Lesson 10: Visibility
Content/Lesson created by Darin Gerdes of Charleston Southern University. Copyrighted 2016 by Great Business Networking.
In the first section, we talked about knowing yourself. In the second section, we talked about developing support systems. In this third section, we want to turn our attention to developing visibility. How do customers and business partners find you? What is the size and shape of your digital footprint?
There are two parts. First, you will want research your company. In the court of public opinion, is your company held in high esteem or in low regard? Is it even known at all? Second, you will want to research your own name. Have you ever searched for yourself? Is that embarrassing photo from college still out there telling would-be future employers not to hire you?
Forbes magazine reports,
90% of executive recruiters say they conduct online research of potential candidates, according to ExecuNet. Up to 70% of employers who have used LinkedIn say they’ve chosen not to hire a person based on what they’ve found out about them online. However, only 27% of employers give job seekers the opportunity to discuss the online content that is associated with their name, such as social media profiles, blog posts and photos.
This suggests that job seekers should be thinking as much about their online persona as their interview attire. (Jacobs, 2013, para. 2-3).
I made this type of mistake myself. In 1995, the internet was still in its infancy. America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy were giving away free CD’s that you could load on your computer to get on the internet. Then you would pay by the minute for an incredibly slow dial-up connection.
I was in graduate school at the time, so I had an advantage. I had access to better computers on dedicated lines. I learned HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and I was the first among my friends to create a web page. Since the internet was young and somewhat experimental, I wrote silly posts that my college friends would enjoy (including parodies and bits from Monty Python). I graduated, got a real job, and forgot about it for a decade.
Flash forward to 2007. I was just about to take my place on my local school board when political opponents looked me up online and found this student webpage. What they found was little more than a series of inside jokes that only my friends truly understood and a few papers I wrote as a student. I had written nothing racy, profane, or derogatory. Nonetheless, they read all sorts of ominous motives into it, describing me as unprofessional. I suppose that this was a fair charge; I was not a professional when I wrote it, nor was I writing it for a professional audience.
In fact, I had not touched the website for nearly a decade other than to update my résumé (this was in the dark ages before LinkedIn). Otherwise, the site sat dormant, but that was irrelevant. In politics, perception is often more powerful than reality, and my opponents created a short-lived scandal. They demanded that I withdraw even before I was sworn in. Two city councilmen asked me about it, and one was “deeply concerned.” I deleted the website since there was nothing of real value on the site anyway, and the faux-scandal, which was much ado about nothing, blew over in a few days. I served my term on the board without another thought about the website, but there is an important lesson here
Could this have been avoided? Yes and no. You cannot keep an opponent from opposing you, but you do not have to arm him with the club he uses to hit you. This same logic holds true for the employer who will decide not to hire you because of a Facebook photo, or the potential business partner who decides that you are just too risky after a Google search. Your goal, then, should be to know what is out there, and do what you can to project your authentic, professional self to the rest of the world.
Google is the gold standard in search. According to the most recent comScore report (2016) roughly 64 percent of searches are conducted on Google. Microsoft (e.g., Bing) accounts for 21 percent, and Yahoo comes in third with less than 13 percent. Other searches are divided by a handful of miniscule players. Since Google is the largest player, we will focus on Google, but you should be aware of some nuances between search engines.
Each search engine provides different findings because they use different criterion to produce results. In the early days of search, people ranked individual websites, but as the internet grew exponentially, algorithms and key word searching became the norm. Because Google’s algorithm was the most accurate, Google became the leader, and Googling became a verb.
Google offers the most comprehensive search and a number of powerful tools, but if your chief concern is privacy, you may prefer to use Duck Duck Go (https://duckduckgo.com/) or StartPage (https://startpage.com/). StartPage retrieves Google search results, but it tracks nothing. It is the best of both worlds.
If you need to perform computational tasks, Wolfram Alpha is the clear leader (http://www.wolframalpha.com/). If you want to ask or answer questions, Ask.com (http://www.ask.com/) and ChaCha compete in that space with Google. Personally, I prefer a Google search over these search engines, but you should be aware of the options.
If you are interested in conducting a meta search across a number of search engines, Dog Pile (http://www.dogpile.com/), Yippy (http://yippy.com/#), or SurfWax (http://lookahead.surfwax.com/) may be your preferred search engines.
Do not forget that Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/search/results.php), LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/vsearch/p?adv=true&trk=advsrch) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/search-advanced) are all searchable too.
How to Conduct Your Search
The internet uses Boolean logic. According to the Outreach Librarian at the New York Public Library,
Boolean searching is built on a method of symbolic logic developed by George Boole, a 19th century English mathematician.
Boolean searches allow you to combine words and phrases using the words AND, OR, NOT (known as Boolean operators) to limit, broaden, or define your search. (para. 1-2)
Google has expanded on these search operators, as you will see below. These key terms make searching easy, provided you know how to use the system. Below, I will provide a number of tips and tricks that will turn you into effective researchers in a matter of minutes. This is not a comprehensive list, but it provides a good start. Here is a short overview of the most important search tips:
Let’s say you are planning a business trip to Paris, France. You decide that you want to stay in Hilton Hotels while you are there. As you search, you remember a great line about success by Conrad Hilton that you want to use in your presentation, but you can’t quite remember how it goes. Google can help you with all of that.
Force inclusion of a term with +
- When you want to be absolutely sure that you are getting a key word, use a + to ensure that your search includes it (e.g., +Hilton hotel) if you want to be sure to find a Hilton hotel.
- If you use the word “Or,” you will find anything that pertains to either category (e.g., Hilton or Paris, France)
- This expands the number of results you will find.
- If you use the word “and” you will limit your search to only that material that covers both terms. (e.g., Hilton and Paris, France will retrieve material that talks about both).
- This is helpful if you get too many results and you want to reduce the number of results you obtain.
Force exclusion –
- If you are just looking for general information about Hilton hotels, use the word “not,” or the minus sign (-). This will minimize results that you would rather avoid (e.g., Hilton not Paris).
- It works the other way too. If you want to research the city of Paris, you may need to use the same limiter (e.g., Paris not Hilton).
- Either scenario helps you avoid unfortunate stories about Paris Hilton (the person) whether you are traveling to a Hilton hotel or traveling to Paris.
- You get similar results by using a minus sign (e.g., Hilton -Paris).
- Sometimes your search is more effective if you search for text in the page rather than a title: In this case, place allintext: before the words (e.g., allintext:Hilton Hotel Paris France)
- This focuses the search to all of those keywords simultaneously. The effect is similar to writing the word “and” multiple times.
- Suppose you are looking for the same Hilton hotel in Paris, France, but you want to make quite sure that you get Hilton and Paris, France in the same sentence.
- In this case, use positional operators such as NEAR, ADJ (for adjacent to) or AROUND
- You would type “Hilton” AROUND(3) “Paris, France” and it will only retrieve results where your search terms are no more than three words from one another.
- Now that you have your hotel arrangements, what about that quote?
- If you know the exact quote, placing it in quotation marks will help Google find more accurate results. For example, Conrad Hilton once said, “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”
- With the quotation marks, Google returned 27,900 results. Without the quotation marks, Google returned 273,000 search results, but these results use all or any of the key words in any order, reducing the accuracy of the findings.
Fill in the blanks with *
- What if you couldn’t remember the entirety of Hilton’s quote?
- Try this: “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people” * and Google will fill in the blanks for you.
- Can’t remember the whole quote. You can only remember parts? Try this: “Success seems to be * with action.”
Limit to a specific site:
- You remember seeing the quote on the magazine website. So, you want to restrict your search to that specific website.
- Type site: before your query to restrict your search (e.g., site:Inc.com Success seems to be connected)
- As you begin typing, Google tries to make helpful suggestions based on recent searches.
- Suppose you can’t remember the quote but you vaguely remember Conrad Hilton said something about success. As you type Conrad Hilton success, Google will begin to offer suggestions as you see below.
Search for an image:
- Looking for an image of the person or thing?
- Type “Hilton hotel” and “Paris, France.” Then click images if you want to see images of Hilton hotels in Paris.
- Using the same keyword, click on maps to see where all of the Hilton Hotels are in Paris.
- Perhaps you want to see what was written about Hilton Hotels in published books.
- Using the same key word, click books, and you will search books.google.com—a virtual library.
- If the book has a copyright, you will only be able to see part of the work, but it may provide you with just the passage you need.
- If the book is in the public domain, the entire book may be available.
- Sometimes you want recent results about a person or company.
- Conduct your search (e.g., Hilton Hotel) and click on News. This will search the most recent new stories associated with your search term.
- Want to restrict your search to a particular type of content (PDF, XLS, or DOC)?
- Type Filetype:PDF before your search key words.
- This type of search often unearths files that regular searches do not turn up.
@ Search Social
- If you are looking for a person but you only have an email address or twitter account name. No problem.
- Search by their twitter name or email address (e.g., @twittername or name@theiremailaddress)
- # hashtags work too if you want to see what is trending.
Finally, don’t worry about your speling
- Yes, I spelled the word “speling” wrong here to show you that Google will fix your spelling as long as you are reasonably close.
- CAPTIALIZATION does not matter much either.
You may work for a company that provides extensive advertising, but many of us are not that lucky. This week, conduct a general internet search as if you knew nothing about you or your business. See what you can find. What does it communicate about you? If you can find it, so can everyone else.
If this brief tutorial was not enough, review the National Security Agency’s (NSA) now unclassified guide to search, Untangling the Web. According to CBS News:
“Untangling the Web” has hundreds of pages of what were the most advanced search tips in 2007, when the book was originally published.
A section dedicated to hacking Google gives tips on how to search for confidential information by using search queries. Using a command like “filetype:xls site:za confidential” will search for confidential Microsoft Excel files in South Africa, which uses a top-level domain of .za. (2013, para. 3-4)
If you are interested in learning more, you have the title—Untangling the Web. It is a PDF. It is on the www.nsa.gov website. And, now you know how to find it. Good luck.
If all of this searching made you tired, Bernadette Brogan is a travel agent and a member of GBN. If you knew nothing more than that, how would you find her to let her take care of your travel plans? What key words would you search?
Using the techniques above, look up your company to understand how the world sees it. Are the reviews positive or negative?
Search for yourself as if you were a private investigator or a competitor completing opposition research. What did you find? Does it tell your story properly?
Web Search was built primarily from the reliablesoft.net and Kissmetrics.com articles, supplemented by additional online searches.
How to Conduct Your Search was built largely on The University of South Carolina tutorial, and the Tech Radar, Tech Republic, and Google articles. I would like to assign broad attribution to each of these authors. I was only a curator. Very little, beyond the examples used, are my original thoughts.
Bare bones 101: A basic tutorial on searching the web. (n.d.). University of South Carolina, Beaufort Library http://www.sc.edu/beaufort/library/pages/bones/bones.shtml
Burns, S. (2011). What is Boolean search? New York Public Library. Retrieved from http://www.nypl.org/blog/2011/02/22/what-boolean-search
Chris, A. (n. d.). The top 10 search engines in the world. Reliablesoft.net. Retrieved from https://www.reliablesoft.net/top-10-search-engines-in-the-world/
comScore releases January 2016 U.S. desktop search engine rankings. (2016, January). comScore. Retrieved from http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Rankings/comScore-Releases-January-2016-US-Desktop-Search-Engine-Rankings
Hines, K. (2012). 40 advanced and alternative search engines. Kissmetrics. Retrieved from https://blog.kissmetrics.com/alternative-search-engines/
Jacobs, D. L. (2013, May 17). How an online reputation can hurt your job hunt. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2013/05/17/how-an-online-reputation-can-hurt-your-job-hunt/#29bf426714d8
Marshall, G. (2015, October 26). 101 Google search tips and tricks you need to know about. Techradar. Retrieved from http://www.techradar.com/us/how-to/internet/25-handy-google-search-tips-and-tricks-1260823
Ngak, C. (2013, May 9). NSA’s secret Google tricks revealed in declassified guidebook. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nsas-secret-google-tricks-revealed-in-declassified-guidebook/
Norton, A. (2011, April 27). 10 tips for smarter, more efficient internet searching. TechRepublic. Retrieved from http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/10-tips-for-smarter-more-efficient-internet-searching/
Search operators (n. d.). Google. Retrieved from https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/2466433?hl=en