Creating a personal brand online is an essential element of both your professional and your personal success. Let’s face it, it’s not just potential employers who are Googling you. It’s also your nosey aunt and your daughter’s best friends’ mom and, yes, even the guy from that basement bar you went out with that one time in college.
Ensuring that what shows up in SERPs for your name is solely your branded content is critical. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time, especially if there are others who share the same name as you. But what if your name recently changed? Was all that time you spent SEOing Miss. Jane Doe wasted once you become Mrs. Jane Smith?
To keep you from falling into Internet oblivion once you’ve changed your name, here are a few tactics to stay relevant in organic searches.
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Chances are, as soon as you get hitched, you’ll flood your Facebook wall, Instagram feed, Twitter page, and every other social outlet with photos of your big day. I mean, why wouldn’t you? You looked amazing in that dress! However, while you’re showing off your (likely over-priced) wedding photos, make sure that you’re also changing your name on these platforms.
Google now shows personal social network accounts in SERPs, so this is the easiest step you can take to SEOing your new name.
301 Redirect Where You Can
A lot of people get so eager to flash their new name that they immediately ditch www.JaneDoe.com for their brand new, flashy www.JaneSmith.com website, leaving the content on their Jane Doe domain to become outdated and, eventually, forgotten about.
This is a big no-no.
While your name change might have taken you many aggravating weeks to finalize legally and was a big deal in your life, that doesn’t mean that anyone else cares about it, or even knows that you’re a Smith at all. In fact, most people in your industry likely still think you’re a Doe, still call you as such in conversation, and still search for you that way online.
Instead of letting those people find your cobwebbed, maiden-named website, simply add a 301 redirect to individual pages on the old site that lead viewers to your new one. You’ll still get the traffic benefits of your old name, while increasing the SEO value of your new one.
Hyphenate Yourself Online
I get it, Jane Doe-Smith isn’t appealing to everyone. Some people simply don’t want a hyphenated name. However, for the sake of your online presence, you should consider it for at least the first year of having your new name.
This way, when Google and other search engines are crawling your site, you’re getting the opportunity to say, “Hey guys, I know you’re used to me being ‘Jane Doe,’ but I’m now ‘Jane Smith,’ cool? Cool!”
Take me, for instance. When I get married next year, I’ll be Nicki Cholfe. However, for the first little bit of my married life, I’ll be Nicki Lamont-Cholfe online to ensure that I don’t miss out on people searching for my old name, or people searching for my hitched one (oh you see what I did there, sneaking in my new name and whatnot. #SEOersGonnaSEO).
Reach Out to Websites that your Branded Terms Rank High For
Using an incognito browser, Google your maiden name and other branded terms associated with it (IE ‘Jane Doe Enterprises’). What shows up? Articles you’ve written for a magazine? Biographies from conferences you’ve spoken at? Blogs that you’ve guest posted to popular sites? These are the things that you definitely don’t want to lose juice from just because you’ve changed your name.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a tool that easily changes your last name to whatever you want (if that were the case, my byline would read ‘Nicki Bon Jovi’ for everything I’ve ever done online). However there is a very basic solution: ask the sites to change it.
Reach out to the people who run the website and simply let them know that you’ve recently changed your name and that you don’t want to lose the association you have with that post, article, or whatever it is. It’s a really simple fix on their end and it allows Google to see your new name associated with important work you’ve done in the past. You’d be surprised at how many people are more than willing to make the newlywed happy by complying!
This is a little white-hat trick that I personally think is highly underrated.
As an SEOer, how do you decide which keywords to go after? Typically, you’d hop onto a tool to check the search volume and competition level of certain keywords, and target the ones you think you’d have the most success on.
What about the keywords that aren’t keywords yet, but will be in the future?
If you’re a fashion blogger, chances are you’re going to write a post about the Oscar’s best dressed stars once the Academy Awards come and go. However, once your post goes live, you’re stuck competing for the same traffic that thousands of other fashion bloggers are also targeting during that time.
Why not jump the gun and rank for the associated keywords before the event even happens? You know the Oscars are going to happen next year, so why not do a 2016 Oscar Best Dressed List: My Predictions post a few months in advance? You’ll already be optimizing your blog for the search term “2016 Oscar Best Dressed List” and will probably have an easy time ranking for it since there is little-to-no competition quite yet.
That way when the Oscar’s do come around, your little fashion blog will have a cushy spot at the top of the SERP for a very hot keyword. Simply update your post with your actual best dressed list, and voila! A great post with even better traffic.
The same principal applies to your married name! Just because you’re not Jane Smith right now, doesn’t mean you can’t start reaping the benefits of knowing you’re about to be. Start adding your married name to bylines and other online content so by the time you actually do change your name, SERPs are already populated with your own personal branding.
You might be losing your last name, but you don’t have to lose your personal SEO! Put in a little online elbow grease in advance and you’ll be ringing in wedded bliss at the top of the Google food chain.