Who really owns your name?

When someone calls it, you answer. You confidently write it down to claim ownership. But do you actually own your name?

Say your name.

Not in your head. Say it out loud.

Wonderful sound isn’t it?

But how much do you actually own this collection of beautiful nouns?

In the world of branding, taking ownership of your name is crucial to its survival, integrity and link to you as a professional.

Here are some helpful (and thankfully, simple) steps you can take to reclaim your name, one website at a time.

Google yourself

A recent article I wrote for feminist blog Blonde Leading the Blonde, spoke about the need to be conscious of the impression you make to those you encounter in your professional life. In the online world, the strongest evidence of your impression is not your CV or social media profiles — it’s what pops up in a Google search of your name.

Start with a basic search for your name in quotes, so for me would be “Richard Etienne”. If (as I do in France) you have a more common name, you may need to go through a number of pages to find yourself. If that still doesn’t yield results, add modifiers to your name like the city you live in, the name of your college or company you work for, or any other distinguishing characteristic.

OPELLO Tip: When you Google your name, do so using a private browser or incognito mode option so that results are not based on your location or search habits. Thanks to our pals atReputation Defender for that tip.

No pictures, please

Staying with Google, click on the ‘Images’ tab at the top of the page to see what pictures come up. It’s much easier to scan hundreds of images quickly than hundreds of links. You may be surprised at the images you find.

What if you don’t like what you see? Not to worry, there’s a fix for that.

If the image is from a site you can edit, such as Twitter or Facebook, then you can simply go to your account and change the privacy settings, or just delete the post. As we’re sticking with Google for the meantime however, watch this video to learn how to remove an unwanted image from Google Images search results.

Last year, Google created their new My Account page that lays out your settings in a much easier-to-use fashion with clearer explanations. Thanks to this enhanced feature you can nowbeef up your Google security and choose what information Google records from your life.

Who you looking @?

Next, run a search for your past and current email addresses and phone numbers. Chances are, you may have used these on a site where your name wasn’t added. Online forums often use email addresses and usernames instead of real names to identify people.

Finally, run a search for your social media account usernames. Most people pick one or two and stick with those. For example, if you search for the username “opellomedia,” you’ll turn up our Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram accounts. Your search may also reveal social accounts that you forgot about, or that are less private than you think.

Rule over your domain

Seven years ago — over a plate of grilled Nandos chicken — my business mentor asked if I owned the URL richardetienne.com. At first I couldn’t see the point he was making, but several failed business attempts later (which came with subsequent business cards and website domains) I now understand the importance of owning my own domain name.

If anything, having it as a forwarder to link to your business or hobby at the time can provide simplicity for both you and those who search for what you do. In a few years it may well be common to send a link to your online CV. It’s worth future-proofing yourself now, rather than gambling on ending up with a hard-to-pronounce domain name because it’s the only one left that includes your name.

OPELLO Tip: Use knowem.com to search for available domains that contain your name.

The cost to purchase a .com domain name? Peanuts.

Many sites like Fasthosts offer introductory prices of £11 for two years. That’s less than the price of a cinema ticket and provides you with free email address forwarders and control over your online image. If you don’t have your own domain name, I urge you, go out and get one. If after a year you decide you no longer need it, just let the registration expire. Simples.