Catch the Wave, Dude!
Do You Have an Imposter Complex?

Catch the Wave, Dude!

The best way to manage your online reputation?

Go surfing.

"Egosurfing" (also known as googling yourself, egosearching, or vanity searching) is the act of typing your own name into a search engine to see what pops up. As the name implies, many people do it to see what's being said about them online, for good or ill. Those who egosurf for personal reasons have developed a reputation as vain and self-absorbed--making ordinary folks hesitant to google themselves as well.

However, searching for your own name online can be invaluable, especially if you're currently looking for a job. It helps you manage your online reputation: a must for today's job seekers. It can also be the only means you have for catching "data spills," which include information, videos, or photos that you don't want in the public eye.

If you're looking for work, you can guarantee that potential employers will google you. So why not get a head start on managing your online image by googling yourself? The best part of egosurfing is that nobody need know you caught the wave.

Here's how to manage your online reputation via search engine:

Step One: Google yourself.

  1. Use more than one search engine. Google remains the world's most popular search engine, and as such, it should be on the top of your list. But many people use search engines other than Google. Consider also searching for your own name on sites like Bing, Yahoo!, and Ask.
  2. Use more than one search string. Typing in your own name is clearly the first step. But also try common misspellings of your name in order to catch data spills. If you find yourself wading through large numbers of results that include either your first or last name, but not both, try putting your entire name in quotation marks.
  3. Try a blog search engine. Google and some other search companies also offer features that search blogs. Since blog posts won't always come up high on standard search lists, run your name through a blog search engine to learn more about what others are saying about you.
  4. Step Two: Manage your results.

  5. Use the available tools. To date, Google offers the best set of built-in tools for managing your online reputation. Among the platform's features is an opportunity to create a "basic information" box that shows up at the top of search results for your name and a basic profile that links to it. Google also provides the option to strike some listings from Google search results pages. However, these listings may appear on other search engines, so don't rely on Google to handle all the profile management you need.
  6. Clean up after yourself. Many results may simply be outdated: old profiles on social media or dating sites, comments you've left on blog posts, and so on. Clean up those you can by deleting or setting to private any information you don't want prospective employers to see.
  7. Make requests when needed. When you can't delete or make private a piece of information, a photo, or a video, contact the person who posted it or the site administrator and ask that it be taken down or made private.
  8. Step Three: Maintenance

  9. Keep track of all your "touch points." Every online profile, comment, and posting that can be tracked back to your name reflects on you in some way. This includes not just scandalous photos or video, but political rants, insults, and other Internet scuffles. Know which results are most likely to pop up in a search for your name, and monitor them regularly.
  10. If you're arguing online, you've already lost. Arguing online is like yelling into a culvert: everyone can hear you, and you look like a fool. Even if your own profile is locked down, argumentative comments under your name may come up in search engine results if the other person's profile is public. If you must defend a point online, stick to the issue. Avoid personal attacks and insults.
  11. The Internet is forever. Even "deleted" information is often recoverable online to a sufficiently determined searcher. Deletions can take up to six months to disappear from Google's search index, and sites like The Wayback Machine may preserve previous editions of pages indefinitely. The best protection for your online identity is to avoid posting compromising information in the first place.
"Egosurfing" may have a bad reputation, but that shouldn't keep you from trying it in the name of protecting your online reputation and improving your standing with search-engine-conscious employers. Preserve and define your online brand by making sure you know what comes up when an employer searches for your name--because employers will know, too.