You’re a Nobody Unless Your Name Googles Well

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I thought this article had some VERY interesting things to say. As a Searchologist, I am encouraged when I see that people are taking note about their online branding. (Makes my job easier!) Check it out…

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Before Abigail Garvey got married in 2000, anyone could easily Google her. Then she swapped her maiden name for her husband’s last name, Wilson, and dropped out of sight.

In Web-search results for her new name, links to Ms. Wilson’s epidemiology research papers became lost among all manner of other Abigail Wilsons, ranging from 1980s newspaper wedding announcements for various Abigail Wilsons to genealogy records listing Abigail Wilsons born in the 1600s and 1700s. When Ms. Wilson applied for a new job, interviewers questioned the publications she listed on her résumé because they weren’t finding the publications in online searches, Ms. Wilson says. (See Google results for Abigail Garvey1 and Abigail Wilson2.)

So when Ms. Wilson, now 32, was pregnant with her first child, she ran every baby name she and her husband, Justin, considered through Google to make sure her baby wouldn’t be born unsearchable. Her top choice: Kohler, an old family name that had the key, rare distinction of being uncommon on the Web when paired with Wilson. "Justin and I wanted our son’s name to be as special as he is," she explains.

In the age of Google, being special increasingly requires standing out from the crowd online. Many people aspire for themselves — or their offspring — to command prominent placement in the top few links on search engines or social networking sites’ member lookup functions. But, as more people flood the Web, that’s becoming an especially tall order for those with common names. Type "John Smith" into Google’s search engine and it estimates it has 158 million results. (See search results.4)

For people prone to vanity searching — punching their own names into search engines — absence from the first pages of search results can bring disappointment. On top of that, some of the "un-Googleables" say being crowded out of search results actually carries a professional and financial price.

That’s because people increasingly rely on search engines to find things they want to read, music they want to hear, people and companies they want to do business with. U.S. Internet users conduct hundreds of millions of search queries daily. About 7% of all searches are for a person’s name, estimates search engine Ask.com. More than 80% of executive recruiters said they routinely use search engines to learn more about candidates, according to a recent survey by executive networking firm ExecuNet. Nearly 40% of individuals have used search engines to look up friends or acquaintances with whom they’d lost touch, according to a Harris Interactive survey commissioned by Microsoft Corp.’s MSN unit.

Boosting Visibility

Some people have taken measures to boost their visibility online, including creating listings in professional directories and paying companies to help them appear more prominently in search results. Parents-to-be routinely plug baby names into search engines to scout out the online competition. Some actors and musicians weigh the impact of less unique stage names.

That’s the case for a Los Angeles singer-songwriter who in 2003 abandoned his given name and began going by his initials, "AM." At the time, he was launching a solo career and hoped the approach might help him stand out.

READ: You’re a Nobody Unless Your Name Googles Well

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