The power of unique names in the age of Google

The Wall Street Journal has published an article recently titled “You’re a Nobody Unless Your Name Googles Well” that’s been making the rounds on various popular blogs. Reminds me of what I found when I Googled myself a short while ago. I took a screen shot of it and put it on my Flickr.

In the age of Google, being special increasingly requires standing out from the crowd online. Many people aspire for themselves — or their offspring — to command prominent placement in the top few links on search engines or social networking sites’ member lookup functions.

So, instead of doing it the hard way by starting a blog and building up enough inbound links to climb to the top on merit, people are resorting to assigning their kids very unique names in what is clearly black hat search engine optimization!

As for making sure people know Neil McIntyre means me, I’ve done the proactive thing and set up my identity at ClaimID and Wink. My ClaimID page also lists links to other Neil McIntyres, under the heading “Not Me”. Everyone should be setting up their own ClaimID and claiming things online that they’ve done or are about them.

ClaimID’s blog even has an entry related to the above article.

The approach that seems to be popular in identity search is a hybrid of search + claiming. Knowing that models will never fully disambiguate or find any one individual, the search engines allow individuals to claim related results, creating a dossier of sorts. Of course, this is the approach we’ve always taken in ClaimID – you know yourself, and we’re not going to try to design an algorithm that knows you better than you do.

Making a name for yourself has never been easier. At the same time, it is only going to get more difficult maintaining your name as the Web continues to grow.

Indeed, it’s such a challenge that there are blogs dedicated to the idea and art of personal branding, such as QuickSprout, which written by a fellow Neil. He blogs about branding through social networks like Facebook, provides some quick and dirty ways to brand yourself, and explains a key reason for taking control of your personal brand.

What are you doing to set yourself apart from the crowd? Will you do anything to ensure your kids are Google-able?


Facebook vs. LinkedIn for accounting professionals

Which nascent social network does it better for work-related connections?

Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.

LinkedIn is an online network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing 130 industries.

By their own definitions, these two utilities target slightly different types of users. Facebook of course began at Harvard and then expanded to other universities and colleges, and then opened itself up to everyone else. LinkedIn is open to everyone, but is tightly focused on where you work or have worked, not where you live or went to school.

Because of LinkedIn’s focus, it’s easy to connect with current and former colleagues. You fill in your details and LinkedIn does the rest, providing a list of people registered on the site who have the same employer(s) listed.

On Facebook, where you live, where you went to school, and where you work are called “networks”. I’m in the Toronto and Brock University networks. But the problem with Facebook is that it is limited in terms of workplace networks.

Right now, my firm isn’t on Facebook, so I can’t join that particular network since it doesn’t exist. Facebook does provide a way to suggest new networks, but so far the suggestion I’ve made to add my firm has gone ignored.

The problem for me (and no doubt others) with LinkedIn is that there just isn’t as many people I know on it as Facebook. I have over a hundred friends on Facebook, and I have 3 “connections” on LinkedIn. Clearly for me Facebook is the better tool.

And there are ways to network using Facebook even if your employer isn’t available. Anyone can start a group on Facebook for any reason (no matter how spurious), and there are many related to jobs. For instance:

As well, there are groups aimed at the profession:

I think what’s interesting about these groups is they’re started and populated by the young people in those firms. As they progress within their firms and take on more responsibility for things like hiring, Facebook may become even more important for job seekers.

Both networks provide value to their users, that much is clear. I wish I had more contacts on LinkedIn, so that the value of the site to me was higher, but that will just take time. As more of my colleagues learn about LinkedIn, it will grow.

As far as features go, LinkedIn trumps Facebook. But for pure numbers and flexibility, Facebook wins out.

What do you think?


Are recruiters really using the internet?

A long time ago, before I bought this domain and set up this blog, I Googled myself to see what came up. What came up, was Neil McIntyre Photography, at It’s taken about a year, but I’m now the #1 result when you Google me. Great success!

On a related note, I keep reading that recruiters and hiring managers are increasingly using the internet to search about their candidates. Most articles focus on these inquisitive people finding embarrassing pictures which result in the candidate not getting the job (which I guess makes for a juicier story from a readership standpoint), but this post on Web Worker Daily focuses on improving your online “brand” and using it positively to get jobs.

So why is it that of the many recruiters I’ve talked to since passing the UFE, precisely none of them have mentioned that they’ve seen my blog? As noted in the first paragraph, it’s easily found. The whole thing is very puzzling.

Update: Here’s another interesting take on the recruiting industry: “I’ve been increasingly annoyed by the spammy, mail-merged, sugar-laced drivel that passes for “personalized” contact these days.” Read the rest, it’s gold!


Using blogs as marketing tools

A while back, about a day or two after passing the UFE, I was approached to write a short editorial for The Bottom Line, a finance and accounting monthly, about how and why accountants and accounting firms should blog.

I sat down soon thereafter and punched out a short, authoritative screed extolling the virtues of embracing blogging. It was pretty cool to see my writing in print:

Blogging about accounting will allow you to keep up on the hot topics in the industry in a more meaningful way. In 2006, options backdating in the US and income trusts in Canada have been on the front burners of accountant blogs. Being able to weigh in on those topics with some credibility allows a blogger to have a level of influence that otherwise would go untapped.

So, how successful has my article been at spurring a Canadian accountant blogging renaissance? Probably not so much, since I haven’t heard of any new ones! Maybe they’re just waiting for busy season to be over before getting started. Yeah, that’s probably it.

Anyway, the full article is available.


Blogs can be important marketing tools

Originally published in The Bottom Line February 2007 print edition only.

Blogs are all about having more personal and meaningful conversations with an audience about a topic. When you’re an accountant or accounting firm, blogs are a way to reach people interested in your expertise, whether they’re fellow accountants interested in discussing the profession or potential clients looking for an accountant with an aptitude for technology and an ability to stay on top of the trends.

Why should an accountant blog?

If you’ve got something to say about accounting or, even better, a specific area of competency within the industry, having a blog will help establish your name online, and in a profession such as public accounting, getting your own name out there is important for your career. “Personal PR” should involve offline networking as well as an online component. Blogging will allow you to meet like-minded accountants from around the world and gain useful contacts.

You have to enjoy writing to be able to blog productively and to come up with enough interesting topics every week – regular updates are critical to growing blog readership. Once a week seems to be the accepted minimum frequency, but there are some prolific bloggers making several posts per day.

Blogging can be part personal release, part professional development. Blogging is a creative outlet, where you can explore new ideas and argue constructively with other bloggers about the industry. Blogging will also allow you to differentiate yourself from the pack, since it is still a relatively new medium and certainly has not been embraced yet by the accounting mainstream. Current CFOs don’t read blogs much (yet), but future CFOs do.

Blogging about accounting will allow you to keep up on the hot topics in the industry in a more meaningful way. In 2006, options backdating in the US and income trusts in Canada have been on the front burners of accountant blogs. Being able to weigh in on those topics with some credibility allows a blogger to have a level of influence that otherwise would go untapped.

As a Canadian, an accountant blogger can make Canada’s voice heard on an international scale. This will become even more important as we move to international accounting standards. Educating others about the situation in Canada with income trusts could help other countries better deal with the problems flow-through entities can present.

Why should an accounting firm have a blog?

It’s a bit different if you’re blogging about your firm. In this case, you’re selling something a little more blatantly than if you’re blogging independently.

It is a good idea for all accounting firms to embrace blogs as a way of keeping in contact with clients and providing relevant accounting and tax news and firm information. You can also communicate with clients more frequently by blogging every other day on a new topic of interest, and speak to them on a more personal level compared to more traditional forms of communication like periodic informational leaflets.

Firms can focus their blogs on different topics, for example, a corporate tax blog, a personal finance blog, and an audit and assurance blog. Breaking up the audience into segments like this will increase the overall exposure of the firm in search results.

Search engines, and especially Google, have caught on to the blog phenomenon and will now crawl frequently updated blogs at least daily, which will have a dramatic impact on your firm showing up in search results when a potential client searches for a topic you’ve blogged about. Imagine a potential client searching for information about the changes to dividend tax, and finding a recent blog post that highlights your firm’s expertise on the subject.

Blogs can even be used purely internally to share news within the firm and encourage dialogue about firm policies. Engaging accountants in your firm in dialogue at all levels will help your firm retain the top talent, as it will encourage them to take a more active role in the firm at earlier stages of their development.

How should an accountant blog?

Take advantage of the nature of the medium to have a more personal conversation with your readers. Engage them in the discussion and encourage community. A blog really isn’t a blog without the ability of readers to post comments, and blogs that do not allow comments are isolated from the blogosphere, which is critical to building traffic and a reputation.

Most important is to let your personality shine through in your writing, because accountants already have a reputation for being about as interesting as a block of cheese. Be a real person, and speak from the heart. Have opinions, and explore them. Although you are selling yourself and your ideas, being a phony will never work since the next blog is just a mouse click away.

Resist the temptation to slap some ads on your blog. You won’t make anything from them until you’ve built a solid readership, and building that readership will be harder if you’ve got ads framing your writing. A professional, hosted blog can cost as little as $15/month, and you should consider it an investment in your career or firm.

That being said, you can easily start blogging right away and it will cost you nothing at all except your time using any one of a variety of free blog hosting services, such as Google’s Blogger ( It will allow you to get your feet wet and experience what blogging is all about on a trial basis.

Blogs are not a fad, they are here to stay and will grow and evolve as the tools become more sophisticated. An accountant or accounting firm has a lot – of potential clients and contacts – to lose by ignoring the phenomenon. So take advantage of this new method of communication to build your network of clients and contacts!