Let’s talk about what it looks like when somebody Googles you, and how to change Google search results for your name. In short, let’s talk about SEO and online reputation management. This happens to be an area Kelly and I are experts in (I own The Content Factory, a digital marketing agency that also trains people in SEO).
Whether you’re applying for remote work or swiping through Tinder for a new partner, people are Googling your name. Do you know what your search results look like?
More importantly, do you know how to change your Google search results if they’re not accurate – or not flattering?
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to make sure the Google search results for your name are actually showing you, and in the best light possible. And if they don’t, this guide will show you how to fix it.
FYI – We originally posted a pared-down version of this “how to change Google search results for your name” guide in our Facebook group — come join us!
Now, let’s get to fixing your Google problem. But first…
Step 1: View (Accurate) Google Search Results for Your Name
PRO TIP: you need to open an “incognito” window in Chrome when you Google yourself. Google knows a lot about you, and serves you up search results based on what it thinks you want to see. These results will always include local results, so if you were featured in your local newspaper for doing something really stupid when you were 19, that might show up here.
When you Google your name in an incognito window, none of your preferences (local or otherwise) filter into or skew the search results. This is a much more realistic picture of what people are seeing when they search for your name.
While you’re digging around, make sure you click over to the images tab so you can see what your presence looks like over there as well (this is especially important for you online daters — we all know those TBT photos from the 90’s are embarrassing).
Try a few different iterations of your name, especially if your name has many different spellings. Also throw in words that people would use to identify you, if you’ve got a common name (like Kelly). Try your name + your city, your company, your profession, etc.
Take an inventory of what’s out there. If your online presence consists largely of you holding drinks in your hand and looking like you’re at a frat party, you’re going to need to pepper in some more professional content. Make a note of all content that you’d like to change or take down, and prepare to reach out to the people who posted the content with the ask.
Step 2: Fix the Search Results You Don’t Like (and can change)
Maybe you need to go untag yourself on some public Facebook posts and pictures, since potential employers and dates probably don’t want to see photos of your friends on the mechanical bull in college. Maybe you need to email some bloggers with an updated headshot to replace that party pic from 2007. Maybe you need to hit up a friend and tell them to take something, uh, unsavory, down.
If somebody has posted inaccurate information about you, you can also contact Google about getting the results removed. This can be hit or miss, though, and is probably not the fastest way to change Google search results for your name.
Update all of your social channels, particularly LinkedIn (primarily for job-hunting, but social-media stalking potential dates check that out as well). Make sure your Twitter is good to go, and if you don’t have a Twitter profile create one because you’re gonna need that in Step 3. It doesn’t take long and it shows attention to detail. See also: Quora.
If you’re looking for remote work, you should have a portfolio website (even if it’s just a placeholder with not much content). Build out that site to at least the MVP (minimum viable product), focusing on the “about” page. Include some photos on that bad boy, following the guide linked at the bottom of this post.
If you have no idea where to start there, check out Squarespace or Wix. They have easy-to-use templates that can help you get moving and there are very few design decisions on your part. If SEO is going to be a long-term focus, set up a WordPress website.
When you’ve exhausted the easy options, it’s time to start skewing your Google search results for your name to be as favorable as possible.
Step 3: Game the System with SEO – With Some Help from Friends
PRO TIP: if you want to change Google search results for your name, you should focus on Twitter and LinkedIn first. These are often some of the top search results, and the easiest to manipulate.
Believe it or not, there’s a way to do this without looking too self-promotional and thirsty. You’re going to need to tap a friend or five for this, and get a quid-pro-quo going for improving everyone’s online presence (if you ask a friend if they want to change Google search results for your name, they’ll probably find themselves in the same boat you’re in).
The more friends the better, but one is enough to at least get some movement.
If you don’t have killer pics of yourself, exchange pic taking duties with the friends you’ve recruited from the paragraph above. This is much better than trying to rock a selfie — experiment with some full body shots, torso-and-up pics, and a few headshot portraits.
Don’t have a decent DSLR? No big deal. Use the best (read: the newest) smartphone from your group of friends.
You want a lot of options here, so take a lot of photos. As the photographer snaps the camera, the subject should move around a bit (it does you no good to have 10 pics of the exact same pose – change the angle of your chin in each shot, so you can have several options and learn which post works best for you).
Get a few pics with the friends, ideally in multiple locations and outfits. Look at you crazy kids having fun! That looks like someone who gets along well with the people around them! Google searchers will be looking at these photos later, so make sure they’re PG-rated or lower.
If you don’t already know about filters, educate yourself. Insta filters are fine, but if you really want to step up your retouching game you can get FaceTune 2, which is some real witchcraft. Don’t overdo it with the FaceTune features — a dab’ll do ya on that.
Once you’ve got a stockpile of image assets, it’s time to get them “out there.” Every week or so, take turns tweeting out images of each other.
Kelly literally wrote the guide on image optimization, so check that out and implement some of those tactics to really knock this step out of the park.
MISSION CRITICAL: Actually tag the photos — don’t just include their Twitter handles in the tweet. Put it on Insta, and consider putting it on Facebook as a public post.
This is also a good time to clean up your social media channels. Delete any iffy tweets and make your Twitter account public. Your real name should be attached to your Twitter account in order for Step 3 to actually work, so make sure that’s listed in the profile.
Going forward, make sure you tweet about your industry every now and then, even if that just means a retweet. Look for industry experts to follow and don’t be afraid to @ them, because it’ll make your Twitter profile look more legit to anyone who finds it.
While you’re spiffing up that profile, create some Twitter lists of industry influencers, reports who focus on relevant areas, and role models who inspire you. While often overlooked, Twitter lists are a killer resource you should definitely take advantage of if you want to maximize your Twitter results.
Engage with the public posts, which will send positive search signals to Google and help you get those pics up in your search results faster (the results likely won’t be immediate, so keep at this until the desired results are achieved). If you want to change Google image search results for your name, this is one of the fastest ways to do it.
If necessary, create your own website and stock that “about” page with flattering photos and a description of you and your areas of expertise. If you’re a freelancer, there’s no time like the present to get your portfolio site up!
Consider writing some guest blog posts, so you can get your name and headshot out there — preferably with a side of expertise. Answer a few questions on Quora — these are public, and will get your Quora profile pic up and poppin’ in Google search results for your name.
If you want to go next level with it, subscribe to Help a Reporter Out queries (they’re free, and they work!), respond to some journalists, and get yourself quoted in a couple of media outlets. This is pretty easy to do, and great for impressing potential clients/employers/dates/family members at Thanksgiving.
PRO TIP: Don’t ignore anonymous queries! “Anonymous” doesn’t necessarily mean “crappy outlet you’ve never heard of.” We’ve gotten our clients quoted in The Huffington Post by responding to anonymous queries. They may not always pay off, but they’re worth a shot.
Step 4: Improve Google Search Results for Your Name, Rinse and Repeat
Don’t just go through these steps once and never return. Google yourself every so often and check up on things. You want to keep this current so when you go to look for your next gig (or your next partner) you don’t have to start from scratch.
And the best part is that this is a good way for recruiters to do a bit of research on you. LinkedIn might be a chore for most of us, but those stories of people who’ve found their dream jobs because recruiters messaged them are (mostly) true. Since remote work doesn’t have to stick to a small radius, LinkedIn can work even harder for you.
We covered most of this in the latest episode of the Workationing podcast (have you listened to it yet? What’d you think?), but we wanted to include a step-by-step how-to as well. Don’t forget to join our Facebook group for hot tips on finding remote work and great deals on travel, plus support from other aspiring and current digital nomads.