What does Google Say About Your Personal Brand

When you want an answer to a question, you “Google It”. It’s convenient, fast and incredibly reliable. No wonder it’s the first place people go to for information these days.

But what about you? Your own name. Have you ever Googled yourself? What do people discover online about you?

How many of the result are you? Are they relevant? Do they convey the right impression? Any bad news you’d prefer not be there? Do you even exist, at least according to Google?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts have made a career at helping products and corporate brands rank high in keyword searches. They know a business’s success is often tied directly to how well it ranks in a Google search.

And just like researching a company or product, individuals will use Google to research you.

The results are your digital dossier. An electronic directory constantly and persistently displaying information about you. People will use the results to form an initial impression of you. They’ll click on the links to investigate more.

Go ahead. Do it now. Open your browser, type your name in the Google search box and see what is displayed in the search results list. You may be shocked with the results.

What is Displayed When I Google My Name?

Google will display the most pertinent and relevant information about you. It knows when people type in your name, they are seeking information about you. Similar to corporate SEO efforts, your name, in essence, is the keyword that Google provides results for.

These result listings are called SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Each SERP includes a headline title (it’s the bold blue that’s hyper-linked to that page) and a brief summary (in SEO jargon — called meta data) that provides further information from the page.

Kent Huffman 1st SERP Result - Executive Branding

In this example, I’ve googled “Kent Huffman”. The first listing is his personal webpage. You can see the headline is clean with appropriate keywords describing what he does. The description provides additional information about him that may lead you to click on this link for more info.

The order the SERPs are presented is a ranking of information about you. From social properties (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook), company websites, personal website and blog, news sites, press announcements, industry associations, community involvement and images.

There are usually 9 SERPS listed on the first page. On desktop computers, it’s easy to see all the results at once. On mobile devices, generally the same info is displayed but a user has to scroll down. According to Statista, over 50% of all searches are conducted on a mobile device. So, it’s important to review the results on mobile as well.

If you have a common name (eg. Steve Smith), you may have to add a “descriptor” or “modifier” (e.g. the city you live in or the company you work for) to help. Someone researching you in a business context is likely to add this a company or location modifier to find you.

So, how many of the listings “do you own”? What’s the impression presented? What’s good. What’s bad. What needs to be improved?

Evaluate Your Google Results

Now the fun part. Let’s evaluate the results.

Creating this “digital audit” makes a good discussion point when I meet with executives as the first part of an executive branding service. I rate the results in 4 “buckets”: Poor, Average, Good or Excellent. Most people’s results fall in the poor to average bucket. That’s not surprising since most people aren’t focused on their own brand – a big mistake!

To help with your self-assessment, here’s a quick rating scorecard I use to evaluate results. It’s not a hard and fast delineation, but rather a guide to see what bucket you fall in.

Poor Average Good Excellent
# of SERP listings that you “own” <2 2-5 5-7 7-9
LinkedIn position Not displayed or low in list Middle to top In top 3 In top 3
Bio or blog links from company website None Maybe Yes Yes
Your personal website/blog None None Yes In top 3
All core social media (LI, Twitter, FB) No No Most Yes
Thought leadership pieces None None Yes Yes, usually multiple
Extras Broad exposure across different resources Rich snippets (Twitter, Video), good image bar, broad exposure across different resources

Example of Excellent SERP Display – Shawn Tuma

To help further explain these rating buckets, let’s review a few examples with the first one an excellent result on a search of Shawn Tuma.

Shawn is a Dallas-based attorney focused on cybersecurity and a partner at Scheef & Stone. When you google his name, he “owns” all first page listings. Compare his results to the scorecard grid from above.

Shawn Tuma Google SERP - Executive Branding

His firm bio is at the top while his LinkedIn is listed second. You can see the power of having a personal website/blog as the next 3 listing come from this site. The bottom half of the first page results completes a compelling picture of Shawn with extras like Twitter snippets (recently Google displaying video snippets), image bar (clipped on this screen shot) and broad property exposure including Slideshare and YouTube links.

You’re presented with an impression of someone that is active and engaged helping others. There’s a broad range of results to investigate further. And the images presented are current and consistent.

Example of Good SERP Result – Joyce Durst

Joyce is the co-founder of Growth Acceleration Partners, a leading outsourced software development company based in Austin, TX.

Joyce Durst SERP result July 2018

Joyce’s listing results are good. All listings are relevant to her. Her company bio is up top and her LinkedIn profile is prominently displayed. She has a range of exposure, key social properties (LI, Twitter, FB) as well as outside authorship at Inc.

Google, at the time of this screen shot in July 2018, is emphasizing video in its rich media snippet. So you can see, she gets a nice visual impact from the video content she has created for the company’s YouTube channel. To move to excellent, adding a personal website and publishing more and consistent thought leadership would be steps I would recommend.

Example of Poor to Average SERP Result – Barry McPherson

Barry’s name is more common and competes against a well-known talent agent (if you just Google Barry McPherson), so the SERP results aren’t good for name alone. By adding a city modifier (Dallas), the listing relevancy improves. Barry’s “name competition” isn’t uncommon for many folks. In a business setting, people who are searching will add geographical (“geo”) modifiers or company names to aid in search.

Barry McPherson SERP Result - Jan 2018

He has couple social properties, but one of the LinkedIn listing is not him. (note this screen shot was before he improved his executive branding efforts and recent searches will show improved results)

Ready to Improve Your Google Personal Brand Results?

Hopefully, this information and the few examples presented give you the motivation to audit and discover what Google says about you. And more importantly, start a path to improve your results.

Just like in SEO optimization, the effort to improve and own the listings takes time. But the good news is most executives aren’t doing this.

For most business executives, your LinkedIn profile needs to be near the top. More importantly, when someone clicks on your LinkedIn link, your profile should display and convey who you are, why you do what you do and start to build trust and credibility. It’s a core social property that people investigate. How to optimize your LinkedIn profile is a topic for a future post.

If you’re like most busy executives, personal branding isn’t something you’ve thought much about. But with Google displaying information to searchers, it’s crucial now to manage your own brand with as much gusto as you manage your company. If you’d like a free “google assessment” of your name, send me an email (gwickes@wickpoint.com) with your name, company and city and in the title say Free Google Assessment.