Editor’s Note: This article was first published in February of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
I may be a blogging pioneer, but I’m not otherwise technically savvy.
I’ve never played a video game or “texted.”
I don’t even own a cell phone.
But along with blogging, one “techy” thing I know a little about is SEO, or search engine optimization.
At least, I did until Google ran their Panda and Penguin algorithm updates , and changed lots of their rules (mostly for the better) to punish folks who’d been trying to game the search-engine system.
And when you think of what’s at stake, it’s easy to understand why some “black hat” SEO “gurus” are always seeking the elusive formula for algorithmic alchemy, to turn search engine results placement into literal gold.
After all, an estimated 90% of Google searchers never visit page two of their results; getting your company’s site into those precious ten “page one” results for a popular and lucrative search phrase like “San Diego real estate” can mean increased business.
As well, dominating that first page when potential employers, spouses, or malicious trolls google your first and last name is a vital part of online reputation management.
I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned a few things about how to own (or at least, easily “rent”) your name on Google’s first-page results.
There’s not much you can do about nasty sites or pages devoted to dissing you unless they are literally slanderous and you can get a lawyer to send the site owner a “take down” notice.
However, you can try to push down embarrassing or nasty stuff by “owning” your page-one Google results.
These tips aren’t “tricks” — everything I’m about to tell you are all “white hat,” non-controversial things you can do to start taking control of your online presence.
TIP: Before you google yourself, ALWAYS sign out of your Google account, clear your browser cache and, if possible, use a program like HideMyIP to choose a different IP address.
Doing all this will more closely replicate what a total stranger will see when they search for you.
3. Your personal domain name and website
You already own your “FirstNameLastName.com,” right? What year is it again?
If not, grab it while you still can.
There’s no need to ever pay full price for a domain name, by the way. I’ve worked with Register.com for years — their customer service is outstanding — and I always visit RetailMeNot.com or a similar coupon site first. I search for Register.com promo/coupon codes and typically get between 15% and 25% off the already low domain name price.
What isn’t low is the cost of owning your domain for five to ten years, with automatic renewal, which you absolutely should do, even if it costs you a few hundred dollars. It’s worth it.
If your name is common and already taken, create an alternative that still uses your first and last name, but adds additional identifying information, like your middle name.
One of my longtime collaborators uses his LastName.com because it is so unusual. Another pal goes by RabbiFirstName.com
When you create your personal webpage using that domain name, make sure the site’s title tag contains your name and perhaps more information that distinguishes you from the other John Smiths, and even locates you geographically.
Every website has a title tag, and Google places a great deal of importance on what yours says.
If you look at the top of this page, the title tag is “PJ Lifestyle > 3 Tips for ‘Owning’ Your Name on Google’s First Page Results.”
The title tag is the top most, hyperlinked “title” that’s displayed in Google’s search results.
Not only does it “count” for a lot in Google’s current algorithm, but it helps prompt searchers to click on your link.
If, like me, you use WordPress to run your blogs and personal and/or business sites, title tags are easy to control.
So be sure to put your FirstName and LastName at the very beginning of your title tag, and add another descriptive phrase you want to be found for, for example, “San Diego real estate agent.”
2. Raise your profile(s)
Be sure to join as many reputable social sharing sites as possible, and complete your profile in a smart way.
Instead of writing “San Diego real estate professional” in your Twitter profile, substitute “FirstName LastName is a San Diego real estate professional.”
Talk about yourself in the third person in all your profiles.
By doing this, your all-important first and last name will be visible in the subsequent Google title tags and meta descriptions.
Here are the sites you should join, even if you don’t think you’ll be posting many photos to Picasa or posting many videos to YouTube:
- Facebook (Profile and Page)
- Google Places
- Google Profile
1. Get professional help
I recently signed up with BrandYourself.com to make sure I was doing as much as possible to manage my Google page-one results, and was plugged into post-Panda best practices.
BrandYourself makes it easy (if a bit time consuming at first) to link all your profiles together (which is another key to increasing their visibility and legitimacy in Google’s eyes).
They monitor how your profiles are ranking and offer ways to boost them higher.
For all those reasons and more, I’m glad I became a premium member.
No matter what you do to manage your online reputation, Google doesn’t respond instantly to all these great things you’re doing. It may takes weeks or months to see results.
Be patient, and don’t fall for any “gurus” who promise “instant” page one placement. Just keep doing common-sense, above-board things to manage your online reputation and you’ll eventually see them pay off.