You're only as good as Google says you are
Face it, you're going to get 'Googled'. Here's how to burnish your digital brand.
NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -- Who's Scott Burkett? A small-time actor; a family lawyer; a techie at the University of North Carolina.
But if you Google "Scott Burkett," eight of the top 10 results, and most of the next 20, point to the 38-year-old chief executive of PlayMotion, a small video-game company.
That's no coincidence. Over the past decade, video-game Scott has carefully nurtured his digital dossier. Why bother?
"Everyone is going to see this stuff," says Burkett. "It's not just customers and investors who look you up. It's everyone."
Including the person who may find you your next job. According to ExecuNet, a career-networking company for executives, more than 80% of recruiters use Google to uncover information on candidates.
While you can't completely control what appears under your name on search engines, it's not that hard to burnish your digital brand.
Start a Weblog
Blogging can quickly shoot your name from obscurity to the top of search indexes, says Robyn Greenspan, senior editor at ExecuNet. Try to update it at least three times a week and use keywords that you think searchers are likely to look for.
An aeronautical engineer might naturally use words like "aviation" and "altitude" in his blog, for example.
Blogger.com is a commonly used (and free) place to get started. The site will guide you every step of the way. You'll also want to set up a social-networking profile.
Buy your domain
Purchase your first and last name as a Web address. Even if you don't plan to set up a Web site now, it's a good idea to park it - GoDaddy.com will let you reserve a dotcom name for $9.99 a year. Don't let someone beat you to it. Buying on the secondary market can be expensive.
If your name is common, try variations like "Firstname-Lastname.com" or your name followed by your profession.
Bury the bad stuff
If you've got a reasonably high profile in a competitive field or if you've ever jilted an employee, uncomplimentary words about you may find their way onto an industry message board or blog. The poster will use a pseudonym - but he or she will make sure that the reader knows who you are.
Sweeping dirt to the second or third page of a Google search by buying your domain and blogging is usually enough. But if the stuff is really toxic, you can try having it removed.
If contact information for a Webmaster isn't readily apparent on the site where you're being maligned, go to CheckDomain.com and search for the domain name. The search will spit back the e-mail address of the site's owner and may reveal a phone number and mailing address.