Privacy isn’t what it used to be. The internet has essentially turned the entire world into a small town where everyone knows each other’s business. With a few keystrokes anyone can find all sorts of information about you based on your name, email address or username. It’s important to keep tabs on what kind of information is floating around the web about you, since it could impact your career or even your personal life. Just ask anyone who’s had a potential employer find an embarrassing photo of them on Facebook. Here are some tips on how to monitor yourself on the web.
Set Up Alerts
While periodically searching for things about yourself online works when you remember to do it, making the results come to you is even better. A few different services exist that will email you whenever your name pops up on any web page.
Google Alerts offers the ultimate set-it-and-forget-it way to monitor your name online. Create an alert for your name and Google will let you know any time there’s a blog post, news story, video, forum post or web page that mentions your name. You can choose to receive emails daily, weekly, or as they happen.
Yahoo Alerts work much like Google Alerts, with a few differences. Alerts can be sent via email or to your Yahoo messenger account or mobile phone.
Me on the Web
Me on the Web is a relatively new feature by Google that is supposed to help you keep track of yourself online, but it works pretty much like Google Alerts. To access this feature, you must have a google profile and go to your Google dashboard and find the “Me on the Web” section. Here you can set up search alerts for your name, email address or other personal information.
Tips for Using Alerts
- If you have a really common name like Stephen Smith then you’re probably going to get a lot of irrelevant alerts in your inbox. Make sure you use quotes around your name to weed out all of the other Stephens or Smiths that get mentioned together.
- If you share a name with a celebrity, like an NFL player for example, you’ll probably want to use filters like “-football” when setting up alerts.
- To test out the effectiveness of the alert service you’ve decided on, try creating blog posts or profiles that include your name and see how long it takes before the alert shows up in your inbox.
- Don’t just create alerts using your name. Include your email address, usernames, telephone #, or any other information about you that might appear on the web.
Search for Yourself Online
Alerts are useful for keeping track of information about yourself online, but they don’t give you everything that’s out there–just the new stuff. You’re going to have to do a little bit of digging to find everything.
Google, Bing & Yahoo
The most obvious way to search for yourself online is to use one of the big three search engines. Anyone looking for information about you is likely to use this method of digging up dirt, so it makes sense to see what they see. But as is the case with alerts, the results can be muddied by irrelevant information.
Here are some tips when using search engines to look yourself up:
- Put quotes around your first and last name and add relevant terms like your employer, hometown or screen name.
- If you want to know where you show up on certain websites, you can use the site:URL operator on google to narrow down the results. (Example: site:mylifescoop.com “Tim Jacobsen”)
- Don’t forget about image search. Not only can you find photos of yourself, but photos that may be credited to you across the web.
Social Search: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube
Search engines are great for getting an overview of your online footprint, but it takes time for web pages to get crawled and indexed, so they don’t always give you an idea of what people are saying about your right now. Social sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can be a good place to find out what people are posting about you. If you don’t have a big web presence, you probably won’t find much, but it never hurts to look.
Social Mention search scours blogs, comments, forums and social platforms, but what’s really interesting is how they sort the results. They attempt to separate results based on sentiment so you can see what mentions are positive, neutral or negative. The results page also includes the top keywords related to your name and the top sources that mention you.
TinEye – Reverse Image Search
Keeping tabs on your photos is much more difficult than keeping tabs on your name because images aren’t always named in way that makes them easy to find. Many images get uploaded to the web with names like “me.jpg” and some websites automatically change your file names to random numbers and letters. But TinEye lets you search for images based on pixels, not file names or surrounding text. You just upload your photo and TinEye analyzes the pixels to see if it matches any of the 2 billion images they have indexed.