What Comes Up in Your Student's Google search, and How It might Be Hurting Them

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What Comes Up in Your Student's Google search, and How It might Be Hurting Them

November 18, 2020

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In the public’s eye, your Google results are who you are, outdated information, or not. When was the last time you Googled yourself? Nowadays, it’s not just friends and family looking at a student’s Google search results, but also employers and college admissions officers.

Do your teen’s Google search results say what they want them to?

What you'll learn in this video course

  • Why it's important for students & parents to monitor their digital footprint together
  • How colleges & internships search for students online
  • How to find old social media accounts that might be hurting your online image
  • How to find all deleted apps on a smartphone

7 experts weigh in on the power of Google search results and how to clean up your results to show what you want people to discover about you online

1. If you can’t fix your Google search results, bury negatives with positives

Josh Ochs, Founder, SmartSocial.com

Josh Ochs headshot
Josh Ochs

Your personal brand is what sets you apart from other job or intern candidates, other college applicants, and more. What you say and post online should reflect who you are and who you want colleges and employers to see. If you find old posts that don’t represent who you are, go back through your profiles and do a social media clean up before building your positive online brand.

Building a digital portfolio that ranks at the top of Google is one of the best ways to push old content down. At SmartSocial.com, we teach teens in our Student Branding Academy how to fix bad Google results so they can shine online for their dream college/internship/job.

Click Here to Join the Waitlist for the 2021 Student Branding Academy

Nowadays, a Google search will be one of the first things someone does to see if you’re even worth interviewing. Showcasing your talents and passions online is what we help students focus on as well as sharing about volunteering or even spending quality time with family offline. Never stop updating your digital portfolio as Google pushes older content down to replace it with new.

2. Your Google search results can result in lost college or job opportunities, lost revenue for a company, and signal poor culture fit

Kate Tudoreanu, Career Success Coach

Kate Tudoreanu headshot
Kate Tudoreanu

Before doing college applications or a job search, here are two tips that can help students repair search results and keep on top of new ones:

1. Most people don't check beyond the first 3 pages of Google search results. Use this to your advantage. To move less desirable results further back, do
a search every day and only click on links to sites which you wouldn't mind someone finding. This strategy takes time but will help in the long-term. You can enlist trusted friends or family members to help.

2. Check your Google results regularly. I check every month or two. To reduce how often you need to Google yourself, set up Google alerts. You will receive an email each time Google finds a newly published page with your name on it.

3. Do not apply until you clean up your digital footprint, no matter the deadline

Rolf Bax, Chief Human Resources Officer, resume.io

Rolf Bax headshot
Rolf Bax

One of the things we tell all applicants is to never send out a resume or college application before they clean up their digital footprint. Many organizations do Google and social media investigations as part of their standard due diligence now.

Below are some additional ways your Google search results can impact your life:

Large companies and colleges have a lot of goodwill and public images online of new hires in the social media era represent all kinds of potential PR disasters. Hiring someone who has posted or said potentially highly embarrassing things online could result in a major hit to that image and even lost revenue. It makes sense that your social media presence could be disqualifying.

A personal Google search could get an otherwise impressive job or college application turned down for fear of a scandal, or it might simply return information to those reviewing your application that offends one or more people. While it might not be a big deal outside of a career or academic context, it could signal to those evaluating you that you are an unserious person, that you lack tact and good judgment, or that you are a poor fit for an institution or organization's culture.

4. Your Google results are how the public views you as a professional

Kylee Jacobs, Chief Marketing Officer, The Absolute Dater

Kylee Jacobs headshot
Kylee Jacobs

I check on my digital footprint by searching for myself in Google every once in a while. It enables me to view things related to my name and clear out any outdated information or things that do not represent who I am. 

Oftentimes, potential new clients use Google search results to know more about a person, if he or she is trustworthy, their background, and achievements. They may use this as a basis if they will do business with you or not. That is why an individual’s online Google search results can represent a company’s standards or damage business opportunities for everyone. Your Google results should always be checked because they help you know how the public views you as a professional. 

5. Improve your Google search results with online projects

Kaelum Ross, Founder, What in Tech

Kaelum Ross headshot
Kaelum Ross

I have been part of hiring for many projects, companies, and for my own business. Make no mistake, employers can and will Google your name to get a feel for what kind of information is out there. I was also told on one occasion by an employer that they looked me up before offering me one of the most significant jobs in my career. 

After hearing about this I was worried about my own online presence. What I did to improve mine was creating some online projects based on some hobbies. I used my real name (for me this was a blog, a YouTube channel with some piano playing, and a few basic appearances in other blogs) so when you Google me now, results that are a little more interesting than just my Facebook account show up. If your name is uncommon, you don't have to do anything too intense to rank for your own name on Google. If you happen to have a more common name, it may take a little work. It is a great bonus and indicator of status if you specifically rank high on Google.

6. Your Google results can either gain or lose you credibility

Samantha Moss, Editor & Content Ambassador, Romantific

Samantha Moss headshot
Samantha Moss

Having a good online professional brand is crucial because it increases credibility among readers and followers. One thing I do to monitor my online professional brand is googling myself regularly.

Googling yourself isn’t just for fun nowadays. It is necessary to Google yourself regularly because it will help you ensure that there is nothing online that can negatively affect you, your profession, or your company. Googling yourself will help you tailor the online brand that you want to have.

7. Do a social media clean up

Stefan Smulders, Founder, Expandi

Stefan Smulders headshot
Stefan Smulders

As you probably know, your online presence is incredibly important. Now, with so much information available instantly at our fingertips, future employers, clients, and business partners can find out an abundance of information with a few clicks.

If you quickly type your name, what type of things show up? Do old photos of you drinking at parties come up? How about semi-serious tweets that you wrote years ago? Is everything PC and professional?

This, unfortunately, can change people's opinion of you. So it's time to have a quick online cleanup. Delete anything old and outdated that doesn't represent you today.

Login or join theSmartSocial.com membership to read more about the dangers and safety tips.

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In the public’s eye, your Google results are who you are, outdated information, or not. When was the last time you Googled yourself? Nowadays, it’s not just friends and family looking at a student’s Google search results, but also employers and college admissions officers.

Do your teen’s Google search results say what they want them to?

Parent, educator, & training videos

Why it’s important for students & parents to monitor their digital footprint together

As a student, are you aware of the ways that colleges will search for you online? When you apply to college or a job, it is very likely the hiring manager will go on the internet and search for you. They want a complete picture of who you are.

Everyone has a digital footprint online

  • Even students who don’t use social media have a digital footprint
  • People with similar names, or profiles made by someone else under a student’s name, all add to that student’s digital footprint

What does a digital footprint include?

  • Every social media profile you’ve ever created (even if you think it’s private)
  • Every comment or picture you’ve posted or been mentioned in
  • Online discussions you’ve participated in/online groups you’ve joined
  • Posts from other people who have a similar name to yours
  • Your online footprint exists even if you’re not on TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
  • You can find your online footprint by searching for your name on Google and going through the first five pages of your results

Why do colleges care?

  • Colleges are often looking for applicants who have a positive online reputation on social media
  • Students are an extension of their school’s brand and colleges are researching to ensure that their students portray the school in a positive way online

How to monitor your digital footprint

  • Use the same tool colleges and employers will use to search for you
  • This is important to do, even if you’re not online
  • Launch or download Google Chrome and open up a new window in “incognito mode”
  • Watch our next video to learn exactly how you can search for yourself online (and see what colleges/employers might find)

How colleges & internships search for students online

Do colleges and employers actually look up applicants online?

  • While colleges and employers may appreciate the impressive information contained in your resume, and the way you present yourself when you’re in “professional mode”, they also know they’ll get a more complete picture if they look beyond your resume and interview.
  • To find out more about the “real” you, they’re turning to the Internet. This is why you need to stay one step ahead by presenting yourself in the best possible light online.

How colleges search for you

Start with Google in “Incognito Mode”

  • First Name + Last Name
  • Josh Ochs
  • “First Name + Last Name” (in quotes)
  • “Josh Ochs”
  • “First + Last” + City
  • “Josh Ochs” Santa Monica
  • “First + Last” + School
  • “Josh Ochs” Santa Monica High School
  • First, Middle, and Last Name
  • Josh Keith Ochs
  • Social Media Usernames
  • @JoshOchs
  • Image Results

Do you feel comfortable sending colleges your social media usernames?

  • Ensure that you feel comfortable sending colleges your social media usernames by using social media to tell your story in a positive way.
  • Openly giving your social media handles on your college application shows the school that you are proud of who you are, even at night and on the weekends.
  • Colleges want to see who you are off campus, and it’s never too early to start building this story online. Middle school is a great time to start thinking about how your digital footprint can impact your chances at getting into your dream school.
  • Be online and be positive, because colleges, internship coordinators, and employers are going to ask for your information so they can fact-check. It’s better to be upfront and show that you have nothing to hide.
  • Understanding the way that colleges search for you online gives you the opportunity to create a plan and post positive content for them to find.

How to see your online results as others see them

Now that you understand that employers and colleges can (and will) go online to find out more about who you are as a person, here are a few do’s and don’ts about checking your own results. Internet searches might produce different results about you than you might expect. But you can take steps to control those results.

Don’t: Check your online footprint once and then forget about it. Your online results probably aren’t changing dramatically every day. However, a new post made public by you or someone else, or a change in the way search engines decide to rank your results, can make all the difference in affecting your prospects. We recommend checking your online footprint at least once a month (and in certain cases, once a week).

Do: Try different name and keyword combinations. Most people are surprised to see how easy it is to find information about themselves if they go beyond their first and last name. Use the search term combinations above to get a better picture of your digital footprint.

Don’t: View your footprint through your eyes only. People look at their search engine results and don’t notice anything unusual because they understand the context of everything they’re looking at. But will everyone else? What about that quirky Facebook club you started five years ago and forgot about after a week? It’s still on your profile, and potential employers may not get the joke. What about all those party pics a friend recently dug up and posted, with mentions of you holding one of those ubiquitous red plastic cups? How would an employer know if those were from years ago and not last night?

Do: Ask a trusted friend or colleague to go through your profile with you and give you honest feedback. They will probably have lots of questions about what they’re seeing, which can give you a much better idea of what your digital profile is telling your future college or employer. When they ask questions or make comments, be sure to write them down and listen. Try not to get defensive. Their honest feedback will give you insight into the mind of a college (or employer) as to what others think about your “digital first impression.”

Having a positive digital footprint isn’t something you achieve once and cross off the list. It’s an ongoing process. You always have to stay on top of it. That way, you’ll welcome people searching for you online and remain confident that they’ll find the most positive, interesting, and genuine aspects of your life that you’ve worked hard to cultivate.

How to find old social media accounts that might be hurting your online image

It’s not uncommon to create social media profiles only to forget about them later on. Maybe you wanted to try a new app but ended up deleting it later. What most people don’t know is - these old social media profiles can have a negative effect on their online footprint. To build a positive online reputation, it’s important to find all old social media accounts.

What are old social media accounts?

  • Old social media accounts are social media profiles you no longer update
  • Deleting apps doesn’t automatically delete your accounts on the apps
  • Old social media profiles can also include any accounts you made anonymously, especially if they’re tied to your email address or phone number

Why should students care?

Social media accounts usually require personal information upon activation. If there was a data breach on that social media platform, then your personal information could easily be leaked. This can hurt other profiles too if you’ve used the same password across platforms.

Why colleges & employers care

  • When colleges and employers look you up online, they want to get a better idea of who you are as an applicant. If old social media accounts are discoverable, it can make it hard for them to determine which accounts you are actively using
  • If your old social media accounts have negative posts or aren’t a positive representation of who you are - they can impact your chances of being accepted into your dream school or landing your dream job

How to find old accounts on social media using Google

We recommend using the Chrome browser to search for your old accounts. Open a new incognito window and search the queries below, in Google:

  • Search for your username
  • Example: @JoshOchs

  • Look up your email address
  • Example: Josh@gmail.com

  • Search for your first and last name
  • Example: Josh Ochs

  • Use your nicknames
  • Example: Joshua Ochs

  • Add networks to the end of your search
  • Example: Josh Ochs Facebook

  • Don’t forget to check the Google image results tab

Example of how old social media accounts can be negative

  • According to a new report, turning down young job candidates because of what they post on social media has become commonplace. Even if it’s an old social media account, employers and colleges will assume that’s you (and they have no idea when you created it)
  • The report, by On Device Research, states that 1 in 10 people between ages 16 and 34 have been turned down for a new job because of photos or comments on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networking sites

How to find all deleted apps on a smartphone

How to find deleted apps on your student's phone

Are you concerned about your kid's online activities? It’s critical to know which apps should be avoided. Once you’ve decided a certain app is off-limits, then what?In this video, Josh Ochs explains how teens sometimes hide apps on their phones. Watch to learn a few simple steps you can take to find out if your teen is using apps they don't want you to know about.

Apps can have a negative impact on your future

  • Inappropriate activity on any app can have a negative impact on a student’s college and career opportunities
  • However, some students feel like they can act out on certain apps because it’s anonymous or the content disappears over time

Why should students care?

  • Using apps to hide your social media activity might mean you are engaging in behaviors that could hurt your digital footprint
  • Would you want your hidden activity to be found by your dream school or future employer?
  • Everything you post on social media or send in messages can be discovered online- even if you use apps that claim to delete your post after a set amount of time (like Snapchat or Instagram stories)

Why should parents care?

  • Some kids might think they can use certain apps to engage in negative activities because that activity won’t show up on their parent’s phone bill
  • Using these apps can be dangerous and put your child at risk of encountering predators
  • It’s important to monitor every app your children download

What could go wrong?

According to a recent ABC News report, some child predators try to engage with your child by using hidden apps. They could say, “hey, download this app. We can communicate that way. No one ever has to know.”

How to find all deleted apps on an iPhone

  • On your child’s phone, open the App Store
  • In the upper right corner, click on the user’s headshot/profile
  • Select “Purchased” (and then maybe “my purchases”)
  • This is where you can access and review every app your student has ever downloaded (and which ones they have deleted)

The iTunes Store never forgets

A quick check of the iTunes store can be another great source of information about your student's app usage. Just run a quick search for the app you’re concerned about and see what icon appears to the right.

  • If you see an icon that says “Get,” the app has never been downloaded—just as you hoped
  • But if the icon reads “Open,” then that app is already installed
  • If the app icon shows a cloud, it means the app has been downloaded by the phone owner, but then deleted and is ready to be downloaded again
  • For many parents, knowing that an off-limits app was ever downloaded is a good reason to open a dialog about their concerns and/or rules regarding the app

How to find all deleted apps on an Android phone

  • On your child’s phone, open the Google Play Store. Ensure you are on the homepage
  • Select the 3 line icon next to the search bar in the top left of the screen
  • Click on My Apps & Games from the menu
  • Select the Library tab to the right
  • This is where you can access and review every app your student has ever downloaded

7 experts weigh in on the power of Google search results and how to clean up your results to show what you want people to discover about you online.

1. If you can’t fix your Google search results, bury negatives with positives

Josh Ochs, Founder, SmartSocial.com

Josh Ochs headshot
Josh Ochs

Your personal brand is what sets you apart from other job or intern candidates, other college applicants, and more. What you say and post online should reflect who you are and who you want colleges and employers to see. If you find old posts that don’t represent who you are, go back through your profiles and do a social media clean up before building your positive online brand.

Building a digital portfolio that ranks at the top of Google is one of the best ways to push old content down. At SmartSocial.com, we teach teens in our Student Branding Academy how to fix bad Google results so they can shine online for their dream college/internship/job.

Click Here to Join the Waitlist for the 2021 Student Branding Academy

Nowadays, a Google search will be one of the first things someone does to see if you’re even worth interviewing. Showcasing your talents and passions online is what we help students focus on as well as sharing about volunteering or even spending quality time with family offline. Never stop updating your digital portfolio as Google pushes older content down to replace it with new.

2. Your Google search results can result in lost college or job opportunities, lost revenue for a company, and signal poor culture fit

Kate Tudoreanu, Career Success Coach

Kate Tudoreanu headshot
Kate Tudoreanu

Before doing college applications or a job search, here are two tips that can help students repair search results and keep on top of new ones:

1. Most people don't check beyond the first 3 pages of Google search results. Use this to your advantage. To move less desirable results further back, do
a search every day and only click on links to sites which you wouldn't mind someone finding. This strategy takes time but will help in the long-term. You can enlist trusted friends or family members to help.

2. Check your Google results regularly. I check every month or two. To reduce how often you need to Google yourself, set up Google alerts. You will receive an email each time Google finds a newly published page with your name on it.

3. Do not apply until you clean up your digital footprint, no matter the deadline

Rolf Bax, Chief Human Resources Officer, resume.io

Rolf Bax headshot
Rolf Bax

One of the things we tell all applicants is to never send out a resume or college application before they clean up their digital footprint. Many organizations do Google and social media investigations as part of their standard due diligence now.

Below are some additional ways your Google search results can impact your life:

Large companies and colleges have a lot of goodwill and public images online of new hires in the social media era represent all kinds of potential PR disasters. Hiring someone who has posted or said potentially highly embarrassing things online could result in a major hit to that image and even lost revenue. It makes sense that your social media presence could be disqualifying.

A personal Google search could get an otherwise impressive job or college application turned down for fear of a scandal, or it might simply return information to those reviewing your application that offends one or more people. While it might not be a big deal outside of a career or academic context, it could signal to those evaluating you that you are an unserious person, that you lack tact and good judgment, or that you are a poor fit for an institution or organization's culture.

4. Your Google results are how the public views you as a professional

Kylee Jacobs, Chief Marketing Officer, The Absolute Dater

Kylee Jacobs headshot
Kylee Jacobs

I check on my digital footprint by searching for myself in Google every once in a while. It enables me to view things related to my name and clear out any outdated information or things that do not represent who I am. 

Oftentimes, potential new clients use Google search results to know more about a person, if he or she is trustworthy, their background, and achievements. They may use this as a basis if they will do business with you or not. That is why an individual’s online Google search results can represent a company’s standards or damage business opportunities for everyone. Your Google results should always be checked because they help you know how the public views you as a professional. 

5. Improve your Google search results with online projects

Kaelum Ross, Founder, What in Tech

Kaelum Ross headshot
Kaelum Ross

I have been part of hiring for many projects, companies, and for my own business. Make no mistake, employers can and will Google your name to get a feel for what kind of information is out there. I was also told on one occasion by an employer that they looked me up before offering me one of the most significant jobs in my career. 

After hearing about this I was worried about my own online presence. What I did to improve mine was creating some online projects based on some hobbies. I used my real name (for me this was a blog, a YouTube channel with some piano playing, and a few basic appearances in other blogs) so when you Google me now, results that are a little more interesting than just my Facebook account show up. If your name is uncommon, you don't have to do anything too intense to rank for your own name on Google. If you happen to have a more common name, it may take a little work. It is a great bonus and indicator of status if you specifically rank high on Google.

6. Your Google results can either gain or lose you credibility

Samantha Moss, Editor & Content Ambassador, Romantific

Samantha Moss headshot
Samantha Moss

Having a good online professional brand is crucial because it increases credibility among readers and followers. One thing I do to monitor my online professional brand is googling myself regularly.

Googling yourself isn’t just for fun nowadays. It is necessary to Google yourself regularly because it will help you ensure that there is nothing online that can negatively affect you, your profession, or your company. Googling yourself will help you tailor the online brand that you want to have.

7. Do a social media clean up

Stefan Smulders, Founder, Expandi

Stefan Smulders headshot
Stefan Smulders

As you probably know, your online presence is incredibly important. Now, with so much information available instantly at our fingertips, future employers, clients, and business partners can find out an abundance of information with a few clicks.

If you quickly type your name, what type of things show up? Do old photos of you drinking at parties come up? How about semi-serious tweets that you wrote years ago? Is everything PC and professional?

This, unfortunately, can change people's opinion of you. So it's time to have a quick online cleanup. Delete anything old and outdated that doesn't represent you today.

More resources

Conclusion

Google search results can impact your life without even knowing it. After reading this blog, spend some time cleaning up and improving your Google search results.

Need help? SmartSocial.com’s Student Branding Academy helps students build a positive online digital footprint that ranks them at the top of Google so they can share the narrative they want others to discover. It’s never too late or too early to start creating a positive footprint for the world to see.

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