Personal branding can be a powerful tool for standing out online, but is it enough to get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers? Many job seekers focus their efforts on polishing and adjusting their resumes to perfectly fit certain job requirements to ensure that their experience and skills can shine through. But this activity is only one side of the picture for getting noticed.
Having a personal website that is optimized for SEO can also have an impact by boosting the odds that a recruiter can find you through Google searches. Think of it as passive income, but for your brand. Do a little legwork up front, and then let the algorithms work for you.
Phase 1: The power of an optimized personal website
When we found ourselves cut-off from in-person interactions this past year we realized the importance of a digital presence. But remaining competitive in the increasingly digital world can be challenging without the necessary tools to stay ahead of the game. One of the essential tools to get yourself noticed among your competition is a personal website. Why? Because a personal website not only shows your personality and gives a hiring manager a deeper understanding of who you are and what qualifications you have, but it also shows examples of your work.
Having a website that is optimized for SEO means ranking better for certain terms employers might search for when looking for candidates. While the topic of SEO is quite broad, here are a few techniques to help put you as a job seeker on the map.
1. Optimize your website for keywords that are related to the job you seek
Think of keywords as search terms people type in search engines like Google when they want to find specific information. You can do Google Trend searches to learn what terms people are looking for, and then strategically work those search terms into your website content’s natural language (Google can tell when you ‘stuff’ your website to earn SEO).
2. Check job descriptions for keyword inspiration
Browse through the job descriptions and look at the skills employers are looking for in an employee. You can include these particular skills in your ‘about me’ section, on a page dedicated to your skills, or weave them into descriptions of past projects. By incorporating these keywords into your online resume, your visibility on SERPs for the chosen skills will improve.
3. Where to include your keywords
As we mentioned before, you shouldn’t stuff your website with keywords. However, there are a few places where you shouldn’t omit them: title, URL, meta description, headings, and tags, including the H1 and H2 tags, and throughout your content.
4. Improve the quality of the content on your personal website
While keywords are important, search engines like Google, as well as potential employers, pay attention to the quality of content you have on your website. So it’s a good idea to keep your website updated with quality content. A blog of your opinions on industry trends, for example, that is authentic, accurate, and intelligently thought out, with citations and sources if available.
One more thing: Walls of text tend to fail to capture the attention of a reader. Break them up with keyword-rich headlines and multimedia content.
Phase 2: The importance of owning the search results
Knowing that recruiters are likely doing Google searches of your name, you should take control of what search engines bring up. Instead of them finding your old, inactive or unpolished social media posts, you want them to see your professionally crafted personal website. So, how do we ‘own’ search engine page results?
1. Create your personal website that will serve as an online portfolio
In an initial hiring phase, recruiters will look for things that set you apart from all other applicants. Your online resume will surely give more insight into your capabilities than a traditional CV, not to mention that having a personal website showcases your digital literacy and array of other digital skills.
2. Choose a domain name that reflects who you are
A domain name for an online portfolio or a resume should always reflect who you are and what you want to achieve. Assuming you are looking for a job, a domain name with your first and last name is the best choice since that’s where recruiters will start their search.
3. Present your projects in the best possible way
Having a page on your website dedicated solely to past projects presents a major advantage over a paper resume: space. Writing a short paragraph and even including a visual if possible will go a long way in helping your skills shine through. Whereas a resume would give you one line to describe a project that took you months, a website page gives you room for a short paragraph to talk about your process, your leadership, and your results.
Phase 3: Optimize your SEO on LinkedIn
If you don’t already have a personal website (or even if you do) you can apply some of the same SEO principles to your LinkedIn profile while you get a website and SEO up and running.
Make sure your summary, previous job titles, and descriptions include keywords that relate to the job you want. Also, make sure that your profile and banner photo file names include your first and last name. Lastly, update your profile often, and optimize any content you publish for SEO.
SEO is quite an extensive practice that can be off-putting at first. But the upfront work is worthwhile, as it will guide more traffic to your website.
Tijana Ostojić is a marketing specialist at Domain.ME.