It’s me. But let’s pretend i’m Joe Bloggs and i want to find out who Sean MacEntee is… what can i piece together about this guy online?
There’s three of them
Well, there’s a few Sean MacEntees around, at least with an online presence of some sort. The most famous is this one; a senior irish politician (TÃ¡naiste) who was a key figure in post-independent ireland, serving under Eamon de Valera & Sean Lemass.
The second most famous Sean MacEntee is me, the blogger, according to google. I’ve a long way to go before i can become TÃ¡naiste or go one better and become Taoiseach, but at least i’ve got time on my side 😉 A quick search in google.ie shows i’m not no.1 for my name, however i occupy 6 of the 10 ‘slots’ available on page 1 of google results plus i have my own ‘latest results’ section which pulls in live updates from my twitter. So i’m not doing badly at all but of course i’m not happy about having someone ‘beat’ me to no.1 spot for my own name.
In google.com i get the insulting ‘did you mean’ suggestion when i search for my name. I’ve no doubt i can change that over time and get google to acknowledge ‘mac’ in a name can be spelt with an ‘A’ in it too.
Third on the list of Sean MacEntees is head of the research center in DkIT which happens to be the college i go to. That has caused confusion on more than one occasion. For example, i was sent replies to tech support questions which i never asked and after a bit of head scratching i realized someone had obviously searched some sort of college database for ‘sean macentee’ and fired off replies to the first email on the list, which happened to be a 3rd year IT student and not head of the research center.
We’re the lucky ones
So according to Google, there’s three of us, each with a fairly big presence online. I’m lucky, if i was called ‘John Smith’ i’d face an uphill battle to get myself on to google’s front page. It’s such a common name that i’d face all sorts of kings, politicians, musicians, drinks manufacturers etc….
So when an employer comes along and googles ‘john smith’ or does a search on facebook, they’ll get lost. I’ve done it myself – searched for people and just given up because i lose them in the crowd… all because of their name. It’s a real problem. A common name leaves you at a huge disadvantage in my opinion if you’re trying to get yourself seen online.
And of course, as time goes on, there’s going to be more people with your name online. The crowd is only going to get bigger. So your name becomes less unique and more irrelevant. The whole point of a name is that it helps identify you. Online, identifying people with names does work, but only if the names aren’t common.
Like a lot of things online, the person who works the hardest and smartest wins. Search for ‘George Bush’ and you get results for ‘George W Bush’ (the latest one). Does that mean the latest one was the best or did more? No, he’s just more relevant and more popular today than his father. There’s more information and pictures / videos / chat about him online.
Naturally, if ‘x’ is being mentioned and viewed more than ‘y’ online, it makes sense to rank ‘x’ above ‘y’. So it all boils down to content & backlinks. The more content, the merrier, if you want to be seen online. Also, the more backlinks to that content, the merrier. If you want to get to top spot, become a politician, footballer or xfactor star. Guaranteed extensive media coverage which means you’ll top google for your own name.
Life after death online
It’s generally accepted people don’t look beyond the first page of google search results, so if you’re not there, you don’t exist. Harsh, but that’s the reality of it. Of course we have usernames which are 100% unique but what happens to usernames after we die? Does facebook keep my username forever? Myprofile forever? Does gmail keep my email address locked to me forever?
This is a really big problem and one i’ve thought about several times over the years. People will die… at the minute, we haven’t really accounted for that online. If someone dies is it right to erase their username and put it back on the market? What about incoming links in that case? How does that effect search results and credibility of search results. I get a headache thinking about it. Sites like entrustet.com help combat this ‘problem’ but it’s still a gray area and still a relatively untapped area in my opinion. We don’t know how to handle death online… there is no set strategy for ‘burying’ profiles or usernames like there is in real life with a person where you have a funeral & burial.
In real life (well, in non-cyberspace life), death his organised because it’s been around for so long and it happens so often… the idea of profiles and usernames is really only about 10 years old. A process for disposing of them will evolve, no question. But you can’t dispose of content – or at least you shouldn’t. So if you want to be remembered or seen online, for years to come, start publishing content and lots of it. It’s the only way to get yourself noticed and stand out from people that have the same name as you 😉