In my posts leading up to this one, I have shown you ways to build a stronger online personal branding platform by using social media profiles and basic search engine optimization techniques. Everything has been predicated on your being able to earn some listings in the top-ten Google search results for your name. This is relatively easy for unique or not-so-common names, like mine. (Do you think my parents planned it that way?)

But what do you do if your name doesn't stand out from the pack? What if you share a name with a celebrity or an infamous criminal? What if is already taken? What if the Google search results for your name are so crowded, you'll never crack the top-10 without shelling out a lot of cash to buy links?

Don't worry. Even with what seems like a house of cards stacked against you, there are still ways to carve out your personal brand niche.

Option #1: Use Your Middle Name or Nickname
By using your middle name or initial across all your social profiles, you can stand apart from other people who share your name. You can also chose to use a nickname in place of your first name. Just make sure you have a nickname you can use in a professional setting.

Option #2: Add a Descriptor
Is there something you are known for? It could be your profession, a hobby, an award you've won. Simply add it to your social profile usernames. For example, I could use RichardHostlerCopywriter if I were building a professional personal brand and trying to distinguish myself from other people named Richard Hostler.

Option #3: Add a Location
When searching in Google, people often add location information to searches that don't provide the results they are looking for. You've probably done this yourself if you've ever searched for a local store you want to visit. For personal branding purposes, adding your state and hometown can help searchers find you more easily. Try searching your name, then searching your name with your state after it. Do you get different results sets? Make sure you add location info to all your profiles and Web pages to take advantage of these searches.

Option #4: Try Other Domains
If I were starting to build an online personal brand platform and found was already taken, I would consider registering under a different domain. I could try or the newer These are just a couple of the many top-level domain options out there. Try or a similar service to see what domains are available with your name.

Option #5: Change Your Name
This last option isn't for most people. It is by far the most drastic and most expensive option, but it also offers (depending on how much research you do and how far you are willing to go) 100% certainty that your name will be unique and easy to find online. It does, however, carry the major drawback of destroying any personal brand equity you've built with your given name, both online and offline.

So, there you have it. Even if your given name doesn't stand out on its own, you can still carve out your niche in Google by getting creative and changing things up.

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