The Google Panda updates has changed a lot of what companies are doing to ensure they’re being found on Google for their particular field and keywords. But how can you take advantage of this for personal branding?
Take advantage of Google Panda
1. Define your keywords
The first thing to do is to define what you want to be known for. Choose a couple short keywords and phrases. Just know that you’re going to have a tough time ranking for most of these, but you want to get your name associated with them so when someone finds you, they see you’re associated with this as well.
It could be “beer,” “writing,” “social media,” or even “marketing.” Whether it’s your work or your passions, be sure your name is being associated with those keywords. Start a blog about it, tweet about it, join LinkedIn groups about it.
You won’t win any searches for this term, but if people find you, they’ll see the keyword associated with your name on those social properties, and you may fit a category they’re looking for.
2. Find your long-tail keywords
There are things you’re more known for than a single keyword. Maybe it’s a three- or four-word phrase. Instead of “beer,” it’s “home brewed wheat beer.” Instead of “writing,” it’s “young adult science fiction.”
These are the terms people are more likely to search for. You won’t win thousands of searches, but you could win 20 searches in a single month. And those 20 people are looking for exactly what you have to offer. The thousands you missed out on weren’t looking for that, and so you just saved yourself a bunch of wasted effort.
Pick the two or three long-tail keywords you’re known for, and use them on your blog, in your Twitter bio, and on your LinkedIn profile. If you have any other social profiles, use them there too. This is the true essence of branding yourself: finding that specific niche that you want to be known for, instead of the vague, generic term everyone else is using.
3. Localize your profile
Google is starting to pay a lot of attention to local search results. If you search for something that can be found locally, that’s what Google will show you first. If someone searches for something you do, and your blog or website is localized properly, you’ll pop up before other people who aren’t doing this.
Start mentioning your city and state in your blog posts. Make sure it’s on your Twitter profile. Make sure it’s even in your LinkedIn profile. Write blog posts about “home brewed wheat beer in Ann Arbor, Michigan” or the “Portland, Oregon young adult science fiction conference.” Even if someone does a search for the long-tail keyword and skips the city name, you’ll show up if they’re local. And if they’re from out of town, but they’re looking for something in your city, you’ll still show up.
If you’re really adventurous, start poking around in some of the Schema markup language. Learn how to mark up the city and state where you are, and drop that into your blog footer. Google, Bing, and Yahoo are all using schemas for indexing, so you’ll be helping yourself on all three search engines. And your blog and posts will start showing up during localized searches more frequently than those people who aren’t using it at all.
4. Connect with people on Google+
You may keep hearing that Google+ is failing, or not generating the attention that people thought it deserved. While that may be true, Google+ is still playing a very important role in search. And if you want to win search, you can’t ignore it.
Let’s say we’re connected on Google+. I go searching for something, like “home brewed wheat beer.” One of the first things Google will show me is your blog post on that very subject. Similarly, if we’re not connected, but we have a mutual connection, and he shared your blog post on wheat beer, that post will still show up at the top of my search results page.
Given all of that, it behooves you to connect with people on Google+ who share your interest, or are connected to the people you want to connect with, or both. The more people you’re connected with, and the more you can get people to share your stuff (because you’re writing high-quality sharable content), the more likely you are to show up in their search rankings.
Also, make sure you put your rel=author tag in your blog bio, and link it to your Google+ profile. This will tell Google that you wrote that particular piece of content, and that you’re the same you on Google+.
These are just a few basic tips you can use for branding yourself by taking advantage of Google’s latest algorithm updates. Focus on long-tail searches, being local, and being connected with people who are likely to search for you, and you’ll come out on top.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service. He also just used the “rel=author” tag and linked to his Google+ profile. He is the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself, and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing.