This question originally appeared on Quora: What can someone with an ultra-common name do to increase their Google-ability?
Why, hello there, John Smith. Here, take a seat while we check if we can find you on Google.
Uh oh. Google tells us there are "about 1,260,000,000 results". What's that, millions? Billions?
Billions of blue blistering barnacles, why couldn't your parents have named you Haddock? So much easier to find.
Oh well, since you can't do much about your parents' choice, let's look at what your options are.
1. Take the middle road.
Got a middle name? Consider using it. At least one recent study () shows that people who use middle initials are considered more intelligent, so this is a win in any case. You have to admit John H. Smith has more heft to it than plain vanilla John Smith.
2. Brand yourself.
Make the decision to be famous for something. Not famous in the celebrity sense, but by way of name association. You might not know who I was talking about if I mentioned Dora, but what if I said Dora the Explorer? Makes a more immediate connection, doesn't it? Likewise with the name Holmes. Did you think Sherlock Holmes? What if I now said Holmes on Homes. Ah, that made a different connection, didn't it?
It's a good idea to figure out what you'd like to be best known for, and build a name association around it. John Smith, Writer or John H. Smith, Data Scientist already distance you from John Smith, Who?
3. Get a domain.
Choose a domain name wisely. You're not going to be able to reserve(though it is listed as for sale by the current owner, presumably at an exorbitant cost). What if you don't want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy the domain name off someone else? A good option is to register your country top level domain if available (e.g. .ca, .jp etc), or see if there is an appropriate extension from among the new TLDs released recently ( ). e.g. JohnSmith.Lawyer.
You might have to get creative if your preferred options aren't available. For example:
- Use your middle initial (see Step 1). e.g. JohnBSmith.ca is currently available.
- Use your brand (see Step 2). e.g. ExplorerJohnSmith.com is currently available
- Use a phrase. e.g. IAmJohnSmith.com is currently available
4. Be found.
Now that you have your domain, get cracking on your web presence. This is going to be John Smith Information Central, so this is a critical piece of the strategy. CMSs like WordPress have made it fairly simple for even John Smith, Non-Geek to set up and maintain a website, so you have few excuses not to. Make sure you add as much information as you can. Google loves text, so put in everything that is relevant. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who would be interested in searching for me? Folks you've lost touch with? Potential business partners? The answer to this will help you determine the content of your site.
- What would they likely know about me already? If you're hoping to draw in old friends, then you want to post details of where you lived as a kid, where you went to school, some photos, where you live now and what you do. If the site is to support your business, then a different approach is needed. Add lots of relevant information, articles and links. (Here's a good link for more help with this: ).
- What terms would people use on Google when searching for me? Make a list of all the keywords and phrases you think web searchers might use. e.g. John Smith New York, John Smith marathon runner, John Smith York University . Next, make sure you use these terms in your web content. Add meta tags to your pages and pictures (ask someone to show you how if needed). You don't need an expensive search engine company to do basic SEO.
5. Get social.
If your website is small and relatively new, you might need some social media support. Use sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Pinterest to your advantage. Think relevance before you post. If you're looking to get seen by old friends, then tag pictures with full names of people (if appropriate) and places where they were taken. If you're all business, then create a separate Facebook page for that and post content that's restricted to that aspect of your life. The same goes for Twitter; don't mix personal life with business.
6. Connect the dots.
You never know whether a searcher will find you via a social media site or your website, so make sure you connect all the pieces. Post links to your website from your social media pages and vice versa. Sometimes, it might need both for someone to be sure they've found the one true you.
If, on the other hand, you share your name with someone famous (or notorious), you might want to take a look at this other answer:
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