Now that you understand more about SEO from Part 1, and have seen first-hand how hiring managers are looking at your online presence, it’s time to take action.
Shaping the Results
If your results contain outdated, inaccurate or embarrassing information that you placed there yourself, such as an old blog you started or questionable social media photos, you have control. Simply log in to your account on the relevant site and either remove the information, update it to match your resume, or make it private. Keep in mind though, that search results will not be affected immediately, though the destination site will.
Pay particular attention to any sites or blogs you have written or contributed to, even in the distant past. Read all the material published under your name and consider carefully whether a random person might consider anything unprofessional, offensive or perceive any other type of red flag. If the balance of the material is positive, remove only the offending portions; otherwise best to remove or hide it all.
Likewise, if the material discusses activities you didn’t include on your resume, such as a business you started but abandoned, you’ll need to remove it or be prepared to discuss it in an interview. Generally speaking, any pages that belong to you which haven’t been updated in months or years may reflect badly on your ability to stick with a project or interest, and should be considered for removal.
Sites where you have uploaded resumes in the past are also particularly important; they must be consistent with what a hiring manager is seeing now. If old resumes come up in search results, log in to the site and remove them or replace with the current version. If you don’t remember having an account or uploading a resume, try the site’s password reminder function, or as a last resort, contact the site and ask that it be removed.
A Little Too Social?
If your social media profiles (Facebook in particular) display undesired information, including photos tagged by others with your name, make your profile private, remove your tagged name from undesirable photos, and limit the audience for your old posts to your friends. On Facebook this is accomplished by going to Privacy Settings, and changing anything that is set to either “Everyone” or “Public” to “Friends,” as well as enabling the “Limit the Audience for Past Posts” option. Other sites have their own privacy options, but they are generally more straightforward than Facebook’s.
If you have used social media such as Twitter to share important stories in your field, this is excellent self-promotion, and shows you are a highly engaged curator who keeps up to date on the latest changes. If you’ve used it to share controversial or less than professional content, consider taking it private. Certainly if you have ever complained about your job anywhere online, removing these posts should be your top priority..
Sites that have published information about you without your consent will be more difficult. You should try contacting them, but should not be surprised if you receive no response. A better approach is to simply push them down to page two in the search results.
Controlling the Field
Most searchers will look only at the first page of results for a query. 70 – 80% would rather try a new keyword rather than clicking through to page two. Since hiring managers don’t have all day to search for information about you, this is particularly true of them. So when faced with stubborn opposition in the search engine results page, remember that you’re predominantly concerned with the top 10. This means that if you can publish pages that are relevant to your keywords, you may be able to push down the undesired results to page two where they much less likely to be seen, thus controlling the battlefield.
Sites which allow easy self-publishing, like Tumblr, can be used to quickly publish posts that are relevant to your field and position you as a subject matter expert, perhaps material you already have prepared. Set your posts to public and include your relevant information (using your keywords) in the site template so that it appears on each page, e.g. “John Q. Smith, Chicago Social Media Expert.” This will ensure that you are easily spotted, and give you a good chance of pushing other sites further down in search results. Virtual business cards such as Flavors.me can then be used to aggregate whichever blogs, sites and/or social profiles you wish to be seen. Deploy your keywords on these sites as well, and you can occupy more of the search engines’ page one with results controlled by you.
In the end, it’s a war for valuable search engine real estate. Your job is to identify the battlefield, and push the opposition off it, leaving yourself with an online image that is professional, passionate about your field and honest about your qualifications. In short, the perfect candidate.