Got a personal glossary? When surfers go a-Googling, which words will lead them to you?
No matter who you are, the way you’re perceived is based heavily on association. You won’t always be memorable as Kori, Dale, Ashton, or Blake without context. But when you hear Kori the environmental activist, Dale the data scientist, Ashton the new construction specialist, or Blake the tea sommelier, the names start to have meaning. This begs the question: “What will people associate with your name?” The answer: the few select words you attach to your brand—keywords.
The search engines of today are insanely powerful. In less than a second, they search billions of indexed pages and return links to those most likely to satisfy your needs—in order of relevance. But as amazing as they are, search engines are unable to read your mind. You have to tell them what you seek. They don’t give you anything until you give them some words to work with.
How Keywords Come Into Play
Think neon. A few years back, the marketing automation leaders at HubSpot wrote, “Keywords are the new neon signs.” Awesome. Just as store owners must carefully choose the words they’ll display in neon, you’ll need to do the same for your brand.
With search technology in mind, you need to carefully consider keyword options and create a shortlist you want to represent your brand. Keyword discussions generally go hand in hand with search engine optimization (SEO) lessons.
But first, let’s examine three ways keyword selection comes into play for the personal brander:
- Google and web search engines: In my recent personal branding book The Road to Recognition, I outline the all-important “Google Yourself” exercise. Because of the ubiquity of search, the results that search engines do or don’t return when you enter your name are a major reflection of your brand. You want to associate your brand with keywords that reflect your area of expertise when people search for experts in the niche.
- Social Media: Beyond LinkedIn, the same keyword selection lesson applies to all the social channels you use—in multiple ways: (1) The keywords you use in your social profiles enable members of the network to find you via the service’s search. (2) They allow the network’s search algorithm to find and suggest your profile to fellow members. (3) Potential followers will be scanning your profile looking for practical reasons to follow you or reach out, and keywords will easily catch their eye.
- In your own mind: Finally, a search must take place between your ears. You need to define your brand with just a few words—even to the point where you have your own tagline or slogan.
How to Pick your Brand’s Keywords
Keyword selection is the critical first step in SEO—it determines whether or not you’re easily found on Google or other popular search engines. To get your wheels turning, there are few different ways to kick off the keyword research process:
- Think about it: Brainstorm, my friend. You must know what you do (or aim to do). There’s no better way to begin than simply putting down ideas that come to mind. Don’t edit yourself at this point. Let it fly.
- Job descriptions: Even if you’re not job hunting, try mining job boards for keywords.
- Competition: You may or may not consider the established experts in your area as competition, but chances are great you’ll find ideas for positioning, and counter-positioning, your brand by examining what your contemporaries do.
- LinkedIn: Discover how others use keywords on LinkedIn, particularly in the first line atop their profile.
- The digital universe: You can mine keyword ideas from popular web services, such as: (1) Wikipedia: Most entries are organized in outline form and are rich with phrases related to the topic. (2) Udemy: The same goes for Udemy. Check out the course outlines and scan for keywords. (3) Amazon: Read the reviews. An added bonus of getting keyword ideas from user reviews is that you’ll discover how your audience actually speaks, writes, and thinks. (4) Industry forums: Every niche has loads of online forums where people speak the language of the industry, a gold mine for relevant keywords.
- Search tools: If all else fails, there are a number of keyword suggestion tools to help give you ideas, such as Google AdWords, Ubersuggest and Keywordtool.io.
Where Should You Stick These Words?
Stick ‘em everywhere: everywhere you can, everywhere that makes sense, everywhere your name appears. For starters, you should work the keywords that represent your personal brand into the following materials:
- Home page: Find a place for keywords in the slogan that accompanies your logo or image, on your page’s hero image, or in your introduction.
- About page: Your keywords are more than a phrase to put on your About page. They’re the communications strategy for it.
- Blog: As you build your personal brand, your blog will be home to your site’s most traveled pages. Position your brand there.
- Social profiles: Use your keywords consistently across every social media profile you create.
- Business cards: Your business cards and any materials you hand out should include them too.
We’re living in a world that hinges on discovery. Who or what you find online dictates who you engage with, or how your business unfolds.
According to SEO expert Brian Dean, “Keyword research is market research for the 21st century. Knowing that, your personal brand has to take into account what people type into search engines.”
With this in mind, spend some time thinking about what you want to be known for and do the work to infuse those terms into your website, content marketing and talks or speeches. The words are small, but the impact is huge.