For anyone who is looking to become a well-respected thought leader within their industry, taking the time to build your own personal brand online is absolutely key. Highlighting your expertise and skills not only helps brand you as a knowledgeable individual in your vertical, but you simultaneously are able to help brand your business by highlighting the fact that it is filled with smart individuals like yourself. Building a distinct personal brand will help shape how others perceive you, and in order to accomplish this the right way, it’s important you do what you can to optimize the content you produce so that you appear more prominently throughout the internet – most importantly in relevant search results.
Being considered a thought leader within your respective industry can help generate large amounts of exposure for projects you work on and make you a valuable asset to any organization. While offline efforts can contribute greatly to your branding as an individual, sometimes you need to employ online initiatives as well – most prominently search engine optimization tactics. When you’re working to either build or maintain an online, social presence for your personal brand, there are several strategies you can use to help you win exposure and help increase your visibility:
Regardless of the industry you work in, there are plenty of opportunities for you to establish yourself as a thought leader or expert. Marketing yourself can be a difficult, time-consuming process, but over time it gets much easier once you get started. While this is generally established with a combination of online and offline tactics, first let’s consider some techniques you can practice when you’re not at your computer. Attending workshops or even hosting workshops and webinars where you can highlight your expertise with others is another great way to gain some knowledge in areas you specialize in while simultaneously providing your own unique perspectives to people in your industry and is a good place to start.
Once you feel confident in your knowledge and the hot-button topics in your industry, take advantage of networking events where you can speak with other taste-makers in your vertical, share opinions, and explain new techniques you've found effective. Not only will this allow you to showcase your knowledge to people in your industry, it also gives you an opportunity to build relationships that can translate into writing opportunities and speaking engagements later on. As these opportunities become available, consider public speaking gigs where you can begin to present yourself as an industry influencer and really start making a name for yourself.
Optimizing For Google Searches
Appearing prominently in a Google search for your name is a crucial part of effectively branding yourself. To appear in the #1 position for your name you need to have content across a variety of different pages with relevant titles and headings that provide value to users while also including your name. To begin, focus a large portion of your personal branding efforts on frequently creating interesting content for a variety of outlets and media publications where readers will be interested in your expertise are likely to visit.
A great tool to use to help streamline this process is Help A Reporter Out (HARO), where journalists submit queries requesting insights from experts on various topics throughout the day. This free system allows you to answer questions about a particular subject that you may specialize in, and if the reporter likes your pitch, you'll likely receive a link back to your social media profile when they attribute the quote to you – increasing the likelihood that you will rank first for your name in the process.
If you’re a regular contributor to a blog or website, and include a link to your social profiles in your author byline in each post you create, you'll receive a unique link each time you publish something new. This way you’ll get more links back to your social profiles, and your accounts will rank higher than other content when people search for your name. This helps support the framework for building out your own personal brand.
Optimizing for Image Searches
Optimizing images of yourself for image search is also an effective way to market your personal brand and expand your exposure in search results. If you have an author profile page or section on a blog that includes an image (and if you don’t, you should), you want those particular images to rank well when someone searches for you.
To achieve this, be consistent and use the same URL that links to a certain photo for various posts and outlets. If the same image is linked to from outlets where your bio is shown or a description of you is available, you can increase your chances of monopolizing the image search results when someone searches for your name. This works in the same way you would go about improving the ranking of your social media profiles—the more frequently your image is linked to, the better the search engine ranking for that image will be.
Optimizing Social Profiles
Optimizing social media profiles for relevant keywords and phrases (including your name) is one of the most important aspects of branding yourself online. The best place to start is by looking at all of the social platforms you are an active member of and determining the best way to make them relevant for whichever industry you are involved in.
For Facebook, your profile absolutely should be public so that you are accessible to anyone trying to learn more about you, or contact you. For some people, the idea of making your personal Facebook entirely public can be concerning, but it’s necessary so that you’re easily accessible to people who might be considering you as a speaker or guest columnist. You want to display content that showcases your interests and provides insights on your personality, as well as a look into your skillset. Post stories that relate to what you’re interested in and are representative of what your personal brand is trying to reflect.
If making your profile public gives you anxiety, do some clean-up of unwanted photos and posts and only take it public once you feel comfortable. Remember – all of your Facebook posts don’t have to be public. Only key information about you is really required in order for it to add value to your personal brand.
For Twitter specifically, you want to make sure that your name is somehow fit into your handle. This is a simple way to make it easier for people to identify you via search engines and associate your content with your social presence, and of course your personal brand. Furthermore, having a handle that includes your name forces twitter to give you a url that has your name in it – in turn giving search engines a much clearer signal that this Twitter account should be associated with your name.
For LinkedIn, it’s important that you either become or continue to be an active member of relevant communities by posting interesting, industry-related articles or content that stirs discussion, to promote exposure of your profile on the platform. Furthermore, having recommendations from reputable contacts and people you have worked with is an effective way to enhance your credibility and further build your presence across the platform. It shows other users that are looking for you that you have expertise in whatever industry you are involved in, and that in some way or another, you have provided value to various projects, organizations, and co-workers.
It is also important to make sure that you don’t keep the generic LinkedIn URL that your profile is automatically given - take the time to create a personalized URL that contains your first and last name, just like you would your name on Facebook or in your Twitter handle. The reasons for this are similar to Twitter – you want to have a dedicated URL on the platform that features your name so that Google has a clear signal that the page is about you, as it will help the page rank more visibly in the search results.
Optimizing for Keywords
In the world of SEO, keywords play a large role for companies looking to appear more prominently in search results. For personal branding, the importance is nearly identical. No matter what industry you’re part of, you need to integrate applicable keywords into the descriptions and bios on your social profiles. This is particularly important for Twitter and LinkedIn, as each allows keywords to be added with relative ease due to how they are widely used in a professional sense. For example, if you are in the digital marketing industry, it’s important that “digital marketing” is worked into your bio, along with any other areas you specialize in and want associated with your work. Taking branding seriously with your bios and descriptions will greatly benefit your online presence and personal branding, because it is how people find you and is often the basis for a users’ initial impression of you as a professional.
Plenty of third-party apps and programs take into consideration your bio on social platforms to help their users find appropriate contacts. A great example is Followerwonk, a popular program created by Moz (a leading SEO tool) to analyze Twitter profiles and find influencers. The tool allows users to search for accounts based on keywords found in bios to identify possibilities to reach out to industry influencers to share new content or information. If a journalist is looking for someone who is an expert in PPC or SEO, and you have either of those terms in your Twitter bio, you’re going to show up as a result in this tool and are more likely to hear from them as a result. This gives you yet another opportunity to be considered as a source by journalists or reporters that are seeking comments to help round out an article.
Market Yourself Online through Personal SEO
Overall, you want to be able to control what people can see about you, and use social platforms to make yourself more visible online as a thought leader and individual. All of these tactics used together can help you to build out your own personal branding, and help foster credibility behind your name.
Of course, it’s impossible to control everything on the internet, and you can’t really get rid of bad press, but you can make it less prominent by producing more quality content, and optimizing your social profiles so that they are the first things that show in a search result. Leveraging these tools and implementing these best practices into your personal branding will help increase your known value to organizations, other influencers, and future employers.