Have you ever wondered how some people seem to know instantly when you’ve mentioned them (or their website) in a blog post?

Every activity in the digital world leaves a digital footprint (like it or not).  There’s a great video called Digital Dossier that explains the kinds of actions that leave your mark on the web (and it’s mark on you).

If you haven’t ever googled yourself, try it.  Put your name (as you normally write it online) in quotes and search yourself.  [Example: “Maria H. Andersen“]  Ideally, you want to be happy with the first 10 search results (most people never click through to the second page of results).  If you’re not happy with what you see, then your only choice is to start working on a larger digital footprint that will eclipse what’s there (a website, a blog, a google profile, etc.).

In the meantime, it’s relatively simple to monitor what your name is doing on the web.  Set up a web alert that will notify you when a new occurrence of your name goes into the search engine.   The most common alert systems are Google Alerts and Yahoo Alerts.  You can set it up alerts to come to you instantly, daily, or weekly.  To minimize the digital clutter, I’d go with weekly alerts (unless you find yourself in a media hot seat, in which case, switch temporarily to receive alerts more frequently).


At the very least, I’d set up an alert for your name and for the place where you work.  I find that my weekly alerts about my college are informative.  Often, they’re just reports about which team won what event, but sometimes I discover what my colleagues are up to in the real world too.  I know information about my college faster than most people on campus.


The other way to use Alerts is to start searching for keywords in your field of interest.  For example, I have a Google Alert set up for the words innovation and math whenever they occur together in a new web item.   Here are a few suggestions for alerts you may want to set up:

  • Your name
  • Your blog URL and blog name (Example: busynessgirl.com and “Teaching College Math”)
  • Your twitter account name (Example: busynessgirl)
  • Your place of employment (Example: “Muskegon Community College”)
  • Your professional fields of interest (Example: math innovation, future education, etc.)
  • Your personal fields of interest (for example, if you have a child with autism, you might set one up for research autism)
  • Your publications (the title of your book or a recent article to see who’s talking about it)
  • Your competitor (it’s always good to know what they’re up to … why stop at your place of employment?)

At first, it will take you a while to sort through all the alerts you receive each week.  They will all be new to you.  But after a few weeks, you’ll begin to recognize websites you’ve already visited and you’ll have some insights about which items are going to be worthy of clicking.  You may want to tweak your alerts in a month or so to make the wording more precise on general alerts you set up today.

Even if you already have alerts set up, when was the last time you updated them?  Maybe it’s time to eliminate some, tweak them, or create some new ones?

So, set up a few alerts and start living on the tip of the cutting edge of the Internet.  You have a week to get this task done before we move on to the next Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS) task.  New assignments post each Monday.

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