Ever Googled yourself? Of course you have. I also have. Far too many times over the last few weeks. It's all for a good cause though: I'm trying to enhance my online presence.
I've realised I have a big issue. Ashley Kirk isn't exactly an uncommon name. Owing to sharing my name with an apparently popular American model, I have to compete with some rather revealing pictures of ‘Ashley Kirk’.
Only my Guardian and Independent author profiles appear on the first page of a Google search for ‘Ashley Kirk’. You have to click on the second page to find my blog – the site I'm most concerned about getting people to visit. This is an issue, as I'm not immediately visible to people who are searching for me.
So what can you do about this? Changing my online name was suggested as a possible solution by Ben Whitelaw, Head of Community at the Times. This way, I'd surrender Ashley Kirk to the more popular model version and try to stake my claim on, for example, Ashley J Kirk.
This route is tricky, and one which requires a lot of consideration. I'd have to change my byline on the publications I've already written for, and I'd also have to find a worthwhile alternative. @AshleyKirk and @AshleyJKirk are both taken on Twitter, and a Google search for Ashley J Kirk also throws up a substantial amount of noise (admittedly, not as much as Ashley Kirk).
Giving up your own name is a big deal, and you've got to be sure it's worth the gamble. It works for some people, such as Patrick E Scott, a past student on City's Interactive Journalism MA. Because of the crowds flooding other versions of Ashley Kirk, the move is just a little too much for me at the moment.
So, for the time being, I'm not going to make the massive step to change my online identity. I've decided to work on the SEO of my blog instead of changing who I am online.
I've already begun establishing myself as ‘Ashley Kirk’ across several publications and mediums, and other options, such as ‘Ashley J Kirk’, are just too congested with noise for me to change this (less nudity, however).
The curse of having a popular name has forced me into the decision to make myself the most interesting and visible Ashley Kirk on Google. I may eventually change my online identity if this plan doesn't work, but at the moment, I want to at least give it a go before making such a drastic decision.