By Lauren Strapagiel
Sometimes I envy all the Lisa Smiths and Mark Williams of the world. Your dull and generic names protect you from the all-seeing eye of Google.
To an employer, a search of your name may just prove an exercise in tedium as millions of your generically-named brethren are displayed. Your cookie cutter names shelter your awkward drunk Twitter updates and DeviantArt page of “artistic” macro photography.
I’m not that lucky.
I am the only Lauren Strapagiel in the world. There aren’t many Strapagiels out there and most of them have Polish first names with more consonants than I’m capable of pronouncing. Having a unique name and associated history is great and all, but it also leaves me with the burden of keeping my online presence squeaky clean.
Google my name and you only get me. And speaking as someone who learned to build websites at an early age and possibly once had a thing for fan fiction (don’t judge me), that’s a damn dangerous thing.
In our biz section, we look at why monitoring your online footprint is so important and how to keep it clean, but here are some tips for my fellow uniquely-named users.
First, if you are going to engage in unprofessional internet activities, do not attach your name to anything. Ever. As a tween I once built a website that included a collection of pixel dolls (remember those?) and a special section professing my love for my favourite band, AFI. That mess of angst and sparkling .gifs still exists, but you’ll never find it. My real name isn’t on it anywhere.
This applies to your email too. Don’t use your fancy “profesional” Gmail account to sign up for those Harry Potter/Twilight crossover forums. You will be found.
Second, make Google work for you by giving the search monster what it craves. Buy your name as a domain. Aside from just being a great self-promotion tactic, URLs are high up on Google’s search algorithm, meaning your personal website is going to show up at the top of the results. Load that domain up with professional information, the more pages the better.
Google also loves links, so help it out. Fill your website with links to your LinkedIn, your Twitter, your program’s homepage, your projects and clippings, your sanitized, work-version Facebook profile. Anything.
Then link those back to your website. Google will pick up your linkcest and push those pages higher up on your results, putting you back in control.
All that being said, my search results still aren’t perfect. A little digging finds the high school newspaper that I ran. Not exactly my finest journalistic work.
Which brings me to my final tip: keep your passwords. My eleventh-grade musings will live forever because I’ve forgotten my login info.
Although I suppose it could be worse. No one’s found my teenage MySpace pictures… right?