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Preview: What you can find when you audit your student’s Google results (and why you should take this course with your student)
Educator/Parent Facilitation Guide for the Student Branding Academy
How bad Google results happen (and how you can audit your student's Google results to find them online)
Before starting this course, download the worksheet PDF at the bottom of this course to take notes, write any thoughts you have down, and take note of any action items you plan to implement during this course.
The power of Google
Google was visited 62.19 billion times in 2019, according to Similarweb.com
More than 92% of all Internet searches happen on Google (Yahoo!, Bing, Baidu, and other search engines are used for less than 8% of all searches), according to StatCounter.com
How often do you go to the second, third, and even fourth pages of Google when you’re looking something up? Not very often right? Google rewards content creators and websites they like by pushing them to the top page, so it’s the first thing you find on a search.
How often have you Googled yourself? Oftentimes, the oldest tweets and negative posts with the most comments can show up first on Google.
That’s where we come in. In this Student Branding Academy, we are going to audit, remove and/or bury those negative past posts with new content, your new portfolio, public social media accounts and more.
You will learn to let your story shine anytime someone Googles your name!
Why should I care about my online brand?
Why is personal branding important? Because the world is watching! How you present yourself online does make a difference, even if you think no one cares.
Did you know that everyone is a brand? You are the results of your upbringing and your education, but also your attitude and the people you choose to surround yourself with. Your online brand says a lot to college admissions officers, hiring managers, and friends and family.
- If you wait too long, it might be too late for Google to notice your brand in time
- If colleges can’t find you, they may move on to other candidates
- If internship coordinators/employers only see the negative, they most likely won’t bring you in for an interview
- If you count ONLY on your college application (GPA and standardized answers) then colleges won’t be able to see all the positive (and unique) projects you are involved in
- If you listen to technical web advice that was popular more than 12 months ago, your brand might not get discovered by search engines
- If you buy the wrong type of domain name, other people might still dominate your Google results (look-a-likes aren’t always a good thing!)
- If your social media sites aren’t correctly pointing at your digital personal portfolio, your brand may not be discovered on Google and other search engines
- It is legally easier for colleges to address hateful speech by incoming students than matriculating students because admissions offers generally have a clause that reserve the right of colleges to rescind offers.
- In some ways, the “social condemnation” and counterspace against students who post offensive remarks on social media will be more effective than punishment by their universities
An Xavier University athlete, said the incoming student’s language was protected by freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean it has “freedom from consequences.”
A 22-year-old began receiving death threats and her name began trending on Twitter. She later said it cost her an internship at Deloitte. The tweet was met with swift criticism from enraged viewers. She said she never expected the video to stir up so much outrage and discussion online.
These are common examples, but if you take the right steps and stay positive, you can compete with applicants all over the world and impress colleges and employers.
“Isn’t it unsafe to share your full name online?”
All of your information is already out there and online
- Your cell phone
- Your home address
- Your social media posts
- Your look-a-like who got arrested
When you build an online brand, students begin to use their smartphone (and social media) with a purpose instead of a past time. A portfolio will push down all of the other personally identifiable information. A personal portfolio also guides students to show what is safe to put online and what isn’t.
Capturing the first page of your Google search results with positive content is the key to establishing a positive online footprint. The fastest way to do that is to post content on a personal portfolio and social media accounts associated with your real name. Only do this once your parents give you permission.
Why colleges & employers care
- If the content you post online is focused on a particular topic around your passion (sports, music, etc.), you can highlight your thought leadership. This is a great addition to your application because you can show how you apply the knowledge you have, as well as your writing and grammar skills. Colleges and employers like to see skills in applicants
- Colleges and employers are very selective with how many candidates they can say YES to for future opportunities
- Students with negative content on their digital footprint could be considered a branding liability for schools and employers (or it might signify to them that you will talk negatively about their school/company when you are on their team)
- More colleges are now taking a “holistic approach” and going “test blind” meaning they are no longer looking at test scores or relying solely on test scores during the admissions process.
Test-blind (as opposed to test-optional) admissions is on the rise.
SATs Are Out, Personal Stories Are In
Using social media to build a positive online footprint
- If you use any platform that requires some of your personal information (like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.), then you already have an online footprint
- Even if you don’t use any platforms that require personal info, there are likely other people with similar names who will appear in your search results (look-a-likes, similar names, etc.)
- Posting positive content under your real name online is the best way to ensure you capture the first page of your Google results so you can have a positive online footprint by telling your story the way you want to, so someone else doesn’t
- Only put out information that you would be proud of colleges and future employers to discover
Example of using social media for college admissions
A student very interested in organic farming who hoped to major in food systems at the University of Vermont, built an electronic profile around the work she had done in that area. She shared that digital destination on her application. Beth Wiser, executive director of admissions for the University of Vermont said, "It did show a level of engagement that she's really thought out well what her future plans are and how the university's academic course of study really fits nicely with things she's already doing."
Don't miss the chance to access to Josh's VIP (Very Informed Parent) program to learn about the latest good and bad safety apps!
Yes! I want 90 days of FREE access to the VIP (Very Informed Parent) program to watch videos on all of the latest apps! After 90 days I can cancel any time. Normally $15/month (Free for 90 days)!
Smart Social VIP teaches parents, educators, and students how to:
- Discover how kids can be positive on social media
- Learn the hidden parts of each app in our short tutorials
- Get dialog tips on how to talk with your kids about each app
- Learn from digital safety expert interviews each month
How does this impact your future?
- Having positive search results associated with your real name can have a huge impact on your college and career opportunities
- Conversely, negative search results associated with your real name can have a negative impact on your college and career opportunities
- Having ZERO search results can confuse colleges, as they are looking to connect your application with a name/face online
More than half of college enrollment officers said in a recent survey they expect the pandemic to significantly affect how they build their applicant pools going forward.
A new national survey finds that admission staff at more than half of all four-year colleges and universities expect the coronavirus crisis to affect the flow of data that has long played an integral role in helping institutions fill their freshman classes.
- Find the top 3 Google results that come up right now that you don’t like
- Try to delete/remove/hide these results
- What were the steps to delete your posts? (If you were able to)
- Can you imagine what else is still out there from your past?
Look through the Preview section on your worksheet. Take some time to go through the questions so you can set yourself up for success in the Student Branding Academy. Write your answers on your SBA worksheets and/or post in the comments below.
Continue to Lesson 1 when you are ready or when your parent/teacher instructs you to do so.
Lesson 1: Planning your online brand
Your Google results are your resume and reputation for the 21st Century. A positive digital footprint will help you rise above the competitive crowd in academic and professional settings. In this lesson you will learn
- How to tell your own, authentic, story in a way admissions officers and hiring managers can easily discover online
As you learned in the SBA preview, the best way to stand out is to create a custom portfolio that will let future colleges and employers find all of the positive attributes about you in their first click. This will also reduce confusion so prospects won’t click on other people (with the same name) in your Google results.
Building a personal portfolio is a great way for students to shine online by showing their unique personality, talents, passions, and potential.
Your student can use their online portfolio to show off their school projects, hobbies, passion work, volunteer work or family vacation photos. Regardless of what goes on the portfolio, it will allow a future employer/college to match a face to a name, increasing the chances that your student stands out from the hundreds of other applicants.
Possible activities to include:
- Photography/Video: Do you take photos/videos and post them on Instagram or other social media accounts? This could be a great place to show off passion for imagery and composition. (Pro Tip: Talk with your parents, and if they approve, consider creating a secondary, public Instagram profile, so colleges and employers can see your photography and videography skills without seeing all of your other posts)
- Music: Do you play an instrument? Colleges and employers love it when a student can show what they can do (and maybe teach others how they learned) so they can better understand how that person will interact on their campus/in their offices
- Sports: Do you want a sports scholarship? A personal online portfolio gives you a chance to display your talents, skill and hard work in a way that helps you to shine online. It becomes a 3-dimensional version of who you are to categorize your projects and passions
- School Clubs: Are you involved in the school newspaper, dance group, or a club that highlights teamwork? A personal online portfolio is a great way to tell your story and paint a picture for colleges/employers of how you will behave on campus (and how you will lead others in their community)
Consider including some of your volunteer work:
- Animal shelter
- Babysitting relatives
- Hospital service/visits
- Senior home visits
- Red Cross volunteer projects
- Hours with Habitat for Humanity
- Walking a neighbor’s dog
- Neighborhood cleanups
You can showcase hobbies and passions:
- School projects
- School clubs
- Vacation photos (wait to post until after the vacation)
Consider not including these items:
- Home address
- Anything related to passwords
- When you will be away from your home
As you learned in week #1, many employers and colleges will search for someone online (and we suggest you do this also, before designing your online brand).
Start planning your personal brand/digital footprint!
- Decide what projects, passions, and purpose you might want to someday put on your public online portfolio
- Start with your projects. Start by going through your phone and computer and saving/starring photos of projects/group photos you have from the past 1-3 years
- On the Lesson 1 section of your SBA Worksheet (or start your own Google document) plan out several of the projects, or events you want to show on your portfolio. Write a paragraph about each project/event that can be used in your portfolio. Remember that each paragraph should have some positivity and/or gratitude (while describing what took place) and make it easy for a reader to understand what is happening in the photo. Being vague can confuse a college/employer. Consider also talking about the outcome, or any positive lessons learned
- Decide what images you have (or can collect from friends) to tell that story. The best images will help you tell a story without words (or using limited words). For example, Josh Ochs could SAY that he’s a public speaker, or even better, he could show photos of him in front of students after a speech (the outcome of the project). Try and put together 10+ photos of you (and/or friends) doing activities around your focus/topic.
- Put all of your photos into one folder on your computer or in your own cloud photo storage (keep your privacy in mind with cloud storage settings!). Consider renaming each of your photos from “IMG456789.jpg” to something specific that includes your name, like “Josh Ochs Family Vacation Grand Canyon.jpg”. This will help us in the future to categorize our photos (and help Google find the photos as we upload them, so your online portfolio can reach the first page under your search results)
Consider creating a mission statement to include in your portfolio. Who are you and what do you want to do for your career or college major? You only have one shot to make a great first impression online!
What is a brand?
Josh’s definition of a brand is: “When someone interacts with you online, in person or hears others describe you they begin to perceive your brand in a positive or negative light. Your personality can add to this brand, and your projects, passion and public service can have a positive impact as well. However, if someone (or a college) finds negative things online, they may attach these negative attributes to your brand which will impact their view of selecting you to be the right fit for their community.
Or as Jeff Bezos, of Amazon, says “your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
What you can do to set yourself up for success (even before you are allowed to be on social media):
- Get your parent’s permission and go reserve your usernames on social media (before others get them). Example: Instagram.com/JoshOchs, Twitter.com/JoshOchs That way you have them for when you are ready to be online now (or in the future)
- Save photos and videos on your smart device (setting up folders for your different messaging pillars and projects)
- Journal/record your projects in a Google doc while they are still fresh in your mind so you can describe the steps when you want to put them on your portfolio. Colleges/employers want to see how you worked on (and finished) the project, they care about how you figure out problems (and work as a team). In the Google doc, link to projects/organizations you have worked/volunteered for in the past
- Take a picture, or scan, or save any letters of recommendation you may have received in your Google drive to keep everything in the same place
- Save any positive video testimonials. If a teacher or peer says something nice, ask them if you can put that on your portfolio, write the words down in the Google doc to save them
In 25 years, you’ll definitely remember where you graduated college from, but you’ll unlikely remember how many people liked that photo of what you did over winter break.
According to a CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process (and colleges pick up on what employers are doing, and usually follow their lead shortly after)
- 36 percent of admissions officers visit applicants’ social media profiles...to learn more about them—up from 25 percent last year
- About 19 percent say they do it “often”
- Of the admissions officers who search: 38 percent say that what they found has had a positive impact on prospective students. On the flip side, 32 percent say that what they found had a negative impact.
- 59 percent consider it “fair game.”
- 70 percent of college applicants said they believe it’s “fair game” for college admissions officers to check social media profiles.
Planning your online brand will help you make sure what a college/employer finds will resonate with your application (and make sure their experience is positive).
A good portfolio meets the needs of a college/employer/reader and can end up on the first page of your Google results.
Lesson 1 assignment
Develop your message to help achieve your future career goals
Find your SBA Worksheet, or print a new copy.
In the Lesson 1 section, write down what 2 or 3 skills, goals, or interests you want to be known for in your online presence. Remember these three main pillars:
- School/Projects/Sports/Volunteer - What are you doing to learn or help others?
- Family/Events - Tell us more about your background and what you do outside of school
- Social/Fun - Let your unique self shine through while showing us how you interact with others in a way that is full of positivity and gratitude
Ideas for guidelines: Keep it positive and full of gratitude. It’s ok to make fun of yourself, but also talk about the project and give credit to the whole team, this highlights your leadership skills.
Lesson 2: Creating a positive digital footprint and building your portfolio
Goal: Hands-on training to build a digital portfolio that helps students share their projects and accomplishments (to get discovered on Google by colleges and future employers)
Sign up for a password manager
Before getting started in the portfolio building processes, every family needs a password manager, especially as we begin to create accounts to build the portfolio.
A password manager creates and stores unique passwords across every website or account you have. When you use a password manager, like Dashlane, you create a single “master” password (that you remember) to access the manager and then the manager creates and stores the rest.
Also, if you don’t yet have a password manager, consider taking the SmartSocial course "Why Every Family Needs a Password manager" to learn why you need it and see how to use our favorite. Click here to view the VIP course.
How students can build a personal portfolio to help them get into their dream college, internship, or job:
- Choose a platform to build your portfolio website
- Buy a domain
- Design the portfolio
- Use Google to get discovered
Examples of students who have created a personal portfolio to help them achieve their college and career goals
An online portfolio is a great addition to any student’s resume as they prepare for the college admissions process or their first employment opportunity. It creates an opportunity for students to showcase their strengths, passions, and values.
Start building your portfolio
- Make sure the student has a personal Gmail address: email@example.com NOT josh.ochs@USC.edu. If you build your portfolio under your school email, the school will own it. We want to make sure it’s owned by your Gmail address, so you can keep it forever.
- Add the Google Drive app to your phone
- Login as your personal Gmail address in your phone (example: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Create a Google Drive folder “YOUR NAME Portfolio” (and add project photos that you want colleges to see)
- Visit drive.google.com on a desktop/laptop and login with your personal Gmail account you created (not your school email)
- Then click New > More > Google Sites
How students can post content (and update it every few months) that tells their story in a positive way on their new digital portfolio
Google wants us to update our portfolio every month or two so it has fresh content (and will put your site towards the top of your Google search results because it wants to deliver the most relevant links on that topic)
Steps to Building Your Portfolio with Josh & Christina
Lesson 2 assignment
Follow along with the video and text above and build your portfolio! Use the SBA Worksheet to take notes and plan out your portfolio!
Lesson 3: Launching your online portfolio and fine-tuning your digital footprint to Shine Online
Selecting your domain (optional):
Your domain should include many of the keywords that someone might use to search for you.
For example: my name is Joshua Ochs on my birth certificate, but I go by Josh Ochs. So, I bought JoshOchs.com You could buy FirstLast.net, FirstMiddleLast.com/net, etc. The best domains to purchase are .com, .net or .org (in that order). The other domain endings don’t have as big of a benefit in Google’s eyes.
Buy your domain:
Log into your personal Gmail account and visit domains.Google.com and purchase the domain you want to buy for about $12 a year.
The next few steps will let you connect your portfolio domain (JoshOchs.net) to your Google Site (https://sites.Google.com/view/joshochs/home) so the Google site will appear on your portfolio domain (JoshOchs.net). This will help your site achieve higher status in Google results (which is great because the higher it is, the easier it is for colleges/employers to find it).
Follow our video guides and technical steps:
How to connect Google site to a personal domain
Next, let’s forward the “bare” domain to the “www” domain in domains.Google.com
- To configure the bare domain, add a "Synthetic Record", and set up a "Subdomain Forward." In the subdomain text box, enter the @ sign and nothing else.
- Select option to 'Forward path'.
- insert www.YOURDOMAIN.com/net into the “Destination URL” box
Next, let’s send your “www” part of your domain to Google Sites
- Scroll down to the “custom resource records” part of domains.Google.com
- Click the dropdown and select CNAME
- In the @ area type “www”
- Leave 1H
- In the “domain name” area type ghs.Googlehosted.com. (be sure to include the period at the end of the domain)
- Click “add”
With your parent's permission, link to your social media sites in the footer
Josh Ochs Twitter (links to https://twitter.com/joshochs)
Josh Ochs Instagram (links to https://instagram.com/joshochs )
When you link your social media sites in the footer, it alerts Google that you are connecting your site to the social media brand pages you have already created.
How To notify Google that your portfolio exists (and that you want it to be included in the Google search results for your name)
Submit your portfolio/portfolio/social media account to Google by visiting this URL:
https://www.Google.com/ping?sitemap=https://www.joshochs.net (Change my URL for your site's URL!)
A sitemap is an important way for Google to discover URLs on your site. A sitemap can also include additional metadata about alternate language versions and video-, image-, or news-specific pages.
Learn how to create a sitemap.
Here are the different ways you can request that Google index your portfolio (site map):
- Submit a sitemap using the sitemaps report
- Use the Google ping tool
- Use the below format to alert Google that your site is ready to be inspected/crawled by their algorithm (AKA: Their Search Bot)
- Example you can use for your site:
- Example you can use for your site:
Sitemap Notification Received
Message from Google: "Your Sitemap has been successfully added to our list of Sitemaps to crawl. If this is the first time you are notifying Google about this Sitemap, please add it via http://www.Google.com/webmasters/tools/ so you can track its status. Please note that we do not add all submitted URLs to our index, and we cannot make any predictions or guarantees about when or if they will appear."
Google is going to look for these elements on your portfolio:
Title: This shows up as a link
Heading: This is the first part of the message below the site title/link
Subheading: If you don’t have enough of a heading, it might pick up the subheading
Watch two students go through the launch process
Fine-tuning your digital footprint to Shine Online
We’ll teach students how to fine-tune their online reputation by continually adding to it as they advance through school.
Google yourself often
- Googling yourself gives you the full picture of what others see.
- Search their for your name in Google every 1-3 months
Set up Google alerts to monitor your student’s changes as they happen
- Google Alerts show you micro-changes in your online footprint each week/month as they happen (if there are any changes)
- Find positive news articles that explain why Google alerts are useful
- Here are the simple instructions: https://support.Google.com/websearch/answer/4815696?hl=en
- I set up “Josh Ochs” “Josh Ochs Los Angeles” and “Josh Ochs LA High School”
- If someone comes up that’s not you (all the time) consider finding one keyword they are attached to (and use it to adjust the search results).
- “Josh Ochs” -NYHS (New York High School)
- This will remove the Josh Ochs who runs track and field at New York High School and be less likely to send his results to me.
Regularly update your public social media accounts with examples of your brand (look back at Lesson 2)
- Post-school projects, sports, volunteer work, and social activities
- At each event, consider asking to take a group photo of everyone involved (so you can post it later on your social media (or portfolio)
- Update social media accounts (if you have them) every 1-2 months
- Google moves things up that are active. If your accounts (or portfolio) update slightly every couple of months, Google is more likely to move those results to the top of your search results
- Regularly audit your social media networks (With a BFF or trusted adult) and make sure your comments, posts, and photos (including ones you are tagged in) help you to shine online. Solicit feedback from a trusted adult or your BFF who will give you honest feedback on how to use your social media accounts to get into your dream college/career
Create a plan of when to update your online portfolio
- The portfolio should be updated at least every 6 months
- Think of your portfolio as a stagnant version of your Instagram that you update when you have a new event/project/achievement.
- Continue to take photos at events to highlight student projects so they can be added to the portfolio
- Once you own a domain name with your real name, you can continue to use it throughout high school, college, and your professional journey
Lesson 3 assignment
- Follow the steps above and in the videos to launch your website
- Check in Incognito mode that your site can be found in Google!
- Show your parents/teachers/friends what you have accomplished
- Think about how and when you want to continue updating your page
- Show off your hard work! Put your website on every application and resume you now submit!
Lesson 4: Updating your social media accounts to support your portfolio
Designing your own Google search results
Before starting this course, find your SBA Worksheets you have used in the last few lessons to write down any thoughts you have and take note of any action items you plan to implement during this course.
We’ll show your student how to fill the first page of their Google search results with content they would be proud to show off. We’ll handle the technical SEO (search engine optimization) part while they focus on setting up additional networks and microsites to boost their digital presence.
Social media training
With great power, comes great responsibility. Once you start posting on social media, you can never go back and completely erase it from the memory of the Internet. This week, we will learn how posting on additional sites and social media networks can boost your positive presence on Google.
What can go wrong if we don’t examine old posts on social media networks or we think our account is private?
- Authenticating outside apps allows them to download all your content and post it on a public portfolio to attract viewers (publicizing your content to Google)
- It’s not uncommon to create social media profiles only to forget about them later on
- Old social media profiles can also include any accounts you made anonymously, especially if they’re tied to your email address or phone number
- A simple screenshot from someone at school who follows you can be shared on Google (or with anyone) in a way that hurts your future
We will learn a practical formula students can use to have fun online and keep their Instagram account positive (for colleges and future employers)
- Examples of students who use their Instagram account in a positive way to achieve their goals
- Camille: https://www.instagram.com/camillemarquez/
- Josh Ochs: https://instagram.com/joshochs
- Emmy: https://www.instagram.com/emmyrener/
- Gerard: https://www.instagram.com/gerardlegaspi/
How students should set up their Instagram to be discovered by colleges and future employers
- Pick your headshot, bio, username matches name for SEO, link in bio
- Remember to only post content that you would be proud for your parents, teachers, or future employers to see
- Student Exercise: Plan out your Instagram profile and what activities you want to showcase
- Workbook: Put your Instagram plan on paper so you always have a guide to follow
- Use the three pillars. Use Instagram stories on your bio to show off projects and fun events. These behind the scenes stories show off your personality and the frustrations or success you find in the journey
- Ask a teacher or trusted adult to look over your profile to offer some guidance from their perspective. A trusted adult will ask questions about certain photos that colleges and future employers might not give you feedback on
- Google “Josh Ochs” and look at YouTube videos that show up
- Your YouTube projects come up first in Google on the video tab
- YouTube videos are a great way to show off your creativity, personality, and passions
- You can add your online portfolio link to the description of each video you create
- Students can also create a “video resumes” in which they can dress professionally, list their accomplishments, interests, and goals
- Pinterest had more than 320 million monthly active users in 2020, according to Sprout Social
- Pinterest is a visual search engine which means it can have a major impact on your digital footprint
- Pinterest is a great way to organize/showcase your goals, passions, and interests like cooking, drawing, crafting, etc.
- LinkedIn is the premier social media network for working professionals
- Some students think that LinkedIn is only for job seekers and business professionals, but students can start utilizing LinkedIn to build their positive online footprint in high school
- It’s a great place to network and find mentors and professional groups in your interest areas
- Students can post about accomplishments and areas of interest in the “3 A’s” – academics, athletics, and activities
- You can add your portfolio link to your LinkedIn profile and it will show up in your Google results and help you stand out while applying for college, internships, or jobs
Parents should be following their kids on social media, but not over invading their privacy
- Pinterest (Become a VIP Member to learn how to set up your Pinterest)
- LinkedIn (Become a VIP Member to learn how to set up your Pinterest)
- Instagram (Become a VIP Member to learn how to set up your Pinterest)
- Facebook (Become a VIP Member to learn how to set up your Pinterest)
- Twitter (Become a VIP Member to learn how to set up your Pinterest)
- YouTube Public Profile (Become a VIP Member to learn how to set up your Pinterest)
- Another Google Site
Lesson 4 assignment
- Write down your plan of what social media sites you want to focus on using to create your Google results
- Talk with your parent, guardian, or teacher about your plan and get permission from your parent to create those accounts
- Teach your parent how to follow you on those social media platforms (help them download the app or create their own accounts if they want that help
- Continue working on lesson 3's assignment of building your online portfolio
Educator/Parent Facilitation Guide For The Student Branding Academy
Student Branding Academy Worksheets
Comment below to let us know what you think, what you learned, or if you have any other questions the SmartSocial team can help you answer!
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