Muhammad Yasin (@MuhammadInc) asked a great question yesterday, “how can you own your name in online search?”
That’s a good question, because our name is truly the one thing we can control when we’re building our personal brand. If you’re lucky, you’ve got an uncommon name, which makes it easy to find you. As far as I know, I’m the only Erik Deckers in all of North America, although there seems to be three Erik Deckers in Belgium. And I was about to say that Muhammad is in the same boat, although a quick check of LinkedIn tells me that there are four men with that name or a variation in the US, and 108 total on LinkedIn.
So how can you make sure that yours is the only name found during a Google search? How can you beat the other people who share your name? Here are a few tips you can try, whether you’re just breaking into social media or you’re a veteran.
Five tips to own your name in online search
- Claim the name you want to be known by. Sign up for an account on every social network you can think of with your name as the user name. As soon as you hear of one, sign up for it. You may not be able to keep up with all those networks, but you want to own it just in case it becomes a popular one. But it wouldn’t hurt to touch base with each of those networks once a month just so you don’t get deleted for inactivity.
- Pick three networks — usually Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn — and focus on those. Develop a strong presence in the Big Three, and maybe a fourth related to your particular industry or niche. Provide a lot of content and conversations so people get to know you and link to your blog as much as possible (see #4).
- Get a domain name with your name in it. Owning a keyword-rich domain name tells Google that this particular website is about that keyword. In this case, the keyword is your name. If Muhammad wants to own his name in the online search, he needs to own www.MuhammadYasin.com, or at least some variation of it — a .net or .name address is good, and so is MuhammadYasinIndianapolis.com or MuhammadYasinLivesInIndy.com. You can get a cheap domain at GoDaddy (be sure to do a Google search for “GoDaddy promo code” first), and then forward it to your blog, your Twitter account, or your LinkedIn account. Better yet, set up a microsite at that domain, with links to all of your active social media properties.
- Set up a blog. A great way to win search is to have a lot of content associated with your name, and the best way to create it is a blog. Write about whatever your chosen topic is, like your job, your hobbies, your personal life, whatever. Just put up a lot of content that the search engines can index. When appropriate, link from your blog to your Big Three social networks, and vice versa. (Tweet and status update that you have new posts up, link to your blog from your bios, etc.)
- If you can’t get your name, get a variation of it. If you have a shortened name (Jim instead of James), use your full name. Or use your middle name. Or use both. Our friend, Doug Karr, co-author of Corporate Blogging For Dummies (affiliate link), has to use @DouglasKarr as his Twitter name, because there is a movie director named Doug Karr. So our Doug goes by “Douglas Karr” online just to win the search on that version of the name.
These are just a few of the ways you can own your name in an online search. There are several others, but these are the most powerful and effective ways to do it.