Managing Your Reputation Online – – Business Technology Leadership

People are googling you. People who matter—colleagues, employees, managers, clients, hiring managers and executive recruiters—are making judgments about you based on what they find online. Consider the following statistics:

  • 23 percent of people search the names of business associates or colleagues on the Internet before meeting them, according to a 2004 Harris Interactive poll.

  • 83 percent of recruiters use search engines to learn about candidates, according to a 2007 ExecuNet survey.“>Survey shows successful CIOs united in focus: making innovation real, raising the ROI of IT, expanding business impact.

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  • 43 percent of recruiters have eliminated candidates based on information they found online, up 17 percent from a similar 2005 ExecuNet study.

Your search results may determine whether or not an executive recruiter calls you in for an interview, you land your next job or attract the best technology professionals to your organization. Given the extent to which people use search engines as research tools today, building and managing your identity online is no longer a luxury. It’s a requirement.


But where and how do you start? It can be challenging to get high-ranking results for a search on your name or to remove inaccurate information from websites. Fortunately, you can take a variety of measures, including starting a blog, actively engaging in online discussions appropriate to your profession, and joining social networking sites like LinkedIn, that will boost your online profile and improve your standings in search engines. Like anything worth doing, these activities require a consistent investment of time, but they’re enjoyable and great ways to network.


Establish Your Baseline
The first step in taking control of your online identity is to know where it stands. Enter your first and last names in quotes into a search engine. How many results do you get? How many of those webpages actually pertain to you? Do the references to you on the Web communicate a positive, negative or neutral image of you? How consistently do those results communicate what you want to be known for—your personal brand?

The online identity calculator at will measure the effectiveness of your online identity and rate it on a scale of one to 10, from digitally disguised to digitally distinct (See sidebar, The Scale of Digital Distinctness). Knowing where you stand will help you determine exactly how much work you have to do and your next steps.

The Scale of Digital Distinctness

Digitally Disguised: Your vanity search does not match any documents. There is absolutely nothing about you on the Web. To those who google you, you don’t exist. This is an easy place to start. Determine what you should be communicating online and start steadily building your volume of relevant results. Begin quickly with an optimized profile at Ziggs, some thoughtful comments to relevant blog posts, and an book review related to your area of expertise.

Digitally Dissed: Entering your name into a search engine yields little about you on the Web, but what exists is either negative or inconsistent with how you want to be known. In this case, attempt to get the off-brand content removed or remove it yourself if you have control over the page. Bear in mind that it will take time to disappear from the search listings, and remember that nothing on the Web is ever permanently deleted. Next, begin to create online content that will help you reach your goals. Sometimes the best you can do is present the positive side of the story next to the content you cannot remove.

Digitally Disastrous: There is much information about you on the Web, but it has little relevance to what you want to express about yourself. The information may also include results about someone else who shares your name. If your name is common, try to make it less common by using a nickname or middle initial. Use the same name consistently in all your communications, both online and offline (on your business card, résumé, etc.). Also, register your name as a domain name. When you use it for your own professional blog or website and people search for your name, it will very likely appear in the top search results. This will help ensure that you paint the right picture before any confusing or disastrous content is seen.

Digitally Dabbling: There is some information on the Web about you that supports the personal brand you’re trying to communicate but not a ton of it. What you have to do here is beef up the amount of on-brand information about you on the Web. You can do that by starting your own blog and updating it at least once a week, as well as creating a public LinkedIn profile and writing articles for online publications.

Digitally Distinct: A search of your name yields lots of results about you, and most, if not all, reinforce your unique personal brand. Make vanity searches a regular practice so that you can keep tabs on your online identity. That way, if something negative, such as an anonymous ad hominem attack on your character on a blog, crops up, you can address it quickly, before it gets out of hand.
—K. Dixson and W. Arruda


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