Egosurfing or vanity search is a common practice by which we search our own name or pseudonym on Google or other search engine to check what websites show up. This practice is not only useful for celebrities and public figures but for anyone interested in what people find when googling our name, for privacy and personal branding purposes.
Searching other people’s names on Google is known as “detective search”. It is quite common to google the name of new people you have met recently. It is also a highly recommended practice for human resources managers before hiring someone. That is why it is so important to know what users see when googling our name. By using SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), we can even affect those search results according to the image we want to convey.
An unusual egosurfing case
There is an incidental but interesting egosurfing example carried by copywriter Alex Brownstein that shows how common egosurfing is. Brownstein wanted to get a job in a prestigious New York advertising agency. For that, he created a small advertising campaign on Google AdWords so every time one of the top managers of any of the agencies he was interested in googled his own name, they would see a personal ad targeting that specific manager. For example, when Ian Reichental googled his own name, he would see an ad saying “Hey, Ian Reichenthal. Googling yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun, too” with a link to Brownstein’s CV.
Brownstein created ads for five managers. Four of them contacted him for an interview and two offered him a job. The curious idea awoke the interest of the press, and the story appeared in the BBC, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and Mashable. Brownstein explained the tactic success by simply saying “Everybody googles himself”. The campaign’s cost was only $6 USD.
Egosurfing and personal branding
Doing egosurfing and taking actions to control what search results show up is part of a good personal branding management. Ideally, the first search results should include our website and our social media channels in the most popular networks (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube). In that way, we make sure the first information someone finds online is what we posted ourselves. But for that we need to work on our SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SMO (Social Media Optimisation).
For those who want to keep close track of what is said in the internet about themselves, there is a useful tool called Google Alerts. With Google Alerts we can set up an “alarm” that will automatically send us an email every time Google indexes new content including a specific word or phrase. If we use our own name as keyword, we will be notified every time that someone is talking about us.