Ever Google search for your own name? Even if you haven’t, there’s a good chance that a friend, family member or potential employer will at some point. And when they do, do you know everything that they’ll find?
Google is chock full of personal information you may not always want public. Whether it’s gathered by the search engine itself or scummy people-search websites, you have a right to know what kind of data other people can access when they look up your name. Tap or click here to see how to remove yourself from people search sites.
What others see about you online can mean the difference in landing a job or spending more time looking for one. If you want to take control of your reputation online, here’s why you need to start searching for yourself before others beat you to it.
Use exact phrases to find more than mentions
To get started with searching yourself on Google, it’s important to know how to search for exact phrases. This means telling Google you want to look up the words you typed exactly as you typed them — with no splitting terms or looking up one word while ignoring others.
To do this, simply search for your name (or any term) in quotation marks. As an example, look up “Kim Komando” and include quotation marks. Now, Google won’t show results for Kim Kardashian along with Komando.com.
Using exact phrases will weed out results for other people with similar names to yours. If you have a more common name, you may have to go through several pages before finding yourself.
If you aren’t finding anything or your name is very common, use your name plus modifiers like the city or state you live in, the names of your school(s), the name of the company you work for or other details. Make note of anything that you don’t feel comfortable with others finding and either write down the web addresses or bookmark them.
A picture says a thousand words
After you’ve saved the websites you want to go over, switch over to Google’s Image Search and scan through any pictures of you. It’s much easier to look through hundreds of images quickly versus hundreds of links, and you might be surprised at the images and websites you find.
If you find an image that concerns you, you can run a reverse image search to see where it’s hosted. To do this, follow these steps:
- Open Google Image Search and click the Camera icon in the search bar
- Paste a link to the image or upload the image you want to search for.
- Your results will be shown as a combination of images and relevant websites. If an exact match is found, it will populate at the top of your results.
If the image has no text on it or any identifying information, don’t worry. Your image can turn up even if it only has your face.
Where you are and where you’ve been
Next, you’ll want to run a search for your past and current email addresses and phone numbers. This helps you see which sites have access to this personal data and will also show you what others can find if they look this information up.
If you’ve ever signed up for a discussion board or forum with your personal email address, your post history could easily show up if someone Googles you. The same can be said for social media pages and blogs. Find and make note of any posts or content that you’d prefer to make private.
Finally, run a search for your social media account usernames. Try to remember any usernames you may have used online and look those up. For example, if you search for the username “kimkomando,” you’ll turn up Kim’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram accounts.
If you can’t remember, try searching for your name (as an exact phrase in quotation marks) plus the social network you want to look up. This might reveal accounts that you forgot about or that are less private than you think. If your real name is visible anywhere, it probably falls into this category.
Keep track going forward
If you want to stay on top of information that pops up about you on social media (or the rest of the web), you can set up a free Google Alert for your name. It’s an easy way to keep tabs on your online reputation.
Here’s how to set up a Google Alert for your name:
- Visit Google.com/alerts and type what you want Google to alert you about in the search bar.
- Click Show options to change settings for frequency, sources, language and region. You can also specify how many results you want and where you want them delivered.
- Click Create Alert to start receiving alerts on yourself or other search topics you’re interested in.
Bonus: What does Google know about me?
And last but not least, let’s take a moment to address data that Google itself keeps on you. By default, Google records every search you enter, your location (if you use Google Maps), video-watching history and searches from YouTube, and much more.
Anyone who knows your Google Account email and digs deep enough can learn plenty about your online activities. If you haven’t visited your Google Account and privacy settings in a while, now’s the time to do it.
Now that you’ve searched for yourself and taken note of content that people can see if they look you up, it’s time to take things a step further and actually remove any data that you don’t want public. Want to know how? Just follow along for part two of our guide to Google-searching yourself.