How high do you rank on your Google vanity search (when you type your name into the engine). I’m second on mine. Blast!
When we think about our identities online, identify theft usually comes to mind. Credit cards, birthdates and social security numbers, etc. But just as significant is how you’re identified on search and online in general, and as this Washington Post article showed about a washed up actor named Jim Kileen, you could be just about anyone.
According to the article, if you typed Kileen’s name into Google, you’d find he’s a sexual swinger in Denver, a CEO in Melbourne Australia or a parish priest in Cobh, Ireland. He’s going to make a movie called “Google me” to chronicle his experiences.
The article reminded me of an e-mail I received a couple months ago from the great grandson of Christopher Goodland Lynch, a Maryland soldier during the Civil War era. Lynch’s great grandson noted how I had come up second in the google search, and wanted to know if I had Maryland roots (which, though I still need to check with my grandfather who grew up in Ohio and now lives in Virginia, I don’t think I do).
Of course, I didn’t need the e-mail from Mr. Lynch to know where I stood. I am a journalist – or at least fancy myself as one – and as such have done the Google vanity search on many occasions. In fact, parts of my livelihood in the online world depend on a decent search ranking.
So what’s important about this besides the purposes of vanity? For one, mistaken identity in an intellectual sense (rather than just the financial). In the case of poor Mr. Kileen, I think he wanted to remembered for his acting prowess rather than as Sexual Swinger.
In a business sense, a company or organization with a similar name could oust you at the top and draw their attention to their site rather than yours, and sometimes in a negative way. For example, the website of former catcher and Fox Sports broadcaster Tim McCarver, criticized by many fans for having a keen sense of the obvious, was ousted to second place in his google search by a contrarian site, shutuptimmccarver.com.
So, how do you stack on your Google vanity search? If you don’t win, who beats you out?