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A study by Pew Research shows that 56% of Americans search their own name to see what comes up in the results. For some, this is about vanity, but for entrepreneurs, what shows up can mean the difference between success and failure.
When someone searches your name, what do they find? Do the search results present a powerful impression of you and your expertise? Do you look like a ghost, or do the results present a negative impression?
Taking control of the search results for your name is critical in today’s digital landscape because potential clients, JV partners and journalists are absolutely going to look you up before getting involved with you.
In this article, we are going to unpack the tactics you can use to dominate search results for your name.
1. Optimize your personal brand website
This is your online headquarters and it’s a great way to control at least one listing in the search results. However, it’s essential to make sure your website is optimized for search engines so that it actually ranks highly for your name.
The first step is to use your name, first and last, in the domain. Ideally, it should be exactly that, but if that’s unavailable, you can either add something to it or use a non-dot-com extension to find an available domain. If you do add something to the domain name, you should add that to the end rather than the beginning.
It’s also critical to incorporate your name in the title tags, headings, image names, image alt text and text throughout your website.
Schema markup provides search engines with additional information about your website, such as your profession, social media profiles and contact information. In addition to helping to improve ranking, it also alters how your site displays in the search results — making it more likely that people will click through.
You should also create a concise and enticing meta description that includes your name and value proposition. This won’t affect ranking, but it can help to increase clickthrough rates.
2. Optimize your images for SEO
Humans are visual creatures, so utilizing images and video can be a powerful way to control what’s in the search results for your name.
This media, if optimized properly, will typically show up somewhere on the first page, taking up a significant portion of the search results. While it’s important that it conveys the impression you want to make, it’s also important to make sure it meets the criteria search engines are looking for.
Your images should be large, high-quality and named appropriately based on your name (e.g. jeremy-knauff-speaking-rec-2023.jpg).
When it comes to size, the bigger the better, and if you’re using srcset, which you absolutely should be using, you can easily upload extremely large images with no degradation in website performance, because a user’s browser will only load the one that’s most appropriate for their screen resolution.
These images could be just about anything you can come up with, such as:
- Images with quotes from you.
- Book covers from books you’ve published.
- You speaking on stage or virtually.
When you publish these images to your website, you’ll use the appropriate alt attributes to help search engines understand what they are about. If your website is built on WordPress, you’ll have an opportunity to add the appropriate alt text when you upload them through the media uploader. Then, when you place them into your content, they will already have the appropriate alt text in the code.
In some cases, you can also set the alt text when uploading images to some social media platforms as well. If you have the ability to do that, you should.
And then finally, we should point links to these images. Especially if they’re on your own websites or other authoritative websites.
3. Optimize your videos for SEO
Your videos should also be large and high quality, but the name doesn’t really matter. I generally aim for at least 1280 pixels wide, but ideally 1920 pixels, which is considered HD. It’s worth noting that while 1920×1080 is still considered HD today, 4K resolution at 3840×2160 will soon become the new standard.
Unlike with images, you’ll want to upload these videos to YouTube since the platform has a superior tech stack for delivering videos. Also, Google loves to rank its own properties in the search results, and YouTube is a Google property.
You’ll also want to embed these videos using YouTube’s embed code on your own website where relevant because that will help them earn more views. And if someone happens to stumble across your videos in the search results, more views create a stronger impression.
I also recommend properly implementing schema markup where you’ve embedded these videos to help search engines better understand what they are about. It’s pretty easy to get deep into the technical weeds on this, but it’s well worth the effort.
4. Build and optimize your social profiles
You need to own your name on all of the major social networks, but two in particular — Twitter and YouTube — are especially useful because they tend to take up significantly more real estate on screen than others.
We’ve already discussed the role video plays, so there’s no need to reiterate that benefit.
As for Twitter, if you’re active, Google will display your recent tweets directly in the search results. This takes over a significant portion of the screen, very close to the top of the page.
You also want to make sure that your social profiles are consistently branded, so you should use the same headshot and cover photo on each platform. Dimensions will vary slightly from platform to platform because each has different size and positioning requirements, but the general layout should be the same.
It’s also important to properly use schema on your website and link to your social profiles from your website to help search engines connect the dots between you and your social profiles.
5. Public relations and guest posting
Part of controlling the search results depends on building new digital assets, but we can also leverage existing digital assets as well.
Getting featured in the media and guest posting can be powerful tools because we’re leveraging existing, authoritative digital assets like news outlets, trade publications and high-traffic blogs to get an authoritative article to rank for your name.
Getting featured in the media comes down to pitching journalists in a way that demonstrates how your insight and story will benefit their audience. But keep in mind: This is a busy and noisy industry, so most of your pitches will go unanswered no matter how awesome they might be.
This means you need to focus on the long game, which means investing time into building and nurturing relationships with the journalists who cover your industry.
Guest posting can be a bit easier, especially when it comes to smaller outlets such as trade publications and blogs. You’ll start by pitching the editor, in some cases, with a summary of the article, and in other cases, with a complete article. That depends on the outlet, and most list exactly what they want.
This is a great strategy because most outlets are starving for quality content. The more articles you contribute, the more likely your author page at that outlet is to rank for your name. Plus, each article gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise — which helps to improve your image with both prospects and journalists.
6. Build high-quality backlinks
Links from other websites pointing to your own website, social media profiles, articles and media coverage will significantly improve where they rank in the search results.
You can do this by creating quality content that’s informative and engaging. Then, reach out to industry influencers, other content creators and website owners to ask them to link to it. The concept is simple, but execution is more difficult because most requests will go unanswered. In many cases, they will ask for payment in exchange for a link.
When it comes to paying for links, it’s important to properly evaluate the website first. The quality of the website will determine the impact it will have on helping another website rank higher. It’s also worth noting that buying links is considered a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines, so there may be some risk involved.
You can also guest post on reputable websites where you’ll have an opportunity to contribute high-quality content. This typically includes a link back to your personal site within your author bio. In some cases, you may be able to include one or more links in the body of your article as well. And of course, you can link to anything from your own website.
Use these tips to take the power back of your own personal name and personal branding. Owning your name’s image on Google will pay dividends in the long term.