The ancient Greek aphorism “Know thyself” is in need of an update and that update should be “Google thyself.”
Google is much more than just a web search engine that people can use for topical and keyword searches.
We have successfully used Google to discover everything from plagiarists and brand thieves ( people who try to make a quick buck by using other established business names online ) to finding criminal records and civil case details on people who have long, troubled pasts.
We have also used Google numerous times to locate friends and family for people who were looking to reunite with someone they had lost contact with long ago.
The amount and types of personal information that we have found over the years through Google searches would shock many people.
In fact, Google is a powerful people search, due diligence and background research tool that is routinely used by professionals like private investigators, skip tracers, national security experts, police, college admissions officers, employers, landlords and others to find out personal details about people.
Knowing that all of these professionals rely on Google to find personal information on people every day, don’t you think it would be smart to Google yourself and see what digital trail you have left behind over the years or find things that other people have posted about you?
Let’s start looking!
Unfortunately, most people think that they can Google themselves by simply typing their first and last names into the search box to find information on themselves. Some people even add a middle name or initial to their personal Google search, hoping to narrow down the search results.
Unfortunately, this tactic is almost useless, especially for people who have common names or names that they share with celebrities or other famous people.
In addition, don’t expect to find a lot of information with just a couple of basic name searches. Using a variety of searches that use the name along with different pieces of personal information is the key.
To get really good, targeted search results for your name or another person’s name, you have to use some of Google’s different search tricks along with different types of personal, site-specific and location information.
It is important to use advanced Google search operators along with additional personal details to find really good ( and sometimes really shocking ) search results for yourself or anyone else that you are trying to “get the goods on.”
The first thing you should know about doing a name search on Google is that quotation marks matter. However, capitalizing names has no effect, so you can easily type all names and search terms in lower case.
A search for “Donald Trump” ( 27,000,000 search results ) will give you more targeted results than a search for Donald Trump ( 73,800,000 search results ).
Including a middle name or initial will target the results even further. A Google search for “Donald J Trump” gets 630,000 search results and a search for “Donald John Trump” gives 52,800 search results.
You can further target a name search on Google by using the site: operator in your search.
This operator can be used to search for only a specific site or top-level domain.
Using site:facebook.com in your search will limit your name search results to Facebook. Likewise, using site:twitter.com in your search will limit your name search to Twitter.
For example searching for “Kim Kardashian” site:facebook.com returns over 1.5 million results on Facebook with the first result being her Facebook profile.
A search for “Kim Kardashian” site:twitter.com returns 485,000 results on Twitter.
You can also use the site: operator to search all sites with a given top-level domain like – com, gov, us, edu, mil, org.
For example, searching for the name “Colin Powell” on the entire web gives us 3,730,000 search results, but limiting this name search to military sites with “Colin Powell” site:mil gives us less than 8,000 results and a search for his name on government sites with “Colin Powell” site:gov gives us 45,900 targeted results.
You can use the edu domain to search college and university sites for references to a specific person.
For example, a search for “Brutus Buckeye” site:edu returns 1,400 results and when we further target this name search to Ohio State University’s site with “Brutus Buckeye” site:osu.edu we get around 1,200 results. [ Note: Brutus Buckeye is the Ohio State University mascot. ]
Furthermore, Google has a specific search operator – @ – that is designed to search just social media tags and user id’s.s
For example, searching @npr on google will search for the National Public Radio user id across the entire web. This can be used with any user id that you have for yourself or anyone else.
Adding personal details or location information to your name searches will further refine and target your search results.
For example, a search for “Michael Bloomberg” New York City returns over 10 million results on Google, while a search for “Michael Bloomberg” New York City site:gov gives around 10 thousand results.
Furthermore, adding a job title or description to the search with “Michael Bloomberg” Mayor New York City site:gov targets the results even further.
It is important to practice these different searches using your name and the names of people you know to see what you can find. Remember to add personal details and location details to your searches to better target your results, especially when searching for people that have common first and last names.
Some personal details that you may want to include in a name search are professions; schools attended; hobbies; nicknames; user id’s; geographic locations; maiden names; military branches; company names etc.
Also, you should try doing your people searches on Google’s image search to find any online photos associated with your name or any other person that you are searching for.
In addition, you can use Google’s reverse image search to reverse search a person’s online profile picture across the entire web – Finding People From Profile Pics Using Google’s Reverse Image Search
Additional Google Search Resources: