How to Distinguish Yourself Online From People With the Same Name as You

by Carrie Kirby on 7 September 2012 2 comments

If you have a common name or share a name with a famous person, you know how hard it is to set yourself apart on the Internet from your "doppelnamers" — that is, your online evil twins who come up in search results when people are looking for you. (See also: Stupid Things to Put in Your Cover Letter)

If you are looking for a job or you have your own business, you must take action to make sure that people searching for you actually find you — not the person with the DUI mug shot or the blog about dumpster diving.

Just ask Tara Murphy, a recent law school graduate and blogger at Glossy Esquire and Neon Esquire who has even had to be fingerprinted to prove she's not one of the Tara Murphys with criminal records. She's also been denied a library card due to hundreds of dollars in fines run up by someone who had the same first, last, and middle names and lived in the same city. In online searches, she has to compete against not only the ex-cons but also famous Tara Murphys like the one who appeared on the reality show "Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch."

"We're a nefarious bunch," she told me when I interviewed her for a recent San Francisco Chronicle story.

Like many job seekers, Murphy is reluctant to shell out the cash required to hire experts such as Reputation.com to help her rise in the search results for her own name. So she's learning about the at-home steps that anyone with doppelnamers can and should take. They're all about bringing your online presence toward the top of the Google search results — which also has the effect of pushing your doppelnamers down.

Set Up a Name Alert

Set up a Google alert for your name so you know who is searching for you and what they're finding. If you find out anyone is confusing you with someone else of the same name, contact that person and ask them to correct it immediately.

Find Out What You're Dealing With

Check HowManyofMe.com for a rough estimate of how many people share your name. Search LinkedIn to find out who they are — if there is someone in your own field with the same name, you'll need to make extra effort to distinguish yourself.

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Promote Yourself

Create Web properties that showcase the real you. A LinkedIn profile is a must, and a Twitter profile, website, and blog don't hurt. For service people or small business owners, encourage clients to review you on Yelp.

Use Your Facebook

Consider using your Facebook page as an additional online property for networking purposes. But tread carefully so you don't end up making yourself look bad!

Actually Use Your Social Media

Participate actively in all the social networks you've signed up for. This seems to improve Google search ranking. And if you Tweet or post links to content on your website, others may decide to link to it. The more links you get from well-ranked sites, the higher your results will appear in Google searches.

Shoot for Consistency

Make sure that your name appears in the same way on all your Web properties, and that they link to one another. For instance, if you use your middle initial — a very good idea — use it on all your sites and profiles.

Use your preferred name consistently offline too — on business cards, resume, or movie marquees as the case may be.

Put a Face With the Name

Post a photo of yourself on your website so people know immediately that they've found the right John Smith.

Consider Including Personal Details

Don't be afraid to have search results that highlight your personal interests, as long as you like what they say about you. For instance, if your name is published in an article about a marathon you ran in, link to that article! The more positive links that lead people to you, the better.

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Guest's picture

Great ideas...I really like the one about putting your face on your site. There have been many times that I thought I found the right person only to be sadly mistaken. It could have all been avoided with a picture!

Guest's picture

I so agree. I share a name with an attempted murderer, though fortunately I've never been mistaken for her, and don't live in the area. The singer/songwriter and the lawyer aren't nearly so awkward.

I do use my face on my site and social media accounts. It's nice to know that people will be able to tell when they've found me.