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Marketing / Business branding

Help! The other Sandra Muller is killing my SEO!

What can you do if you share your name with someone in a similar industry? Here are some tips for boosting your online profile so that your website is the one that gets the Google grease.

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I wasn’t forward-thinking and quick enough to snaffle the domain name of my name – the coveted .com – back in the 90s when websites were just emerging. Can you relate?

It turns out there’s a German jewellery who shares my name who was an earlier adopter than me. I’m sure I’m not alone. Not the bit about having a German jewellery-making doppelganger, but the bit about missing out on the dot com version of your name.

I had to insert the L from my middle name to register a relevant-ish domain name. If I ever meet The Other Sandra Muller I’d like to tell her where to insert that L. Oh, that’s terribly sour-grapes of me. She’s probably a perfectly lovely jeweller wondering what she can do about that pesky Sandra L Muller (a.k.a. me) polluting her crafty jewellery brand with all the stuff I produce about content strategy and SEO copywriting.

I’m one of the lucky ones. The Other Sandra Muller’s website is dormant. There’s no web presence. Thank goodness. She’s not diluting our name.

"If your online namesake is in the same field as you, look for the differences. Latch on to that difference and cling to it with all your SEO might."

But each year in January, she diligently repays her annual hosting fee (usually early, too) and I’m left sighing at the WHOIS website in yearly disappointment.  (If you ever want to know who owns a domain, go to the ICANN WHOIS website and look it up. When you buy or renew a domain name, you can add privacy to it, so no one knows who you are. Some registrants charge extra for privacy, but others, like NameSilo, throw it in for free.)

While The Other Sandra Muller’s website remains non-existent, she’s not hurting my SEO.

But recently, the #metoo movement in France has seen the rise of The French Sandra Muller, a journalist leading the French cause against sexual harassment. She started the ‘#balancetonporc’ or ‘rat on your pig’ hashtag. I think I love her a little for that hashie. Don’t you?

While I’m quite happy my namesake is the eponymous French charge for this honourable cause, I’m waiting for a doxxing based on mistaken identity and hate mail from the MRA to start flooding my inbox.

In the meantime, I must make sure The French Sandra Muller doesn’t kill my SEO.

What you can do if you have an online doppelganger in a similar industry

The French Sandra Muller and I are both writers, which is a little bit unfortunate. But it’s not a throw-in-the-towel-and-go-home-without-my-spat-dummy deal.

Look for the differences

If your online namesake is in the same field as you, look for the differences.

The French Sandra Muller and I are different kinds of writers. I am an online content strategist and SEO copywriter. She is a journalist. That’s a bit like comparing a plumber and an electrician. Yeah, they’re both tradies who can help build a house, but they serve different purposes. Or perhaps it’s more like an auto electrician and your regular sparky – yeah, they both deal with electrics, but one specialises in houses, the other in cars.

Latch on to that difference and cling to it with all your SEO might.

Update your online profiles

Make sure all your major online profiles are up-to-date and focus on that difference.

If you haven’t already set up a LinkedIn profile, do so right now. LinkedIn profiles often feature quite highly in search results for names because there is such high authority behind the LinkedIn brand.

If you have a LinkedIn profile, make sure you optimise it for your differences. You won’t read the journalism word on my LinkedIn profile, but you will see a few references to SEO copywriting.

Update your alt tags

Look at the file name and ‘alt tags’ on any images you feature in on your website, on LinkedIn and other websites or directories.

Alt tags are those little yellow boxes with a text description that appear over images when you roll over them. They can be helpful for SEO and they also describe the image to screen readers.

Do the alt tags and images of your portraits and other snaps you have control over include your name and highlight how you’re different to your namesake? If they don’t, change them.

For example, my images say things like ‘Sandra Muller, SEO Copywriter’ rather than ‘Sandra Muller, journalist’. I hope this article doesn’t make the Google Gods associate me with The French Sandra Muller!

It’s important to update your image file names and alt tags because images usually appear high in Google’s search results when people search names. You want to make sure it’s YOU dominating those search results.

When you have a common name

Peter Smith, I weep for thee.

It’s time to add a Z to Petzer.

Just kidding.

While Müller might be THE most common surname in Germany, I am thankful that ‘Sandra’ is a little less ordinary and all I had to do was shove an L in it. You could try that, but when there are a gazillion Peter R Smiths out there, it will be hard to find that elusive dot com.

But there are other alternatives you could consider when building your online brand, Peter R Smith, such as:

  1. Changing your name to Pilot Inspektor (just kidding, it’s already taken)
  2. Using your full middle name, peterroderick.com
  3. Adding either a prefix like thepetersmith.com or a suffix like petersmithjnr.com
  4. Adding your industry or niche to your domain like petersmithwriter.com
  5. Using a nickname with your last name like peterinski.com
  6. Using a catchphrase like petersmithseocopywriter.com or petersmiththemysterious.com.

Be everywhere

It’s time to start taking your personal brand seriously. Be everywhere. You need to muscle in on those trying to claim your bit of digital real estate.

Be everywhere and be the squeaky wheel that gets the Google grease.

Keep an eye on expiring domains

You can set up an alert to let you know if the domain name you really want expires and becomes available to buy. There is a grace period for domain holders of about 75 days before it comes on the market.

You’ll want to do a check in the Wayback Machine to make sure the domain you want wasn’t used for nefarious means such as a porn site or to peddle the angst of a flat-earther.

Keep it consistent

Don’t be DrPeterinskiSmith on one platform and PeterRoderickSmith on another. Stick to the one ID.

Sharpen your website copy and implement an SEO strategy

If your website is not displaying under your name, it’s time for a web content and SEO overhaul.

You need to do ALL THE SEO THINGS to boost your website’s chance of ranking well in Google.

Consider engaging the services of an expert SEO copywriter who can target your name as a brand and give you that bit of Google grease you need to stand out from your digital doppelgangers.

What strategies have you used to boost your online profile?

Sandra Muller

is The Smarter Writer, an SEO copywriter and content strategist who helps companies herd words and web pages into an experience users love. She is an ultra-marathon groupie and sometime digital nomad who enjoys plonking in foreign countries. Connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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