Ever googled yourself and been surprised what the search engine digs up? Ever wondered where those party pictures from two years ago came from or why that Facebook post about Justin Bieber shows up on the first page? Or does nothing show up? What’s your online profile like?
In an age where your friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, grandparents, and future employers will probably search for you on Google, it’s important to know what your online self looks like. What shows up on that all-important first page of results should represent you in the most positive way possible, and show to the world just how truly awesome you are.
No idea where to start? Here’s a four-step guide that’ll help you erase any bad stuff and build up something great instead.
Step 1. Make what’s private, PRIVATE.
If you use Facebook or Instagram for private communications and sharing only, start off by activating the strictest privacy settings on these channels. On Instagram you’re better off setting up a private account instead of a public one if you don’t want the world to see those selfies you and your friends snapped at the club last night. Avoid sharing any really embarrassing pictures on either platform, and don’t allow friends to tag you without your approval (Facebook allows you to control this.)
Step 2. Google yourself. Seriously, do it.
Search for yourself on Google. Are the links and images that show up old, bad or just plain embarrassing? Use your Google+ account (if you use Gmail you’ll automatically have a Google+ account) to share good, recent pictures of yourself and that you’d like displayed in a Google search. Make sure to name the pictures with your full name and make sure you fill in your Google+ account details as fully as possible. Google will pull up this information into a search and rank it at the top. Then…
Step 3. Get on LinkedIn (It’s not just for mom and dad)
Set up a LinkedIn account and fill it with school, study, career and skill info. Remember that this is a professional platform (your online CV/resume) and you should only list skills and jobs that are relevant for your professional future, even if you’re not working yet. Don’t forget to use your real (full) name so that Google can list it properly, and make sure you add your language skills (you can even do a free EF SET test for English and have your score certified directly on your LinkedIn profile!) Bonus tip: a professional, but friendly profile picture will work wonders here (don’t forget to smile!). Ask a friend with a good camera to take it for you.
Step 4. Buy an ‘online home’. It’ll be one of your best buys this year, promise.
Consider buying your own domain and setting up a basic website for yourself. About.me is a great, easy-to-use site that can help you to create an ‘online home’ in no time. (You can adorn the page with that beautiful shot you took in London last summer, full-screen size.) A domain + homepage set-up can cost as little as $20-40 a year. It’s a really good investment, and one that will only become more and more important in the future.