What If I Share a Celebrity’s Name? Google Reputation Management Nightmare

google reputation management

In an era when people are used to searching others on the Internet that they are going to deal and/or possibly date, controlling your search results is a must for both professional and personal happiness.

Not everyone is as lucky as me to have a unique, catchy name like “Ann Smarty” (let’s just pretend it’s real). Many people still struggle to get found on Google. And while having a common name like “Bob Smith” can result in higher competition (that oftentimes is really easy to beat with some basic SEO skill simply because having that skill is a huge competitive advantage), a much bigger problem is when you share a celebrity’s name.

Below are common Internet search problems some of us keep trying to solve:

  1. Your name is the exact version of a celebrity’s name: In this case, it’s almost impossible to make it to the top 10 and even if you do, “fresh” Google results will almost always outrank yours.
  2. Your name is the misspelled version of a celebrity’s name: In this case, people who are interested in you will be mildly suggested they can’t type well.

While #1 is more or less clear and familiar, let’s take a look at #2’s case study. There is a very old and still unresolved question on Quora that dates back to 2011: “My name is Alex Baldwin, how can I tell Google I’m a different person than Alec Baldwin?”

There’s a lot of helpful recommendations below it from creating lots of (social) profiles to creating an Adwords Campaign. According to Alex, all of those have been implemented, yet nothing has helped. Google isn’t giving the guy a chance:

google reputation management

Even after you confirm you are not stupid and you have typed everything correctly the first time, Google will still not be convinced:

google reputation management

So Why is it Happening?

Google’s spell check feature is based on just one data piece: The number of search results. Back in the day, when Google was much more open to revealing the under-lying mechanisms, here’s how they described the spell checker feature:

Google engineer, Noam Shazeer, developed a spelling correction (suggestion) system based on what other users have entered. The system automatically checks whether you are using the most common spelling of each word in your query.

What to Do?

1. Be Unique: Stick to the Name You’ll Have Less Trouble With

The truth is, you are unlikely to beat such a popular search as a celebrity name. You have two choices: Either wait for the celebrity’s career end or stop hitting the wall and brand another variation of your own name. The obvious option would be to brand your middle name or the middle initial:

Brand ypur other version of the name

[At least Google doesn’t think it’s a misspelling.]

Another way could be using your personal short name, your daily life nickname or your full name – depends on what you like most and what you stick to.

The Main Thing: Start Doing That Very Early

The very moment you are smart and mature enough to set a site and start thinking about what Google thinks about you, stick to the name version you are likely to have trouble with controlling search results for.

Yes, that’s not the perfect solution but unfortunately, that’s the only way to prevent Google from thinking you are a broken celebrity name.

Remember the nasty celebrity news that makes it to the top search results – what if your name belongs to a lesser known celebrity and your future partner or employer won’t even search further?

2. Embrace Google Plus

When you are good with the name you plan to brand, use that exact version of your name on Google Plus. If you don’t know how to use Google Plus as well as how to verify the authorship of your content there, see my quick presentation here or bookmark WP beginner’s guide on getting Google’s verified Authorship for your WordPress blog. You can also read up on choosing your best author picture.

The most obvious benefit is that the more circles have you, the more people will see your personal results:

personal results

The longer-term benefit is that Google is probably trying to use Google Plus as its identity platform and if they are smart enough, they will use it to wisely rank people. So if you embrace it earlier and start building your presence there, you have a good chance to get established well enough to actually control search results.

Do you have any personal case studies and/or situations to share?

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Ann Smarty Ann Smarty is the founder of My Blog Guest, a free community of bloggers. Ann is also the Community and Brand Manager of Internet Marketing Ninjas.

8 Reactions
  1. I would point out that some people would welcome the obscurity. I personally share the name of a Democratic Representative from Pennsylvania and have found it very hard to get even 1 result in the top 10 (despite the fact he goes by Bob and I go by Robert). That’s okay though because people look harder and only find properties I’ve put work into. No off-hand mention of me will ever float to the surface and I’m okay with that.

  2. This is one of the things I love about Google. There are at least a half dozen people with the same name as me, yet I’m the only one who shows up for about 145 of the top 150 results. 4 of the other 5 are for stupid “we found…” results with bullshit public database businesses. I can live with that ratio. 🙂 Sometimes it comes in handy to be an SEO.

  3. I understand how this works with a current ordinary person’s name up against that of a current celebrity, but what can you do when trying to research the name of an ordinary bloke when he has the same name as a famous or infamous historical figure like James Joyce, writer. No extra descriptor seems to help.