Best practices for managing your online identity
A multi-faceted approach...
Finding yourself online
OK. You've Googled your name, which everyone will agree is step one. How about the steps beyond that? Here are some strategies to find yourself online.
- Use quotes — Have you searched for your name in quotes ("Fred Stutzman")? You'll see a more targeted result set. This general strategy works by itself or with any of the following strategies. A search engine's results are only as good as the query being put in. Ask many times, many ways.
- Search all of your name(s) — Say you have a nickname, maiden name, or a name under which you publish. Search these names as well ("Fred Stutzman", "Frederic Stutzman", "F Stutzman", "Stutzman, F"), both with and without quotes.
- Try spelling variations — People are bad at spelling, and if you've got a complicated name, people might be writing about you and spelling your name wrong. Try a couple of different spelling variations ("Terrell", "Terrill", "Terrelle", "Terell", "Terrelll").
- Use name association — Say you are affiliated with a project, and people talk about you in the context of this project. They won't always use your last name. Fred, for example, has been affiliated with claimID and ibiblio. Searches like Fred ibiblio and Fred claimID may bring back new results. Don't limit yourself with name associations; you can search your name with things like your church's name, your hometown, your school's name, and so on. However, as the institution or place you associate yourself with gets bigger, the chances of the results matching you get smaller, so try and throw additional terms in there that may help you. An example of a more targeted search term would be your name, your company and your department (Example: Fred ibiblio systems).
- Search for things that don't mention you explicitly — There's more about you online than just the stuff that your name! For example, your various profiles in services like Ebay, Flickr, Amazon, MySpace and Epinions may not mention your name. These are part of your identity, and if you want people to see these pages, link to them with claimID. If you've spent a ton of time writing Amazon reviews, why not help people find them?
- Don't forget things you've created — Say you've written an article or designed a Web page about someone else. Unless you've created a portfolio page, people won't know that you're the creative force behind these things. ClaimID is really good for creating a portfolio of the work you've done. Sure, these things aren't about you, but they speak to your online identity. So go ahead and add 'em!
- Remember memberships, past and present — Your college's website may not mention you, but isn't it a part of your identity? You can add links to schools you've attended, places you've worked, and organizations you've been a member of. When people visit your claimID page, they will be able to easily browse through these things that can speak volumes about your identity. Don't limit yourself; claimID is about presenting your best face on the net, and anything that is online that speaks to your identity is absolutely fair game!
- Try lots of search engines — Don't limit yourself to just one search engine. The internet is much, much bigger than the size of all the search engines' indexes combined. Google, Yahoo!, MSN Search, Teoma, MetaCrawler, Clusty, Alexa, A9, Dogpile and Ask.com are just a few of the search engines out there. Find a huge list of search engines here.
Automatically tracking your identity
Did you know there are lots of tools out there that will alert you when your name shows up online? You can use these services to set up watchlists, so you're aware of when something about you shows up online. Generally, these services will require you to create an account, but all of the service we'll link to are free. And with all of these, you can set up numerous tracking lists with a variety of terms as described in the previous section.
- Technorati Watchlists - According to Technorati, "a Watchlist is a powerful tool. You simply give Technorati a few words or website URLs you're interested in, and we'll tell you whenever they're mentioned. It's fun! To start setting up your Watchlist, all you have to do is sign up for a free Technorati membership. It's quick and easy!" We're big fans of Technorati Watchlists, and use them extensively.
- Google Alerts - Another excellent tool. According to Google, "Google Alerts are emails automatically sent to you when there are new Google results for your search terms. We currently offer three types of alerts: News, Web, and News & Web." You can be notified via email or RSS every time your name is mentioned online. We also use Google Alerts quite extensively.
- Bloglines Search Feeds - Bloglines, another fantastic tool, will allow you to create a search feed of specified terms. This is an excellent complement to the Technorati Watchlist.
This document is constantly evolving. If you have some good suggestions for managing your online identity (or have written a blog post to that effect), we're happy to include them here. Please send suggestions to info@claimID.com.