What Happens to Your Personal SEO When You Change Your Name?

Laura Ginn

If you are a writer or anybody else who cares about how easy it is to find you and your work online using search engines, you may wonder what the impact on your personal SEO will be if you change your name.

Photo by Brandon Geary
Photo by Brandon Geary

Name Changes and Social Media

The most common reason for a name change is of course marriage, and we have probably all seen names come up on our Facebook news feed and briefly wondered ‘who on Earth is that?’ before realising it is an old friend with a new name thanks to recent nuptials. Facebook allows various ways of remaining searchable on your old name (though many users still prefer to just include ‘nee Smith’ or ‘was Smith’ after their new last name), so while showing up with your new moniker may confuse your existing friends, it shouldn’t stop people who knew you in the past finding and adding you if you don’t want it to. It is also easy to change your name on Twitter, because old tweets will retain your old name and still be attached to the same account. For social media then, a new name isn’t really a problem, but what about your bylines and citations of your work?

Should You Keep Your Old Name For Work?

For a lot of people, one consideration is changing your name but retaining your old name professionally. This won’t generally cause any changes at all to your SEO, though if you have changed your name on social networks it may be more difficult to retain consistency between the two and you may lose something if you promote your work a lot through them. Google themselves advise that:

‘Just in the interest of people being able to find you and your work — and if it’s otherwise all the same to you — you should probably preserve your maiden name’

Another popular approach is, whether you have gone ‘double barrelled’ in your private life or not, to use a double surname in your work. This, especially if you keep your first and maiden name together with your new name last, will also help retain the SEO you have built up and also make all of your work from the past easy to connect with the work you do in the future.

Could Your New Name Actually Help Your SEO?

An interesting point to consider is that your new name may be rarer than your old one. In this case, it will actually help you to switch to your new name or use a double last name. This will make your work easier to find, especially if you can go back and change your name on older work and on any author profiles on blogs or sites you contribute to. If you go from being Sarah Smith to Sarah Papadopoulos, you will obviously be much easier to find based on your new name and there won’t be many other writers with identical or similar names out there for you to be confused with!

Of course, SEO is usually not the deciding issue when it comes to a name change, but as a professional, it is worth thinking about the impact it may have on your personal brand online.