How to reclaim your name online

by Ross McKillop on July 14, 2007

Have you Googled your name lately? Not entirely happy with the results? This review/overview/tutorial will help you change how you’re represented online.

There are a lot of reasons you may want to alter what comes up when people search for your name. Most likely, you’re about to enter the workforce and you don’t need recruiters and/or an HR rep. looking at your drunken antics on MySpace. The following tips and free-services can help change those Google search results to something you’re a little more proud of.

  1. Ziki
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Naymz
  4. Damage Control


  1. Ziki
  2. Ziki is a service that makes a pretty bold claim – “Ziki members are guaranteed to appear in the first position of Google, Yahoo & MSN search results when their name is searched, given that Ziki buys sponsored links. Ziki community members can therefore create, manage and optimize their online presence while controlling their image.”

    I was first approached by a Ziki employee on July 9th, 2007 to review their service and provide some feedback. I signed up that same day and spent a few minutes creating my ziki profile. While trying to upload an image (a profile picture) I kept getting an error. I figured there was a bug in the system so I gave up for a while. The rest of the setup was very straight forward and didn’t take more than 10 or 15 min. The next day I tried to upload a profile picture again and received the same error. So I sent a message to their feedback address and less than 4 hours later I got this:

    I’m Sandrine from Ziki, a real person, not a robot ;-)

    As you might have noticed there is a small bug on the image upload to your Ziki profile. We are trying hard to fix this bug as soon as possible.

    Later that day they acknowledged the problem on their blog and by the 11th the problem was fixed.

    After I successfully uploaded a profile picture, I decided to Google myself and see if the results had changed. Two days after signing up for Ziki, and my Ziki profile had jumped up to #3 in the search results. In addition, I had a “sponsored listing” that pointed to my profile.

    ziki
    click to enlarge

    So not only had my Ziki profile overtaken Simplehelp.net (which used to be 3rd when you Googled my name), but it did so in 2 days.

    Update: as of today (July 14th) my Ziki profile seems to have disappeared from Google’s search results entirely. The sponsored listing remains, the the actual search results no longer include Ziki. I’m not sure if this is a bug w/ Ziki or if Google has decided that Ziki profiles shouldn’t receive the attention that they do. I have an email into the folks @ Ziki to see if they can shed some light on the situation.

  3. LinkedIn
  4. Due to its high pagerank, creating a LinkedIn profile is a great way to get your name higher in search results. After you create an account and fill out all of the profile information (which can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on how detailed you want your profile to be), you’ll want to make sure your profile (or part of it) is public. To do so, click the Edit My Public Profile tab.

    linkedin

    First, make sure to set your profile as public. To do so, select Full View. Then select each section of your profile that you wish to make public.

    linkedin
    click to enlarge

    When you’re done, click the Save Changes button.

    Now, change your Public Profile URL. By default, LinkedIn will give you a profile URL something along the lines of: www.linkedin.com/pub/1/323/33X – which isn’t exactly “friendly”. Click the Edit link in the Public Profile URL section at the top of your Edit My Public Profile screen.

    linkedin
    click to enlarge

    Enter your full name in the space provided. This will result with a public profile url of www.linkedin.com/in/yourname. Click Set Address to save the change.

    linkedin
    click to enlarge

    Within a few days of creating your LinkedIn profile, it should appear on the first page of search results with most search engines (depending on a few factors, not the least of which is how ‘common’ your name is). For more info on using LinkedIn, check out Web Worker Daily’s 20 Ways to use LinkedIn Productively guide.

  5. Naymz
  6. Naymz is a Ziki competitor. In fact, I think they’ve been around for longer than Ziki, and they (currently) have more features. With that said, to access the advanced features of Naymz, you’ll need to pay them. One of the interesting advanced features is the ability to have an email sent to you each time someone views your profile, and that email will include the visitors location, how they found you, their name (if available) and IP address.

    naymz
    click to enlarge

    Similar to Ziki, Naymz will purchase sponsored links on Google. If you upgrade to the Premium service ($4.95/mo) they will also purchase sponsored links on Yahoo and MSN (among other features).

    naymz
    my public Naymz profile

  7. Damage Control
  8. This is the hardest part to reclaiming your name. The first thing you can do is delete your MySpace account (if you’ve included anything in it that someone might find by searching for your name). At the very least, delete the posts or comments that you’ve left on MySpace that include your actual name. Then start contacting your “friends” asking them to do the same.

    Those embarrassing pictures you posted on Flickr – time to delete them. If someone else posted a photo of you, ask them (very, very politely) to take it down. If they won’t oblige, go directly to the source. Email Flickr (or whatever company is hosting the photo) and explain to them that you wish to have a picture of yourself removed. Give them the exact URL to the picture, and politely explain why you’d like it taken down. There is absolutely no guarantee that they’ll accommodate you, but it’s worth the effort.

    If you’re trying to tidy up your ‘personal’ search results for professional reasons, try searching Google, Yahoo and MSN for your email address. You might be surprised at what you find. Never, ever, use an email address when applying for a job (or on your resume) that you’ve used to sign up for online forums, social news sites, etc. Recruiters will search for your email address right after they search for your name. You really don’t want them to know that you spend a lot of time on that <insert offensive site here> forum.

    And last but not least, you can try contacting Google directly and ask them to remove a page or image from their search results. This should only be attempted after you’ve tried to contact the web site owner directly with your request. You may want to brush up on the Google Webmaster Guidelines prior to submitting a request, as you may need to prove to Google that the web site in question isn’t adhering to one or more of their guidelines. Again, this should be used as a last resort.

    Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to “improve your name” online? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments section below. As always, if you come up with a good one I’ll update this article and credit you (and your site if you have one) as the source. Cheers!