At one time people called the act of Googling yourself on a search engine a vanity search or ego-surfing. Now it's a matter of self-preservation. The practice has long been a part of managing brand reputation, but individuals have learned the value of keeping track of information being collected and posted online about them, too. A study released this week could give advertisers insight into targeting paid search and display ads through behavior and social graphs.
The Pew Research Center looks at U.S. adults who use search engines to track their online reputations, especially as they learn how to control privacy setting and delete unwanted information about themselves online.
The survey released this week takes into account roughly 2,250 telephone and mobile phone interviews between Aug. 18 and Sept. 14, 2009. Fifty seven percent of adult Internet users admit they had used a search engine to look up their names and see what information was available about them online, up from 47% in 2006. In the latest survey, 70% of Internet users with a college degree had conducted a search for their name compared with just 43% of those with a high school degree or less.
Advertisers should look at the rise of people managing reputation through self-searches and the increase in personalization from search engines as another opportunity to support targeted paid search campaign, something the Pew study does not discuss. The searches also provide a link to target and serve up display ads based on a person's social graph because not only do they conduct self-searches, but searches on the names of others, too.
When self-searchers query their name using a search engine, 63% say they find at least some relevant information connected to their name, compared with 35% who say their queries do not return relevant results. Monitoring the digital footprints of others has also become much more common. Forty six percent of Internet users search online to find information about people from their past, up from 36% in 2006. Similarly, 38% have sought information about friends, up from 26% in 2006. Interestingly, few who conduct self searches make a steady habit of monitoring their presence online.
The study notes "personal information has become a form of currency that is shared and exchanged in the social market¬place," and it points to several major trends spurring growth in activities related to online reputation management.
For starters, recent changes in the default settings associated with Facebook and the launch of Google Buzz have prompted heated public debates on how much information is too much to share. Depending on your age, of course, that opinion differs.
Internet users under age 50 consistently surpass older online adults in their self-searching habits. In 2009, 65% of young adult Internet users ages 18-29 said they had searched for results connected to their name online, up from 49% in 2006. Likewise, 61% of Internet users ages 30-49 said they were self-searchers, up from 54% in 2006.
By comparison, 47% of Internet users ages 50-64 have used a search engine to check up on the results tied to their name, up from 39% in 2006. Forty five percent of those ages 65 and older, use search engines to look up results connected to their names.
Since your online identity reflects your employer, one in four employed adults say the company they work for has policies about how they present themselves online in blogs and Web sites comments. Twenty five percent of employed adults participating in the survey say their company has a policy, up from 20% in December 2006.
Thirty two percent of college grads say they work for companies that have rules about how they present themselves on the Internet, compared with just 18% of high school grads. Similarly, 29% of employed adults living in households earning $75,000 or more per year work for companies with such policies, compared with just 18% of those living in households earning less than $30,000 per year.