What does Google say about you and your business? If someone were to search for you or the name of your business, would they be able to find you and are you comfortable with what comes up in those searches? Embarrassed about having our picture taken or being hesitant to “toot our own horn”, many of us tend to hide from the glaring public eye of the internet. We use screen names. We hide our location. We use goofy icons that have nothing to do with our business. Not only does this practice fail to keep us safe from harm, but it inhibits your business. To have successful online business, you need to make sure your online presence says what you want it to say.
Uh-Oh. That’s Not What I Want People to See!
A few years ago when Facebook had some privacy issues, a good friend of mine closed his account. And he stopped participating online. He thought he was protecting his family from nosy people knowing too much about him. He thought he was protecting his young daughter. Unfortunately, because his name is fairly unique and he had so little activity online, a simple Google search told me about his new job, his activities at church, his daughter’s name, and where they lived. Anytime anything was written about him in the local newspaper or in his church’s newsletter, the article appeared online. But what was really awful is that his daughter’s name is exactly the same as a somewhat unsavory character who was prolific (and profane) on Twitter. And for a split second I wondered if his now teen-aged daughter had an unfortunate Twitter hobby.
Another friend of mine, a local businessman, has the same name as a brand of hosiery favored by crossdressers and fetishists. Um…needless to say, you don’t want anyone searching for you to come up with such…interesting search results.
So how can you fix this? You need to ensure that searches for you will find not only the right person, but also give the impression that you want your customers to see. Can you change Google? Actually, yes! It will take some time and some effort, but it’s well worth it! The key is to flood the internet with appropriate content that you have intentionally placed into circulation and carefully crafted for its professional appearance. By the way, this is not the same as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is the practice of crafting your online content for high rankings in search results. I’ve never heard anyone have a name for this practice, but I’ll call it “Crafting Your Online Presence”.
Eliminate Old Data
First thing, do a Google search for your name in quotes, “Mary Smith”. This gives only the results for your full name and not all the pages which have both Mary and Smith. See what you find. Is there anything there that you don’t want your customers finding? In many cases you’ll find old profiles you’ve forgotten about, maybe some family members have mentioned you on Facebook, or even some local articles in your town’s newspaper. You can’t really do anything about the news sources, but you can delete comments and remove tags on Facebook. You can log in and delete comments on old forums, then delete the accounts. (Note: Delete the comments FIRST, then the accounts or you won’t be able to delete the comments!) Do the same thing with your business name. Try to clean up as much as you can. If you find nothing unsavory, then this part is easy!
You can’t do anything to remove content that has nothing to do with you. So if you have the same name as a famous porn star, your only solution is to flood the internet with things you want customers to see. It’s much better for searchers to see pictures of you as well as the porn star, than to just see the porn star and wonder if that’s you in your night job.
Create a New Story
Next you want to create a suitable “story”. Get a good picture taken of yourself and get a copy of it that’s cropped to no less than 300×300 pixels. You don’t want a tiny, fuzzy profile picture! Now think about your business logo, business name, and your bio. You’re going to need this for the next step. Give some thought to crafting an impression of what you want your story to be. In general, I recommend using your own picture for the profile picture for you, and your business logo for profile pictures for a business account. You can have both in many cases. I have both a personal and a business Pinterest, for instance.
Update Current Profiles
Now that you have created your “identity”, make sure that you update all your online accounts to have a profile photo or business logo, URL, and bio information. Remember to change your Etsy “about” and Blogger profile, too! Use sentences containing appropriate keywords for your business if possible. Feel free to include information about your hobbies and such. There’s nothing wrong with letting customers know that you are a real person.
Make sure that your website profile includes your name. This way people can connect the person they know on a Facebook group with the blogger that they know. I’m amazed how infrequently people do this.
Create New Accounts
The next part of the process is to create new accounts and profiles, especially for subjects which are relevant to your business. If you make ceramic jewelry, creating a profile on a fly fishing forum isn’t going to do much for you. But you certainly want to have a beautiful profile on Etsy (even if you don’t sell there anymore, it’s still a valid destination for search engines.) Remember, your goal in this exercise is to flood the internet with “hits” that are relevant to YOU and will even possibly get customers to YOU.
Make sure you create a Google profile and get a Google+ account. Create a Google+ page for your business. Get a Twitter account. Get a Pinterest account. If you have a website, make sure you have listed your URL in every profile. Not only can people find you more easily, it helps establish you with online legitimacy. You don’t have to be active in these different sites, but do go ahead and create profiles. Not only does it give another legitimate Google hit, but it also keeps others from creating a profile with the same name sometime in the future.
Also create a Flickr account. Flickr is not for promotion, but you still want to have a profile and some pictures uploaded. The more places that Google finds you, the more hits there will be in a search for your name or business, and these hits will hopefully outnumber those of other people with the same name. Flickr is highly indexed by Google and Yahoo. So it’s really important to include your name and business names as tags on your Flickr pictures. Even if your name or business name isn’t unique, searches will include your photos because most people DON’T tag their photos!
Go Forth and Plant Seeds
Now that you have crafted a great online presence, participate online. Comments left on blogs are searchable. The same with comments on many forums. This is good if the blog or forum is relevant to your business, but be aware that what you say is very public and very searchable! (That’s always been true, by the way, so people who aren’t careful what they say online…well…ouch!)
Update your blog often. Write guest posts for other blogs. Write about other bloggers in your blog, too. The more active you are online in connection with your business, the more likely it is that the information you want to convey will come up when people search for your business.
How soon should you see results? New content posted online is typically indexed by Google within a few days. It will take time for you to build up a large collection of “hits”, but just keep the process in mind as you go forward. Your business will benefit by being presented in the right light and in the way you want to be seen.