Career Center Blog

January 21, 2013

Google yourself clean with new branding app


Woe be to the person with a name like "Michael Thompson" or "Susan Green" who wants to stand out in the roiling sea of social media networking. My own name will never come close to the annual baby names top 10 list (Aiden for boys, Sophia for girls in 2012, FYI), but I've had some doppelganger issues when "Googling" my own name.

For many years, when I typed "Randy Woods" into Google, I would get two pages of links and photos of a basketball standout at La Salle University, who later played in the NBA for four seasons in the 1990s. While it was kind of cool to see I had the same name as a hoops star, it wasn't very helpful for my career. If you met me in person you would see instantly that I could never be confused with a 5'10" African-American athlete who averaged 2.4 points per game.

Today, the "NBA Randy Woods" still tops the Google search page with his own Wikipedia entry, but I'm right below him at No. 2 with my LinkedIn profile. That makes me one of the lucky ones as far as personal branding goes. Many other people are accidentally associated with the unprofessional behavior of random strangers who happen to share the exact same name.

To help reduce these confusing search results, a new web app called BrandYourself is gaining popularity among job seekers who wish to clean up their web presence. Created two years ago by three alumni of Syracuse University, BrandYourself analyzes the search terms your online profile from sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and provides tips on how to boost your search ranking. Over time, the app tracks your progress in these rankings and alerts you when unidentified or negative results show up.

BrandYourself, which currently has about 25,000 users, doesn't eradicate any potentially damaging information, but it can help push that information further down in the search results; most hiring managers tend to search not much deeper than one or two pages into any candidate's social media search.

The app is aimed mostly at today's college students, who many not realize that the constant sharing of information they've done since childhood could return to haunt them in the work-a-day world. But the service — which allows you to track up to three personal links for free, or an unlimited amount of links for $10 per month — could become popular among job-seeking professionals of all ages who can't afford the much higher fees of more sophisticated "reputation management" firms.

So, do you have anything in your past that might raise eyebrows? A CareerBuilder survey from last spring found that 37 percent of the 2,000 hiring managers they surveyed said they used social networking sites to research job candidates and look for "red flags" in the person's behavior. Of those who use these search functions, one third said they'd found something online that caused them to reconsider contacting the candidates further.

If you haven't Googled (or "Binged" or "Yahooed") your name in a while, try to make it a regular habit every few weeks just to see how quickly you appear and in what context. If there's a drunken photo or a profanity-laced tirade with your name on it, the success of your professional brand could be in jeopardy.

Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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