Here is a scary thought:

You are being Googled at every stage of your career and life

Ready or not, the way we assess people has changed. It is no longer just vacuum cleaner and lawn mowers we research online, we do the same to people. When I hire someone my first stop is Google, and if I had a daughter you can bet I would be Googling any potential boyfriends.

We are becoming our own brands.

What Is A Personal Brand?

Being a brand is not a new idea. Ever wondered why fancy law firms or investment firms are named after the founders? It is not just to stroke their ego, but because they are well known enough that their name and reputation alone are strong enough to draw people to the business.

 I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man – Kanye West, Diamonds From Sierra Leone

What is different now is that personal branding is no longer limited to just celebrities or high powered lawyers. The internet has made it possible to research anyoneAnd we are all doing it. From hiring to dating we ‘research’ people.

So what is the solution? We can go anonymous. Hide ourselves online, delete Facebook and set our social media apps security to high. Or we can do the opposite, take control and build a personal brand, use it to our advantage and show the side we want to the world.

Why You Should Build A Personal Brand

You Can’t Hide

  • If you don’t take control of your online presence, someone else will.
  • You will appear on Google. Maybe in something irrelevant like your friend’s food blog. Or somewhere more sinister.
  • By choosing to build a brand you can take control of what comes up when people Google you.

Find Clients Or New Opportunities

  • Looking for a client? Who do you think they are more likely to trust: some unknown, or a person with a well-respected personal brand they have already heard of?
  • Once you are seen by Google as an expert you will find people contacting you.

Gain Industry Recognition

  • The more specialised you get in your career the less Google results there are and the easier it gets to appear high on Google.
  • The more recognition you get in your industry, the more indispensable you become.
  • Become an unfirable asset.

Protect Yourself From Change

  • You can lose your job, but if you build a personal brand it will always be there.
  • Your personal brand acts as an online resume. In a time where we move jobs every couple of years having a standout CV is invaluable.
When I first started this site in 2014 I did so as the first step to build a personal brand for myself. An online CV. I was worried that if my businesses fell apart I would find it almost impossible to get a job, and I wanted something to help me approach potential investors.

And it worked. I have got business deals, made connections and evolved my companies. And this online resume even brings in a good income of its own.

How To Build A Personal Brand Online

You can put as much or as little work as you want into building your personal brand. But you might as well start with the easiest and most important parts.

Let’s have a look at the top few results on Google for a search of my name:

build a personal brand google results for sam priestley

Most Importantly – Your Own Website

The very best way to come up high on Google for a search of your name is to build a website with a similar URL. For instance, I am here at SamPriestley.com.

It won’t go straight to the top, but a maintained website that is obviously about you will work its way up Google, and then stay there.

And the beauty of your own website is that you have complete control over what’s on it.

Creating a website is pretty easy and I won’t go into it too much here. If you want a really easy drag-and-drop website then you can use something like Wix. This site is built on WordPress, I have a detailed post on how to build your own version here.

Don’t worry too much if you can’t get the exact domain name you want, Google is pretty clever and over time will associate whatever domain name you have with you. If I couldn’t get SamPriestley.com, a variant like sfpriestley.com or priestleybusiness.com would have been fine too. Same with other endings. A .com domain name is the best, but something like a .me or .co.uk would also be fine.

Once you have a site, what do you put on it? 

As much or as little as you want. It can just be a one-page resume with links to your work and professional networks. It can be a blog where you talk about things that interest you or are important in your industry. It can be a list of your accolades and achievements. Or it can be silly and just to show off your personality.

Finding good examples of personal websites is difficult. Have a look through this list by Muse and see if any give you inspiration.

Isn’t it embarrassing or egotistical to have your own website?

It shouldn’t be, but I know that this is something a lot of people worry about (including me). Self-promotion can feel a bit dirty and like you’re bragging. But it shouldn’t, this is your career and you need to be willing to sing your own praises.

It is very difficult to stand out if you’re concerned with fitting in.

But if you are embarrassed about creating your own website, you don’t need to tell anyone about it! Remember the point of your own brand is not to change the way that people you already know think about you, but to influence new people. When I first launched this website I didn’t tell anyone about it for a few months.

If you’re really worried then keep it simple. A short fact-based description of you, plus some links to your professional networks or place of employment. There should be nothing embarrassing about that.

Can’t you just make a really impressive LinkedIn or Medium blog?

You can (and you probably should) as well as hosting your own website. The problem with trying to build a personal brand on someone else’s website is two-fold. One, you only have as much control as they are willing to give you. There is a lot of talk of censorship currently, plus a lot of platforms have T&Cs saying that they own the content you create on their site and only they can make money from it.

And two, that platform might go-under and disappear. Some very big blogging platforms have closed down and the people who invested in writing content on them, now no longer have access to that content. There is no point spending time and energy to build a personal brand and then promote it, only for it to be wasted and removed from the internet.

Social Media

The next highest links on Google are my social media accounts.

This is a little controversial, but I believe if you are trying to build a personal brand you should have accounts with all of the major social media platforms. Even if you don’t intend to use them, a profile with a short description and then a link to your website is worth a lot. And it will help fill up that first page of Google with content you have complete control over.

  • LinkedIn – your professional network and another online CV. It also ranks very highly on Google.
  • Twitter – the discussion/argument board of the web. Appears high on Google and you can put a link on your profile to your website. I think I only post about once every couple of months and my Twitter account is still number 3 on Google.
  • Facebook – less useful for business and with a lot of privacy options so doesn’t always appear high up on Google. But people will search you on Facebook, so depending on the sort of things you post about and the industry you’re in, consider you’re privacy settings and whether you want strangers reading your posts.
  • Google+ – not the most popular social media site, but it does rank very highly very quickly on Google.
  • YouTube – we all know YouTube but most of us are consumers and not contributors. You don’t need to start creating videos and doing video diaries. But consider creating an account and uploading any videos that have been taken of you that you’re proud of. Particularly anything industry related such as speeches, news appearances, seminars you’ve given, etc. They will rank very highly.
  • Instagram – Instagram is a weird one. It is very personal and unless you’re in an Instagrammable industry (like fitness, or beauty, or food) then it is probably not the most useful for your career. But it does rank highly and you can put a link on it to your website.

Third Party Articles

The next highest links appearing on Google are articles mentioning me by highly respected websites. If you can convince a popular newspaper or online blog to write about you and link to your website then that will really help your exposure.

But that is easier said than done, and there are whole PR agencies who specialise in just trying to get your name into print.

That being said, if you’re in a niche industry and position yourself as an expert then it gets a bit easier. Nicher publications are more accessible and will rank very highly in their industry. And if they link to your own website even better.

So Get To It. Go And Build Your Personal Brand

I believe that we are currently in a transition period and are entering the era of personal brands. The internet has changed and disrupted a lot of things, including how we assess people. The old-fashioned two-page CV isn’t good enough anymore and you will be researched.

Hopefully, this post will act as a bit of a call to action. Your name and reputation are very important, and it has never been easier or cheaper to build a personal brand.

If you’re worried about it being expensive, it really isn’t. Wix is the most popular drag-and-drop website builder on the internet, and it is £6 a month with a free domain. Or WordPress, which is more hands-on but more versatile, is free and be hosted with Bluehost and free domain for $3.95 a month.

There is no excuse, no downside and a lot of benefit. Go and build a personal brand.