Seth Godin said the first thing you should do this year is Google yourself. Loudoun County Assessor Todd Kaufman is learning the hard way that managing your online identity can be often be an unsatisfactory experience.

Managing your online identity is, I suspect, going to be one of the themes we encounter more and more frequently in 2008. This is a theme I’ve touched on many times on this blog over the years (see Take Control of Your Digital Identity) and I believe it’s going to be increasingly critical task moving forward for any small business owner, including the real estate or mortgage professional.

One way this trend will manifest in this industry is, I believe that wary consumers are going to become more and more aggressive in searching out information on the parties they want to do business with.

Google is one way to find information on individuals (and still probably the best). But sites like Spock.com, are part of an emerging class of vertical search sites that focus on specific niches, in this case; People.

Spock’s goal is to allow web surfers the ability to finely tune their queries (a search for “Realtor” in Portland, OR for example) and get individual results on people that match those terms.

Spock also hopes to give those individuals returned in a search the tools they need to control the results that others find. Agents can go on the site, “claim” their identity and then link to the appropriate content they want people to see.

Interesting concept and the reality is that despite all the advances in Real Estate 2.0, finding a good agent these days is still tough.

Not because they aren’t any out there, it’s just there’s no easy way to find them. Sites like IncredibleAgents.com and HomeThinking have tried to make inroads into helping consumers find individual real estate professionals – though neither have gained much traction to date. But that’s not to say that the idea will go away, just look at what Avvo is doing to attorneys.

In the mean time, making sure you stay on top on your own search results should still be priority. Having a blog is a good way to ensure you stay top of the rankings for your name. So is maintaining a profile on SEO friendly social networks like LinkedIn.

The bottom line here is no matter how somebody comes across your name, whether it be from a friend, yard sign, postcard, business card or email, you need to realize that the first step many people are going to take is go home and Google you (maybe even Spock you).

My advice is make sure you’re giving them the information you want them to find.

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