Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
What Is Personal SEO?
Personal search engine optimization or personal SEO is the application of search engine optimization to your online presence. Good personal SEO yields in mostly positive returns when someone queries your name and gives results related to you. Failure to consider personal SEO means that you personally may not stand out in search results or your personal and professional results are mixed in the results.
Personal search engine optimization matters, whether it is to put your best digital face forward in search results, be found by recruiters or simply stand out from the masses of people with the same or a similar name. Conversely, you may need a personal SEO strategy so that your search results come up when someone queries for you versus someone else with a bad record.
Your Digital Reputation
Your digital reputation is the set of search results and impressions that come about from it based on what others see about you online. The worst case scenarios include recruiters doing a search on your name and seeing drunk party pictures and criminal mug shots, whether yours or someone else’s. A growing problem is when a general search for your name brings up someone else’s bad behavior – though it costs you the opportunity. This is why companies are asking for your social media account information, so they know that the digital reputation they’re using to judge you is actually yours.
However, your digital reputation – your personal brand online – is more than simply your personal SEO or one social media account. It is a coordinated presentation no matter where someone searches for you that reflects what you want to be seen.
You can reduce this issue by having a consistent personal “brand” across multiple social media platforms that is equally acceptable to employers and potential partners. This requires using the same user name and identity across all platforms, and you want to have it match the name on your resume. This means staking out a professional sounding user name, ideally a variation of your personal name, on multiple platforms and then using that same name on the top of your resume. Modern touches include having a professional contact email address and maintaining professional behavior on social media. This has led many to have one public facing account that is meticulously cultivated and a private account where they share their political opinions and personal photos.
You should work on building your digital reputation by sharing the content you want associated with yourself. Share links to professional papers or positive mentions in the newspaper on your social media accounts. Remember the “throwback Thursday” and “wayback Wednesday” phenomena to share older positive press and announcements, whether starting a job at a former employer or an award you won a decade ago.
Cross-link the social media profiles you want to promote with each other. Periodically post on each account so that they are seen as active by search engines; the perfectly crafted but inactive profile will be down-graded compared to the active, social one.
Your Resume and Personal SEO
The use of software to screen resumes for what are essentially key search terms means your resume needs to be search engine optimized for the criteria, the key search terms if you will, the company is searching for.
What are the key terms to include in your resume when applying for a job? Use the “must have” skills, credentials and experience as separate line items or bullets on your resume worded exactly as they are in the job description, as long as you actually have them. Include desired but not essential skills on your resume.
When you post your resume online, whether on a personal webpage or part of a LinkedIn profile, you should apply personal SEO to it as well. For example, use as your prior job titles the titles employers are searching for. I’m sorry if you were a director of first impressions or cyber ninja as compared to a customer service manager or IT security manager; the oddball job titles hurt you when others are looking for someone with your credentials because they aren’t searching for these funny, creative titles but the conventional titles. Spell out job titles and job descriptions, too, in order to increase the number of matches. You were not an admin asst. but an administrative assistant. The benefit of spelling out the title is that you’ll come up in searches for both the spelled out description and abbreviated ones.
Create bulleted lists or short paragraphs to detail your job experience. This is where you’ll want to use the action words that human readers value combined with solid accomplishments that applicant tracking systems won’t choke on. For example, you weren’t a top seller but increased sales in department by 50% after taking over. You shouldn’t list natural leader as a qualification but instead say you led a five person team. State that as an assistant manager, you set schedules and filled in for the manager regularly.
Key search terms come into play if you are tailoring your LinkedIn profile to rank well in search results by recruiters and employers. Add skills to your profile that employers are seeking and correlate with your current or intended job. Seek endorsements of those skills by people you worked with and those who are considered highly skilled in that area; these are the personal SEO equivalent to a backlink to a high trust domain, and they are even given extra weight by LinkedIn because it considers their endorsements of your skills to be worth a special mention.
On sites like LinkedIn as well as any crowdsourcing sites where you work, recommendations and reviews are essential to a good digital reputation. Whether it is seeking 5 star reviews from clients on crowdsourcing sites or recommendations on LinkedIn, deliberately request this feedback from those that would give you a good score and a few lines of SEO rich content to help such rankings show up in your search results.
Link all of this to your personal search engine optimization by adjusting your social media postings to include the skills and job titles employers are looking for. In short, pepper your content with the SEO terms you want associated with you.
When you share an article on social media, mention how this was of interest to you due to your background in X and experience in Y, whatever those may be. Write a few posts that discuss your job experience, favorite projects, submitted technical papers, volunteer projects involving your skills in A, B and C, attending a conference of JKL professionals.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Tamara Wilhite