Defining Yourself Through Search

While, there are quite a few articles that talk about reputation management, the majority focus on protecting the reputation of a company. What about the reputation of business professionals like you and me?

Personal reputation management is just as important to a business professional as corporate reputation management. There are a number of things that you can do to ensure you make a professional and accurate impression when others attempt to look you up online.

Find Yourself

If you're looking to manage your reputation, first you must find yourself. Now, I don't mean this in a spiritual sense, but rather you must answer the question: Are you visible online?

The first thing you should do is a vanity search for your name in Google. Learn what your online persona looks like now, before you start trying techniques to shape what you want it to be.

A friend of mine once mentioned to me that when searching for his name, "The only thing that showed up for my name a couple of years ago was a review I wrote for a book on Amazon." You might be surprised to find that you may not even exist in search results, which will give you a clean slate in creating your online persona.

Go Public

Know what you want to say? Now let's look to social networks such as LinkedIn, or Facebook. These sites allow you to promote your work history, education, achievements, associations you belong to, and overall interests. Sites like these also rank very well for vanity terms and will often show up at or near the top of search results for your name.

Take advantage of the ability to customize the public URL for your profile by using your name. A URL with the search term in it is just good SEO, no matter how you look at it.

Some other sites to consider when setting up your profile are people search engines like Naymz and ZoomInfo, both of which are frequently indexed for name searches.

Build a Name

Next you will want to share your expertise with others. Ideally this would be through your own blog, but if you don't think you will have the time to maintain one (and it does take time) become a contributor to an existing blog.

Search for other blogs within your domain of expertise and get to know the owner. Once you've built up a relationship with him or her, you can approach them about guest-blogging, or becoming a regular contributor. These posts will be picked up in the SERP (search engine result pages) and can help identify you as an expert on the particular topic. You can also share your expertise on social network sites, or within the forums of the associations to which you are linked.

If you are really ambitious, think about creating your own Web site. You can easily buy your domain name, a Web hosting package, and use pre-made templates at places such as GoDaddy.com. The site could be as simple as your résumé, or contain more information about your professional and personal life.

Make sure you purchase a domain with your name in it. This should rank near the top of the SERPs when doing a search on your name. Ideally the site should be SEO-friendly as well. Use your name in the title tags, META data, and in H1 tags.

Don't forget to create links back to your Web site, blog or profile pages when you post in forums or blogs. Links to your web properties will ultimately help them rank higher in search results for your name.

Get Published

A simple way of associating your name with a number of listings in search engines is to publish an article and distribute it through news sites. Personally, I have seen the number of results for my name go from less than 20 to more than 900 through the articles I have published.

More often than not these articles will get picked up by other sites and get listed as well. This can also help solidify your position as an expert on a particular topic or field.

Watch Your Image(s)

Search engines are not only indexing the written word these days. You will also need to consider any photos or videos of you currently on the Web or that you may want to post.

Photo sites like Flickr and Photobucket get crawled often, and can be listed as part of the universal results for your name. So before you think about posting that college picture of you doing a keg stand, remember that it may show up when a professional recruiter or potential employer is searching on your name.

Prepared to Be Searched

Reputation management is something everyone needs to think about today, not just large corporations. As a hiring manager, I will routinely Google each respective candidate to see what I can learn about them that is not on his/her résumé. In some cases, this process may be more telling than a list of past employers.

With that in mind, it is important to make certain that the best information about you – or the information you want others to know – appears at the top of the search results. You never know who may be searching for you.

About the author

William Flaiz is vice president of search engine optimization (SEO) and web analytics at Razorfish (formerly Avenue A | Razorfish). In this role, he oversees the firm's global SEO and web analytics practice that services clients across the US, Europe, and Asia.

William manages a staff of more than 30 account services partners, analysts, and strategists, in defining the needs and providing solutions that help clients to measure and optimize their web site investments.

William joined the Philadelphia office of Avenue A | Razorfish in 2002 to establish the web development practice there and, within six months, he led the development of an award-winning healthcare portal for eMedicine. During this time, he managed the creative, user experience, and customer insights groups, growing the revenue and staff dedicated to web development projects, which accounts for approximately 1/3 of the office's revenues today. More recently, William served as vice president of operations for the Philadelphia office, overseeing all agency planning and financials.

William taught classes on web development and the Internet at various universities in Philadelphia, and has served as a judge for the eHealthcare Leadership Awards for the past three years. He has spoken at industry conferences and authored articles for industry publications, including MD Net Guide, the Center for Business Intelligence pharmaceutical series, and the Nashville Advertising Federation.

William earned a B.S. in accounting and finance and MS in information systems from Drexel University.