and any related search terms so that you can find out right away when there are new results. Understanding what’s being published about you on a regular basis is the first step. Once you know where the issues are, you can begin to take action to improve your reputation.