How to Change Your Name and Preserve Your SEO
It’s wedding season and every weekend my Instagram blows up with picture-perfect moments of newlyweds and their unique hashtags. In the weeks following, I feel as if I’ve gained new Facebook friends when they start posting with their new last names. We’ve all had that moment when we had to click through to a “new friend’s” profile only to remember that it’s a sorority sister who recently tied the knot.
The process of changing your name post-nuptials is a long road with trips to the social security office, DMV, and several hours online updating credit cards, insurance policies and more. I get why SEO might not be at the top of your list. As a digital marketer and writer, it’s something I’m taking into account with my own wedding just a few weeks ago, and if you are active online – you should be thinking about this too.
Should I change my Google+ or Twitter handle and update my name on the company blog? Does it matter? Actually – it kinda does. If you want to preserve your SEO and enable people to find you, you’ll want to weigh your options before you jump into the process.
Just in my own experience, I’ve had difficulty finding journalists who have gotten married and changed their names. Searching for them by their maiden name would give me their work and contact information from before they were married, yet I would be unable to find updated information or recent publications. It took extra steps and some educated guesses to find their married name and current work. Save recruiters, journalists, and others from similar frustrations, by making your name change clear.
The way I see it, you have 3 options to maintain your SEO.
- Keep your maiden name professionally while changing it legally. Your driver’s license will list your new last name, but anything you publish will be under your maiden name. You don’t have to change your professional social media accounts, but you can change anything that’s just a private account.
- Change your last name and add your maiden name as a middle name. This is a common practice among women of the past few decades, and it’s easy to do. Whether you hyphenate it or simply use the maiden name as a middle name, your SEO will remain relatively intact. Anyone should be able to easily determine that while they were searching for “Jane Doe,” “Jane Doe Smith” is the same person.
- Change your last name, but update everything else that you’ve published. If you’ve been publishing content for a decade, you might not have access to articles written several years ago. Still, you can probably update the most important ones and all future publications will be under your new last name. Search results for your maiden name might not show any of your recent work or contact information, but if you don’t think it’s a big deal, I wouldn’t worry about it.
If you are planning to change your name on your social profiles – there are a few things you need to keep in mind as each platform differs from the others.
If you have a vanity URL for Google+, you will not be able to change that. In this scenario, I would suggest adding your new last name to the title on the profile and keeping your maiden name as a middle name. You can add a maiden name under basic information too.
Twitter + Instagram
You can change your name on Twitter, no problem – but you might not be able to add both last names, as there are character limits. However, changing your Twitter handle is different. If you change your Twitter handle from @janedoe to @janesmith, anyone will be able to claim the original Twitter handle (unless you keep both accounts for yourself), and anyone who has ever tagged you as @janedoe will now be led to that old account – not your new one. So if someone else claims @janedoe, they will essentially be getting credit for anything you would have written or been tagged in. For this reason, I suggest changing your Twitter name – and leaving the Twitter handle intact. The same rules apply to Instagram.
For LinkedIn, you can actually add a “former name” so that you will show up in search results for people searching for both your maiden and married last names. Handy, right?
Facebook is similar to LinkedIn, where you can add an “alternate name” which will show up in parenthesis next to your current last name on Facebook. Another option is to add your maiden name as your middle name on Facebook. They also have options that allow you to display your name on Facebook with or without your middle (maiden) name. Additionally, you can change your vanity URL – if the new one is available. Facebook will typically re-direct so there isn’t a problem with improper tagging or broken URLs here. This article explains it more in depth.
Note: The great thing about Facebook is that if someone searches you by your married name – it will only show up that way (“Caitlin Gustafson”) in the search bar. However, if they search your maiden name – it’ll show up as “Caitlin Gustafson (Dodds)” – isn’t that convenient?
A Rule of Thumb
Consider having a singular name on all social channels. We always recommend this for brands and businesses since Google will associate them together and improve rankings. The same goes for any singular person. Having the same name across social channels and anywhere you are published will help ensure you are found.
Obviously, changing your name is a very personal decision, and everyone looks at it differently. The SEO value of your maiden name vs. married name is a small part of the picture, but it can have an impact on your online presence and your professional career.