I’ve been blessed with a pretty unique name, so I wasn’t expecting many crossed wires when I looked at my online presence. Indeed, pretty much all of the results linked back to me. Also, there wasn’t much in the first few pages that wasn’t professionally related, which I expected since I tend to keep my professional and personal brands separate and I am rather guarded about my personal information. I keep Facebook information out of search engines, and I keep my Twitter account anonymous for now (I use it strictly for following other accounts anyway).
The one thing that surprised me was how much information about me doesn’t come up on searches. This blog, for example, doesn’t show on Google. My professional portfolio site is nowhere to be found, and neither do several others that I created for various MLIS projects. My LinkedIn profile is right at the top of the list, as is a Pathfinder LibGuide I made as part of an assignment for my reference class a couple of years ago. After that, there are links to a few comments I left on other people’s blogs, and a bunch of government documents that I filed when I worked for a real estate developer (off-topic, but nothing damaging). The main takeaway from this exercise for me is that I have some work to do to highlight all of that content I’ve been putting online about my library interests and achievements.
Here are some other lessons I learned:
There are differences between various search engines. I used both Google and Bing, just to see what each would return. Both engines return my LinkedIn profile at the top, but after that they diverge. Bing shows two old posts from this blog’s previous incarnation, followed by a comment I made on a baby blog and the LibGuide mentioned above. Google ignores the blog and goes right into the baby comment and LibGuide, followed by some entries from Google+. So, depending on what engine a person users, they may be able to find this blog quickly, or not at all. That does not sound promising for my budding blogging librarian career!
Names matter. My full name is Leonardo, but I usually go by Leo. Remember when I said that my LinkedIn profile is the top search result on Google? Well, that assumes you use Leo, which is the name I use for that account. Use my full name, and LinkedIn is off the top page entirely, which is a bit of a problem because I tend to use that variation on my resumes and cover letters. So name consistency matters. I’ve now changed my LinkedIn profile to include both, but Google hasn’t figured that out yet (more on that in a moment).
Online brands are difficult to manage. When I first moved out to the West Coast many years ago, I caught a show by an up-and-coming Southern California band. I became friendly with one of their members, and ended up having some pictures posted on their site. It’s nothing bad, but certainly not a professional image of me. There is a reference to me being there and how I got to meet them as well, which could be considered a bit risqué even though it’s perfectly innocent. Because the blog used my full name, it’s been on my top results page on Google ever since. I never asked them to remove my name from it because I didn’t see any harm in people seeing it, but it goes to show you how easily an online brand can be polluted by the actions of third parties.
If you are curious about what that site says about me, just Google my name and find the link in the results. I’d link to it here, but that may well increase its algorithm score and keep it around even longer.
Cache-ing is forever. I mentioned that my Linked In account did not have my full name attached, which hurt my visibility. Well, I changed that a few days ago, and I’m still not seeing any changes, and the same thing goes for this blog. I changed the name when I signed up for CPD23, and yet Bing is still showing it under its old tagline. So even if I take action to repair or focus my brand, it doesn’t mean Google cares, at least not for a while. So the lesson is, it’s easier to build your online brand the right way than to change it later. I guess it’s like tattoos in that way.