Posts Tagged 'vizibility'

Google me-managing your online identity

Exactly one year ago, Career Brander broke a story on an exciting new online identity service called Vizibility.  Vizibility has created the first ‘pre-search’ button for Google results.

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.

Reputation Defender or Reputation Creator?

Depending on who you ask, and what survey data you believe, 60-80% of all job seekers are searched on-line by recruiters prior to being hired.  There is significant recruiter candidate mining and fact checking taking place on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google. Other major search engines are also being used as well.  (You can see an interesting view of the online identity issues facing every job candidate at this link.)

So what is an individual in career transition to do?

Career Brander has previously blogged regarding online identity management.  Our advice, simplified, is to take control of your online identity in four simple steps:

1)     First audit yourself through a Google search of your name.  Be sure to click through to different profiling sites that appear and confirm where you are being found and the data’s accuracy.

2)     Establish a basic personal website (This is easy to do with Career Brander’s Site in 60 software)

3)     Join or update the appropriate profile and community sites such as LinkedIn or Zoom Info.

4)     Establish a Pre Search button through Vizibility.

Now, what if these four steps do not achieve your online identity goals? Or, what if you have no time or inclination to do this for yourself?  Luckily with any growing consumer need, there are entrepreneurs focused on fulfilling the need. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking with Owen Tripp, the COO and co-founder of Reputation Defender. Below are some excerpts from our conversation.

Can you briefly tell our readership the problem Reputation Defender helps solve?

Owen: We make it easier for anyone to take control of their personal information and reputation online. We help people gain control of their online identity.

To me, you’re My Edge product is the most pertinent to those in career transition. Could you specifically talk about the benefits of your My Edge service, strictly from a job candidate perspective?

Owen: MyEdge could help an individual who is changing careers in a few ways.  The career-changer (let’s call him Jim) will want prospective employers to see relevant, positive and truthful content about him online in order to be considered for the job. If Jim is a car mechanic and wants to transition into teaching, he probably doesn’t want the first page of Google to represent his college tennis match from ten years ago, or a negative review that a disgruntled customer from the nineties posted about him online.  He will want that first page of Google results to best position him for the junior teaching assistant job.  So, MyEdge can help Jim by creating bios and content based on information that he gives us (such as a LinkedIn profile that highlights the fact that even though he is a car mechanic, he minored in education at the University of Arizona and also was a substitute teacher for a year during college.) Our MyEdge team pushes this content to the top of Google and moves down irrelevant content so that Jim appears online as he is, a person in career transition.

That’s interesting, so beyond “defending one’s good name” you can actually help build online identity?

Owen: Yes, we believe that people have the right to “Google insurance”–to be defended but also represented the way they want to be represented online.

Do you have any specific examples of how a customer in transition benefited from your service?

Owen: We have many recent college graduates that use our service to build their personal online brand to poise them for the job market; job seekers and professionals (teachers, lawyers, doctors, realtors) are our fastest-growing customer segment.

How do you charge for this service?

Owen: Subscription, annual or monthly. Go to the Reputation Defender website and we offer very clear, transparent pricing.

[CB: Prices average about $10 -$15 per month with discounts for longer terms.]

Given our readership is all about Career Branding, is there anything else you would like to add?

Owen: Online reputation management is the most important device to setting the first impression that customers or hiring managers will see about you when researching you or your company. Consumers are looking companies and people up online, in this age; your Google results define you.

Career Brander, nor any of our staff members, have tried Reputation Defenders service, but clearly a job seeker who is not interested in tackling online identity issues on their own, or someone who has serious online identity problems, has a  full service provider to consider.  Reputation Defender is a market leader in personal online optimization, and is backed by highly reputable, leading venture capitalists.

Is LinkedIn the best job board?

As our readership knows, we do not encourage job seekers to dedicate any meaningful job search time to “surfing” job boards. Career Brander advocates a much more targeted job search campaign that focuses on,personal branding, best-fit target companies, data mining, networking  and establishing web spiders through tools that help uncover the hidden job market, such as Job Search Radar.

However, despite our recommendations, millions of unemployed folks, as well as gainfully employed individuals, visit job board sites every day.  Clearly, visiting job boards creates some feeling of accomplishment despite the statistics clearly supporting very few people ever find their next job by applying to job board postings.  So if you are one of the millions of job board visitors, we thought we might share a few perspectives on the job board market.

There are now over 10,000 job boards on the Internet and the numbers are growing daily.  We’ve actually read data that there are over 40,000 depending on your definition of a job board.  How can this be?  Creating job boards has never been easier. For under $1000 ANYONE, can buy software that allows you to create your own job board in about 48 hours.  When the cost of entry in terms of time and money gets that low, the market gets over saturated.

The market is still dominated by a few mega-boards, in particular, Monster(Hot Jobs) and Career Builder.  There are also dozens of job listing aggregators that are gaining traffic, including Indeed, Simply Hired and Linkup.  These aggregators offer a higher utility, but we still only recommend using them for their automated alert features and nothing more.

So who do  we believe  is the best job board? LinkedIn.  Yes , it is much more than a traditional job board and perhaps unfair to designate it the best job board.  However, it clearly offers job postings and  its added value beyond the listings easily makes it the best website to accelerate  job search opportunities for professional positions.

We recently  read a blog posting saying that in the last 18 months, Barclays, the mega bank from London, hired 10% of all their employees via LinkedIn. If true, this is an amazing statistic and truly speaks to LinkedIn’s emergence as the top job search website destination. We have to admit, we are not overly surprised by LinkedIn’s success.  LinkedIn offers recruiters the ability to mine candidates  for free.  The community now has almost 60 million profiles and the cost for corporations to post jobs on LinkedIn is half the price of the major job boards.

LinkedIn continues to grow at a pace of almost 1 million new members per month. If one were to extrapolate, it clearly is becoming the social network of choice for businesses, and thus its reign as the top job search website destination is just beginning.

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LinkedIn keeps adding features each month, but here are a few new one’s we’d ask our readership to send to LinkedIn for consideration. Just hit send us your feedback at the bottom of your LinkedIn homepage.

  • Allow individuals to have sub categories of industry.  As an example, if you sell stock trading systems software to Wall Street firms, you should be able to choose your industry as software and your sub industry as financial services or capital markets.
  • Create the ability to view your contacts through visual mapping by geography and industry.
  • Integrate the www.vizibility.com Search Me function into their applications.
  • Provide more robust search analytics.  Why not tell people what type of searches their profile is attracting?
  • Consider a new recommendation system.  In its current set up, it’s too much you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours.  There needs to be some sort of advance ranking system that allows for a 360 degree review profile by co-workers on an anonymous level.

Google Me: An exclusive interview with the CEO of Vizibility

I recently tested the services of a new start up called Vizibility. They have developed an innovative service which is like a “Google Me” button for individuals.  It can be posted to online profiles, personal websites, resumes, email signatures, business cards and anywhere else a user wants to be visible.  I believe it will quickly become a standard component utilized for personal branding.  Through a simple wizard, the Vizibility service enables people to quickly create the optimal Google search for themselves based on their name, employment history, and relevant keywords. It also allows for exclusion of irrelevant keywords and inaccurate search results. This PreSearch can be shared easily through a short, personalized link or “SearchMe” button.  I recently talked to company founder James Alexander about his new company (you can Google him at: vizibility.com/james):

James, tell us how you came up with the idea for Vizibility?

The inspiration for Vizibility hit when I couldn’t find myself in Google.  I spent a great deal of time learning how the engine worked and experimenting with the advanced search features.  Ultimately I was able to create the perfect query for me that returned the right set of search results.  The query was long and used a lot of Boolean jargon but it worked.  In an unintended tribute to the movie Minority Report, I started calling this curated query a “PreSearch” because I built the search in advance of someone actually needing it.  I posted my PreSearch on LinkedIn and the light bulb went off!

In going through this process, I was struck by four things: first, using advanced search is just too time consuming for most people; second, the ability to easily post or share searches didn’t exist; third, even if someone could share their PreSearch, they would need to be able to change it from time-to-time (when they changed jobs, for instance), and; fourth, a user also wants to know when their search results change and when they’re being “Googled”.   All the ingredients were there for a new approach to people search.

Ok, can you get more granular on the problem Vizibility solves for individuals?

For career professionals “Googling” and being “Googled” are now standard practice for professional, personal and other reasons.  If you cannot be found quickly in search engines, you miss an important opportunity to make a powerful impression and validate your credentials. Almost all companies are conducting online searches prior to hiring anyone.

When it comes to search engines, individuals have three fundamental problems that Vizibility helps to address: 1. Name expansion; 2. Mistaken identity, and; 3. Name entry errors.

Name expansion is a big problem.  I was recently introduced to Carl Mark, one of the founders of Jones Soda.  Not only is his name common, search engines use expansion dictionaries to find variations of each word and then return a name combination that it thinks you meant.  In his case, Google thought I wanted to see results for “Karl Marx”.  This produced useless results, of course.  I understand the logic behind the approach search engines take but it really exposes the fact the search engines have a significant blind spot when it comes to people search.

Mistaken identity can happen when two or more people have the same name.  It can be serious because the results may look like they are about you but are actually about someone else.  I read a story recently in which a woman named Lauren Bernat felt her job search was hurt by the search results for someone else with the same name whose results cast her in a negative light (http://www.hrtechnews.com/mistaken-identity-google-search-hurts-womans-job-hunt/).

Name entry errors are a problem for people with names that are difficult to spell.  When we were developing Vizibility, I would occasionally hear someone tell me they have a truly one-of-a-kind name and probably wouldn’t need a service like this.  I find that level of uniqueness and spelling difficulty usually go hand-in-hand.   Having a one-click SearchMe button overcomes this problem, of course.

The challenges we address don’t stop with the people being searched.  The people doing searches face problems too.  If you’re searching for someone online, you don’t want to have to become an expert at advanced search to find nuggets here and there about your target.  You want to spend the least amount of time and energy to get the most accurate, trustworthy results.  That’s why Vizibility displays the results of its users’ PreSearches on the Google site and transparently shows all of the search terms that were used to build it.

Obviously, that has particular interest to folks in career transition, is this your core market? How do you see it working for job seekers?

The concept behind PreSearch and the methods used to create them apply to people as well as to products and services.  We’ll be rolling out some interesting new services later in 2010 for businesses.  For individuals, which is our immediate focus, we think of our core market as anyone who needs to be visible within a search engine.  This includes transactional use for active job seekers, of course.  But it also includes passive job hunters who don’t want to miss that next opportunity.  It includes entire categories of professions such as lawyers, management consultants, Realtors, communication professionals, etc. who are routinely “Googled” as part of the screening process.

How do you intend to charge for your service?

The basic service is free.  So anyone can create and/or update their PreSearch with our wizard and download a SearchMe button.  We also offer a $2.95 monthly subscription or an annual $29.95 subscription which provides premium services such as alerts when you’ve been searched or when your search results have changed.

Can you offer a compare and contrast of your offering with People Pond, My Life or Place Your Name?

There is clearly a lot of interest in improving people search and it’s only going to get more intense. The approach to date has largely centered around three strategies:

  1. Seeded Profiles: In this approach, a user proactively creates a searchable profile on a 3rd party site which is then seeded in search engines. Access to these profiles is often only available for a fee or to other members of that site (i.e. MyLife, Google Profiles, Classmates, LinkedIn, etc.).
  2. Crawling: In this approach, servers crawl publicly available information collecting data on people and sell access to it on a proprietary site (i.e. ZoomInfo, Intelius, WhoWhere, PeekYou, 123People, etc.). On some sites, like ZoomInfo, people can ‘claim’ their profiles.
  3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO): This approach attempts to boost organic results for individuals by creating content about them and seeding it all over the Internet (i.e. PeoplePond, PlaceYourName, LookUpPage, ReputationDefender, etc.).  Businesses have been doing SEO for years and these tactics are now being brought to individuals.  It can be expensive and once you start, you have to keep it up.

Individually or in combination, there is no question that these can be useful approaches.  None, however, can address the fundamental people search problems of name expansion, mistaken identity, or name entry errors.  If two people with similar names start an SEO campaign, for instance, you’re back where you started.

In contrast, Vizibility’s approach is not about hoping to influence search results or trying to drive Google users to some other site to see a profile.  Through the simple idea of creating of a robust and portable PreSearch, our approach is to leverage the strength of search engines themselves to build a set of search results that are entirely about a specific individual.

What about Reputation Defender?

ReputationDefender, along with a bevy of other personal online reputation management firms, provide a variety of services for individuals to improve their search placement primarily through SEO techniques.  Some of these firms will also help someone try to remove what could be viewed as negative material online.  These will be useful services to some people.  Unlike SEO, however, our approach isn’t to influence search results but rather to outright control them through a highly focused PreSearch that can be posted anywhere and easily tracked.

Your solution seems spot on in terms of matching a user friendly application to a problem. Can you tell us a little about yourself, your team and how you created the Vizibility application?

I started two technology companies in the 1990’s and spent most of the last decade as a product management executive at Adobe, when the company almost tripled in size from  about $1B in revenue to more than $3B in revenue.  My first start up, which I co-founded in late 1994, was called eWatch and helped Fortune 1000 companies manage their brands online (PR Newswire acquired the company in 1999).  There are some obvious parallels with Vizibility.

The core team at Vizibility includes people I’ve worked with in the past in marketing and development.  The application was built for us by Navantis, one of the largest independent software development companies in Canada.  Today’s release is a beta so we’ll be initially focused on tightening up the service and the experience.  We have a terrific product roadmap for the rest of the year as well and will be releasing several useful new features in the quarters ahead.

Thanks so much for granting us this interview in conjunction with your launch.  Career Brander intends to promote your solution to job seekers and add access to your application within our Job Search 2.0 Link Directory.  Is there anything else you would like to add in closing?

Thank you Ian.  We appreciate the opportunity to tell you and your readers a little more about Vizibility.  I’d encourage everyone to create a free, custom SearchMe link from our site at http://www.vizibility.com.



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