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):
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:
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” –
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.