When you want information on something, it’s likely that one of the first ways you go about seeking it out is through a quick Google search.  It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s comprehensive.  But have you ever googled yourself?  Because if you’re not, and consequently you’re not doing whatever you can to manage those search results, you’re putting yourself at a severe disadvantage.

Taking control of your search results is a key part of managing your personal brand online.  It allows you to control (to a certain extent) what people see when they search for you.  This is something that can be very important if you’re looking for a new job.  And even if you’re happy with your current employment situation, it’s never a bad idea to try and manage what people see when your name comes up.

The first time I googled myself, I found out I was  on the FBI’s most wanted list, that I thought my University was doing a great job of bring events to campus thanks to a quote in the student news paper, and that I was a hip hop artist.  Only one of those actually pertained to me (my ranking FBI most wanted list, naturally), so I went to work figuring out how to make the search results actually reflect me and my online presence.  It’s not an overnight process, and you’re competing with a lot of other people with the same name, but it’s an important process nonetheless.

Now there’s my website, my social networking profiles, a blog I wrote when I was living in China, and then, below all of that, some results for other Shawn Abrahams.  I did my best to make sure that my content was the first thing you’d see when you search my name, and people seeking information about me can see the information that I want them to see right at the top.

Naturally, the more common name you have, the more difficult it is to guarantee that you show up on top.  Here are three quick tips to keep in mind if you want to take control of your digital destiny.

1. In case you haven’t heard it from me enough, social networking is kind of a big deal.  Google and other major search engines have a tendency of floating Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to the top.  So make sure you register a vanity address for your account wherever possible.

2. If you haven’t done it yet, if someone ELSE hasn’t done it yet, register http://www.yourname.com.  Even if you don’t know what to do with it, you’ll find a use for it eventually.

3. Time to start that blog about cross stitching vintage 80’s pop art that you’ve always been talking about.  Blogs are a great way to up your relevance in searches.  Your name comes up a lot, and it helps define you as an expert in something.  This can be a key component of your personal brand, especially if that brand is 80’s Pop Art Cross Stitching Expert.

The idea of developing your brand online will be central to this column moving forward.  Now that the semester is in full swing, we’ll be going bi-weekly, but the next installment will pay closer attention to the idea and importance of starting your own blog.

Shawn Abraham is SPS’ Virtual Campus Manager, which means he gets to have a lot of fun building an online community for the school.  He also has a lot of fun reading books about zombies.  These two things rarely intersect.