Googling “Eric Goldman”

Kevin Delaney of the WSJ ran an interesting story about how parents are selecting baby names on their ability to generate distinctive results in the search engines.

As someone who went through a personal re-branding, this is a topic of particular interest. My old name, “Eric Schlachter,” was pretty unique. There are relatively few Eric Schlachters in the world, and even fewer with a high public profile. Even today, 10 years after my name change, I own the first 68 results in Google for the search “Eric Schlachter.”

However, that high Google-bility came at a significant cost. No one could pronounce or spell “Eric Schlachter,” leading to lots of misspelled variations of my name and creating all kinds of endless confusion. In fact, I own the first 14 results in Google for the search “Eric Schlacter” (note the missing second “h”).

I must confess that I didn’t check the search engines before selecting the name “Eric Goldman.” It was pre-Google, and it just didn’t occur to me. If I had, I might not have chosen the name. By adopting “Eric Goldman,” I opted into a much more common name with low distinctiveness in the search engines. There are plenty of other Eric Goldmans out there (see, e.g., this one), but consider some Eric Goldmans that are especially easy to confuse with me:

* Professor Eric Frederick Goldman, a Princeton professor whose encyclopedia entry describes him as an “American historian, author, and special advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1963 to 1966.”

* Columnist Eric Goldman, a writer about reality TV shows for IGN, located in Brisbane, CA–the exact same building Epinions is located in! (FWIW, his stuff is pretty good; and I read it often because it shows up commingled with my various vanity alerts on the name “Eric Goldman”).

* Accountant Eric Goldman from the San Fernando Valley, who owns ericgoldman.com and has rebuffed my previous overture about a possible acquisition.

* Attorney Eric Paul Goldman, an attorney in Oakland, CA.

(Just in case you’re wondering, I don’t have a middle name–my legal name is Eric Goldman. That’s it).

Despite the low distinctiveness of “Eric Goldman,” I’m proud to say that today I own the first 7 results in Google for the crowded search term “Eric Goldman” (my experience is that the results of this search fluctuates pretty regularly). My strong placement is hardly an accident. Note to parents googling “Eric Goldman” as part of a precedent check–I plan to defend this turf vigorously!

As for naming my own children, Lisa was wedded to the name “Jacob” from day 1, and Jacob Goldman is a terribly crowded name. To offset this a bit, Jacob’s middle name is Marq, a variation that I believe will make him the only Jacob Marq Goldman in the world. (Notice that Google prompts a search for Jacob Marc Goldman). But if he chooses not to use his middle name, he’s got a heavy road to top Google placement. Same goes for Dina; lots of Dina Goldmans in the world, but only one Dina Rebecca Goldman so far. Sorry, kids–use your middle name or you’re going to have to work hard for top Google placement.

UPDATES:

* Jennifer Laycock thinks precedent checks for baby names are old news. She registered the [first name/middle name].com for her daughter so that the domain name will work post-name changes (such as after marriage).

* If you want to identify trendy names (to adopt or avoid), try the Baby Wizard’s NameVoyager.

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