Tips for Personal Branding in the Digital Age: Google Insurance, Cache-flow, and More…


Branding is no longer for Fortune 500 companies and Madison Avenue agencies with excessive budgets and inadequate tracking.

Personal branding is about managing your name — even if you don’t own a business — in a world of misinformation, disinformation, and semi-permanent Google records.

Going on a date? Chances are that your “blind” date has Googled your name.

Going to a job interview? Ditto.

Here are 4 tips for preserving or promoting your name, whether personal or business, in a digital world:

1. Get Google insurance:

Register the URLs for your name and variants, and consider creating a blog. The objective here is to own the first 1-5 results that appear on search engines if someone searches your name. I don’t think most people should be bloggers, but having a Google-friendly and SEO-rich blog platform like WordPress or TypePad that is updated even twice per month as an online journal is worth the investment for having first say in your image. This recommendation comes from Mike Fertik, CEO of the much-buzzed ReputationDefender.

2. Remember to maintain positive “cache-flow”…

Twittered a drunken message after a tequila shot or five? Put up a webpage with text or photos you now regret? Even if you delete a webpage or portion of a page, this deleted content can often be found via a cached version of the older page on Google. Think before you commit something to semi-permanence on the Internet with an impulse “publish”. It’s easier to put up than it is to take down. Good dirt hunters — or just head hunters and job interviewers — will find your MySpace page and related “private” pages, and I’d suggest you do similar research in kind before initiating serious business relationships. I found the MySpace page of a vice-president at a PR firm I was considering once, and it contained racist remarks, sexual innuendo, and all manner of incriminating descriptions… and it was the second result on Google for her name! Do you think that more than a few media have Googled her name from her e-mail signature? Do you think that could affect if her calls or email are returned, and how much your retainer produces? Of course.

3. Check Wikipedia for character assassins and review as needed:

Wikipedia is the low-hanging fruit of choice for novice character assassins. It’s amazing Pagerank and sheer incoming link volume will put it at the top of Google searches, so be sure to review it for personal and business misinformation and disinformation. If the vandalism is rampant, nominate the page for deletion. Don’t be caught unawares like one great journalist I know who was shocked to find appalling misinformation and sexual references in her Wikipedia entry several months after someone had initially published it as a slanderous joke.

4. It’s better to create a category than to fight in one.

Being first and then striving for perfection — instead of fighting to be best in a crowded space — is the fastest path to mindshare.

I didn’t want to be pigeonholed in the broad and boring “work-life” or “career” categories for several reasons, so I needed to create a more appropriate label. This is how “lifestyle design” emerged, which offers me the ultimate calling card: one I dominate as I define it. The concept is not just about working less but about designing an ideal, often aggressive, lifestyle. I produced a simple and understandable label for both media and people looking for an alternative to the current options. From The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, one of the few “marketing” books worth the investment:

“Miller Lite was the first domestic light. It took an importer five years to say ‘If there’s a market for a domestic light beer, maybe there’s a market for an imported light beer.’ The result was Amstel Light, which became the largest-selling imported light beer.”

Create instead of imitate. From an SEO standpoint it’s more effective, and from an intellectual and explicative standpoint, it’s more much accurate. The current collection of labels are often to broad to encapsulate an innovation you want to turn into a meme or movement.

Get smart and get real. You, Inc. exists whether you want it to or not.

Manage your personal brand so you can benefit from the new digital landscape instead of suffer from it.


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Related and recommended reading:

How Does a Bestseller Happen? A Case Study in Hitting #1 on the New York Times
The 7 Commandments of Blogosphere (and Life) Self-Defense

The Top 5 Timesavers for Bloggers/Writers
Tom Peters’ “The Brand Called You” in Fast Company

Posted on: January 28, 2008.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

51 comments on “Tips for Personal Branding in the Digital Age: Google Insurance, Cache-flow, and More…

  1. Great post, man you are pumping them out and we appreciate it.

    Also check out I thoughy my MySpace account was more hidden and just for me and my friends. It was only one of two things that come up and I have some high google rankings for my real estate page and that didn’t show.


  2. Hi Tim,

    I’m sorry, but places like Reputation Defender can’t guarantee “removal” of any offending material they find.

    We personally ran into a problem with people posting erroneous fraud comments about us at . People are allowed to post unchecked claims against businesses and people and the owner of the site won’t remove them (you can post rebuttals)

    I had to create a page on my site to counteract this guys’ postings with my name showing up on google

    Further, another site was scraping the postings from ripoffreport so if you found your information on their site, you could pay them to get it removed from ripoff (and from their own site, which makes them just as bad as ripoff report, if not worse). They ignored my requests to take down the postings. Even tho they fed their “leads” to . I spoke to the head guy at QED, but he called me small time and wouldn’t honor my request of getting the slander posts removed. I put a bit of this up on my blog (to also counter the search engine results, )

    Anyway, there’s a whole dark underworld for this business, and I’d be leery of anyone saying they can help.


  3. Awesome Blog,

    Funny that you just posted this. I just posted something for a blog on myself. I was just thinking the same thing. Make yourself famous!!!! Besides, bloggers are the media of today’s information age

    Pura Vida

    Jose Castro-Frenzel


  4. Excellent advice, I recently locked down a few domains for my own name with just this purpose in mind… as we all get digitized into (semi)permanence with our flashes of insight or idiocy.



  5. More great advice Mr. Ferriss. The funny thing is, this is a week after my brother-in-law asked if I had bought the domain name for my daughter. “She’s only 7–what am I going to do with it?” I asked. As he pointed out, maybe nothing for 6 or 8 years, but what if someone else with the same name grabs it before that and it’s gone? So I went and snagged it that day. She’s on the way to personal branding someday.

    Yes, I bought my own name years and years ago and now use it for my travel writing portfolio site–which comes up #3 in Google after two entries for my blog. Sweet.


  6. in this day and age where almost everyone from the boss down to the mail clerk has their share of indiscretions it bothers me that people have to hide their online profiles. maybe hr shouldnt be digging that deep.


  7. I find that parents trying to name their kids something unique, like Apple will actually hurt their child in the internet. With my name you only find about 3 guys. If I was Mike Smith, you would have a hard time finding me. So before you name your kid Alieson or Pfil think about the future googling.


  8. Tim – I love your stuff.

    I’ve been thinking about writing an eBook to get out of my 9-5 life. You seem to recommend making information products in your book but in this ( interview you seem to discourage using them as a source of income.

    Any reason for the discrepancy?
    Thanks in advance,


    Hi Dan,

    I can’t comb through the interview right now, but if you post the specific part in question, I’m happy to try and answer the apparent conflict.




  9. Well if you do a google search for my name.. I’m the first 6 pages of results.. and they are all positive and pointing towards my website.. page 7 is mixed results of people with the same last name and more of me.

    Great post.. very important. My wife googled me before we started dating.. we’re married now, so I guess she must have liked what she found.. haha

    – paul


  10. Cardinal rule of posting information online or including in an email: Never write something that could be troublesome if it was published on the front page of the New York Times.


  11. I’ve found that a great way to manage my google reputation is by sharing a first and last name with someone much more infamous than I. By the time the searcher finally finds me, I look like a saint by comparison.


  12. Hi Timothy,

    Wish I had penned your book. Read it this summer and it was superb.

    Just wanted to tell you that I started a business this summer in which I integrated many of your concepts. Here are a few insights…

    Starting a business can not be done on four hours a week. Growing a business can not be done on four hours a week. However, I could currently live as a parvenue expatriate in Thailand on the proceeds from this business; on four hours of work a week!

    So far I haven’t outsourced assistance. I have found that there are literally millions of Americans that will work for very little here and count themselves luck to do so.

    In order to succeed as a little guy you need to be unique and useful. In other words, help people out in a better way.

    Marketing is great. But as Andrew Carnegie said, the key to business success is having the winds of market demand at your back.

    Thus the success of your book in which you give distinctive voice to the nascent demands of a younger generation and tap into an older generations complete disillusionment with their louche prosperity at the cost of a life in general.

    Email does suck the life out of you!

    If you own a business the work never ends. Limiting your work hours (this includes thinking) will be the biggest challenge.

    The dollar is sinking so fast, you may have to write a new book about working abroad and vacation in the United States. That is a serious joke…

    Thanks again for a great book with great ideas. Always refreshing!



  13. Man, this has been one of my favorite posts from you, Tim. I think creating your own label is one of best practices you can do in life – why fight with others when you can put yourself in the spotlight instead? My father always told me to strive to be the only one in a position – he said, once you look around and nobody is there, you’ve done right. Distinguish yourself, create a personal identity, and make it clear that you aren’t the same as every other Joe Blow.


  14. …….This is something that I think is relevant to everyone. Myspace tends to portray a more juvenile type webpage, where as having a blog seems more realistic. I just hired someone to start on mine on elance. That site is really useful.


    Jose Castro Frenzel


  15. The more good content you put about yourself on the net – in a controlled way – the more work it will be for somebody to digg something up. Even basic profile pages on social net works can help.

    I am still amazed how much people try to limit whatever is on the net about them, starting with mere photos. It will hit them so much harder where there is nothing if something ‘bad’ is put online.

    [ Somebody once tried to threaten me with “I will google you and find out everything about you!” to which I replied “Good luck reading through all of that.” ]


  16. I really wish i got into number 1 a while back but ive got a much too common name and its already taken by way to many variations.

    Ive really got to say Tim, your ideas in “life style design” are exactly what ive needed. Ive had similar ideas for most of my life but they were always shunned down by others who said i needed to conform.

    Many things in my life have changed since the reading of your book and the following of your blog. I think others feel the same.