One of the ironies of a person’s online identity is that the harder you try to hide your identity from the search engines, the more likely you will be hit harder once something leaks to the web.
So what’s the big deal about your online identity? Why should you even care about online identity management? As the Internet has evolved into a massive research warehouse of data on almost anyone in the world, employers and background researchers often turn there first to quickly learn whatever they can about a potential employee. Anything they discover could either work for you or against you. So, how can you make sure that the Internet is working in your favor?
One option is certainly to use tools to hide from the search engines, going so far as to mask your IP whenever you’re on the net, or use disposable web tools to hide your identity, as Aibek described how to do. Doing this will protect you for a while, until someone else decides to publish something unflattering about you online. If you have a unique name, then you can be sure that the single page that the search engine can find about you – the unflattering page – is the one that will come up at the very top of the search engine results. Not a good thing.
One of the best ways to deal with online identity management, particularly if you are a prolific online writer, is to take control of your online identity by owning the domain for your name and then by dominating the SEO niche for your identity.
Create An SEO Optimized Biography Site
While it might come across as disgustingly vain, or as tooting your own horn, if you’re serious about online identity management as a blogger, a writer or otherwise – you need to look at what most authors do. If it isn’t already held hostage, they capture the domain for their name and then create a website to let their readers and fans know what they are working on and what work is coming down the pipeline.
I’ve enjoyed visiting StephenKing and DeanKoontz for years, as these two authors always served as my inspiration for writing. It’s nice to have such a personal and direct touch with the author that you love to read.
In order to do this, I needed the domain for my name. I thought the odds were pretty good I’d never get it, but then again, what kind of name is Dube, right? So I checked, and sure enough, I was able to register the domain for RyanDube.com. Sweet!
With that out of the way, the next step was to choose a good free WordPress theme. Now, I opt for WordPress because I’m most familiar with it as a blog platform and I use it for all of my domains. You could choose any blog platform you wish, just make sure that the theme you choose has:
1. Plenty of widgets that allow you to insert a very visible bio on the main page.
2. Plugins for your social network accounts like Twitter.
3. Of course, the ability to tie in RSS feeds from all of the online locations that publish your work.
For my purposes, I chose the excellent “Scarlett” theme by Jinsona Designs.
I love this theme as a bio page because it’s clean and professional, it features all of the items I listed above, and best of all there’s an amazingly cool photo slideshow feature at the top of the page. The theme is one of the easiest to customize that I’ve seen, with most features accessible from the WordPress Appearance – Options menu. Using the 3-step approach I’ve outlined earlier here at MakeUseOf, I loaded up this theme onto my newly registered domain.
Next, all that was left was loading content. Now, for most blogs, this would seem like an overwhelming task when you’re faced with an empty blog. But in this case, I have countless articles across the net to choose from. All I want to do is provide a few short blog updates with reviews of those articles with links, and then embed feeds from my many article sources in the sidebars and on all of the widgets. Below, you’ll see my blog with four such “review” style articles added.
Loading up the top slideshow is as easy as typing the word “screen” into the name field for custom fields, and include the URL to the photo for that article. Your articles should highlight some of your best work. If you’re not an author, they should simply highlight the best things about your life – your favorite recipes, some of your most significant accomplishments – things that show people that you are a good person, a professional, or whatever it is you want your online identity to convey.
Of course, the more powerful aspect of this particular theme are the items I listed above – incorporating all of your online activities into one central location so your fans (or anyone researching you) can see all of your best work in one place. In this WordPress theme, you configure those widgets in the options menu (this is the case with most WordPress themes).
Configuring the Twitter, FlickrRSS and About settings lets you populate what appears in the bottom widgets for your bio blog.
However, for adding your RSS feeds, you may need to go into the Appearance -> Widgets area of WordPress and add the RSS feeds to your sidebar widgets, either as an RSS Widget or Text/HTML, depending on the code requirements at the originating source for your articles.
Now your readers have a central place they can return to in order to check out all of your online content and activities – in a format and a positive light that you can define and you can control.
One of the most effective ways to control a keyword phrase in the search engine rankings is to own the actual domain name that matches that phrase. If you own the domain name that’s identical (or at least as close as you can manage) to your own name, then over time you’ll quickly rise to the very top of the search engine results any time someone searches your name.
When it comes to the Internet, you can’t effectively protect your identity by hiding, because eventually someone out there is going to have something bad to say – that’s life. However, if you take a proactive approach and dominate the search results for your name, you will be better placed than anyone else to decide exactly what the search engine says about you to future employers, landlords, people you date and otherwise.
Better yet, if and when you do become famous, you won’t have bottom-feeding domain-squatters trying to overcharge you for the domain of your name, because you’ll already own it.
Have you ever registered the domain for your own name? If not, do you have a similar one? What have you done with your name domain? Share your experiences in the comments section below.