Every day, about 2pm, my Google Alerts pops into my inbox. It's my free, easy and automated Web search tool that gives me real-time information on the appearance of my name on the Web so I can monitor what is said about me online.
With Google Alerts, I get links to some of the stuff I have said and sometimes to what someone else has said about me.
Through these alerts, I have also come to know some of my namesakes. (Because Google Alerts can't tell us apart, we all appear in the same report.)
The other Judy Dunn's hold a strange fascination for me. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to live their life instead of mine.
Take Judy Dunn, distinguished professor of psychology, author and expert on sibling relationships. She wrote a paper on "A cross-study of prosodic modifications in mothers' and fathers' speech to pre-verbal infants" published in the Cambridge University Journal. Not sure what that even means, but I'm impressed.
Okay, I might have been tempted to spend my life wandering the walkways of an ivy-covered campus like the other Judy. Or sitting at my desk, reading freshman research papers. I can see my name etched in brass on my office door: Dr. Judy Dunn. Sounds safe—comforting in a way.
Then there is Judy Dunn, writer of kids' books: The Little Duck, The Little Pig, The Little Puppy. She has a franchise going there, this animal woman. Still, I might get bored and decide to write a book called Mean Old Stingray. And that might frighten the toddler crowd.
Or Judy Dunn, polymer clay artist. Necklaces! Origami clay cranes! Sparkly stuff! This Judy Dunn actually sounds like she has way too much fun.
There is even a Judy Dunn in Canada who thinks her condo association is spending too much money on carpet cleaning. In a strange way, I bonded with her on that.
The day I died
Sometimes a Google Alerts comes in that wakes you up. Like last Wednesday when I found out I had died.
It was kind of weird because I wasn't really expecting it. Just reading along and, bam. There it was.
In the days before Google Alerts, Paul, Jamie's husband on the TV sit-com Mad About You, had his credit card gobbled up by the ATM machine. When he went into the bank to complain, they checked his account and said he couldn't have the card back because he was dead.
He spent most of the rest of the episode trying to prove he was alive. (The woman at the bank just wasn't buying it.)
At the end of the show, he attends the other Paul's funeral. It is that morbid fascination some of us have with death. What will my funeral be like? What will people say about me? A touchy topic played funny.
Today, we don't have to attend the service. We can read about in Google Alerts.
The Google Alerts link took me to my obituary. It was all there in black and white.
I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. I stayed a hometown girl. I was a banker (-e-e-ew!) and worked at six different branches over the years. I had a husband, a son and a granddaughter. And I will "intern" (Don't think that's the right word. Isn't that what college students studying to be doctors and teachers do?) in Austin, Texas to be close to my husband and son.
Okay, I'm a little curious. Why is my funeral in a church in a little Alabama town, but I'll be buried in Texas near my husband and son, who are evidently still living. Why are they in Texas? Are there going to be two funerals? I feel like I deserve answers.
Are all the other you's behaving themselves?
If you are a solopreneur or small biz owner and people totally relate to you—your name—rather than your business, it makes sense to keep an eye on the places you are appearing on the Web.
You may not have died like I did, but one of your name-alikes might have done something truly awful, like embezzling the company receipts or breaking into a house and drinking all their Scotch. Some things you can do to separate yourself from them:
- Set up a Google Alerts account. It's fast, easy and free and lets you keep track of the real you and your name-alikes.
- Be more focused in your search requests. Put quotation marks around your name when you fill out your Google Alerts request, so the search engine reads it as one phrase and not two unrelated words. It'll save you time going through a bunch of irrelevant results.
- Consider using StepRep, the free reputation management tool. Having a common name can be a curse. But with StepRep, you can use your widget and profile page to aggregate and link to all sites that refer to the real you, instead of that banker in Alabama who died. And you can influence Google so it's more apt to put your real results closer to the top.
- Distinguish yourself. Try using a middle initial or middle name in your online identity to separate you from the others.
- Get your own name and brand out there. Start a blog and post regularly. Comment on other blogs. Participate in forums. The more active you are online, the more Google will want to elevate your results in the searches.
Do you know what your namesakes are doing online? What tools do you have for managing your reputation on the Web?