Well I was surprised to see that my site has flown to the top of Google search results for something I just mentioned in passing: Google vanity searches. Yes, I admit that I'm a frequent Google vanity searcher. It's quite interesting to see where one's name appears out on the wild wild web. One can also (electronically) meet their fellow name-sharers -- an interesting experience to say the least. Even more interesting is that there are quite a few posts on the web on how to do a Google vanity search. Well, I figured since Google thinks I'm an expert on the topic I'd post the definitive how-to guide. Here goes.
What is a Google vanity search?
A Google vanity search, also called "egosurfing," is when one searches for his or her own name on Google to view the pages from across the web that contain that name. Google vanity searches presumably include the word "vanity" because one may say that it is narcissistic to think that there are websites around the web that really are interested in using one's name and publishing posts about a particular, non-celebrity person. Well, one would be surprised at what's out there in the electronic jungle.
Why perform a Google vanity search?
Because it's fun! Besides a way to cure boredom, Google vanity searches do serve an important purpose. They're a great way for people to evaluate their online presence and determine in what areas they are the most popular. For example, an upcoming actor may want to see if she or he has been reviewed by critics or had their works mentioned in blog and other news posts. I have personally used vanity searches to determine where my name or business is being painted in negative way or if my content is being used without my permission or proper citation. I then contact the poster or the website and get the issue resolved. It works! Vanity search results can be scary though; who knows how and where your name might be used. And once your name is posted somewhere on the web, it's next to impossible to get it removed (or at least to get it removed quickly).
How to perform a Google vanity search
- Navigate your internet browser to www.google.com (sure, any other search engine will work here too).
- In the search box type your name in quotes (e.g., "Jared Olen"). Quotes mean that Google will return search results first that contain the words exactly as they appear between the quotes. Thus in my example, results for "Olen Jared" would not appear (or at least not near the top of the results). Also note that if you use your middle name or middle initial a lot like I do then you'll have to do another search with that initial.
- Click "Search."
- Browse the search results. If you're not too familiar with reading search results you might not be able to easily differentiate between important hits and unimportant ones. What I mean is that some strange-looking URLs will show up in the results, but these websites are really just compiling content or mashing content from other sites together. Look at the URLs (the website addresses) and only pay attention to the ones that look like they came from a real website (usually because they're .com's, .org's, etc.).
- Enjoy. Or not. If you find some "bad press," don't hesitate to try to resolve the issue with the poster of the information or the website owner. It's your name after all.