There are numerous reasons why someone may Google your name. As a job hunter, a working professional, or an internet-user in general, it’s also important to understand how to Google your name to proactively monitor and maintain a positive online reputation.

When you search your name using the tips shared in past posts, how do you know if what you find is good or bad? What should your results look like? Let’s explore the search results of two women CEOs, Sallie Krawcheck from Ellevest and Maria Molland Selby from Thinx, to illustrate what bad, good, and best looks like.

Google Wants to Return Diverse Results

To understand what your desired search results should be, it’s important to understand Google’s overall objective, which is to deliver dynamic search results to best answer a user’s query. Using artificial intelligence, Google tries to understand the context behind the words typed into the search bar to deliver a snapshot of information and answers that can be easily read and understood by a user.

For a CEO, searching your name should return results that include biographical information, professional images, social media profiles, and any recent news about you and your company.

However, for some CEOs embroiled in negative situations personally or professionally, their search results can quickly paint an unsavory picture about their character. Even if a company or CEO isn’t involved in any negative press or didn’t directly cause an issue concerning their company, not owning your search results by taking up all of the potential search real estate with positive press and profiles leaves your digital reputation vulnerable.

What It Looks Like When You Invest In Your Results

When I started to think about potential CEOs to analyze for this piece, I tried to think of woman-focused companies I’ve read about recently. One of those companies is Ellevest, a company claiming to redefine investing for women by taking a woman’s lifetime salary curve into account to help clients reach their investment goals. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t recall who the CEO was.

Google’s Artificial Intelligence At Work

A quick search of “ellevest CEO” returns Sallie Krawcheck’s strong digital results. Simply analyzing the first page of my search shows favorable results for Krawcheck and I can infer that Google interpreted my simple search accurately. I really wanted to know “who is the CEO of Ellevest?” but didn’t ask outright. However, Google’s algorithm was still able to accurately predict the information I was looking for.

 Featured Snippets in Search Results

The featured snippet box at the top of the page, also known as position 0, brings up Krawcheck’s Wikipedia page and bolds her name and the fact that she is the co-founder of Ellevest. Since Google is interpreting my search as “who is the CEO of Ellevest?” this featured snippet is returned to quickly answer my question. Below position 0, Google brings up their dynamic People Also Ask box with additional questions users may search. Clicking the drop down arrows reveals additional quick and simple answers to these common questions related to Ellevest.

Google’s Knowledge Graph

Now that I know who the CEO of Ellevest is, I performed another search of just Krawcheck’s full name, “Sallie Krawcheck”. The results change slightly, but still reveal a strong digital presence, one where I would say that Krawcheck owns her search results.

On the right side of the page, a user can see Google’s Knowledge Graph in action. The Knowledge Graph collects information about an object and relevant data about it and its relationship to other objects online. In the example of Krawcheck, the “object” is a person and Google is associating her name to data about her birthday, family, education, images, social profiles, current employers, books, and similar related individuals to create the featured snippet on the right. Not all Knowledge Graph results look the same and depend on how clearly Google can draw the association between the objects.

Organic Search Results

Browsing through the rest of Krawcheck’s results show a dynamic social carousel for her Twitter account where you can read her latest tweets, where her LinkedIn page ranks 1, and there are other bio pages and positive profiles and articles. For CEOs like Krawcheck, Google provides these bio pages and news results to give you a broad picture of who “Sallie Krawcheck” is.

When it comes to your digital reputation, organic search results can be challenging because if negative press and reviews about your name do occur online, Google’s algorithm can cause them to stick to your results for a long time, because they want to give you the most complete picture they can, for better or worse.

Negative Organic Search Results

For CEOs embedded in a crisis management situation, their Google search results can change rapidly. As people search for negative news, create fresh articles, and potentially link to negative in-depth news results that align with your name and company, Google will change the organic results to show the same broad bio info plus the newer results to deliver a dynamic result that aligns with the increased search activity. Google still wants to answer wholly, “who is this person?”

For some individuals, these negative search results can lead to negative results in their real life, like losing jobs, business, or rapport with their network and personal relationships. Google’s desire to provide holistic results about people and other objects, which can include the good, the bad, and the ugly, can have long-lasting impacts on people’s lives and livelihoods.

Weaknesses in the Knowledge Graph and Featured Snippets

Despite the word knowledge being in its name, the Knowledge Graph is not all-knowing. Sometimes incorrect data is pulled in. For example, personal information about birth dates and family members and spouses may be outdated, job titles held could be incorrect, or information about someone with the same name could be pulled in. This illustrates another reason why it’s important to monitor your results and take an active role in optimizing your digital properties. People put a lot of stock into Google’s results, so if incorrect information is being returned for your name, you may not realize that people could have the wrong impression of you and your character.

The Pitfalls of Not Owning Your Search Results

To draw a stark comparison, I tried thinking of another company led by a woman who may not own their search results. The brand Thinx came to mind. Thinx creates period-proof underwear in a variety of styles and promotes feminism and body positivity. This was another situation where I knew the company was run by a woman, but I couldn’t remember her name. This example is also a double whammy because I knew that the original CEO was accused of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment for her employees, who were mostly women.

I performed a similar search as outlined above and typed “thinx ceo” into the search bar. The results were a stark contrast to Krawcheck’s.



A Lack of Knowledge and the Knowledge Graph

The results did not offer any featured snippets; instead, the first result is a negative headline about Miki Agrawal, the former CEO, and the second headline discusses the company transitioning to their new CEO Maria Molland Selby. The rest of the results are more negative than not, with Agrawal’s personal website rounding out the top 10 results. Because the results and conversations surrounding Thinx are mostly about Agrawal’s downfall, Google offers a lot about that subject, but doesn’t have enough clear signals to offer any featured snippets to quickly answer the question, “who is the CEO of Thinx?”

Searching “Miki Agrawal” does show the Knowledge Graph profile of Agrawal on the right side of the page, with her personal page and social media profiles ranking at the top, but similar negative news results appear.

Digital Opportunity for Thinx’s New CEO

Next, I performed a search of the new CEO of Thinx, “Maria Molland Selby.” The results are mixed and, similar to the “thinx ceo” search, do not return any featured snippets. Despite searching Selby directly, who wasn’t involved in the Thinx controversy, some of the results are negative since Thinx is the common denominator. However, the results show that the Knowledge Graph is starting to make connections to Selby and is returning Selby’s LinkedIn, Twitter, and an image carousel lower in the results.

For Selby, there is a clear opportunity to start to take up precious real estate in the search results for her name by increasing her presence digitally. By publishing regularly to her profiles and continually spreading positive, newsworthy articles about her company and herself, she may begin to celebrate a stronger web presence, for herself and for Thinx.

For other prominent individuals, it’s important to note that Selby’s search results are not a unique situation. Having a digital reputation strategy for your name and your brand doesn’t need to begin at the first sign of a digital storm. For Krawcheck and Selby, working with online reputation management experts can help strengthen and safeguard their digital presence. The internet audience and Google never sleep, you shouldn’t sleep on your reputation either.