Building Your Web Presence

So, you want to build you web presence. But where do you start? Let this resource series be your guide to developing a web presence that will help you achieve your professional and personal goals.

First, assess where you are

To get where you’re going, you need to start where you are. So, first we have to figure out where you are. Whether you call it egogoogling, reconnaissance, or a vanity search, it’s a good idea to start by seeing what your web presence currently looks like. This is especially true when you’re entering the job market or preparing for a jump to new employment. This process will enable you to identify results you want to highlight, any you’d prefer to remove or bury, and what kinds of presence you’d like to build.

One more note before we get going: it will be best to Google yourself in a private browser window, ensuring that you aren’t signed in to anything (especially Google). If you can use a browser or computer you don’t typically use, even better. The reason for this is that Google tailors its search results to you, based on your Google account and cookies that have provided Google information over time. If you are signed in, or even just using your usual browser, Google will show you different results than it would show other users, as it tries to guess what kind of stuff you want to see. This is important to keep in mind as you move forward; just as Google tries to guess what YOU want to see, Google will be guessing what employers, colleagues, or others want to see based on THEIR account settings and viewing history. So, you’ll never have a perfectly clear picture of what someone else is seeing.

With that in mind, it is now time. GOOGLE YOURSELF! Search for your full name—with and without middle name—and also search for your family name, any nicknames you might use, and any other variations you can think of. Search for your name in conjunction with other identifiers, like your hometown, phone number, address, email address, or employer. For instance, if you regularly comment on a blog, Google your name in conjunction with the username you use. Google “[your username]” “[your real name]”, including the quotation marks. This will force Google to return a very specific result that contains both sets of words, to see if the two names can be linked. In addition, think of and search for personal descriptors; for example, if Joe sits next to Lucy on a flight and introduces himself as a student at MIIS in the MBA program, Lucy could likely find him online with that information. So, think through how you introduce yourself, and imagine how people could find you with that information. This provides an excellent opportunity to both revise your “elevator pitch” to include information people could use to Google you, and to build your new web presence to reflect the information from your intro.

Google search operators

You can use special search operators to narrow your search results to find particular results. Google itself is a good source for this “language.” This can be useful if you’re looking for a specific source, or if you’re looking for your name in conjunction with something else. Experienced web searchers (like the HR departments at the companies you’re applying to or the paranoid mother of your new roommate) will likely utilize these operators.

What do I look for?

You can go as deep as you want here, but remember that Google search results can go on and on. Keep in mind that the vast majority of people won’t look beyond the first page of search results. A good rule of thumb is to check the first three pages of the search results.

First, assess how many of the results are actually you. Second, evaluate the value of the results that are you. How could these results affect your reputation? Any drinking pictures from social media posts? Old angsty blog posts from high school? Besides reputation, also check for accuracy; do the generated results provide an up-to-date picture of the brand you’d like to project? Check for positive results you’d potentially like to boost, including professional profiles, articles about achievements, or connections to prominent organizations. To sum it up, you’ll be compiling a list of results you’d like to bury and others you’d like to boost. In the next step, we’ll identify gaps.

Next, plan what you want

Before you decide what you want, what do you want your web presence to do for you? How do you want to “brand” yourself to the world? Are you primarily interested in building a portfolio, making your accomplishments and work more accessible? Do you want to cultivate a reputation relevant to your current or desired career? Do you want to present yourself as a creative educator, a driven entrepreneur, a no-nonsense finance specialist, or a culturally-savvy interpreter? How can you leverage your web presence to express your personality?

Keep these (and other elements you discover along the way) in mind as you move forward to the building phase.

Now, let’s make it happen!

Building your web presence, when looked at for the very first time, can seem daunting and overwhelming, even with a plan for what you want. All web tools are not made equal, and so some are a particularly good place to start when you’re establishing your online identity. Below, I’ve suggested an order you can go in if you’re looking for some structure; following this path will help you grow from newbie to web presence master!

First things first

If you don’t have up-to-date Google+ and LinkedIn accounts, those are the best places to start.

Widening your gaze

Once you have the essentials out of the way, you can supplement those with a Slideshare account, personal website, and by adjusting your use of social media and email.

Going the Distance

Now that you’re a web presence pro, here are some ideas for ways to continue to improve and cultivate your identity.

Finally, keep it up!

5137992620_5ae53dbafb_oDesigning and curating your web presence is an ongoing project. As you continue to develop personally or professionally, be sure to tweak your web presence to reflect that. Maintaining your presence doesn’t have to be hard or cumbersome. Heck, it can (and should) even be fun!

Best of luck!


Want more advice?

If you have questions, feel free to come in to the DLC. We’ll be happy to help.