Here in startup land, we’re probably more aware than the average joe just how important online reputation is. When your business is totally (or mostly) virtual, you have to be hyper vigilant about monitoring what’s being said, who’s doing what, and where that information is going.
And what internet tool has the most effect on how people see us? Google, of course. With 94% of people not moving past the first page of Google results, what shows up at the top of any search has more influence on how people see you than you’d probably like to admit. What we’re searching matters, for everything from business strategy to marketing to dating.
The online reputation company BrandYourself recently conducted a nationwide poll with Harris Interactive—one of the world’s most respected market research firms—to determine exactly how people are using Google to shape their opinions and relationships, both personal and professional.
While the study looked at how internet searches relate to voting choices, business relationships, romantic relationships, familial relationships, and how many people conduct vanity searches, the numbers we’re most interested in here are the ones related to business.
Pay attention, guys. This stuff is important.
How many people are really Googling you?
According to BrandYourself, 86% of adults who are online have used a search engine to seek out information about someone else. To be honest, I’m kind of surprised that number isn’t higher. I regularly Google my friends, potential boyfriends, and coworkers. Maybe I’m just a creep…
And how does it effect your prospects?
Out of those 86% who have searched people, 42% say that they’ve looked people up before deciding whether or not they want to do business with them. A full 45% of them found negative information that stopped them from moving forward with a business relationship, while 56% found positive information that encouraged them to move forward with the person in question.
The numbers get even more dramatic if you factor in when you factor in education: 52% of individuals with a college education or higher have searched someone’s name before deciding to do business with them.
Lesson here? Make sure your Google results are showing your best side. It’s not just about making sure the pictures of you doing a keg stand when you were 20 are buried deep; you also need to make sure that good information is front and center. In this economy, don’t take the chance that your competitor isn’t going to flood the internet with raving reviews from past bosses and commendations from the president.
Google results beyond the job search.
Even if you’re safely ensconced in your $8 million a year job and have zero fear of ever getting fired, your online rep is still important. BrandYourself found that 23% of people online have searched a coworker and 27% have looked up someone they met at a networking event.
Your professional reputation should be important to you no matter what stage of the employment cycle you’re in and with hard data like this, it’s time to wake up and smell the SEO. If you haven’t yet, go Google yourself and cross your fingers that your name doesn’t match up with a sex offender.
But if it does, don’t stress too much. You’ve just got some work to do.