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C’Mon Google, Women are Entities Whose Names Might Change!

Back on November 23rd, I put up a post asking people for their best holistic SEO tips, and this led to a very interesting side discussion about the online fate of women who change their names when they get married. My basic reaction to all this is “C’mon Google, this is something you’ve gotta fix!” Note that this change happens to men too!
It started with a question from Lisa Heffernan who asked the following question:

Any tips for women on changing their names and then disappearing from SEO? I have two identities from an SEO perspective, though I do try to only have one in real life!

I saw this and had no idea what to say, but Paul Gailey Albuquerque offered up this helpful comment:
Womens Profile Other Names Field
Rae Hoffman then joined in with her thoughts, including a link to her excellent blog post on name changes from October 2012:
Rae Hoffman On Womens Name Changes
Lisa Heffernan commented on this comment:
Lisa Heffernan on Womens Name Changes
as did Christine DeGraff:
Christine DeGraff on Womens Name Changes
The two statements in this discourse that were the most telling were:

  1. (Rae Hoffman): “I faced the same problem – I attempted the name change and then decided to flip back”
  2. (Christine DeGraff): “I am getting married in May and have come to the conclusion that I cannot change my name online because it turns out that I am more worried about what Google thinks than anyone else”

OK Google, What’s up With That?

Last I checked women were approximately 50% of the world’s population. It is also a very common practice culturally for women to change their names at the point of marriage, and in some countries it is common for men to change their names too. The reality is that it is good for a nuclear family to share a common identity, and while I have not researched the history of how it came about, I strongly suspect that this sense of common identity is a major reason for this practice.
With the recent changes that Google has made, they purportedly have a much stronger ability to recognize entities and properties associated with those entities (was that a Hummingbird that just flew by?). So here is the kicker:
People are entities whose name (which is just a label) might change.
In other words, the name (or label) a person has, is not the entity. It is just a property of the entity:
Woman Full Height With Properties
So, the question of the day: Is Google up to the task?. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Thoughts on “C’Mon Google, Women are Entities Whose Names Might Change!”

  1. This also applies to men. In a lot of countries when a couple gets married (no matter if this is a same sex or not), each person in the marriage (man or woman) can choose to either change their name or keep it the same or combine names. I agree it would be great if society and companies such as Facebook and Google can make their systems work better in this case. However it is, in my opinion, a bit shortsighted to just say this happens only to women.

  2. While I did not change the post title, I made several edits within to acknowledge that men face the name change issue too!

  3. There’s considerably less of a cultural push for men to change their names, though. As far as I know, it’s an issue that affects women on a much greater scale.

  4. I live in Mexico where the names of both parties remains unchanged after the wedding. Seems like a good idea to me. However I’m not given to a lot of romanticism and if you must call me cold hearted (or whatever) do what you will. It seems that culture lags just a bit behind technology and in this case whatever quick fix happens to work for the user is probably the best way to go. Hope I’ve offended no one.

  5. I assume this could really be a big problem for many people who may decide to change their names for whatever reason. I wonder how Google is going to fix it.
    All I can say is that for anyone who readily uses a particular name online, it is readily important to stick with the name as “pen name” or “business name”.
    After all, a name change doesn’t change who you are in person but it could affect your SEO greatly. It is a decision to be made before hand.

  6. Thank you for this insightful article post.
    I think we can already see a significant number of career women and female executives dismissing taking on the married name because of the potential damage it might cause to their career (financially as well)
    I would like to say from personal experience that there are a few ways of looking at this touchy subject ;
    A couple of things to consider is the field which the career woman practices in and the level of her current online presence need to be factored in for the ability to weigh the positives and negatives realistically because if the career woman’s online presence is non-existent or weak then yea sure change the name , but big issue to think about is if the name change is going to cause a stir and/or interruption to the extremely popular online heavyweight career woman because she has a bunch of blogs , posts , articles, interviews on thousands of various blogs and web pages which will not appear anymore after the name change is complete .

  7. My girlfriend (of 7 years) and I have been in discussion about changing both of our last names to something of our own. It’s not always the women that are the only ones 😉 Also if we didn’t choose an entirely new unique last name, we would likely hyphen our last names together.
    That’s a really tricky one for Google though, if a link is going to a page on the internet directed as “Joe Dirt” and the guy changed his name to “Joe Clean”.. that sounds like a huge task to change all of the “Joe Dirt” anchor texts to “Joe Clean” and also a huge task to be able to immediately understand that’s the direction they want to go.
    Great article though 😀

  8. This is an invaluable article! I just completed my first seo course and this is a complication I hadn’t considered. It’s difficult enough to deal with it offline, so I’m thankful I’ve read your article in advance of potential online problems!

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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