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How to Stand Out When You Have a Famous Namesake

Amy Fowler

by Amy Fowler on 30th January 2013

PaparazziToday we welcome Amy Fowler onto the Koozai blog to talk about the complexities of dating Sheldon Cooper. Oh wait. It’s a different Amy Fowler, which is why we asked her to discuss the complicated world of having an online presence when someone famous shares the same name.

Back in October last year, Koozai’s Andy Williams wrote about how the death of American singer Andy Williams had affected his personal brand.

I sympathise with you Andy. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a really unusual name, dominating Google is hard enough – even if you don’t happen to share your name with somebody more famous than you.

Unfortunately I share my name with someone very, very famous right now. Albeit, a fictional character.

If you haven’t met her yet, meet Miss Amy Farrah Fowler.

Amy Fowler

The kooky neurobiologist (played by Mayim Bialik) from probably the most popular American sitcom since Friends (thanks E4): The Big Bang Theory.

Before The Big Bang Theory really took off, it wasn’t that hard to find me when you searched for my name in Google. But, as of the time of writing, search for Amy Fowler and the first mention of me (my Twitter profile) can be found on page seven. Use exact match quotes, and I’m on page two (probably because most references to the above neurobiologist use all three of her names).

So what can you do if you too, have a famous namesake that’s stopping you from dominating the SERPs for your name?

Snag your name on a domain:

If you haven’t already, it’s worth securing your name on a domain. Then, get a site built and include as much relevant information about yourself as possible. I.e. who you are, your skills and expertise, and who you work for.

You might also want to include a library of links to your proudest guest posts, and of course, links to your social profiles. Ideally, you’ll probably want to use this domain to blog too.

Play around with how you use your name:

You could start using your middle name, or the initial of your middle name.

So I could start referring to myself online as ‘Amy Elizabeth Fowler’ or ‘Amy E. Fowler’; both which are unsurprisingly, much less competitive, and reveal no mention of Amy Farrah Fowler when you search for them.

However, Amy Elizabeth Fowler sounds a little bit formal, so maybe I could change it to ‘Amy Lizzie Fowler’.

Another idea could be to utilise a nickname (assuming your nickname is nothing too off-the-wall or offensive). Some of my friends call me Flower, so I could rebrand myself as Amy Flower.

Start guest posting:

Guest posting isn’t just for businesses and their brands, it’s great for your personal brand too. Secure yourself a spot on some big-name blogs in your industry and write a great guest post that will get you noticed.

And don’t forget to make the most of your author bio. Link to your key social profiles, your personal website, and make sure to take advantage of rel=author.

If you can, take things a step further and get yourself a regular writing spot on a big blog.

Host a publicity stunt:

Celebrities and brands do it all the time and it (mostly) works for them:

• In 1977 The Sex Pistols timed a controversial performance of God Save the Queen atop a boat on the Thames with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Despite (or perhaps because of) widespread outrage in the media, the stunt secured them a record deal with Virgin, and helped propel the song to number 2 in the charts.

• In 2007 Kanye West and 50 Cent went head-to-head in a tension-fuelled-feud over prospective sales of their next album; even squaring up against each other at that year’s MTV Video Music Awards. They later revealed that ‘they had no beef at all’ – they simply saw an opportunity and went for it.

• Back in 1998, a year before the release of cult horror The Blair Witch Project, a site depicting the forthcoming film as a documentary and genuine ‘found footage’ popped up on the web. By the time the film was to be shown at festivals, the producers had even placed “missing” posters around Sundance, showing pictures of the supposedly dead documentarians.

People fell hook, line, and sinker for the stunt; the location of the film (Burkittsville, Maryland) actually became swamped by tourists in search of clues.

As a result, the film grossed $248,639,099 worldwide. It cost somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000 to make.

Doing something that will get people talking about you will go a long way towards ensuring that it’s your face popping up in Google for your name, not the celebrity who ‘stole’ your name. However, try not to offend anyone or embarrass yourself – you want your stunt to get you positive publicity!

Look at the wider picture:

And think about what you do, not just your name. It’s a big step in the right direction if you can ensure you dominate Google for “your name + your industry”.

Chances are, if someone is trying to find you and they don’t succeed when searching for just your name, they’ll search again with something else that they know about you. Quite possibly the industry you work in.

If you ensure everything you do online mentions not only your name, but what you do for work, you should find yourself ranking pretty quickly for these longer-tailed search terms.

Change your name:

A bit drastic, but still an option. Of course, you have to consider that this essentially means starting over and building your personal brand from scratch. But, changing your name is a pretty big thing, and if you can get enough people talking about what you’re doing, you could make it work in your favour.

Alternatively, you could just choose a ‘pen name’ to go by professionally, rather than officially changing your name. It worked for Mary Anne Evans….

And as a final point:

Think about your kids. Chances are, personal branding and online presence is only going to get more important, so try not to ‘brand’ your children with the most popular names of the time (currently Harry and Amelia in the UK).

At the same time, think carefully before you choose a name that’s a little ‘out there’. A unique name undoubtedly has its benefits, but they’re (most likely) going to have to carry it with them for life, so try to avoid submitting your child to any of these crazy monikers. Be unique, but don’t choose anything that’s likely to lead to a lifetime of ridicule.

Image Sources:

A group of paparazzi and fans going hysterical from BigStock
Mayim Bialik in Los Angeles from BigStock

The views expressed in this post are those of the author so may not represent those of the Koozai team.

Amy Fowler

Amy Fowler

Amy Fowler works at Nottingham based online marketing agency, Boom Online Marketing. As well as managing a number of client accounts, she is in charge of social media, and regularly writes for the Boom blog.

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  • Andy Williams

    Andy Williams 30th January 2013


    I of course feel your pain. Since my post I have dropped and dropped in Google (for my name). More and more content continues to swamp the SERP’s about the departed 60′s signer Andy Williams. Surly there isn’t much more to say?

    As mentioned in my post, counter attacking with content of my own isn’t realistic and I don’t have the time. However I am rather liking your idea of a publicity stunt :)

    Great post Amy and some really good pointers.

    The more online our lives become the more this will become a bigger issue.

    Reply to this comment

  • Amy Fowler 30th January 2013

    “The more online our lives become the more this will become a bigger issue.”

    Definitely. I think the only way to counteract this for future generations is to name our kids the most unique, yet horrible names that no-one would ever want to copy.

    I’m surprised you’ve kept dropping for your name; I’d never even heard of this Andy Williams until your post. At least your name’s not John Lennon. Or Michael Jackson. Things could be worse…

    And make sure you let me know if you ever decide to pull a publicity stunt :-)

    Reply to this comment

  • Anna Lewis

    Anna Lewis 30th January 2013

    Important issues for SEOs who want to have visibility for their name, although I don’t think just applies to famous (or slightly well known) names.

    When I married I forgot to think about the SEO implications of going from a quite unique name (Anna Spear) to a more common name (Anna Lewis). I now have 239,000 other websites to compete against (when searching for “anna lewis”). Even though your name is used by a relatively famous character I think you will be able to achieve rankings for it by using the handy techniques you’ve covered above, there are currently 87,500 results including “amy fowler” so getting a few more of those relating to you should get you there. Good luck to Andy with his 14,700,000 competing websites!!

    So something to add to your suggestions – pick someone to marry with a more unique surname ;) you could even tie that in to a publicity stunt while you’re at it to make sure you rank quickly for your new name! :)

    Reply to this comment

    • Amy Fowler 30th January 2013

      Good suggestion Anna… If I married my boyfriend I’d only have to compete with 2,740 search results for my new name.

      Not sure that’s gonna make him decide to propose though!

      Reply to this comment

  • Jane Copland 30th January 2013

    Nice one, guys :)

    I share a name with a voice-over artist in the UK. Not exactly a celebrity, but she dominated the UK results when I moved here from the US. She hadn’t bought janecopland.co.uk though, which I did.

    The funniest instance of confusion between us online, however, was when Orange decided to replace Jane’s voice with a younger person for its answer phone services. Previously, when you got through to an Orange answer phone, this lady had provided the “X isn’t available to take your call” message.

    Several people felt quite put out by this, and started a “Bring back Jane Copland” Facebook group. They Googled our name and chose a photo fo me for the group’s image.

    As fun as it could have been to pretend that I had a Facebook fan club, I had to join the group and let them know that I sadly do not possess a BBC-World-Service-quality voice or accent and their subject was not me :)

    Reply to this comment

    • Amy Fowler 30th January 2013

      Haha; brilliant story!

      How are you doing in the SERPs for your name these days?

      Reply to this comment

      • Jane Copland 30th January 2013

        Google went through a period where it flooded the SERP with my results and then brought the other Jane Copland’s results back again. It sounds very vain to have noticed this, but I honestly found it interesting from an SEO perspective. I imagine that they’d ideally want to present results for both of us (diversity). Now, results referring to me take up 9 out of the top 10, but her voice-over artist profile ranks very well.

        Since there are quite a few things about both she and I online, Google has an “Including results for jane copland
        Search only for jane copeland” message when you search for the surname including an “e”. Which I would imagine both voice-over Jane and I consider a victory, since people have spelled our last name incorrectly to include the “e” for our whole lives :)

  • Jennifer Lopez 30th January 2013

    As you can see by my name, I most definitely have a problem ranking in Google. :) I use my middle name on everything so I’m Jennifer Sable Lopez. I do rank for “Jen Lopez” at least, but it’s absolutely impossible to rank for Jennifer.

    The funniest thing that’s happened to me was when Google+ first came out, people kept improperly tagging me in pictures of the famous Jennifer Lopez. :) Apparently, I had set up my account before she did and came up in searches for the name. :D

    Reply to this comment

  • Giuseppe Pastore 30th January 2013

    I guess that being Italian, 4.500.000 results are not that bad for my name, including 2 wikipedia references, a number of politicians, plus dozens of social media profiles.
    I like when Google Suggestions Tools gives evidences people have to type in cities or jobs along with my name to find the other Giuseppe Pastore… I’m killing my SERP :P

    Reply to this comment

  • Harry Gardiner

    Harry Gardiner 30th January 2013

    A really great written article Amy, It’s fantastic seeing this post become a beacon for those forced to share names, and thus search engine results, with people more renowned.

    I myself share my name with a few people, none too famous, but highest ranking of which is the ‘Human Fly’, an American man from the late eighteen hundreds. He became famous for climbing buildings! Brilliant stuff.

    As You and Andy both rightly pointed out, personal branding online will become so much more of an important issue as the web develops further. The tips you’ve outlined above should be of great help for those looking to make their mark though.

    Much like Jen Lopez I’ve found shortening my name or using my initials in online profiles has helped massively.

    Reply to this comment

  • Iain Bartholomew 30th January 2013

    One of the few occasions I have some semblance of an advantage over others here. Finally a reason to celebrate!

    I have never really tried to rank for my name, but despite an identically named director at Centrica and an actor using the less-Gaelic Ian Bartholomew I still take up 4 of the top 10 results, including my Moz profile page and my Google+ page (with photo).

    It might be an interesting project to try and do better.

    Reply to this comment

    • Amy Fowler 30th January 2013

      Have a virtual glass of bubbly on me Iain in celebration of your very unique name!

      And keep your fingers crossed that no oddball character with your name ever pops up on TV, or that any of your few namesakes becomes an overnight celebrity.

      The trickiest thing about this game is that it can all change very quickly…..

      Reply to this comment

  • Kate Dreyer 31st January 2013

    This is a very well timed article for me – I just changed my last name 2 days ago, although not for SEO reasons. I was previously Smith so I was never going to appear in Google for my old name and it was impossible to buy a decent domain for myself. Have to say I am enjoying ranking for my new name after a few days :)

    Reply to this comment

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