Whether you’re applying to jobs, competing for clients, running a business or even requesting a loan, the majority of U.S. adults will now research you online first.
And what they find about you can make or break landing your next gig, client or investor.
So how do you make sure your Google results are helping, not hurting, your opportunities?
After being mistaken for a drug dealer with the same name in Google, I made it my mission to answer this question.
This in-depth report will teach you:
The 9 key stages of your career when you’ll be looked up in Google.
The 49 risk factors in Google that make people less likely to work with you.
The 23 positive factors in Google that make people more likely to work with you.
5 tips for dealing with negative search results.
3 tools and services you can use to maximize the effectiveness of your search results.
Like it or not, you’ll now be Googled at nearly every stage of your career:
Applying to school: 29% of admissions officers Google their applicants (Kaplan).
Applying to jobs: 75% of HR departments are required to research candidates online (Cross-tab).
Selling products/services: 42% of adults look others up online before doing business with them (Harris Interactive).
Hiring talent: 92% of candidates look up their potential employers online before coming on board (Jobvite).
Buying/renting a home: 18% of landlords look up potential tenants online to help determine trustworthiness (Chicago Tribune).
Borrowing money: For the 19.3% of adult Americans who don’t have credit records, credit worthiness is assessed via online content (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau).
Dating: 43% of online U.S. adults have researched a potential date on the web (Source: Harris Study).
You get the picture: unless you live in a cave, you’re going to be Googled.
And not just once. It’ll happen repeatedly throughout your entire life.
Fire up a Google search for your name. Enter the exact version of your name that’s on your business card, resumé or email signature.
Are your Google results helping or hurting you?
If they’re not about you, you’re losing opportunities. Why? 57% of employers are less likely to interview candidates with no online presence. People expect you to show up online. If you don’t, that’s a red flag.
If they’re about you but don’t showcase your strengths, you’re failing to leverage the power of your search results. You want people to instantly find your best content – the stuff that’ll get them excited about working with you and contact you with opportunities. If all that shows up is your high school track scores, that’s not helping.
If they reflect negatively on you, like a bad press article, embarrassing court record, disgruntled employee rant, or any other common issue, most people will decide not to do business with you.
There are 49 known risk factors that make people less likely to work with you.
If you’re applying to a job, employers list these red flags:
Concerns about the candidate’s lifestyle: 58%
Inappropriate comments and text written by the candidate: 56%
Unsuitable photos , videos, and information: 55%
Comments criticizing previous employers, co-workers, or clients: 40%
Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information: 39%
Information about them drinking or using drugs: 38%
Membership in certain groups and networks: 35%
Discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion: 32%
Lied about qualifications: 27%
Poor communication skills: 27%
Linked to criminal behavior: 26%
Shared confidential information from previous employers: 23%
Unprofessional screen name: 22%
Lied about an absence: 17%
And it’s not just posts you’ve published that matter. Employers reject candidates based on other people’s comments, posts and tags on the candidate’s profile, including:
Inappropriate comments or text written by friends and relatives: 43%
Inappropriate comments or text written by colleagues or work acquaintances: 40%
And recruiters are turned off by:
Spelling/grammar errors: 61%
References to guns: 51%
Overly religious posts: 28%
You may be the most professional person in the world online. You may think you don’t have a single social media post or image that would raise an eyebrow.
But chances are, over an entire lifetime of being online, you’ve posted at least one thing you’d rather not explain in a job interview.
Luckily there are now social media cleanup tools that will show you what employers might find in a pre-employment screening. So you can review and deal with them before they hurt your career.
There are 23 known positive factors that make people more likely to work with you.
If you’re applying to a job:
86% of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals say that positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions. Nearly half say that a strong online reputation influences their decisions to a great extent. (From CrossTab’s, “Online Reputation in a Connected World”).
Information that supports their qualifications for the job: 61%
If the candidate has a professional online persona: 50%
Candidate’s personality came across as a good fit with company culture — 43%
Candidate was well-rounded, showed a wide range of interests — 40%
What other people are posting about the candidates: 37%
Candidate’s background information supported their professional qualifications: 38%
Candidate had great communication skills: 37%
Candidate had a professional image: 36%
And two other studies provide additional factors recruiters like to see on social media profiles:
Mentions of volunteerism or charity donations: 65%
Professional memberships and affiliations: 4 out of 5
“Recruiters look for professional experience, tenure, hard skills, industry-related voice and cultural fit as part of the hiring process.” —Jobvite
If you’re applying to school:
47% of admissions officers who looked up potential applicants online say that what they found had a positive impact on students’ application efforts. (Kaplan).
Colleges want to see examples of:
Engagement on LinkedIn. 80% of students who included links to their profile and were looked up by a representative from the schools where they applied were accepted (according to a small study). Correlation is not causation, but qualitative interviews validate that this is 100% true.
Awards and honors
Extracurriculars (especially those not mentioned elsewhere on the application)
One admissions officer gave a great example:
“One student described on Twitter that she facilitated an LGBTQ panel for her school, which wasn’t in her application. This made us more interested in her overall and encouraged us to imagine how she would help out the community.”
If unwanted results show up when people Google you, here are some tips to help minimize the damage.
Scan: Do a full audit for negative or irrelevant search results that come up when someone looks you up online. Search your full professional name, and your name with any other modifiers people might use, like your industry, company, or geographical location. BrandYourself's DIY software does this for you automatically for free.
Diagnose: Identify the types of unwanted search results that come up, and where they are in the rankings. Search results that are closer to the #1 position are much more challenging than those farther down the page. Results coming from authoritative websites are also a challenge.
Build: The only surefire way to minimize the damage of unflattering results is to bury them with positive profiles and websites you control. I recommend that you follow our personal branding process to learn how to do this effectively.
Monitor: Once you’ve built and established your online presence, you still need to maintain your properties so that they continue to rank well and provide high-quality and relevant information to visitors. Keep track of where properties you control are in relation to these damaging properties over time manually or using our software.
Protect: In addition to monitoring your online presence, you should proactively protect yourself against future damage. By continually publishing relevant, engaging content (posts, status updates, rich media, etc.), you can keep the first three pages of results positive and clean for your name.
Other methods to deal with a negative search results for your name:
Submit a takedown request
Use our 3 step process to suppress the negative — best long-term solution for branding and defeating a negative search result.
Hire a lawyer — this can be costly, and is not guaranteed to be effective.
Contact the webmaster/original author of the post (proceed with caution, depending on your relationship to this person).
Assert your right to be forgotten — this depends on where you live.
This is just a very quick overview – to learn more, check out:
Here are 3 methods to improve your Google results and leave a great first impression.
If you want to do it yourself, BrandYourself’s software makes it easier, faster and a lot more fun.
BrandYourself walks you step by step through the process of building sites and profiles that you control. We've been working on it for nearly a decade, and it's helped almost a million people just like you.
In a nutshell, it shows you how to optimize the visibility of your profiles in Google and clean up any posts that could come back to haunt you. You also get access to all of our BrandYourself University guides, providing even more insight into online reputation management.
If you don’t want to do it on your own, BrandYourself’s Managed Services can help.
We’ve helped a million people improve how they look online over the last decade. If you nee help, you can always connect with one of our reputation advisors. They’ll explain your options. You can give BrandYourself a call and ask for help at (646) 863–8226 or schedule a consultation for whenever is convenient.
Or do it completely on your own.
You'll start by creating or optimizing 20 profiles (and a personal website) to start the process of improving your Google results. You’ll optimize these for search engines, and stick to a regular schedule of updating your profiles according to best practices. Why? Because Google prefers showing continually updated, exceptionally useful content. So if you can dedicate time to making it happen, follow the DIY guides above.
It will pay dividends throughout your career.
You can learn more here:
Or check out our free guides at BrandYourself University
Note: This is the first in a series of in-depth reports. Follow me on LinkedIn so you don't miss the next one.