In an online marketing world where SEO is critical, businesses and bloggers pay close attention to optimizing content for SEO and strategically choosing keywords to increase their chances of showing up high on Google search results. But what about the rest of us? You know, us professionals, who also want to put our best foot forward and make sure that content that best represents us shows up high in Google search results for whatever objective we might have such as personal branding, job search, or even just networking? A service has now emerged to bring the same SEO benefits that companies can enjoy to the average person. In a world where it is becoming increasingly common for people to Google other people’s name, BrandYourself offers a simple value proposition: own your Google results. Whether you have negative content, content that isn’t about you, or no content at all – BrandYourself gives you the tools that you need to get your best content to the top of your search results for whatever objective you might have.
I recently had a chance to virtually sit down and interview Patrick Ambron (CEO) and Trevor Elwell (Brand Manager) of BrandYourself to find out more about this unique product and how professionals can leverage it as part of their personal branding and job search efforts.
How did you come up for the idea for developing your service and what qualifies you to be the best company to develop it?
Well it’s actually a pretty funny story. During college, our founder Pete Kistler was applying for some internships only to find that he was being confused for someone else named Pete Kistler. The problem was that this particular Pete Kistler was actually a convicted felon and if you typed in his name two years ago stories related to how he became a felon were flooding the top ten of Google.
Pete was devastated. Where were all his awards? His great GPA and recommendations? His Achievements? He worked hard his whole life only to be misrepresented by a convict at the moment of truth?
Pete realized then and there that Google was his first impression and it was his responsibility to make sure he was as accurately represented as possible. He also realized this was a common problem. Most people are not accurately represented, and are essentially helpless. If you want to improve your search rankings, you either need to be a tech whiz or pay a company thousands of dollars a year to do it for you. So unless you had a couple G’s to burn or a happen to be a politician with a campaign budget, you were out of luck. Together we decided to change that. We wanted to build something and give everyone the opportunity to get accurate, positive content in their top search results so people can find the real them whether it be for personal branding or their job search.
We are the best company to develop this kind of system for a couple of reasons. First, we understand the problem better than most and we are super focused on helping people control the results for just their name. Which brings me to my second reason: our team of programmers and collaborators is incredibly talented and intelligent. We’re backed with some of the best people in the field like Barney Pell, Founder of Powerset and Microsoft’s Head Search Strategist, who make sure we are doing everything possible to help our users in search engines. Our VP of Engineering, Daniel Chote, has a vast amount of experience in managing the creation of large web-based systems such as ours (he co-founded and was CTO of singlesnet.com before selling it to match.com) and knows how to utilize the skills of our other talented programmers.
Who needs personal SEO?
75% of HR departments are expected to research candidates online. 80 million names are Googled every single day. The short answer is everyone, but we like to focus on those with the most immediate need: Job search applicants, new college grads, entrepreneurs, entering college freshman, or just anyone looking to have a better online presence for personal branding – they all need personal SEO.
How important is it for professionals, whether as part of their job search or for personal branding, to create content to help their SEO?
Simply put, if a professional doesn’t have content, it can’t show up high in search engines. Creating content is very important. We encourage users to create personal profiles (if they don’t already have one) in popular social networks like Facebook or Twitter, and online directories like bigsight.org. These are highly reputable places that anyone can create content on. We also allow users to create a personal site and blog on BrandYourself.
However, having content is only half of the battle; you need to make sure that your content is optimized. This includes making sure the structure and sitemap of your content is centered around your name, so search engines understand that YOUR NAME is the most important thing on the page, and making sure relevant places link to the content so search engines understand it is credible. This is something that BrandYourself automatically does, but you can help the cause too with simple things like making sure your name is in the title of the page, in links to your other pages, and even bolding the name can help as well.
Once you have well optimized content, it never hurts to update and keep adding high quality content. Search engines love content because it makes your page look authoritative to search engines and when someone Googling your name finds your page (which is the main goal after all) you don’t want them to only see a page with your name bolded and in links. Providing them with real, positive content will give you the first impression that you deserve.
What do you see as the future for personal SEO?
As it is becoming more “popular” for people to search someone else’s name on Google (either for hiring purposes, before going on a date, before hiring a professional, etc.) I believe that personal SEO will be something that many more people seek out. If you can control your search results, you can also control the first impression many people have of you- once more people see the power of personal SEO I believe that it will take off.
Final question which I get asked a lot: What is your best advice for people who have common names and are having a hard time getting found in search engines?
One thing that those who have common names can do to stand out in search engines is to differentiate themselves from the pack. Some do this by going by their middle name, including their middle initial or middle name, specifying their profession (e.g. John Doe, Real Estate), or including their location (e.g. Jane Doe Syracuse, NY). These techniques make it easier for those with common names to stand out from among the group. Keep in mind that some things such as your profession or location are subject to change at any given time, it might be safer for those with common names to go with a middle name technique to stay on the safe side.
I hope you are as excited as I am for the launch of this service. Do you see a value in a personal SEO service such as BrandYourself for personal branding or your job search? What other services or effort have you done for your personal SEO in the past? Please share your experiences with us so that we can all learn from each other. Thank you!