What’s in a name? Plenty these days.

Head to Google and type in your full name. It’s YOUR identity. But you might be surprised as to who claims it and how it makes you look.

At a recent BBQ I met a parent from the local school. The conversation inevitably drifted to work. As we both work for ourselves, the next day after a quick search online we’d connected on LinkedIn.

As I read about my new friend’s work history, education, clubs, contacts, testimonials and tweets it struck me: “We hardly know each other! This is all moving way too fast!”

In the past, meeting people wasn’t followed up by background checks. You could put your best foot forward and create a good impression. And neither of you had any choice but to take others at face value.

But no more. Today, just a name can unlock reams of personal information.  As soloists, our name is very often inseparable from our profession. Like it or not, prospective clients, employers, landlords, investors, business partners and friends can sniff around…and they will.

While it takes a lot of time and money to rank in Google for generic terms like ‘marketing consultant Adelaide’ or ‘bookkeeper Brisbane’, the good news is that it’s usually not as difficult to dominate the search results for your own name. Unless you have a very common name or a famous namesake!

I’m no search engine optimisation guru, and I’m sure our resident SEO experts will chime in, but here are a few simple steps you can take to claim your personal brand name online.

  • Register your name as a URL (if it’s still available) – It’s unique, it’s inexpensive and even a simple personal website will rank well and may come in very handy one day. Mine ranks #1 on a search for my name.
  • Create a full LinkedIn account – This is an extremely fast, simple and free way to create a high ranking profile page, just sign up and follow the prompts. Despite minimal effort on my part, mine ranks #3 for my name.
  • Claim your Facebook page – You don’t have to reveal your life’s secrets, but it’s worth claiming your patch. As a result of my inactivity (or lack of friends) there is another Peter Crocker who is on page one of the Facebook search results.
  • Sign up to Google+ – Despite the fact that I’ve barely touched my account since I created it, it appears high for my name on page one of Google.
  • Check the facts – If there are other pages showing up for your name in search results, see if you can edit the content so that it presents you correctly.

Are you happy with your personal branding? What impression does a search of your name online create? Do you even think it’s important?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on personal branding online and suggestions on how to claim your name.

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