In the past year, my personal Vizibility “Google me” button has been hit 1400 times. Many of these hits have been from search engines, but in the end, that is part of the plan when trying to take a pro-active approach to managing your online identity.
Earlier this month, Career Brander spoke with James Alexander, the founder of Vizibility to get an update on the business and the personal online identity marketplace.
James, it’s been about a year since we spoke and you released your first version of the Vizibility “search me” service.
How are things going?
Great, thank you for asking! Our user base has grown significantly since January 2010, and it’s growing the right way. Our strategy has always been to integrate Vizibility into profile-driven websites, and we’re seeing that strategy come to fruition. We spent the first half of the year learning about and working with new partners. By the end of the year, we had 12 integrated partners (including 6FigureJobs, BlueSteps, MyLegal, videoBIO, RealMatch and more), with several more in the queue.
The work is starting to pay off! In Q1 of 2010, 100% of our customers were direct customers. In Q2, we only saw 1% of our users coming from partners. By Q3 that moved to 13% from partners (87% direct), and by the end of the year, we had 30% coming from partners (70% direct). So far in early 2011, we’re seeing 54% coming from partners (46% direct). Not only are we seeing the partnerships drive most of our traffic now, but also we are seeing their conversion rates more than double our direct conversion rates, which is what we expected.
During our January 2010 interview, we discussed the impact your technology could have on personal branding as well as job transition, is that proving out?
Our PreSearch and GoogleMe button/link are an ideal way to create and maintain one’s personal brand and ensure the correct search results are seen. Today’s job seekers need to be hire-ready in-person and online. The majority of employers and recruiters are heading to search engines to check out a candidate before they even do a phone screen or extend an interview opportunity. Our GoogleMe link gives the candidate the ability to direct the hiring manager or recruiter to the most accurate results. It’s also ideal for individuals with common names, or those who are difficult to find with a simple search, which is one of the reasons I created Vizibility in the first place.
One of the most interesting benefits of Vizibility is the personal SEO effect. We introduced a new feature in late 2010 that allows users to choose and rank their Top 5 Favorite results. We then display these results immediately to someone who clicks the user’s SearchMe Button or Link (we call this page the user’s “billboard”) with an option to view all the results in Google. This billboard page becomes a very optimized page for our users, and it is now starting to show up on the first two pages of Google in just a matter of weeks. So by just creating a Vizibility account and choosing your Top 5 Favorites, your SearchMe link and favorite results page will soon appear in the top Google results whenever someone searches for just your name.
I know you were named by Red Herring a top 100 technology company to watch in 2010, so what can you tell us about your 2011 plans for Vizibility?
In 2011, we plan on launching several new products. The primary focus will be to introduce new features and tools for the partners who integrate Vizibility. Most notably, we’re providing an API for partners to fully integrate Vizibility into their services.
We are also moving full force into the mobile space. We will be introducing a mobile version of the “billboard” as well as generating QR codes for our customers to place on business cards and websites. Users who search for someone on a mobile device, or scan a QR code, will see the mobile-friendly version of their Top 5 Favorites. We’re hoping to share our solution with more individuals and partner sites as the year continues.
Now that you have been providing services to assist with “online identity” for a year, any lessons learned or tips you can share with our readership regarding their personal online brands?
It’s important for individuals to consistently manage their online brand. There are many people who only worry about their online brand when it comes time to search for a new job, but doing so could potentially damage the brand they’re hoping to convey online, and frankly, create a lot of work. By signing up for services such as Vizibility, individuals can control their results and be alerted when those results change, giving them the opportunity to address anything negative or positive that requires immediate attention.
Often folks between jobs think about starting their own business, any advice given you’ve been in “start up” mode for the past 18 months?
Often folks between jobs think about starting their own business, and why not? Almost everyone has had a great idea at least once, and the lure of working for yourself and making money doing it has a strong appeal, and can be very rewarding. This is my third start up, so I understand the power of this attraction well. When someone is between jobs in a tight job market, and the strings of employment are gone, the thought of starting a business can be all the more tempting.
If you find yourself contemplating this career option, I have three short pieces of hard, direct advice to offer.
First, know why you’re starting your business. Are you starting a business because you think you have a great idea for a product or service or because it’s the only option on the table at the moment? With four or five people chasing every open job, it’s taking longer to find employment. The psychological and financial pressure to find work can create a mirage of opportunity around self-employment. If you got an offer for the perfect job tomorrow, and you know you’d take it, then maybe you’re better off staying focused on your job search.
Second, ensure there is a market for your product or service. Successful companies solve problems for customers. Make sure you can answer a few basic questions including: Who is your perfect customer? How many of them are there? What is the problem you’re going to solve for them, and how critical is it? How do they solve this problem today? Why is your solution better, how much can you charge, and how much will it cost to reach your customers? The answers you discover to these questions will help you understand if your idea is worth pursuing.
Third, know the “end game” for your business. When we start college, we plan to graduate. When we buy a house, we know at some point we’ll sell it and buy a new one. When we lease a car, we know we have to give it back in a few years. We start most things in life knowing how they’ll end. Your business shouldn’t be any different. Before I started, Vizibility I knew that we would most likely be acquired when key milestones were achieved. Even if your plan is to create a business that you’ll hand down to your children, it’s a plan. The process of thinking through the entire life cycle of your business before you start it will help you understand what success needs to look like in order to achieve your personal and financial goals, which were the reasons for starting your business in the first place.
We are living in a very exciting and dynamic time where it is relatively inexpensive to start new ventures. If you have a passion for a business that solves real problems that people will pay you for, being out of work could be the best thing that ever happened to you.
James, thank you for sharing your thoughts with our readership. We wish you a successful 2011.
Career Brander encourages all of our readers to take advantage of the Vizibility service. The base service is free, and can have an extremely positive impact on managing your online identity.