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Manage your online presence

Think you’re anonymous on the Internet? Are you careful to never leave any traces of yourself anywhere?

Check it out. Google yourself (“first last” using quotes). See if you’re there. Then go to www.pipl.com and try the search again. Even if you’ve never been on the Internet before, there’s a frightening amount of data available to virtually everyone – things like these:

  • Your address, phone number, and possibly your property tax information
  • A history of the places you’ve lived
  • Tax liens
  • Bankruptcies
  • Small Claims judgments
  • Criminal records
  • Marriage and divorce records
  • Your Amazon wish list!

Public records are, it seems public…

So what does this mean to you? What should you do? Can you mold your online presence, and what will that do for you?

You need to get used to the idea that you are not anonymous. Ain’t gonna happen in the US (European laws are very different). So, now that you’ve accepted this idea – even if it makes you uncomfortable – here are some things you can do to make your Internet presence work for you.

  1. Work with the sources of information that search engines and “people finders” use. Go to sites like www.ZoomInfo.com and claim your identity. Then provide as much information about yourself as you feel comfortable doing. As you take this journey, you will find that there are many other sites where you can register. Don’t waste your time trying to get yourself removed from these databases – it’s generally impossible. Notable exception: you can ask Google to remove your address and phone number when somebody searches for your name. (Did you know you can look this information up by just doing a Google search like: Chris Doe, Anytown, Anystate? Unless your phone number is unlisted, this search will return your address and phone number.)
  2. Force your name to the top of the Google (or Yahoo, or Live Search). If you follow the suggestions in this article, that will happen automatically.
  3. Join social networking sites like www.LinkedIn.com – and be sure to complete your profile there, because you want people to find you for the right things. LinkedIn results always show up on your Google searches, unless you make them private.
  4. Use online branding sites (www.Ziggs.com, www.Ziki.com). Ziggs and Ziki have an added benefit: for a small monthly fee, you can have them place paid search results on the major search engines (it’s way less money than you’d pay for AdWords). This is a great thing to do if your name is common. Even if you don’t score well on the organic search, you can be right at the top of the paid search listings. Check out the results for my name: “Walter Feigenson”. On Google, look at the
    results on the right side of the screen.
  5. Claim and manage your identity at reputation management sites (www.Naymz.com, www.RapLeaf.com). The goal of these sites is to verify your claim that you are actually who you claim to be.
  6. Build a website. Doesn’t have to be complicated or have very much on it. I built mine with wix.com. Their technology is designed to make you look like a web development professional, and it’s free. Look at my website: www.feigenson.us.
  7. Write articles. Like this one – they will get indexed by the search engines and they’ll show up  when somebody Googles your name. If your article appears on several sites, link to them all on our home page – that will increase your Google rank. There are man yplaces you can post articles, including:
    1. Your own blog
    2. Any relevant blog to which you can contribute (guest articles are often welcome)
    3. Your own website
    4. Base.google.com
  8. Blog. Blogs have become the de facto source of information on the Internet. There are blogs on almost every conceivable subject. Search for them on Google or www.Technorati.com. But before you start spouting your wisdom, spend some time listening! I don’t recommend running your own blog unless you think you will have the discipline (and time) to update it frequently. There are lots of blogs with great entries for the first month or two, which are empty after that.
  9. Work with the press. Press articles (and press releases) have a very long life. They are often picked up by many sites (especially releases). The more sites your name is on, the higher the good stuff will be on a search of your name. (And while you’re at it, try to get quoted on .gov sites – Google really likes them.) If you’re in a business or a local organization, you too can do press releases, and there are even free press release sites you can use.
  10. Update everything frequently. Google cares about the freshness of sites. So update your LinkedIn profile, change your personal website – make sensible changes wherever you can at least once a month.

So how much time does all this take, and what does it get you?

Setup can be time-consuming. Probably the hardest thing is creating your own website, but if you use the phenomenal power of a site like www.wix.com, you’ll find the process isn’t that much more difficult than writing a document. Be careful about managing your presence on the major sites like LinkedIn; you have to assume that everything you put on the Internet will always be available, even if you remove it. So think before you act.

Once everything is set up, maintenance is easy – just go to the sites and do periodic updates, if you want. Be sure to update as you change jobs or locations. And contrary to what I said earlier, there are ways to make your phone number and email anonymous. Check out www.jaxter.com for some neat tools that let you include a neat “Call Me” icon on your website or in your email. When somebody clicks on the icon, you’ll get a call on your cell phone, but the caller will never know your phone number unless you give it to them. (You have to pay for this service, but it’s not very expensive.)

And here’s the bottom line: whatever your motivation for managing the way you present yourself in the public world, you will help to achieve your objectives with these easy steps. For example:

  • Job seekers – make sure to get found by people doing the hiring
  • People who want to advance their careers – same thing: get found for the right things! Claim your due for subject matter expertise.
  • Genealogy lovers – make it easy to find and be found by your family members.
  • Networkers – after you meet somebody, the natural thing for them to do is look you up in Google. Make that event work for you!
  • People who want to connect with old friends – you’re probably already on www.ClassMates.com, but you should expand your presence – it’s what you’d want your friends to do so you can find them…

Copyright (c) 2008 Walter Feigenson

I’ve also posted this article article on Google Base.

Posted in Job seekers, LinkedIn, Personal branding.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Managing your online presence « Eye On Employment linked to this post on April 6, 2009

    […] blog, Walter Feigenson, writes a lot about personal branding and how it impacts job seekers.  In this post he explains the variety of personal data about you that’s potentially floating “out […]