I was at a get-together recently and I hit it off with a fellow entrepreneur. Afterwards, I wanted to connect, so I popped their name and city into my favourite search engine, expecting to see their LinkedIn profile and business website. Was I ever in for a shock.
Please learn how to Google yourself…
The first result was for their LinkedIn, which was not filled out completely, but gave enough information to mostly confirm it was the same person. The second result was for their spouse, because their spouse’s profile also mentioned the first name of the entrepreneur. And the third result was the shocker. It involved charges and convictions — I’ll leave out the details for reasons of their privacy — mentioned the person’s profession, professional affiliation and city of practice. I don’t know if it’s the same person, but someone with the same unique name, profession and city of residence was arrested and sentenced.
I want to call them and ask, “Do you know how to Google yourself?” I wonder – do they know? Do they not know what to do? Do they not know this could be hurting their business? (Among all the personal questions, but that’s a different story.)
The week before, I was approached about a big project with a potential client. Again, I thought I’d check out his LinkedIn and see if he already had a website. The search engine instead served up an article about someone with that same name and suburb, his current employer (which he’d mentioned) and allegations of stock fraud.
About a year ago, I was taking a family member to an appointment. I popped the person’s name into my phone so I could pull up a map to the office. Instead, I pulled up shocking news articles and professional association news releases about very shocking situations involving that person’s spouse and testimony given by the person we were off to see. Given another professional later told me about the case, I have few doubts about whether it’s the same family. And the person I was going to see wasn’t even the one in (seriously scalding, boiling, awful) hot water.
And a little before that, I popped my own medical practitioner’s name into a website to pull up her phone number. Among the top results was a website detailing the person’s home address. That’s because there is an unscrupulous web service that scrapes information from web domain registries and generates pages with that information. Like many people, the medical professional had registered a website in the early days of their business and used their home office. I was able to warn the practitioner about the risks of stalking – they agreed – and got them to go change the information, so that their business address shows up instead. The person said, “Yup, I know how to google myself”, but hadn’t known where the address was coming from, so I solved the mystery and now their business address comes up instead.
I have no idea if any of the above people do “vanity searches”, where they search for themselves in search engines. It’s questionable whether they know that their own results or those for people with the same names, professions, employers and cities come up. And maybe some of them just leave the information there, in an effort to be transparent. Maybe they know it’s there. Maybe they don’t know what to do about it.
How to Google yourself (or search for yourself in other search engines)
Right now, stop what you’re doing and open a second browser window.
Go over to Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask and search for your name.
Try adding variations, such as:
- Firstname Lastname
- Firstname Lastname City
- Firstname Lastname State/Province
- Firstname Lastname Country
- Firstname Lastname consulting (or whatever profession you have)
- Firstname Lastname Businessname
You may also want to pop over to Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media.
What comes up? You only have a few possibilities – results listing other people, results listing information you wish wasn’t showing up or results listing information you do want to come up. Do some image searches, too. I know someone whose images results show many drunken pictures.
If I search for myself, for example, I currently pull up:
- My professional website
- My Amazon books page
- My LinkedIn profile
- The About page on Consultant Journal
- A Google Plus profile
- and then it starts getting into results for other people, mixed in with results for me.
Now, at the very least, you should assume people search for you. I know people search for me, because I can see my name and search suggestions listed at the bottom of the search results in Google and also in my Google Analytics account and keyword planner. I also see my name come up as an “autocomplete” suggestion in Amazon and Academia.edu tells me every time someone views my profile there. I can even see that some of you have been trying to find free versions of my books – for the record, I file legal notices with even websites who simply suggest they might have an illegal copy and get them banned from search engine results and that’s without even turning up a copy. Besides, do you really want to rip me off when you’ve read this far into an article? Go ask your library to get a copy instead.
Need to do something about the results? You can work to boost some existing or future results over the negative or confusing results. You can also create more profiles to create a little confusion between which results are for you and which may belong to real or potential doppelgangers. You can change your professional name. You have options. Take a look at my post on Hiding Ugly Google Results, not to mention 7 Terrible Things Revealed by Your Email Address. In an upcoming post, I’ll talk more about managing search results.
What’s the best or worst thing you’ve seen come up in a search for someone you know professionally?