The Boston Globe

Are you ready to be Googled?

Ask not for whom the Web searches because someday soon it may be you

By Alan R. Earls, Globe Correspondent, 1/9/05


Users can post information about themselves on Ziggs.com, which promises better search engine results for their names.

If you're looking for a job, be aware that prospective employers are taking a close look at you, too, in more ways than one.

A recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive shows that 23 percent of people search the Web for the name of a business associate or colleague prior to meeting them. And plenty of hiring managers Google prospective candidates as well.

So what do they find when they conduct a search? Sometimes nothing at all -- which isn't much help if you are hoping to make a positive impression. Or if they do find a reference to the real you, it may be outdated or simply too personal or embarrassing. Worse is the possibility of a future boss stumbling upon information about someone else who shares your name.

Specialists say there's no reason to accept search engine results passively. Indeed, there are a number of ways to help ensure that a search on Google or most other search engines turns up results more to your liking. To be sure, most of those methods involve getting yourself a piece of cyberspace -- a weblog or another kind of website. Some, though, just involve skillful self-promotion.

For instance, Fern Reiss, chief executive of Newton's Expertizing.com, says that professionals should consider a number of basic public relations tactics to increase their Web visibility. She says if you are publicizing something specific about yourself -- or if there's something that doesn't come up in your first five or six Google entries and should -- send out a press release on the topic. Whether sent through paid services such as PR Newswire, or through free services such as PR Web, Reiss says, press releases can work for individuals as well as for companies.

Another way to raise your profile on the Web, says Reiss, is to become a blogger. Since the blog entry may come up near the top of a Google search, Reiss says you should, ''make sure that your blog always has something to do with your business -- and make sure that the blog always contains an outgoing link to at least one page of your website,'' if you have one.

Shar VanBoskirk, a technology analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, advises you to use words you care about -- say, a computer skill -- frequently within your website. And, she adds, be sure to use terminology that is popular rather than esoteric.

Of course, many people lack the skills, interest or time to set up and maintain their own site. Some commercial services aim to simplify the process. For instance, Ziggs.com, based in Boston, bills itself as an ''online search platform for professionals.'' Ziggs is the latest entry in a field that includes Eliyon, Linked In, Zero Degrees, and Ryze.

Ziggs claims to have more than 1,180,000 profiles in its searchable index, and to have added 10,000 each day since launching in October 2004. The company expects to reach 2 million profiles early this quarter and perhaps 3 million within another year, all searchable by name, company, or keyword.

Tim DeMello, founder and chief executive of Ziggs, says the site allows users to quickly and easily create online profiles, and include information like employment history, education, an interview, even a photo.

''We learned that since the period of three-to-five years ago when everyone was rushing to get personal domain names, a great many of those domains have lapsed, which tells us it was too expensive and complex for most people,'' DeMello says. Thus, the idea of Ziggs was born, he says.

DeMello explains the site, which is offering free trials, works like a résumé and business card that you can update daily and instantly e-mail to recruiters, hiring managers, or prospects in your current job.

Ziggs also offers to place ads for your ''brand name'' across all major search engines for $50 a year. Ziggs says it does the buying to ensure top placement within paid search services, including Google's and Overture's.

Of course, individuals can make the same arrangements with search engines, sometimes for less money. The point, DeMello stresses, is what is at stake for professionals. ''There's nothing that's more important,'' he says, ''than the way your name is presented online.''