Published On: Sat, May 15th, 2010

University Wises up to Personal SEO

I read an interesting article in Mashable last week reporting that Syracuse University in the United States has purchased subscriptions enabling its students to use Brand Yourself’s online reputation management system to enhance their Personal SEO.

Undoubtedly, this is a bold and innovative move by the university and one that I’m sure will benefit the students. However, when you consider the growing importance of graduate employment figures, it can come as no surprise that university’s are doing their utmost to ensure their students have the best possible chance in the job market.

For me, the concept of Personal SEO is nothing new and the sooner people understand that organisations DO Google potential employees, the better. I’m adamant that Personal SEO is something all young people should be aware of and research by Cross-Tab Marketing highlights why millenials should take note:

  • 75% of HR departments worldwide are required to screen job candidates online.
  • 70% of recruiters and HR professionals in the U.S. clam they have rejected potential hires based on information surfaced online, and nearly half say that a strong online reputation influences their hiring decisions to a “great extent.”
  • 45% of HR professionals screen job candidates on social media sites.

Anecdotally, I also know this to be the case, especially within the PR industry, Stephen Waddington, MD of Speed Communications said: ‘Inevitably employers are using Google as a personal reputation engine and scrutinising these types of sites to review an individual’s career history and work ahead of hiring an individual.’

Indeed, one of the most common phrases I hear is along the lines of ‘if you cannot manage your own online reputation, why should PR agencies entrust you to do the same for clients?’

By the sounds of it, Brand Yourself’s platform will help students monitor and improve their online presence during the all important job search process. Whilst, I feel this will be a valuable, additional service that campus employability teams offer, I would make the case that students should be educated about online reputation management and how to leverage their Personal SEO as soon as they begin studying – not at the final furlong.

Online reputations are best managed over time with quality, organic content, not an afterthought upon graduation.

I’ve been blogging and speaking about Personal SEO for a couple of years now and thoroughly enjoy helping students protect and enhance their online reputation. It’s rewarding and from personal experience, I know what fantastic opportunities can come drop by if you look after your Personal SEO.

Another consideration is that when it comes to using technology to improve graduate employability, the US is normally about 12-18 months ahead of the UK. For instance student blogs, online resumes and e-portfolios are becoming more prevalent in the UK, whereas in the US they have been established for a few years. So I look forward to seeing which UK universities investigate this area.

In the long term I fully expect that more universities will follow Syracuse’s lead as people wake up to the fact that job interviews no longer begins with a handshake, but with a search on Google.

If you would like to have a chat about Personal SEO, do feel free to get in contact.

About the Author

- Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at and Chief Quaffer at .

Displaying 12 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Fiona Doran says:

    Another great post Ben.

    I particularly agree with this point: ” I would make the case that students should be educated about online reputation management and how to leverage their Personal SEO as soon as they begin studying – not at the final furlong.”

    I’d also like to add that as the Job Centre is now becoming an ever familiar place for a graduate, staff there should be able to offer advice on Personal SEO as part of the job seeking process.

  2. ORM says:

    Awesome journalism! The column covers it all without any propaganda and sheds light on the subject without an underlying agenda. This is mandatory reading for anyone trying to educate themselves on this topic. Online Reputation

  3. Good post Ben. Personal web reputation is in vogue. Have you read Antony Mayfield’s new book. I think you’d appreciate it:

  4. Ben Cotton says:

    Hi Fiona,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m still surprised by the number of students who are yet to fully grasp that employers DO google potential employees. I would argue that whilst this is important for all graduates, it is even more important for PR graduates – people who are essentially looking to break into the reputation management profession.

    Good reputation management begins at home and there are many simple techniques you can follow to monitor, protect and importantly, enhance what comes when someone types your name into google.

  5. Ben Cotton says:

    Hi Wadds,

    Great to hear from you! Thanks very much for the link – I’ll certainly check it out.

    As you can probably tell, I’m interested in SEO, and this interest has led me to consider how individuals can successfully leverage some of these techniques to manage their web reputation and ultimately help during the search for a job.

  6. The theory of communicative [PDF]J Habermas – 1987 – Harpercollins Publishers
    Cited by 5683 – Related articles – Library Search – All 3 versions

    [BOOK] The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry into a category of bourgeois societyJ Habermas – 1991 –
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    Offentlicheit, © 1962 Hermann Luchterhand Verlag, Darmstadt and Neuwied, Federal …

  7. Ben,

    Some good points.

    It is significant that the University in question is in the USA.

    When I teach in Europe (UK and France) many more students (than in the US) have concerns about the boundaries between their public and private lives. It is clear from conversations that culturally, many Europeans are not ready to go public and raise their personal profile online.

    Reconciling the tensions between the employability benefits of a high public profile and the personal wish for privacy remains a live issue for many students.

    Best wishes,


  8. Ben Cotton says:

    Hi Gareth,

    Thanks for the book recommendation, i’ll try and check it out. Nonetheless, it’s great to hear from you.

    You raise a very interesting point about cultural differences – and it is one that several people have alluded to. Culturally, I dare say we are closer to the United States than our European cousins, and once again we seem be following the lead of the Americans when it comes to personal brand.

    I would argue that students need to understand that if they are online and using social networks – they will leave behind a digital footprint that potential employers can view. That is why I believe that those with an understanding of SEO will be at a real advantage when job hunting. I often ask people ‘what does your digital footprint say about you?’

    I’m a firm believer that the concept and boundaries of online privacy is gradually being blurred and in some cases eroded. Indeed, Mark Zuckerberg recently declared that privacy is no longer a ‘social norm’.

    Whilst, morally I would hate to think this is the case, in many respects I feel Zuckerberg is correct. Young people in particular are willing to part with private information in return for free access to services, such as Facebook.

    Whilst, some students may not be ready to go public and raise their profile online, they need to appreciate they will already have a digital footprint. I would make the case this is why it is important to monitor, protect and enhance your online reputation.

  9. Nikita Patel says:

    Great post Ben!

    I’ve actually always wondered how employers deal with a potential candidate who has a common name. Are they quick to make assumptions over a picture/posting/video that may or may not belong to the person, or do they give them the benefit of the doubt?

  10. Ben Cotton says:

    Hi Nikita,

    Thank you for commenting and posing a question. It’s a tough one, but often employers are able to gain a decent understanding of your background from piecing together information gleaned from your CV, such as education and work experience. Therefore, the importance of ensuring positive things come up when you are googled cannot be underestimated.

    Do check out some of my previous posts on Personal SEO:

  11. My own experience is that people in the US network much more naturally than people in the UK. School – in reality a school district covering 6 to 18 year olds – is the centre of a hub that promotes bonding. Events, overnight stays, getting to know your friends parents who feed you, ultimately going on Family Guy style camping trips are natural. The annual home comings and then class reunions in the years ahead (think Grosse Pointe Blank) promote very strong ties.

    Talking to my parents this ‘bonding’ was also present in the workplace. Doing ‘whatever it took’ to meet a deadline; annual get togethers with class friend – from all across the US. Doing whatever it took to support your team. Things that rubbed off on me.

    Are we culturally closer to the US than Europeans? I found people in the US to be very open and very trusting – which may account for why they seem to put so much on Facebook. We may not be as cautious / suspicious as other Europeans (wartime legacy?) but I don’t see us coming near the natural openness of the US. (Not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to protecting your SEO.)

    On social issues I believe we are much closer to Europeans. We are also more challenging of authority as well – whether because of the Reformation, WWII propaganda or simply the presence of national news. (The US doesn’t have national news as we know it).

    The purchase of subscriptions to Brand Yourself’s is certainly something I could see students using. A lot of High Schools use COPS so this will be a natural progression and it also fits in with how education is delivered.

    So a clear message, as Ben says, we all need to work on our SEO.

    Quick note: the US is a big place; I suspect my experience was typical but it is only my experience. I lived in what I would call ‘rural’ America – school was around ten miles away and some friends close to twenty miles away. In areas of higher population maybe it is slightly different.

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