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Academic Coaching & Writing

II. Assessing Your Online Presence: What Does Google Know About You?

Jul 08, 2014 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

As you begin to think about promoting your academic persona online, you need to take stock of where you are right now. The first thing you should do when thinking through taking control of your online presence is to google yourself. How are you are currently portrayed online? What do you notice when you google your name? You may find that there are obstacles you will need to overcome (such as sharing the name with a known criminal or a fellow academic in a different field).

I googled myself, and I invite you to google me, too. I'm fairly fortunate that I have a really distinctive name, so it's fairly simple to get the right kinds of search results. As you will see if you google me, the first thing that comes up is my Inside Higher Ed blog with my biography, followed by my Morehead State University profile where I currently work as an English instructor. Then comes my profile on Florida A&M University, where I was employed for a year (they haven't taken it down). Next you’ll see my Twitter handle, my LinkedIn account, my Rate My Professor site, and then my Morehead State on Academia.edu. So, that gives you a good idea of my online presence, or at least provides a preliminary introduction. And I'm pretty happy with what I see.

I've been very strategic and have targeted my efforts to suit my personal needs. I do not have my own site or domain name. While I have a LinkedIn and Academia.edu profile, I concentrate most of my online efforts on my blog and Twitter. But I do have all of my social media platforms linked. My LinkedIn and my Academia.edu all prominently link to my Inside Higher Ed blog and to my Twitter account. So I'm directing people to where I want them to go in order to see my academic persona. I keep a consistent message or profile across the various platforms, using the same picture, same biography, same CV; and I try as much as possible to maintain an updated CV on all the platforms as well. So again, I'm consistent, and I'm very purposeful in my online presence.

There are some drawbacks, of course, in not having a site that brings everything together in one place. And, given the first page of the Google search results, I could be seen as someone who writes about writing, teaching, and higher education more generally, whereas my more formal research interests and training are in literature. However, because of the type of jobs I’m pursuing, the persona I’m trying to convey is something more than an aspiring literature professor.

I invite you to google yourselves to see what picture is presented. Those of you with very common names should try googling yourself with “professor,” or use your discipline/area of expertise. Then see what shows up. There is a “Lee Bessette” who is a male and has another first name (Lee is his middle name). He happens to be a criminal, so I get Google Alerts about this guy occasionally. There's not much I can do to control that. But by maintaining my web presence the way I do, constantly updating it and making sure that it's current, I can be fairly certain that when somebody searches for “Lee Bessette professor” or “Lee Bessette academic,” they're going to find me. The online presence that I have developed and continue to maintain presents the academic persona that I want people to see.

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