Improving Your Digital Footprint – A Quickstart Guide

A lot of the things that I’ll be saying here will sound familiar, will be cliché, but I hope you take the time to hear me out, especially if you’re not happy with the Google search results for your name.

The Search Engine

“Google” as many people endearingly call it, like a verb (actually it is, but it’s also a trademark!). Everyone uses it daily for almost everything. This very much includes finding information on people.

What used to be taboo, is pretty much standard practice nowadays. If you’re about to meet a date, hiring someone, finding out about a popular person, or in the case for this blog post, looking up what information you have online.

I hope that this quickstart guide will help you get started on the road to having a positive online footprint.

The First Page Result

It’s all about getting as many hits, positive hits, on the first page. Various marketing companies have conducted studies, and on average they get results showing that over 90% of people never go past the first page of the results of a Google search query.

When someone searches for your name on a search engine, the results are usually the zenith for setting a good first impression. The first page results can easily set the tone for a person looking to find out more about you.

Make it easy for people to find you. Make it easy for people to find GOOD information about you.

Moving forward, I will now list the things I recommend that will help improve your digital footprint.

1. Your Brand. Your Name.

Your name is your brand. You go to a business conference, how do you introduce yourself? With your name of course. Then with the company that you work for, or represent.

This is important. A lot of people ignore the small nuances surrounding names, but this can be the difference between being found or not, or being associated with a group of people that has the same name as you or not.

You don’t want to be lumped in with all the John Smiths in the world. You want to be the John Smith that will be found by the right people.

I’m lucky to have a unique name in Alan Gurling. The only other Alan Gurling I am aware of is an ambulance driver somewhere in England. If you’ve been blessed to have a very common name (e.g. Mohammad, Alex, Michael, angel names) then it might be time to rethink your name as a brand.

Moving forward, all your account names, user names, ID’s, etc. will need to be in that “FirstnameLastname” format. This is key to tying all of these together. If you have a common name, you may want to play with “FirstnameLastnameALIAS” e.g. JamesMarksLawyer.

2. Twitter

Twitter is vanilla social media. Anyone who’s anyone is, or should be on the social network. It’s become the unofficial de facto standard for announcements. Gone are the days when someone would call for a press conference. Why go through all the logistics, cost, time, and effort of planning a press conference when you can just tweet it?

From professional athletes, to the most powerful politicians, Twitter has been the platform of choice for announcement and sharing of thoughts.

Because of the open-natured theme of Twitter, it also comes with its fair share of negative points, mainly in the form of trolls. But in my experience, even if Twitter has a massive troll problem they need to work on, keeping on top of it is easy.

The main reason why I recommend Twitter is that it works great in raising your name/TwitterID to the top of the search rankings. Register on Twitter using the “FirstnameLastname” format to make it easy  for people to locate you.

After registering, start off with the following tips:

  • Use a “professional yet casual” profile photo.
  • Choose a header image where you’re doing something important/creative. Like presenting in front of a crowd, or taking a photo of a beautiful landscape. Plus points if it’s both!
  • Your bio should include what you do, and what you’re passionate about.
  • Follow only things that you really want! A lot of people get turned off Twitter because they follow too many people at the start. To begin with, follow a max of 10 accounts that you know you will want to read.

The best thing about Twitter for this blog post is that it works great with the next point.

3. LinkedIn

Twitter and LinkedIn is the “one-two punch” formula that works great in raising your digital footprint. LinkedIn is a different beast altogether though.

If Twitter was “vanilla social media”, then LinkedIn would be the “no-nonsense corporate blue professional social media”. And it’s because of the very nature of LinkedIn that Google search results rank it highly amongst others. In many cases, if Google can’t find a LinkedIn page for a name, it will instead show a LinkedIn public directory of people with the same name!

If you’re mystified by LinkedIn, let me try to break it down for you using an analogy a friend of mine used to pitch to workshops we both ran:

“LinkedIn is like your black book of contacts. People don’t easily get to be in your black book.

You know each and every person in that black book personally. Or at least, you’ve had a conversation with them in some form.

If someone contacts you from that black book asking for a favour, you wouldn’t hesitate to help them out. After all, you know them enough.

The same goes the other way, if you need help from someone, you go to your black book. The people in your black book comprise your professional network.”

LinkedIn is a professional network and their main goal as a company is to “…connect all professionals around the world to each other”. And LinkedIn have some really good software engineers! So good that search engine results heavily favour LinkedIn pages.

So register with LinkedIn and here are some tips to get started:

  • LinkedIn is also a bit like your CV/resume, only that it’s in expanded form.
  • Do not connect with people you do not know. The general rule of thumb is connect only with people you’re willing to help out, and vice versa.
  • Use a professional business-centric profile photo and header for your profile.
  • Do connect with people that you work with.
  • This is VERY IMPORTANT: Get your LinkedIn URL, and make sure you use the “FirstnameLastname” format for this.

After setting up your LinkedIn page, and your Twitter page, you should see results within 24 hours (can be up to a week). But it doesn’t stop there! Here are other tools that you can use to weed out your front page search results and replace it with positive content about you:

4. Other Tools

  • Facebook – The biggest social media network. Make sure that you secure your Facebook User ID using the “FirstnameLastname” format.
  • Google+ – Considering that G+ is owned by Google, it’s no surprise that setting up a profile on the social network is helpful.
  • Blogger – Also owned by Google. Writing a blog under your name is a quick win to get another first page search result.
  • About.me – This service acts as an online business card. It’s a one pager that has your name, your photo, what you’re about, and how to connect with you. Again, a quick win for search results on your name.
  • BrandYourself – Last but certainly not the least, this service goes deeper into improving your digital footprint, and I highly recommend it if you have some negative search results as well.

Moving Forward

This is going to be a lot of work, but just like with anything, taking the first step, and keeping at it slowly but regularly will ensure that you raise your digital footprint to a positive one.

It’s very important to do regular checks as well. Simply do a search on your name regularly.

Hopefully when all falls into place, you’ll be assured when meeting new people you do not have to worry that they’ll unearth something negative about you online. You can simply give them your name knowing that when they look you up, they’ll easily find you and positive things about you.

What’s your digital footprint like? Are you happy with it? Do you have any questions and don’t know where to ask? Feel free to drop me a line in the comments below. I hope you found the information here helpful.

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