We all know the importance of showing up well when someone does a Google search for our name or that of our company. We go to great lengths and even hire marketing firms or virtual assistants to help us stand out and move up to page one. Sometimes, however, we are fighting an uphill battle. What if our name is so common or easily confused with a celebrity? Guess who gets the more prominent position on the search engines – regardless of whether it Google, Bing, Yahoo, or another.
When we were born and given a name by our parents, we clearly had no say in the matter. However, now that we literally are trying to make a name for ourselves in business and online, there often are complications that likely were never foreseen at the time of our naming. Depending on our age and generation, there is no way these issues could have been foreseen because technology was far removed from where it is now.
Even if we have a very distinctive name that is shared by very few others, or if it has a “Jr.,” “Sr.,” “II,” “III,” “IV,” or “V” after it, what if a famous or budding athlete, author, actor, scientist, or performer has our exact same name – or at least the same first and last name?
When someone does an online search for us, they likely will find several references for our more famous namesake or namesakes but may not find us until page three or later. Sometimes we can get lost in the shuffle altogether and not be found in the first ten pages.
While our parents probably didn’t intentionally name us to compete for online recognition with a contemporary – again, this wasn’t even a consideration until the last 15-20 years – they may have wanted to use a famous first name from the past that they liked. At the time it didn’t create any issues because those around us knew the difference between us and our more famous namesake after whom we were named by our parents. However, this may cause some issues now in the way people search for and find us online. The internet tends to blur generational differences and look at the prominence of a name rather than distinguish whether someone is a contemporary of another or not.
The real issue is when someone gains a following because they are a TV or movie actor, recording artist, high-profile athlete, or well-known politician, and they share the same name as us. They are going to come up first in the searches – even if their active career is over.
So what’s the answer? How do we make a name for ourselves when our name is the same as other, more well-known or prominent individuals? Say that our name is Steve Smith – do a search and see what comes up. There is a football player (more than one), cricket player, sportscaster, basketball player, college coaches, and more. Not only that, most of these people have more than one reference in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
It’s time to change up our name – nothing formal. Just add a middle initial (even if it’s a “made-up” one or a nickname that you invent). So, you can be Steve (or Steven) X. or Z. Smith (when the X or Z stand for nothing except as a differentiation tool). Remember Harry “S” Truman when the S stood for nothing specific but was said to represent a grandfather on each side of the family? We can be Steve “Skip” Smith (even if we have never used this name before) or Q. Steve Steve, where it appears that “Q” (or whatever initial) is the given first name but that we prefer and have become known by our middle name.
These little tricks are designed to elevate us into online prominence – unless we want to remain buried deep within the searches with sometimes more than 20 on Linked-In with the same name – we need to come up a name modification that will identify and go with us.