If you’re a self-employed or freelance creative, your life is probably defined by a never-ending list of things to do. But not only do you have to assemble this list, but you also have to prioritize between the items on the list and then execute on each item accordingly - a job that is typically done by 3 different people at big companies.
It’s not easy - one of many reasons why the path of the artful entrepreneur isn’t for everyone.
I’ve found that the only way to make the bottomless list manageable is to organize things based on two criteria: importance and urgency. Most of the list will be one or the other, to varying degrees - but this is one of those rare tasks that is both extremely important and extremely urgent.
Not only do you need to rank #1 for your name to connect with every single person looking for information about you and immerse them into your personal brand, but it’s also extremely useful to signal to searchers that you are indeed someone they should care about. Someone that other people care about. It’s visual validation that you are worth looking up, and thus worth their interest and time.
Every day that goes by with you not ranking at or near the top of Google for your name (or worse, not even on the front page) you’re losing followers, prospective clients, customers, and fans. These missed opportunities only add up over time.
I’m going to give you a 7 part list of quick things you can do to help you stake out your name’s territory at the top of Google, but first you need to do a little bit of thinking to prepare…
What 2-3 links do you want to come up when someone googles you?
Your personal website should be one. The others could be a social media profile like your Instagram, your Twitter, your Facebook page, or your LinkedIn, or an art distribution platform like Soundcloud, Etsy, Spotify, or BandCamp. It could be the website for a project or product that you’re involved with. We will refer to these as digital brand assets (DBA).
7 Easy Steps to Rank for Your Personal Name Online
1) Get your name in the URL
Foundational knowledge of anyone who knows even a tiny bit about SEO - having your target keyword (in this case, your name) in the url always helps. Think about how most people will probably searching for you - will they be using your full name? An alias? A nickname? This is what we’ll want to focus on.
If you’re building a new website for yourself or redesigning your old site, then consider acquiring a domain that incorporates your name into the URL. Whether going for a clever solution like a play on words, or something more straightforward and professional, including your name in the URL will always improve your rankings.
For social media like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or SoundCloud, the URL typically contains whatever you chose as your handle. If you want to improve their rankings, you need to change your handle to include your name.
2) Link to your website from all public profiles AND vice versa
Be sure that you link between your different profiles and website. Every profile you have on a social platform should contain a link to your website, and every social profile you have should be linked to from your website. Don’t forget about YouTube and SoundCloud when you’re thinking about your socials!
If you’ve written for or contributed to any media sites, ask them to include a link to your website in your bio. If you’re a serious participant on any relevant forums, link to your website in your profile. And last but not least, be sure to add a custom Signature to any professional email accounts you have and link to your website and any priority social profiles in your email footer! If you’re not sure what to write for your signature, here are some great professional examples.
3) Post new content regularly on your top mediums
Consider starting a blog on your website. Don’t dismiss this just because you have some misguided preconceptions on what a blog must be! Whether you’re sharing knowledge, updates, perspectives, photos, videos, new projects, it doesn’t matter - just make sure it’s content that your audience would be interested in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 3 sentences about a photo album or a 1200 word article, just be consistent.
If you’re keeping up with a blog, then running consistent content on your socials and profiles will be simple. With some minor editing and formatting, blog content is easily repurposed for most of these platforms. Plus, repurposing content from your blog will give you an opportunity to drive traffic from your socials to your website, where you can sign people up for your email list, sell them merch, and immerse them in your world.
Music profiles like SoundCloud, Spotify, or Bandcamp might seem like a beast of their own, but the recipe is still pretty similar. Try to upload new music regularly. Release covers, acoustic versions, or loosies. Keep your bios updated. Create public playlists or compilations, either of your own music or other music that you like. It’s all about signalling that you’re an active user.
Optimal Posting Frequencies (Minimum)
- Twitter: 2-3 times per day
- Instagram: 1-2 times per day
- Facebook: 5 times per week
- LinkedIn: 1-2 times per week
- Website: once a week
- SoundCloud/Bandcamp: once every 1-2 weeks
- Spotify: once a month (unless you’re rolling out an album in the next 3 months, in which case you need to up the frequency significantly)
4) Make sure your name is written on every (reasonable) page of the site.
This is a big one - especially if you used a website builder like SquareSpace or Wix (please don’t ever use Wix) . Many of these easy website builders encourage you to upload an image of your name into the Site Header by calling it “site identity”. While this does do a good job communicating your site identity to visitors, it may be unreadable to Google’s crawl bots. This is why you need to have your name written at least one time on the body of every page in plain text. And when I say every page, I mean it - even peripheral ones like contact pages, event/calendar pages, and merch pages.
To take this one step further, I’m going to get a little technical. Headers are one of the top criteria that search engines consider when trying to determine what a page is about. Website use primary headers (H1’s) and tiers of subheaders (H2’s, H3’s, H4’s, etc) to organize the text on a page just like you would use in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Ideally, you want to make sure your name isn’t just written, but included in an H1 or H2 on every main page of the site. This sends an unmistakable signal to any search engine that your website should rank for your name.
If you’ve got your name written on a page but aren’t totally sure whether it’s in a primary Header or not, you’ll need to “Inspect” the element using your web browser and make sure it’s wrapped in h1 or h2 tags. Here’s an easy introduction to using the Inspect tool that tells you everything you need to know.
5) Make your website more user-friendly
When they’re deciding how highly to rank your website, Google doesn’t just pay attention to what’s on your website. They’re also looking at the experience people usually have on your website. If your website is slow, people are more likely to get bored and leave while they wait for a page to load. If your website isn’t secure, people are less likely to trust your site. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile then people will get frustrated by the tiny text, overlapping elements, crammed images, or less-than-functional menu and leave quickly. The same goes when optimizing for tablets, which are often overlooked but make up nearly as much traffic on the internet as laptops do nowadays.
The best way to make your site extremely user-friendly is to work with an experienced web designer who is familiar with SEO to build a lean, custom site. If you have the budget, a custom site is one of the absolute best ways to invest in yourself. But for those who don’t have the budget, there are still a few things you can do to move in the right direction.
The easiest way to enhance your security is to add SSL to your website (aka go from http to https). This is absolutely crucial if you’re running an eCommerce site or accept any types of payment or donations through your site. But it’s also a good thing to do regardless, as it reinforces user trust and makes you appear more professional.
If you’re using a website builder that also provides your hosting, then sadly there’s only so much you can do to speed it up. Try to cut down on the amount of data-dense assets on your site like massive pictures or autoplaying videos. Make sure images are compressed. Trim unnecessary pages or content from your website.
Likewise, if you’re using a DIY website builder then there’s unfortunately only so much you can do to optimize for multi-device compatibility. Whenever you publish any new content, be sure to look at it on your mobile phone and make any obvious adjustments to make it look better. If you have to choose, it’s better to have a page that looks great on mobile and just fine on a computer than vice-versa. You can also drag your browser inwards to make it just a portion of your computer screen’s width to get a general (if not totally accurate) idea on how things might look on smaller computers and tablets.
6) Manually request your domain to be indexed by Google
Fair warning: this one is a little technical but even still shouldn’t take you more than 15-20 minutes tops.
Google scans your website using crawlers that index a page's content and metadata. The majority of crawling that Google’s robots do is autonomous, meaning they move around the internet to catalogue content by following links. This can be frustrating if you’ve got a brand spankin new website, as there aren’t many link paths to your website for the crawlers to follow yet. But all hope isn’t lost! There is a way you can force Google to send a bot to crawl your website today.
First off, you’ll need to set up Google Search Console for your website. Once you have your account verified you can use the “Fetch as Google” tool, which allows you to manually request your site to be indexed by their crawlers. The most surefire way to make sure that Google knows your website exists. It’s also a good idea to request your site to be recrawled every time you make any big, important updates or changes to your website, but that’s going a few layers deeper into the maze.
7) Last Resort: The Digital Press Release
Write a press release about your new website, a new project you’re working on, an award or recognition you’ve received, or anything else notable. Make sure it contains 1-2 links to your website, with at least one link directed at the home page. Once you’ve got it written, hire a digital press release distribution service. These services work with extensive networks of partners to distribute press releases to a bunch of different websites around the web.
Although this isn’t an ideal solution, as these links won’t be of super high quality and the sites they end up on won’t be terribly relevant to your site, this can be enough to push you over the top for a keyword that’s relatively uncompetitive (like a personal name). Keep in mind though, you do get what you pay for here - higher dollar services have connections at more reputable websites and can get you better results than the cheap options.
Why does this work though?
We already talked about how important it is to signal relevance to Google with your content, and went over how trust and security is something that Google considers as well when ranking your website. But there’s a third component that might just be the most important of them all: authority.
Let me expound a bit: in practical terms, “authority” means its importance, aka “do people care about this website?”
Google evaluates a website’s authority, or its importance, by measuring its portfolio of backlinks. A backlink is recorded whenever your website is linked to from an external place, typically another website. Google uses these as a way to determine whether your website is to be trusted and recommended to its users, considering these links to indicate that other websites are willing to vouch for your website’s credibility.