You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Your name is your brand. This may sound like a cliche, but it’s true. That’s why it’s a very good idea to make sure that when people search for you online the results they’ll see first are the results you want them to see - e.g. a nice personal site, a solid LinkedIn profile, some videos of you presenting at various conferences, etc.
I think everyone will agree that’s preferable to finding instead some goofy/embarrassing/sloppy content about you.1 I guess all of us have some of it, and that’s okay, as long as it’s not dominating our online “brand”. Online anonymity is another option you can explore, but this will likely cost you all sorts of lost opportunities, so I wouldn’t recommend going in this direction. After all this effectively means that you don’t have an online “brand”.
You might be wondering where am I going with all of this. As usual - there’s a story behind the article. I recently Googled my name and I noticed that the first matches people get about me are:
- Some talks on YouTube
Not too bad, given my 23 years of roaming the Internet, but still a bit disappointing, as I would have preferred for my personal sites to have ranked a bit higher.2 At any rate - this search gave me a clear idea of what people come across when they look for “Bozhidar Batsov/bbatsov”, so now I know where should I focus my efforts if I want to build a strong personal brand. I search for myself every few months and I would recommend to everyone to do the same from time to time. Lately I’ve also been spending a lot time on updating and cleaning up (think) and Meta Redux, which made me ponder on the topic of personal brand even more.
So, how do you build a good online brand? In general it seems prudent to me that everyone should:
- have some (simple) personal site
- have a clean and up-to-date LinkedIn profile/public resume (especially if you’re looking for better gigs)
Why so? Well, this ensures you’re associated online with something other than your Facebook/Instagram accounts. Something you’ve crafted carefully and optimized for public consumption. You can obviously have a lot more online presence if you wish to - e.g. I like writing, so I have several blogs. If you don’t like writing there’s no need to force yourself to maintain a blog.
Here are a few guidelines for a good personal site:
- focus on the content, not the visuals3
- less (good) content is better than lots of (any) crappy content
- use a custom domain for your site, ideally something with your name in it (e.g.
bbatsov.netin my case) - remember your name is your brand
- highlight there everything you think reflects the brand you’re aiming for (background, work, causes you’re passionate about, hobbies, life goals, etc)
- keep the site up-to-date - a broken or outdated site may reflect poorly on you
If you’re working in tech like me, and you’ve worked on some interesting OSS/hobby projects you might want to highlight those as well. If you’re working in another industry - I guess you know way better than me what to highlight.
All of these guidelines sound pretty basic, but it took me a few years to discover them organically myself. Much of my earlier articles here are so bad, that I’d happily delete them, but I keep them around to remind myself of the lessons I’ve learned and the experience I’ve gained. I don’t like LinkedIn much, so for many years my profile there was almost empty, but knowing that’s the first result many people get about me, I consider ignoring it a mistake. It’s not about getting more job offers, it’s about people finding something meaningful attached to my name.
When it comes to writing I strongly prefer to publish my articles on my own sites, instead of 3rd party services like Medium, dev.to, platforms that pay external authors for content and so on. Anything (meaningful) I wrote is a reflection of myself, so I’d rather it be closely associated with my name and my brand. That’s another argument in favor of picking domains with your name in it, instead of cool domains like ninjahacker.guru. Still, the content matters much more than the domain under which it’s published. There’s no substitute for good content.
That’s all I have for you today. A personal brand has many aspects, and the Internet is just one of them. There’s also the brand you have built in your community, on your job, etc. Those, however, are outside the scope of today’s short post on the subject. My thoughts were a bit messier than usual, but I hope I managed to get the message across. Now go create a great personal brand for yourselves!