When’s the last time you Googled yourself? If you said never, it’s time to start. Recruiters and potential employers are already searching you to decide if you’re a candidate worth pursuing. And if they aren’t searching you by name because they don’t know who you are (yet), then you’ve got a head start. Now’s the time–not when you send in your resume or get called in to interview–to make sure you come up for keywords related to your personal brand.
And yes, everyone has a brand–it’s your reputation in the job market and what you’re known for. The good news is that you get to define it. Once you decide how you want to position yourself, the next step is to optimize your brand content across your online channels so it’s easily found by search. Here’s exactly what to do.
Lots of people have LinkedIn accounts, but few of them are as polished or robust as they can be for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. For starters, replace that picture of you and your dog. It’s cute but not the right type of photo for a professional network. It might be right for another platform, but you’ll probably want to use a more professional headshot for a solid first impression on LinkedIn.
Next, edit your headline (here’s how if you need instructions). It defaults to your current job title, but you can modify it–and you should. Use keywords related to your current skills and what you want to be doing with them in the future. Stay away from trendy headlines like “chief happiness officer,” even if that’s your actual job title. Creative job titles are a lot more common now, and they do indicate a customer support or human resources role. But a recruiter is more likely to search “customer support” or “human resources” than “happiness” when looking for candidates.
Never leave the summary field blank. Max it out to the 2,000-character limit. This is where you highlight your accomplishments rather than your formal job description. Recruiters want to see what you’ve done so they can decide if you’re a good fit for their client.
Claim the vanity URL that has your name so it looks like “linkedin.com/in/yourname” (here’s how to do that). Since LinkedIn often ranks well in organic search, including your name directly in the URL can also help you rank well. Once you’ve finished giving your LinkedIn a spit-shine, you can add that URL to the bio of your other social media profiles.
Include other places where people can find you online by customizing the website listings in your contact information. Rather than using LinkedIn’s default of “website,” select “other” when you add links to your profile so you can label them with a specific company name or note it’s a writing portfolio, for instance. That can help it stand out when someone views the contact info on your profile.
Your final step in optimizing LinkedIn is deciding how much of your profile you want to make available to the general public. Your public profile can be modified so you limit what people see when they aren’t logged into LinkedIn. There are some upsides to doing that; requiring people to log in before they can see your employment history and accomplishments allows you to see who viewed your profile, unless their own viewing settings are set private. But if you want to make it easy on recruiters (and you do!), make your full profile available to everyone without requiring a login.
2017 is already shaping up to be the year of video. YouTube has over a billion users to date, and that figure is only growing. The format’s ubiquity is making it synonymous with web content overall–and that can be a good thing for job seekers.
If you create videos that have anything to do with your job (tutorials, recordings of talks you’ve given), host them on YouTube rather than another video channel. The reason is simple: Google owns YouTube, and your goal is to rank well on Google. Use keywords and descriptions on your YouTube channel that explain who you are and highlight your job skills. Similar to LinkedIn, stay away from any internal lingo and go with general terms recruiters are likely to search for.
Your videos show who you are more than a resume can, and in some cases these days, they may even be required as part of the interview process (particularly for remote-work positions). Whether your video is a quick personal introduction or an in-depth demonstration of your skills, make sure to include an action step as an annotation (here’s how to do that on YouTube). Do you want people to email you? Visit your website? Provide that information right inside your video. Then connect the dots: Once you publish a clip on YouTube that demonstrates you who are, embed it on your website and add it to your LinkedIn profile.
Here’s the thing about optimizing your web presence for search: It isn’t a “one and done” sort of thing. You need to keep putting yourself out there somewhat frequently. Whatever social channels you use, you need to write–or talk–about what you can do.
This doesn’t mean producing loads of content, though. It can be as simple as adding thoughtful comments on what others have posted or written. You could also talk about leaders you admire or people whose blogs you may follow, or mention a book you’re reading or an event you attended. But you’ll want to do that wherever recruiters and hiring managers are already searching: LinkedIn, YouTube, public Facebook groups for people in your industry, your own website, etc.
You should also keep checking your social media feeds for what other people are saying and look for ways to periodically add value to those discussions. Just stay at it. There’s a lot of noise out there, so you need repeated impressions to increase your brand strength. A stale social media profile won’t help you stand out from the crowd.
These online efforts should dovetail with your offline activities and create a virtuous circle. Any time you go to a meeting or an event, connect online with the people you meet in person–just have a reason to connect. Mention something you discussed when you met, or highlight something else that makes you interesting as a connection. This isn’t exactly an SEO tactic, but it can support the ones you’ve already implemented–for instance, by leading to a note from a recruiter who has a loose connection with you online.
A final thought: Brands evolve (for that matter, so does Google’s search algorithm), so your digital branding efforts need to do so as well. Even after a recruiter contacts you for the job of your dreams, continue to take action to strengthen your brand for the future. Whatever your personal brand may be at any given time, the right people always need to be able to find it with a simple search. Never stop Googling yourself.
Tina Arnoldi is a marketing consultant who is certified both in Google Analytics and Google AdWords and is part of the Google Partners program, as well as a licensed mental health counselor with an interest in the impact of technology on mental health. Follow Tina on Twitter at @TinaArnoldi.