Hack 100: Have a Say in What Google Says About You
Cost Starting at $10 a month
Someone out there’s trying to find information about you right now, whether it’s a potential employer, a date, or a long-lost friend. What happens when she Googles you?
More than half the time, she’ll get information about someone else with the same name or a website that you don’t control. This hack provides the ins and outs of setting up a nameplate website that makes you “Googleable” with a web page whose content you control.
But I Already Have a Website
You may already have a personal blog with photos of your kids on it or a page dedicated to your monstrous LEGO collection that comes up when your name is searched. But is that the first point of contact you want a Google cold-caller to have? Consider your nameplate site your Internet business card, where you publish contact and professional info in a context-insensitive way that can help Googlers get a bird’s-eye view of who you are and what you do — beyond the LEGO collection.
Get Your Domain
Do what you can to register a yourname.com (or .org) domain. These costs a small yearly fee, starting around $10, depending on the top-level domain you choose (.com, .net, .org, .tv, and so on). There was a time you may have thought one domain to one individual person was egotistical and unnecessary, but that time is over. You will change jobs, move, go freelance, and switch email addresses more in your lifetime than any other past generation did. Personal findability is more important than ever. Investing in a yourname.com domain is worth it. If you can’t get yourname.com or .org, try .net, or even .me.
A Note about Names
Many people in the world probably have the same name as you, and there will be more and more coming online each year. Do what you can to brand yourself uniquely online, either by including your middle name, initial, or using your full first name (James instead of Jim or Deborah instead of Deb). Of course, you want to use the name people will most likely use to search for you, but if you decide to go with a more formal (read: unique) form of your name, be sure to also use it as your email name (email@example.com) and on your resume and other paperwork.
You lucky people with unique names? Your domain name is waiting — its availability is payback for all the years of misspellings and mispronunciation.
You don’t absolutely have to get yourname.com to set up your nameplate site, but it’s a better option than a page on a free host with a predetermined URL, as at a university because someday that service might change its address or go away. If you own yourname.com, you control it forever, and you can point it anywhere you like — blog, static page, whatever — for as long as you pay for it.
NOTE Lifehacker.com readers recommend domain registrars at http://lifehacker.com/5683682.
Author Your Nameplate
Now’s the time to decide what to put on your “web business card.” Your profession, location, and email address is a good start, maybe with links to your kids’ pictures and your LEGO-collection site. Needless to say, do not give away your physical address, Social Security number, or phone number here — this is general info so that others can identify you (as in, “Oh, yes, John Smith the architect in Santa Cruz”). Figure 10-19 shows an example of a simple, well-done site.
Figure 10-19: A Google-friendly nameplate site includes information you want to advertise about yourself.
An HTML tutorial this hack is not, but do make sure that your full name is prominent within a header tag (<h1>) at the top of the page, and within the title (<title>) of the document. Ensure that all the content of the page you want Google to know about is in text (not in images or Flash). Finally, be sure to mask your email address to keep it from spammers. (Google “email address obfuscator” for websites that can help you mask your email address from spammers online.)
Customize a Nameplate Template
If you’re not a skilled designer, you may prefer to customize an existing nameplate template. Lifehacker writer Adam Dachis designed and released a template called Lifehacker.me, available for download at http://lifehacker.com/5636983, that makes it easy to start with your own attractive, custom nameplate site, like the one shown in Figure 10-20.
To use Lifehacker.me, your web host must support the PHP scripting language. Most do, but check with your host if you have trouble.
Figure 10-20: Lifehacker.me is an attractive, customizable template for nameplate sites.
Find a Web Host
The next thing to do is find a web host, which can entail a monthly fee. If your nameplate site is only one page (and it doesn’t have to be more), this cost will be minimal. (See Lifehacker.com readers’ recommendation for web hosting providers at http://lifehacker.com/5545568.) A nice benefit to having your own domain and host is having a memorable email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, which you can use as a future-proofed email address (see Hack 7, “Future-Proof Your Email Address,” for more). Upload your new nameplate and associate it with your new domain name according to your hosting provider’s instructions.
Dedicated do-it-yourselfers with always-on broadband can host their nameplate website at home, but go this route only if your site is very low on bandwidth, your computer is always on, and you’re not concerned about site responsiveness, which will be slow for typical cable and DSL connections, especially if many visitors go to your site at one time.
Link Up Your Nameplate Site
Just because you build it doesn’t mean that Google will come. Search engines will find your nameplate site and associate it with your name only if it is linked to your name on other, indexed pages. For example, if you’re a member of an online community such as Twitter, MetaFilter, or Slashdot and you want Google to find your nameplate site, just add it to your profile pages in those communities. You can also send a request to the webmaster of other sites that mention you to link your name to your new site.
Get a Nameplate Site without the Hassle
If manually creating and finding a place to host your nameplate site is more work than you’ve signed up for, you can also get your name out there — and have a say in what search results turn up for you — using one of several services made specifically for this purpose:
Google Profiles (https://profiles.google.com): A service launched by Google specifically to make it easier for someone to find you via Google. Even if you’ve made your own nameplate site, you should consider setting up a Google Profile and adding a link to your site from it, since it helps Google know what sites to associate with you.
About.me (https://about.me): A nameplate service with built-in analytics for tracking how many people view your site, where they’re coming from, and what they’re looking at when they’re there.
Flavors.me (http://flavors.me): Another attractive and customizable nameplate site for aggregating your online identity in one place.