The Bare Minimum

I hope you found the workshop thought-provoking, and that it gave you a few things to reflect on! This post addresses our starting point – that we all have a digital footprint of some kind which needs to be engaged with. Whether we want to boost our online visibility and activity or keep a low profile, monitoring and managing our web presence will take a certain amount of work. In this post, I’ll cover the basics that we should perhaps all be doing to make sure that, whatever our online profile may be, it’s suitably professional.

Review what you’ve made available about yourself online. As we started to do in the workshop, make a list of the online platforms you’ve ever signed up to: ones you’re currently using and those you’ve abandoned….

  • Deleting material. Out of date, inactive profiles don’t look so good, so you’ll need to tidy up; make some decisions about what to keep and maintain, and what to delete.  There may be a good reason to keep some platforms which you aren’t particularly active on. For example, if you can maintain a relatively up-to-date profile on platforms such as LinkedIn, with automatic updates from your more active web presences (e.g. a blog, twitter or other platform) and clear links to where you can primarily be found, then these little-used sites might be worth keeping. Likewise, abandoned blogs with entries which might still be of interest and use to people might be better kept than deleted as they will be another route to direct people to your main presence online. However, if you don’t intend to do a basic level of maintenance to keep them more or less up to date, or if they are purely personal or no longer relevant to your current professional status, then it might be worth deactivating or deleting where possible. You can also delete individual posts which might reflect poorly, irrelevantly or inaccurately on you. Of course, its not always possible to entirely get rid of online material, as it will likely have been archived somewhere, but this will help to make it less accessible.
  • Review your privacy settings on social sites. This is particularly relevant on sites such as Facebook. Facebook privacy settings change constantly, and the default setting is almost always public, assuming that you will automatically want to opt-in to sharing, rather than opt-out. This guide from Lifehacker talks you through the things you need to check.  The main things are to check are in the ‘Privacy’ and Tagging and Timeline’ menus. They include: that your privacy settings state that only ‘Friends’ (rather than ‘Friends of Friends’ or ‘Public’) can see your posts and timeline, that your profile and timeline cannot be searched by Google or other search engines, and that you must be notified of and approve any photos etc which other people have tagged with your name. Once you’re done, you can see how your profile will look to others from the outside.

Review your Google ranking, and monitor what others put online about you…

  • Make a habit of Googling yourself, to see how visible various aspects of your online profile are. Monitor also if there are any new materials about you which others have put online. You should check too if there are things about people who share your name, which might need disambiguating from your profile. To make this easier, you can set up a Google Alert, which will save your search, perform it automatically at regular intervals, and email you any results. You could also search social media search engines such as SocialMention or Technorati.

Make sure things are up-to-date and relevant…

  • If the highest and most recent ‘hits’ on Google are out of date, for example, relating to universities where you studied or worked previously, then you’ll need to request that your current university has a page for you, or that irrelevant old material is removed, by contacting those who run the website. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to do some work yourself, to create new, more relevant and more visible content.

Make your profile visible

  • Google’s Webmaster resources are a good place to start and learn more about search engine optimisation.
  • Think about your metadata – other than your name, what terms are people likely to use when searching for someone like you? Start from the perspective of the various people who might be searching. You might find the autocomplete suggestions in the Google search box useful, or try the keywords suggested for your research area in library catalogues (Cambridge’s LibrarySearch has a useful wordcloud feature). This link might suggest further useful tools. Use this metadata when setting up a profile, creating a webpage, or when tagging blogposts and other media such as videos which you upload.
  • Interlink those aspects of your online profile that you wish to be visible. Google ranks ‘authority’ sites such as those with university URLs (e.g. or .edu), and the main social media platforms which generate high traffic (such as LinkedIn) most highly. You could also consider which web pages outside academia have the most authority, relevance and impact in your field, and link to those. Linking between these will help them to appear prominently in search hits.

These steps cover the essentials of monitoring and managing your online profile  – even being invisible online takes work these days! Work through these steps to make sure you’re developing your online presence from a good starting point.

How comfortable are you with being visible online? Would you prefer to stay as invisible as possible and ensure that your online persona is strictly professional? Or do you agree with this view that privacy is a modern concept which is overvalued? Once you’ve explored this further in this week’s post, do comment with your experiences below!

Next up: we’ll be looking at collating and disambiguating your online presence, on the open web but more importantly for researchers, through bibliometrics tools.


6 responses to “The Bare Minimum

  1. This week’s post is a little less focussed, as it’s not about the use of any one tool, but hopefully you’ll find it useful! Any questions about how to use any of the tools mentioned, any thoughts about the basics of your online presence?

  2. Thanks for your post. It’s prompted me to check (and change!) my facebook privacy setting for the first time in a long time!

  3. The part about facebook is extremely helpful. Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. Ah, Facebook. I love it and I hate it. I am always unsure whether to include it in programmes like this, as it’s a problematic platform for early career researchers, who at the beginning of their careers are moving to develop a distinct identity as ‘professional/colleague’ as well as ‘peer/student’, and Facebook makes this transition pretty tricky. There’s some signs that people are moving away from Facebook, some finding it too much, others not liking its policies on issues such as privacy. This article by Wolfson College’s John Naughton offers some thoughtprovoking points:

    What do you think, are you becoming disenchanted with Facebook?

  5. Thanks for the lifehacker link, I was also promted to review my privacy settings and to finally install adblock, just to get rid of the facebook connections.
    Facebook is great for staying in contact across borders, but then thats about it.

  6. Yes thank you again for the lifehacker link. Just spent half an hour cleaning up what I thought was a clean profile! Edited my Uni webpage to include personal websites and they just shot up the google search rankings! Thanks again! Facebook is a great distraction and a cheap alternative to high school reunions. That’s about it.

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