“Count Your Blessings” was the theme of our Toastmasters meeting last week, and the person in charge of Table Topics decided to focus on gratitude. As she opened up that portion of the meeting, she told us that in preparation, she had Googled the word “gratitude.” What she said next caught me totally by surprise.
“I’m not sure what made me think to do this,” she said, “but after I typed in ‘gratitude,’ I added the name, ‘Betty Liedtke.’ Do you know how many hits I got?”

My mind started to go numb as I sat there thinking, “Please don’t say zero. Please don’t say zero. Please don’t say zero.”

“There were 75,” she said.

“Really?” I thought. “Could that be?”

Needless to say, I was very grateful to hear this.

Googling your own name – that is, putting your name or company name into a search engine in order to find out where, how, and how often it is appearing in print and online – is advice that I hear on a regular basis. But it’s not something I do very often – usually only after I hear or read the advice again in a class, seminar, or newspaper article, when the reminder is fresh. And although I regularly express my gratitude to others, and I write about it occasionally in my column or elsewhere, I was still surprised to find it associated with my name in this way. It’s not something I set out to do, which makes it all the more rewarding.

Marketing advisors and advertising experts today all talk regularly about keywords and branding and search engine optimization. Finding, using, and capitalizing on the qualities and characteristics that define and describe you, or for which you want to be known, is an important business strategy. And you can raise your ranking and your visibility by purposefully including those words and descriptions in articles, ads, posts and tweets.
Whether or not you intentionally and deliberately use search engines and social media for business purposes, have you ever wondered what they might be saying about you? Are you curious about what words define and describe you, or what qualities and traits are associated with your name?
You don’t have to Google yourself to find out, of course. You can get this information from the people who know you. Or from yourself, if you’re able to ask and answer the question honestly and somewhat objectively. I’ve been in workshops and seminars where we were required to list the values and characteristics that were most important to us or that best described us. Or we were to ask others what they thought our defining qualities and characteristics were.
This can be eye-opening if the responses we give for ourselves are drastically different from those we get from others. Or when we realize that the values and traits we list as most important to us aren’t the ones that guide and govern our day-to-day lives. An inspirational quote defines integrity as how you act when nobody’s watching. And someone once suggested that if you want to know what’s most important to others, don’t ask them. Instead, look at their calendars and their checkbooks.

And now there’s another place we can look.

Although I don’t intend to Google my name alongside other qualities to see how often they show up, I am spending a bit of time thinking about what words and phrases I would like to see as serious contenders. “Respect” is the one I would hope to be on top, as it’s the trait I value most highly and try to live by most thoroughly. Others are “enthusiastic,” “compassionate,” “uplifting” and “inspiring,” and I appreciate when others use these words to describe me.
But it’s not our wanting to hear the words said about us that will determine whether or not they will be. And it’s not by planting them in our articles, ads, posts and tweets. It’s by how we act and how we live our lives that really makes the difference. And when it comes down to it, that’s all that really matters.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to reflect on this, and I plan to mention it next week to the person who brought it all out during our Toastmasters meeting. I want to let her know how much she inspired me, how much she motivated me, and how much she challenged me.

I’ll also tell her how grateful I am.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on May 10, 2012.
© Betty Liedtke, 2012