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The Google egosurfing trap – ok for individuals, bad for businesses

Vanité by Hans Memling, circa 1490


A recent survey found that 57% of people have Googled themselves at some time or another – that is searched for themselves online. It’s known as egosurfing, vanity searching or self-googling.

I can well believe it. In fact if anything that figure seems on the low side (speaking as someone who has Googled himself quite a few times, mostly for curiosity and vanity).

Mind you, for all the Smiths, Joneses, Williams, Patels and so on in the world, it can hardly be worth bothering. Unless your first or last name is extremely unusual, or you have a high profile online, you haven’t a hope of finding yourself on the first page.

If you’re an individual it’s fun to try it, but you shouldn’t be too worried if you’re not up near the top.

But what if you’re a small business? Well, it depends.

If your business is called something location- and service-specific like “Rotherham Taxis Ltd” or “Sussex Gardening Supplies” or ‘St Louis Wedding Supplies Inc” then you should have a bit of an advantage when it comes to climbing the Google ranks (not as much as was once the case, but that’s a different blog post). That’s because people will be searching for those terms or something very similar, even though they’ve probably never heard of your business.

But if your business is called something like “David Smith Associates” or “P.L. Jones Ltd”, then that’s a different kettle of fish.

I remember writing a website for a self-employed professional a while back. His company name was essentially his own, like the examples above, and so was his URL, with just a dot com on the end. and he was very concerned about being number in the listings when his name (a fairly common one) was Googled. But he was much less concerned about getting on the first page for terms that people who didn’t know him or his business might use.


Especially as he needed new business. And what he offered was the kind of thing people often search for online. While it’s nice to see your name at number one on Google, it means nothing when it comes to getting more customers.

If they know your name, they’re going to find you come what may. People Googling my name (assuming it is me they’re after, not some other Peter Wise) will probably already know about my website and that I’m a freelance copywriter and are just looking to find my website’s URL, or get my phone number or something. I happen, at least here in the UK, to usually be number one for my own name, but it’s unlikely to get me any extra business.

It’s the ones who want copywriting services of some kind but have never heard of me that I want to reach. That’s why it’s relevant keyword terms which I push rather than my own name (as these Google results show).

And the same goes for any professional or small business looking to do well with the search engines. By all means mention your name on your site, even if your URL or business name has nothing to do with your own; it helps to establish trust, and remind visitors that you’re not just an impersonal entity.

But don’t push it for the search engines.  What you do is much more important than what you’re called.


For more on best practice is website copywriting, please see website copywriting for small businesses plus website copywriting for companies outside the UK

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