Job seekers who want to take charge of their online job searches need to start applying search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to their social media profiles – especially LinkedIn. Employers are using Google to vet you. When they enter your name, there's no telling what they might find. The negative comments others have made about you could derail your job search.
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If you want to increase the quality of your job prospects and ensure a smoother job search, you must take control of your online image.
Proactive SEO efforts may produce short- and long-term positive results in the way employers view your job candidacy. If you don't have an online presence, you can't compete in today's job market. Even more important than just having a presence, however, is having the right strategy for your presence. The impression you create on LinkedIn and other sites can either help or harm your candidacy, depending on the steps you take.
So, how can you use SEO to ensure employers find you – in a positive light, no less – on Google?
1. Google Yourself
Joyce states there are several reasons to Google yourself, including:
- To ensure your name is not associated with any unsavory acts, such as crimes (Even if you haven't run afoul of the law yourself, someone with the same name could have.)
- To ensure there is no negative information about you in the search results
- To decide how you want your name to appear to employers
- To plan how you will distinguish yourself from competitors
If you have a common name, you may need to add a middle initial or middle name to distinguish your professional presence.
"Find one version of your name that's relatively clean on Google, and use that version of your name for all of your online professional visibility, badges at meetings, and business cards," Joyce says. She also recommends using this version of your name on job applications and resumes.
2. Use Several Different Browsers and Search Engines
Joyce recommends searching your name using a few different browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) and a few different search engines (Bing, Yahoo, Google, DuckDuckGo, etc.). Different browsers and search engines may return slightly different results, so you will get a fuller picture of your online footprint by running multiple searches. The goal is to ensure your LinkedIn profile is the first result no matter what engine or browser a prospective employer uses.
3. Conduct a Private Search
For best results, Joyce recommends using incognito mode – or "private browsing," as it is called on Firefox – to conduct your searches. This private mode prevents your cookies and browsing history from impacting your search results. In essence, your SEO research will be purer – but not perfect. Joyce says it is beneficial to conduct such a search once a week.
4. Update Your Terminology
If you have degrees or certifications from years ago, they may make you appear irrelevant if they contain outdated terms. For example, Joyce mentions "management information systems" (MIS), which has largely been replaced today by "information technology" (IT).
If you're still using "MIS," you have "1999" written all over yourself. Find out what terms employers are using to describe your position, certifications, and skills. Use these terms on your LinkedIn profile and elsewhere. You may want to try several searches with alternative terms to see which is best for SEO purposes.
5. Effectively Use the Headline and Summary Spaces of Your LinkedIn Profile
Joyce notes many people don't make full use of their LinkedIn headlines, which she describes as "a billboard on a superhighway that's empty."
Simply listing your title is a waste of space, and it won't distinguish you from the competition. Instead, use this space as valuable SEO real estate. Use terms associated with your profession that will help you appear in employers' Google searches.
Improve your LinkedIn and social media SEO by using the steps highlighted above. Employers will have an easier time finding you, and the information they find will be positive. This, in turn, translates to an easier job search for you.
And one more thing: Make sure you have professional profile photos for each of your social media profiles. Profiles without photos are a little off-putting.
Mark Anthony Dyson is a career consultant, the host and producer of "The Voice of Job Seekers" podcast, and the founder of the blog by the same name.