Egosurfing is often referred to as Googling yourself, vanity searching, egosearching and many other similar phrases or made-up-words. Egosurfing is commonly known as the practice of searching for one’s own given name, surname, full name, pseudonym, or screen name on a popular search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo! to see what results appear.

It has not only become increasingly popular with the rise of popular search engines, as well as free blogging and web-hosting services – it has also become increasingly important for companies, brands and professionals to keep an eye on how they are perceived by the public and to reassure themselves no embarrassing information is readily available about themselves that could jeopardize their reputation.

can we influence what people find?

Although it is possible to optimize pages and websites to rank better in search engines for specific keywords or phrases – it can be both costly and time consuming. When it comes to reputation management being proactive is the best approach in my opinion – the objective in this case is to make sure that your name, company or brand is well positioned (ideally several positions on page one in major search engines) with content that you are in control of or can influence (like blogs) so at least you can add balance to any bad publicity that may appear in the future.

If you are already facing problems there are services out there claiming they can help you clean up your digital traces like for example.

why is this important?

The internet gives everyone the opportunity to speak which often is a good thing as it helps push companies to provide a better service. However, if you as a company make a mistake you can suffer some severe consequences even for minor problems if the wrong people write about your company and your lack of ability or willingness to resolve a dispute for example.

Just think about the impact it would have when anyone search Google for your company name or brand and the first result is “Do not deal with X company” and that website is a complete case study of mistakes your company made.

On a personal level this subject is just as relevant. As an example from an article in the New York Times, an advertising executive in New York City who is an accomplished online marketer and New York University professor, but search his name, and one of the first results is a press release from the United States attorney™s office. Eight years earlier, he was charged with wrongfully receiving 9/11 grant money. “Even after all these years,” those links remained, said Bryan, who paid a $2,000 fine.

Another example from March 2011 is when the ceo of GoDaddy, Bob Parsons, went elephant hunting in Zimbabwe claiming to help some villages save their crops which are often destroyed by elephants – but ended up causing damage to the brand when PETA, the animal rights group, closed their account with GoDaddy and asked others to follow suit. The story went viral through thousands of tweets, blog posts, news coverage and Facebook supporters.

As a result GoDaddy is now linked with the killing of elephants forever.

how can I keep an eye on this?

You can simply surf the Internet for your own name on a regular basis to see which articles appear about yourself, your company or brand on a regular basis.

A very useful tool is Google Alerts which is a free service allowing you to enter specific search terms like your name, a brand or even a specific phrase and you will receive an e-mail alert when the search term is mentioned anywhere on the web – in theory at least – but it does work very well.