Branding your personal name on the web
My Father always raised me to know that we needed to protect the reputation of our family name at all costs. This meant doing the right thing, helping others, and trying your best every day. I’ve always carried this mindset with me everywhere I went. Each mistake I’ve made in life (there have been a lot) felt like an injury to my name.
My brother and I (left) learning the value of our family name at the American Legion Post.
We’ve seen many people damage their name, and reputation through their actions online and in the news. A person can have a life filled with amazing accomplishments, but one wrong move could brand that person in a totally different direction.
Building a clothing empire means nothing if you can’t keep your mouth shut.
Identifying your personal brand
When you are first born, you are issued a birth certificate with a name. Having a name does not automatically give you the brand you want. One must go after the brand they want if they really want to “be” that brand. On the flip side, if you leave it up to the universe, your name could become attached to some values or ideas that you might not necessarily want.
Many celebrities have set out in one career path, and ended up with a totally different reputation. Here are some examples of some names you might have heard of that have been adversely branded due to circumstances beyond (or within) their control:
Paris Hilton – socialite, snob, bad singer
Mike Jeffries – CEO, jerk
Michael Brutsch – Respected Texan, reddit’s biggest NSFW troll ever
Felix Baumgartner – sky diver, red bull guy
Michelle Jenneke – hurdler, sexy dancer
OJ Simpson – NFL football player, murderer
Lil Wayne – Rapper, weed smoker
You – ???
Michelle Jenneke famous dancer…and hurdler, or runner or something.
When someone says your name, many things could come to mind: unreliable, loud, leader, follower, touchy, strong, lazy, quiet, etc.
What do people associate with your name?
Take the quick name brand test
Let’s do a test. What is the first word that comes to mind when I say these names:
Rand Fishkin: ____________________________
Bill Gates: ____________________________
Howard Stern: ____________________________
Jay Z: ____________________________
Your Name: ___________________________
(my answers: seo, rich, president, opinionated, hot, rap mogul, internet marketer)
You have been defining your brand since you have been born. For the most part, society or your local community chooses their perception of you. In the world wide web, we have a bit more control of this situation. You can take charge of your personal brand only through your actions and accomplishments. Manipulating the SERPs will help, but if jailbase.com and “texts from last night” are trending for your name, you have a lot of work to do (unless you are in certain niches).
Why should I brand my name?
Whether you are an employee for a company, own your own company, or are an independent contractor, branding your name is vitally important if you want to advance in the game of life.
If you are working for someone else, branding your name could help add authority to your persona and possibly leverage a promotion or some other vertical movement in the future. On the other end of the spectrum, having embarrassing pictures and other properties pop up on the first page of Google could cause concern amongst your employer.
If you are the owner of your own company, there are countless reasons to brand your name. If you are raising capital for your business, the first thing potential investors will do is Google your name. Being able to control what people see in the SERP’s can mean the difference between getting what you want and getting left in the dust.
Is this how you appear in the search results?
Social networks and personal domains
Start with social media and other sites that you naturally take part in every day. Make sure you are active on the big 3: Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. It wouldn’t hurt if you added Tumblr, Pinterest and some others. Currently I own the first page for my SERP “Patrick Coombe” using these properties:
Looking at those properties, it is clear that I am an internet marketer just from eying a few of those domains. These SERPs fluctuate quite often and bounce around almost on a daily basis, for almost all names and queries. The goal is to try to be in control of as many of the SERPs as possible.
If you haven’t grabbed it already, do it. If it isn’t available try to grab the hyphenated version or some other variance. A lot of people go for the .me TLD but I’ve always been a big fan of sticking with a .com whenever possible.
Once you’ve claimed your space, do yourself a favor and put up a nicely themed CMS. Add some content right away and link up authorship while you are at it. Yourname.com should be an online resume, blog, and should have a general overview of your professional life. It is definitely OK if you want to add a personal touch to your website, but always keep it tasteful.
Oh, and make sure to send out all of your email as email@example.com. HotGirl92@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org doesn’t look great when coming from an employer. Register a domain and make sure you set up an email. These days it is such a simple change you can make, you may as well.
You can use your personal blog as a way of updating the world on what you are currently working on and interested in.
Always keep your social media sites tasteful. Minimize behavior such as pics from gentleman’s clubs and crazy antics. All of these photos get indexed and tied right into the SERPs and your personal brand. Some of the oddest photos get pinned to the top of the SERPs sometimes, so be careful what you upload.
It should go without saying, but always keep your name in your profile and try to include it within the URL structure as well.
Solicit feedback from your associates if possible. LinkedIn is a great way to do this, and most people are happy to leave you a glowing endorsement if they have done business with you in the past. Think outside of the box. Think about vendors that you’ve worked with in the past and ask them for some help.
Other than that, try to interact with other professionals as much as possible. The more you give the more you will receive.
The Holy Grail
If you can get a Wikipedia page created for yourself and have it stick for a long period of time (ideally forever), you are way ahead of the game. If you can score a Wikipedia page there is a good chance that Google will also give you a “Knowledge Graph” for your name with a little snippet of information about you and a photo. Typically people who get a Wikipedia page created for them have a ton of authority, lots of accomplishments, and a ton of legit references. You should not create a Wikipedia page for yourself. Ideally a page is created for you when you are so authoritative that someone sees the need for it.
Find whatever industry sites that are the authority in your niche, and live inside them. In my case, it is Moz. Do more than add a profile. Contribute to their blog, ask questions, and answer questions. Do whatever you can to interact on a daily basis. Find several of these sources and allot part of your day to doing some work on these sites. Who knows, you might actually learn something or meet someone in the process.
Getting your name mentioned in press releases can also be great, but don’t get flossy. If there is something actually newsworthy then do a release, don’t just do one every time you go to pick up a quart of milk from the store.
Here are some other quick wins that tend to rank in the top 10 search results:
crunchbase.com, about.me, slideshare.net, vizify.com, quara.com, corporationwiki.com, foursquare.com and more.
It is easy to find more by simply typing in people’s names and seeing what comes up. Register for all of those profiles and OWN them.
If you really want to take your personal brand to the next level, you are going to need to up your game. There are a number of different action steps that can be taken that can help change the perception of who you are.
Do you go to work in flip flops and tank tops or do you always wear a suit? Are your clothes wrinkled and in ill repair or are your clothes pressed and clean?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not even recommending that you dress nice. In some scenarios it is not recommended to wear a suit or to be dressed business proper.
What is it about Steve that says: “scumbag?”
The company you keep
Take a long hard look at the company you keep. Pretend you are someone else and look at you and your group of friends. Think about the message that your social group might give off:
Are you a bunch of loud and crazy party goers?
Do you attend upper crust wine tastings and operas?
Do you spend most of your time alone?
Are your friends rude to people in public and obnoxious?
Whatever the case may be, the company you keep says a lot about who you are. When I made the decision that I wanted to have a successful company, I had to cut out some of the company that I kept. I’m not saying you need to ditch your old friends, just be aware that who you associate with can send a non-verbal message about yourself.
Communication is a huge part of who you are. Be aware of all aspects of communication such as snail mail, phone conversations and text messaging.
Are you known for dropping the “f-bomb” on every occasion or are you known as the gal that has a great vocabulary?
Basically be aware that everything you say and do is part of your brand and the public’s perception of who you are. A comment you make today might not gain any attention, but could be dug up once you are famous.
Oh, and even if you aren’t rich and famous, be careful what you post online – once you start to get big people realllllllly dig into your stuff.
But I’m not a marketer 🙁
Even better! Online marketers have made it so much more difficult for new people to establish themselves.
Whatever industry you are in, all of the rules above apply to branding your name in any industry.
You can shape and mold your brand by the properties that you keep and the content within them.
Same name as celebrities and other issues
You might run into some problems if your name is Rand Fishkin, Michael Jordan, or Bill Clinton (and you are not that famous person). My advice to you if you have that problem, is to either change your name or use a variation of your name. You can also use a shortened version of your name, add a middle name or use a pen name. You would be shocked if you realized how many people actually did this. Having a name of a famous or influential person can pose a number of problems. The best thing to do is to think long and hard about it, and come up with a decision that you can stick to.
Then there are names that are medium-popular. Names such as “Josh Cooper” or “Steven Mayfield.” I’m sure there is at least 1 person with that name in every city in the USA. If you have one of these names it is going to be difficult to get your name out there.
Again, the best thing to do is try to come up with some sort of mild variation of your name. A few ways you can set yourself apart from people with the same name as you:
- Change the spelling of your first name such as Jon instead of John
- Change the spelling of your last name such as Stevens to Stephens
- Adding a middle initial or middle name
- Create a middle name
Warning: Many of these decisions will require legal action to be taken, beware trying to use an alternate name for branding in a legal or financial situation.
Branding Your Name: Conclusion
I’ve only been on my personal branding journey for the past 1-2 years. It was always something I wanted to do but did not see the benefit to.
Branding your name is money in your pocket. If you don’t do it, someone else will do it for you.
Don’t let the universe decide who you are, do it yourself!