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Ego Surfing: Searching Your Name for Online Reputation Management
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Blair 01 by: Blair Brown, COO, Marca Global

Ego Surfing: Your First Defense in Online Reputation Management

You’re Not So Vain!


“Ego surfing” is the somewhat misleading term for searching your own name or the name of your organization online. In the digital age, searching your name on Google and Bing is an essential defensive practice. And it goes well beyond propping up an individual’s ego. While you personally may not place much importance on the results associated with your name online, rest assured that the rest of the world does. Ego surfing today isn’t an exercise in vanity. It’s an exercise in vigilance. In fact, ego surfing is frequently quite humbling for more than half of those who take the time to search their names online and find themselves less than satisfied with the returns they see about themselves on the almighty SERP, the Search Engine Result Pages. This can happen when a forgotten “blast from the past” resurfaces. Even worse are the tangled results which can pop up with an ill-defined web presence. Imagine the repercussions of political candidate Jack Williams being confused with this Jack Williams.

Make Sure Your Name is Associated With the Real You

In order to get a thorough look at all of the data associated with your name in the search engines, you’ll need to search beyond “mentions” of your name. If you’ve got a common name, such as Jack Williams in our example above, you’ll need to add some modifiers such as city or town, and state, middle name, profession, or previous places of employment. Check the results under the “all”, “news”, and “images” categories. In Jack’s case, he would need to distinguish himself from the author, athlete, disc jockey, professor, and other politicians and numerous citizens with his very common moniker. Not to mention the Jack Williams accused of robbery and burglary. Those with common names need to put extra effort into defining themselves as individuals online. But every name produces multiple results, and none are immune from mistaken identity errors. On the internet, there is no such thing as yesterday’s news. And ego surfing is essential for remaining aware of everything associated with your name online. We live and work in the age of screenshots, shares, retweets, and File-Save As. And anyone with a smartphone can post anything about you at any time. The mighty search engine algorithms are great for locating names in their massive databases. But when it comes to distinguishing between similar personas online they can often generate confusion which is potentially damaging to your personal online reputation. Ego surfing can uncover misassociations to others online which need immediate correction. The best discerning authority concerning you is you yourself. You can’t rely on the due diligence of others to distinguish errors in the initial Google search. It’s true that interested parties such as employers and lending institutions will usually perform a more intensive background check later. But a negative online reputation can screen you out of that process long before that happens.

Why No Web Presence is Worst of All

There’s also the possible scenario that a searched name produces no results at all for those who cherish their online privacy and have intentionally avoided establishing a web presence. We’ll talk more about how having no online personal reputation at all can be just as damaging as a negative reputation further on in this post. Maintaining a positive personal online reputation is now paramount in our hyper communicating world. 97% of consumers rely on internet searches for business referrals and professional background information. And an astounding 85% believe in the credibility of what they read online. Ego surfing isn’t about vanity at all. It’s a necessary practice for anyone who has established a web presence via social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.

Ego Surfing is Defensive Googling

Searching your own name is the best first defense for personal reputation management in order to monitor those critical top listings in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERP) which are all about you. In order to address a problem, you’ll first need to be aware that a problem exists. Ego surfing is your online reputation radar. When someone mentions your name online, tags you in a photo, or retaliates because you’ve unknowingly stepped on their toes in some way, you need to know about it. The practice of ego surfing is even more essential when we find ourselves at those turning points in life. Buying a new house, leasing an apartment, or making a career move all elicit an online search. All of these turning points bring an increased level of online scrutiny and burying your head in the sand while hoping for the best is not an option. The term “defensive Googling” is a much more apt description of this essential reputation management practice. And anyone seeking employment, building a professional career, or even beginning new social relationships will benefit. It’s best to make it part of your regular reputation management routine. Defensive googling is a must before entering any scenario in which your online reputation will be the subject of scrutiny. That includes making a career move, buying a house, applying for loans, or launching a startup. Googling the name of a new applicant is now the norm. Recruiters, employers, prospective clients, college admissions administrators, and even that potential match with your significant other all hop online to learn about you first. Add to the list realtors, landlords, investors, and loan officers, and it becomes obvious that maintaining an accurate online reputation is important for anyone who isn’t living off the grid. For the rest of us in the mainstream of today’s digital society, online reputation management is a skill which is arguably more vital than writing an effective resume.

93% of Employers Are Searching Your Name

Susan P. Joyce is a career coach and job search expert. Her informative article for Forbes titled To Be Hired You First Must Be Found provides a vital perspective on establishing a positive web presence for career opportunities. Joyce leaves no doubt about the importance of online visibility and the questions it can raise in the minds of recruiters and employers as they search and screen for qualified talent when web presence is lacking. As she reported, by 2014, 93% of recruiters used or plan to use social media for initial job candidate evaluations. That number was up from 80% in 2010, and if the trend continues it is safe to assume that Googling all candidates will be a standard business practice for nearly 100% of employers. Joyce refers to an individual’s web presence as the “online footprint.”

Why Your Online Footprint Matters

That online footprint can be the first step to a rewarding new job. Or, it can be the muddy impression that rules you out as a good fit. The offhand comment or bawdy image of you on social media might have been funny to your Facebook friends. But it may be totally inappropriate for your future boss to view when it pops up in the initial Google search. Social media is a common source for negative search results. And the wisest candidates are those who ego surf and use defensive Googling to clean up those old muddy footprints before they make a career move. They know any major life change is sure to place them under intensive scrutiny. Old arrest records, mugshots, and court cases can all appear in the massive search engine databases and affect your personal brand. When the source of negativity associated with your name is a third-party person or organization beyond your control Reputation Sciences has the proprietary digital tools you need to be prepared for that scrutiny by placing the reins of the search engine rankings in your hands. As bad as negative search results are, no online footprint at all might be even worse. Online communication skills are frequently an indicator that a candidate is knowledgeable and able to thrive in the digital age. If your name produces no results at all in the initial search, searchers will raise doubts about your ability to use the basic business tool: the internet. Or, the screener may suspect that you’re hiding your “digital dirt” by using an alias. As job search expert Susan Joyce points out: If you’re not ego surfing regularly, all of these factors affecting your career opportunities will be invisible to you.  

Securing Your Online Reputation

Writer Kim Komando offers some basic ego surfing tips in her 2015 article for USA Today, Why You Should Google Yourself Now. One of the basic tools is the Google Alerts feature which will keep you up to speed when your name is mentioned on the internet with a timely email. The internet never sleeps. And the internet never forgets. The alerts are helpful in the ongoing process of defensive Googling. Komando also highlights just how much personal information is available on your Google account. A review of your Google security and privacy settings is in order. Going beyond the original name search, Komando also wisely advises readers to search:
  • current and former email addresses;
  • old social media account usernames; and
  • phone numbers.
This gives you the most comprehensive picture of just what’s out there.

Claiming Your Name Online

If you haven’t established a positive web presence, there are some ways to establish and enhance your personal online reputation. One of the best first steps is to establish your online identity with a detailed profile on LinkedIn. It’s one of the most reliable methods to ensure that people can find you online. The site is respected by the Google algorithms and always ranks highly in the SERP after an initial name search. You can add modifiers such as middle name or initial. And you can include specific details such as profession and location that differentiate you from others with similar names. You can also publish a polished resume and influential posts to spotlight the positive aspects of your life. That may include working with charities or nonprofit organizations. Knowledgeable articles highlighting your communication skills are another way to take control of the online conversation about you. LinkedIn offers a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) advantage which shouldn’t be dismissed. When your LinkedIn profile appears prominently in search results, you can steer interested parties to your blog or website. You can even highlight prominent mentions in online articles or positive reviews by others.

Getting Your Head Out of the Sand to Protect Your Online Reputation

Reliance on the search engines is a two-edged sword. An established presence enables you to show up first online. And it opens the doors to a new career, as well as financial, and social opportunities. However, ignoring the effects of your online reputation can be disastrous. All of us in the digital age need to be proactive in the management of our personal reputations online. As reliance on the almighty search engines increases, this is one problem that certainly won’t go away by ignoring it. If you’ve been repeatedly passed over for jobs, struggled to get past the application process with leasing agreements, or continuously rejected by lending institutions, it’s time to do some serious ego surfing. It’s your chance to survey the landscape of your online footprints. If your name has been associated with a mugshot of the felon who shares your name and city, you need to know about it.

Time Spent Ego Surfing is Time Well Invested

In many cases, once you are aware of a problem you have the means to take action and correct it yourself. You can clean up your social media posts and delete blogs and images which are no longer appropriate. You can increase your web presence if it’s been lacking and use ego surfing to monitor your progress. These are good first steps to take in your personal reputation management. Just bear in mind that you don’t always have access to the delete button when the government databases or other third-parties allow access to personal information. If a particular comment or inappropriate image associated with your name has gone viral it will be quite a chore to contact each website administrator to have it removed. And even then their compliance with your wishes may not happen. Now it’s time to go beyond the basic fundamentals of personal reputation management and call in the big guns. The advanced technology at Reputation Sciences is here for you.

About Reputation Sciences

The age of digital information is an age of science. With the ever-increasing reliance on information technology that science can easily work against you if you aren’t vigilant about maintaining the valuable personal brand which is your online reputation. When science is the problem, better science is the cure. At Reputation Sciences we have the proven proprietary digital tools that let you take control of the online conversation about you, your business, or your corporation. When you’re ready to take charge of your online reputation don’t hesitate to contact us.
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