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How to Look Good (or even Great) When Your Next Employer Googles Your Name

Written By Kyle Risley | Feb 2, 2015

Good news, creatives. Despite the recession being fresh on the minds of the American public, recent research suggests that the job market is looking up for right-brainers. A 2014 global survey of CEOs, creative directors, and managing directors found that problem solving, creativity, and strategic thinking are the three most desirable skillsets for potential hires.

Still, the job market remains fiercely competitive. Since 80% of employers were Googling potential candidates nearly five years ago, it makes sense for candidates to make sure they look their best online. Fortunately, there are some simple SEO tactics that will achieve just that.

Set Up A Portfolio Website

To the uninitiated, setting up a website can seem a bit intimidating. Fret not, it’s 2015 and building a website is a super easy process now. Owning your own domain, buying server space, and installing a CMS not only builds character, but it’s also great experience in an increasingly tech-reliant world. This site does a great job of explaining the ins and outs of this process in detail.

Once you have a portfolio website, professionally-relevant content like resumes, past work, about me etc., should be added. The precise architecture of your site doesn’t matter as much. What’s important is that the title tag of your home page should begin with your name.

title tagFor example, my friend moved from the middle of page two to the middle of page one in Google results by simply changing her title tag from “home” to her name.

If you don’t have a super common name (or share a name with a celebrity, like my middle school friend Joey Biden) it really can be that easy. Still, it’s a good idea to add a more descriptive title tag in the event that a recruiter searches for [your name + creative field] or [your name + city].

title tag expanded

This is a great example of effectively targeting name, professional field, and location.

Now that your site is set up, and the title tag is optimized, you have your new “home base.” It is, presumably, the greatest testament to you on the Internet, and ideally, it’d be the first thing anyone that ever met you would read.

The next step? Getting your site linked to.

Building Links to Your Portfolio Site

“Building” might sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t too tough. The trick is learning to recognize linking opportunities when they appear.

Here’s a quick list of potential opportunities to earn links:

  • Has your work been featured or discussed on other sites?
  • Do you contribute to (or have friends that operate) blogs that allow byline links?
  • Have you worked on a collective project hosted on the web?
  • Have you helped one of your less tech-savvy friends with a web-based initiative?

Now while links are certainly helpful, they can be even more useful for influencing search engine results if the anchor text has your name in it.

When big brands make the news for incurring an SEO penalty, anchor text is usually one of the infringing factors at play. But don’t worry–a handful of links with your name in the anchor text won’t set off any search engine filters. Your precious bastion of professional work will be just fine.

Elevate Other Pages Relevant to Your Work

Here’s the real fun part. Once a site has been determined to be a relevant (or maybe even the most relevant) result for your name, the pages it links to become powerful votes in the eyes of search engines. It’s like the time your cool friend vouched for you at that party when Jessie’s parents went to Maui for the week.

This effect is due to Google’s Hilltop algorithm, which works to identify expert pages (your portfolio site, ideally) and then, by extension, authority pages (the pages your portfolio site links to). This will allow you to more easily rank multiple pages for [your name].

There are a number of different sites that will host your work for free, including Vimeo (video), Dribble (design), GitHub (coding and programming), Behance (design, illustration, photography), 500px (photography), and Bandcamp (musicians).

Whichever suits your needs, link to that other secondary portfolio from your home base using anchor text that includes your name (e.g. Kyle Risley – Quora). As you continue to build links to your main portfolio, that authority will flow to your secondary portfolios. Over time, these results should rank higher in search results and make you look relevant and active in your field.

Following these three steps will position every creative to rank well and look good whenever their name is searched for, but there are always unique corner cases in search results. That’s what makes it fun to work in SEO. If you have a question about the search engine results page for your name, let me know in the comments and I’ll take a look!

Kyle Risley is an SEO expert at Vistaprint and also provides freelance SEO consulting. When he is away from his keyboard, he’s usually at a concert or digging through records.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.