The problem isn’t so much a lack of tools, since there’s no shortage of search engines, but more an abundance of people who have the same exact name that you have. Sorting through the noise takes a little bit more effort than just entering your name in Google and hitting the Search button. These tips should help you find yourself on the internet, and what people are saying about you.
At this point, it basically comes down to two major search veins that need to be tapped (it’d be three if Facebook ever opened up public posts). There are normal web sites, and there are tweets.
Finding Yourself on Web Sites
First and foremost, there are general pages—which basically include blogs, static web sites, or maybe even local news outlets. On the internet, the odds are stacked against you finding yourself in this big mess if you don’t have a somewhat unique name. Famous people throw the curve off even worse.
As an example, my personal arch nemesis in ego searching is a guy with my name who happened to be on American Idol a few years ago. For other people, it could be a local news anchor across the country, or maybe an athlete on a big team. The problem’s the same any way you cut it—you just have to narrow the search so that you come out on top.
Google is your friend. Start using the site: search in Google. It allows you to search for anything you want, but to limit that search to a specific web site. So, if your name is Jane Doe, and you want to know if anybody’s mentioned your name in Lifehacker’s comment threads, you’d type Jane Doe site:lifehacker.com:au into Google and hit Search. If you want to really make sure your name doesn’t get split up, try to make a habit of putting it in quotes to force an exact match (“Jane Doe”).
Then there’s combining the site: search with other search operators to narrow your search even deeper. Let’s say Jane Doe wanted to see if anyone on Blogger mentioned her recent performance at a local play, MacBeth on Ice. She could try searching for something like “Jane Doe” site:blogspot.com macbeth OR “bad skater”—this is the same as using the advanced search to look for the exact phrase “Jane Doe,” on any Blogger blog, with either the word “Macbeth” or the phrase “bad skater” mentioned somewhere in the text. You can add as many specifics as you like.
Now, you might be asking yourself “well, why can’t I just use the site: search to find people talking about me on Twitter?” The problem is, if you try doing this with site:twitter.com, you’ll get an enormous list of search results for everybody with a Twitter account that has the name you entered in the search field. It’s possible to start getting actual tweets if you go a few dozen pages into the search results, but it’s just not effective. Instead, use Twitter’s own search engine.
Sifting through Twitter’s Tweets
Twitter’s got its own built-in search tool that sits right on the front page, and can be found directly at Search.Twitter.com. From there, hit the link for Advanced Search, and you’ll find loads of options for finding specific things people have tweeted recently. So, using Jane Doe again, she’d want to put her name in the field for “This exact phrase”.
There are other fields there, and while “advanced search” fields aren’t new in a search engine, they’re more important in Twitter. There’s one, specifically, that uses the geo-tagging feature—so you can narrow down your search to within just a one-mile radius of your home (or office). It’s also got options to narrow the search to tweets to and from specific users, or to only include tweets that include a link (possibly useful for checking to see if people are referencing your blog).
The thing to remember in using Twitter’s search is that plenty of people have geo-tagging disabled, so don’t plan on relying on it. Much like the example with Blogger from earlier, you’d probably be better off if you tried to use words from an event or place. Because conversations on Twitter tend to be casual, you should also keep nicknames and short names in mind, too. If your name is Matthew, like me, you should definitely include Matt, Mat, and Mathew in your searches, because people tend to apply their own spelling to names. Also include your twitter account name without the @ symbol—people will often refer to other users without it just so they don’t automatically see the tweet.