Personal Branding: Identity Theft via Google?

My long-time buddy Dave Berry is a funny guy. And, he’s a published author. But, he’s NOT Dave Barry, the Miami humorist who’s even funnier and has more published books. Therein lies the problem – Google thinks he is. Or, more to the point, Google thinks that anyone looking for Dave Berry must be too dumb to spell “Barry” correctly. I used to kid Dave (the one I know personally) about Google asking, “Did you mean Dave Barry?” when I searched his name. Now, Google doesn’t bother to ask – here’s what you get when you search for “Dave Berry” (without quotes):
Search for Dave Berry

As you can see, my pal Dave doesn’t exist. And, it’s not some other Dave Berry rock star or celebrity blogger who’s displaced him in the rankings, it’s a guy who spells his name differently. And Google knows it – look at the titles and snippets returned by Google in the results. In the past, the “berry” results were peppered with a few references to the humorist in which the surname had been misspelled with an “e” – that’s totally understandable. The current results are packed with links to an incorrect spelling.

It Gets Worse

The Dave Berry I know is one of the country’s top college admissions experts. As noted above, he wrote the book on elite college admissions. He writes a college admissions blog. He co-founded College Confidential, the web’s top college admissions community. He does high level college counseling, and has done so for decades. Surely adding the terms “college admissions” to the search will be enough to sort out the correctly-spelled “dave berry” from the misspelled impostor, right? Well, guess again. The Miami funny guy wrote one piece about college admissions years ago, and that’s enough for him to grab the top couple of spots despite the incorrect name:
dave berry college admissions
Now my Dave has never gone and optimized his online presence specifically for the term “college admissions” but you’d think the phrase might be a clue to Google that would help sort out the incorrect spelling issue…

The Final Indignity

Just in case Google hadn’t done enough in obliterating Dave Berry-with-an-E’s online identity, check out the top suggestion for “dave berry” –
dave berry suggestions
Sometimes you just can’t catch a break… apparently, even one’s innards can be hijacked. Naturally, if you click the suggested link for “dave berry colonoscopy,” you are taken to Dave Barry’s colon instead.

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— who has written 985 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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10 responses to "Personal Branding: Identity Theft via Google?" — Your Turn

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bill 14. April 2009 at 6:35 pm

Apparently, “Don’t Be Evil” no longer applies?

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Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
14. April 2009 at 9:27 pm

Bill, I don’t think Google is being intentionally evil here… just a bit TOO helpful!

Roger

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Hobit 15. April 2009 at 9:09 am

That “Dave Berry” text link in the first paragraph should be enough to resurrect your Dave in the SERPs :)

If not, I suggest a name change…something like Dave Xyganjawic. Nice ring to it, right?

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CJrun 15. April 2009 at 12:35 pm

Perhaps, to express his frustration, Mr. Berry should just say, “BOOGER”! I find that helps.

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Emma Rhoades 15. April 2009 at 9:00 pm

what is this world coming to!! I remember when Google used to give you the option – “did you mean to spell it like this…”

Bummer… sorry Dave.. :)

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Jeff Cotrupe 16. April 2009 at 5:42 am

Great name for a rock band:
Dave Berry Colonoscopy

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Herry 17. April 2009 at 11:51 pm

He should use his middle name. Writers often do that to avoid confusion with an established writer.

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Richard 20. April 2009 at 11:50 am

n. a small roundish juicy fruit without a stone : juniper berries | [as adj. ] berry clusters.
• Botany any fruit that has its seeds enclosed in a fleshy pulp, for example, a banana or tomato.
• any of various kernels or seeds, such as the coffee bean.
• a fish egg or the roe of a lobster or similar creature.

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KnowEm 29. April 2009 at 8:28 pm

Have you tried using our services? Searching your name on our site and registering where available can help in the algo.

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Ivan Guel 7. February 2011 at 4:35 pm

Maybe I can shed some light. Google can be throwing these results for a couple of reasons. As we all know, google has google bots that index the best search results for your term. But Google is also here to make a profit from your search. So Google will provide search results based on popularity. After comparing incoming search engine traffic to both names, the dominant name, (that belonging to the Miami Herald columnist), is the name being searched for the most. If you know how Googles algorithms work, then this would make perfect sense. To the rest of us, this is not what we expect from search engines, but thats just another sign of capitalization.

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