A question that arrives in our inbox from time to time is “How do I get page X to be the top result for my name?”Â This is a valid, useful question, so I thought I might share part of the answer for reference.Â To do so, however, we must first talk about how search engines work.
Since the advent of Google’s PageRank, search engines have relied upon links to determine relevance when ranking results.Â Jon Kleinberg, a brilliant mathematician at Cornell described the web as being comprised of hubs and authorities. Â A hub is a site with many outlinks (such as a blog) whereas an authority is a site with many links pointing to it (such as CNN.com or NYTimes.com).
Now, search engine algorithms are extremely complex and we can get into the nuance a little later, but the basic premise to be successful in the task of increasing your name’s rank is that you need to become an authority.Â Luckily for you, all this means is that you need a lot of links pointing to the desired pages you wish to promote.Â The key is having your name in the hyperlink pointing to that page.
We can think of relevance in ranking search engine results as a multipart equation (as it is).Â When someone searches for you, the search engine first looks in its in index to see what pages match.Â Once it has that big corpus of matching pages, it must then rank them.Â The search engine uses a combination of the text and qualities of the indexed page, and it looks at how many links are pointing to it that either contain the search terms, or have the search terms in proximity to the hyperlink pointing to the name.Â It then looks at the quality of the hyperlinks (in Google, the PageRank) and orders your results.
Let’s imagine you want to move a page about you from the second page of search engine results to the top of the first page.Â As long as you don’t share a name with someone uber-famous or a well-known blogger, the best way to do this is to set up a number of links to that page with your name in the hyperlink text.Â How do you do this?Â Well, you can set up blogs, wikis, homepages, a claimID or one of the many other profile listing services – or you can use the secret method of leaving comments on highly ranked blogs.Â This is my favorite trick – search engines love blogs because they are noisy, frequently updated hubs.Â And blogs such as members of the Web 2.0 working group have very high ranking – so commenting with your name and your desired URL can prove quite effective.Â Of course you mustn’t be a troll or be spammy…but if you’re a regular commenter, a simple tweak of your strategy could prove immensely valuable in terms of raising the pages you want to the top of search engines.
Of course, it isn’t all about links.Â Having a page with your name in the URL, or having a lot of well-structured text on the page with your name inside bolds, h1′s etc will help.Â However, in terms of bang for your buck, links are the key.Â It is surprising how few links it takes to have a strong effect.Â Of course, the quality of the links (the pagerank of the originating domain) will mediate the effect, but any link is extremely valuable.
For more and more of us, being “findable” is becoming a 21st century necessity.Â By understanding the technologies that enable our findability, you will have more power in protecting your identity and putting your best identity forward.