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Ask HN: How to become the first result of a Google search for a name?
130 points by vojnovski on Nov 26, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments
A while ago, I decided to write a simple personal landing page. I went about it as any average HN reader would, I googled what the best free way to deploy static html was. I went with Github pages + Cloudflare, as using S3 + Cloudfront did not justify mulling around with paying AWS. The ssl certificate is shared between several site, but oh well, it'll do.

I reused an old domain (vv.mk), that I had previously used for a Blogger blog, spent some time playing with latencies, as my page loaded in a second and a half, and Cloudflare didn't seem to cache it. Lesson: Cloudflare does not edge-cache html, and you need a Page Rule to enable it via their interface.

I learnt a bit about webfonts, and finally decided to host the fonts myself (on Github pages), rather than do a roundtrip to google, as it added about 300ms on average to page load, using a setup that would work for most recent browsers (https://google-webfonts-helper.herokuapp.com).

I confirmed I had a blazingly fast site via http://www.webpagetest.org/ and https://tools.keycdn.com/, and then it was time to make Google return it when people searched for my full name.

To my chagrin, this does not seem to be easy. I added my name to the title and the description HTML meta tags. I added the domain to the Google Search Console in all its versions (www, no-www, http, https), asked the Google crawler to cralw it and update its index. I added links to it to my social networks profiles where they hadn't been already added.

A day after, the Google index is not updated, my site, along with the description of the content that it had up to a day ago, is buried well into the 4th Google results page. My google searches on SEO of personal websites have been completely unfruitful. The 1st Google results page is still populated with useful info (most of my social network profiles), but it seems logical that a personal website would be returned as the first result.

Any tips?

edit: Most of the comments suggest this is due to the lack of content. While I accept this might be a cause for the bad ranking, the lack of content is quite intentional, the page is meant to be a sort of a personal landing page with links to social networks profiles, workplaces, etc.




Change your name into something more unique. For example,

    a975c295ddeab5b1a5323df92f61c4cc9fc88207



sha1("date\n") == "a975c295ddeab5b1a5323df92f61c4cc9fc88207"


Haha, this is even more baffling! How did you know that?

PS: Might it have come from a botched attempt to hash the current date?


Yes, it's true. I think I can explain it as follows. I wanted to type:

    date | sha1sum
Then another part of my brain decided to type:

    echo "blah blah gibberish" | sha1sum
But then I ended up typing:

    echo date | sha1sum
I suspect you could reverse engineer that with standard password cracking techniques.


It definitely helps to have a unique name, but it's possible without. A lot of good advice in this thread, but as someone who achieved what you want, some extra points:

* Don't focus on one site. Spread your content around on as many sites as possible and link each one back to your home page. This is easier than you might expect -- nearly all tech sites are looking for content creators, whether or not they explicitly advertise it.

* Don't expect it to happen in a matter of days. It took me months/years to push "Gareth Dwyer" the poker player off the front page of google, and all he had was some YouTube page. It takes weeks for Google to update their indexes sometimes (even changing a big site over from no-www to www recently took several weeks to properly reflect on Google).

* The URL is important. Get a .com or another 'more official' domain. This is a grey/changing area, but people still have pretty big biases based on TLDs, and this affects click-through and therefore ranking. I wouldn't click on vv.mk unless I was actually in Macedonia and expecting it.

* And as others have said, put more content on your site. Even if it's only a landing page, you want people to spend a minute or so looking around. If it has a high bounce rate, it'll hurt your rankings.

Good luck :)


I'll second the point about creating a hub. I've pushed my personal site + blog to the first page for my name using this technique.

https://www.google.com/search?q=Taylor+Edmiston&ie=UTF-8&oe=...

I link back to it from everywhere, especially my social profiles.

The blog is more important in terms of content, so I'm planning to transition to that being my main hub with everything else as a profile page on that site eventually.

I also previously had the rest of the first page with my social profiles until someone with the same name as me got arrested and convicted of murder, and that press sunk my links to page two. On top of that, another person with the same name is getting married and their marriage sites are ahead too but I think that's temporary and they'll sink afterwards. I've started including my middle initial in social profiles which helps differentiate.


FYI, it looks like you have an expired SSL cert on your website.


Thanks, I'll get that taken care of.


Also looks like you went to prison for murder.


That guys is basically the reason I started using my (different than his) middle initial everywhere across the interwebs. :/


Your site is basically empty. Current content:

Welcome.

Hi, I'm Viktor. More to come, in the meantime you can contact me via twitter, linkedin, or via email at <my name> at <the domain this site is on>.

More links and a pgp key at Keybase.

Made with ️ in Nice.

Should say something more like:

Welcome.

Hi, I'm Viktor Vojnovski. I do (stuff you do, reasons why people would look for you online). You can also find me on twitter @vojnovski. Here is my linkedin profile. You can email me via ViktorVojnovski at <this domain name>.

I can also be found on Keybase.

Made with ️ in Nice, France.

As others have said, it really should be ViktorVojnovski.com.

Edited to reflect updated location info.

Re your update. My suggested edits don't add a lot more words. But they do replace completely empty fluff ("More to come, in the meantime ...") with actual useful info. That empty fluff is apparently also a lie if there is no intent to actually add more info.


Fyi, it's "Republic of Macedonia".


If you wanna be correct and not upset the Greeks, it's "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".


Which in turn upsets another set of people. There isn't, AFAIK, a non-offensive designation for this area.


Thanks!


1. Get your full name as a .com (victorvojnovski.com) 2. Put any real content on it. Maybe a blog? Helps to have links back. 3. Wait a few years. 4. Success!


> Get your full name as a .com (victorvojnovski.com)

Do this NOW. Seriously.


I dunno if it is so important these days.

I've had my full name as a .com for about 20 years now, with plenty of content on the site. Over the years I've watched it slip down the search results and it is now on page 10 when you search for my firstname lastname where my domain is firstnamelastname.com

But then again I have a more common name than victorvojnovski including a D-list celebrity, evangelical country musician, and retail store with the same name.


Full name is very important because google gives heavy weight to exact matches on domain names for search terms and names tend to be pretty unique.

The other important signal is backlinks to your domain from social networks with your name. These will indicate that the domain is authoritative for the name on the social profile.


Done. It seems it can't hurt, even if it only redirects to the .mk tld one.


I’d do it the other way around. Redirect .mk to .com.


definitely.


> it can't hurt,

But it also wont help a bit.

There aren't too many facts in the SEO world, most is snake oil and stuff that worked ages ago. But to redirect a .com to a .mk is pretty sure a non optimal solution if you are interested in users from outside of Macedonia.


".com" is for businesses, so it seems strange to use it for a personal name.

Also, next year the trend may be to register ".io", etc. You might end up on a slippery slope, paying $100 per year for something that you don't really need.


Nobody cares what the original use case for .com was 25 years ago. And the ".com trend" is going strong for the last 25 years and will for a few more years. If you target is international going with a country TLD is a big mistake.

> paying $100 per year for something that you don't really need.

That is what he is doing now. Paying 100$ per year for a useless .mk domain when the .com would cost 10$.


> Most of the comments suggest this is due to the lack of content. While I accept this might be a cause for the bad ranking, the lack of content is quite intentional, the page is meant to be...

The reason for you omitting content isn't going to magically increase your pagerank.


Ironically, this post will actually help you achieve what you are looking to do. As another has mentioned it is now on page 1 for me. And as another has said search results are now personalized.

So how do you get it to #1 for your name. Content can help but is not 100% needed in this case. Your name is rather unique. I am in the similar situation as I have a fairly unique name too.

So what I recommend is making your site a destination. Make sure all your social profiles link to the domain. Reference your name in the link where possible. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Github, etc.

Lastly as someone else has mentioned, give it some time. It will move up as you build up the importance of the website.

And if you want, while you could change domains to include your name, you could also just have a page (url) that has your full name in it.


To some degree, this is a Sisyphean task: Google doesn't have one solitary index or signal anymore, it's extremely personalized. So even if you are number one for you, it's extremely likely that you won't be for much of the rest of the world.

And this assumes you have a unique-ish name/site/project.


You could at least get a better idea by searching with the !g bang through DDG. It won't solve the problem of other people's personal filters, but at least you'll get an objective result not based on your own.


Since !g just redirects to a normal Google search url, I don't see how this would be any different than searching Google directly.


Don't worry about making your personal site the first result. Having your name spread out across multiple sites can help give searchers a more wholistic view of who are and what you have done in the past that makes you stand out.

Here's what I did: I negotiated with my parents before I was born to give me a unique name.

I made a github profile with lots of projects.

I wrote a short crappy book for Amazon Kindle.

I was involved with a local organization's student opensource initiative (like a small Google summer of code) and they have me mentioned in various articles.

I made a LinkedIn profile.

I made a youtube channel from when I was a kid in 2008 and have many videos.

I wrote a piece of fan fiction way back when.

I probably should add my name to my various personal project sites...


>Here's what I did: I negotiated with my parents before I was born to give me a unique name.

Yeah, this is really helpful for SEO, so if you haven't done this yet for your personal site, go do that!


Hey Viktor....

I googled your domain (vv.mk) and, if I were in your shoes, I would wait for a few days and see if your website ranks. The cached version still seems to point at Blogger. I don't read Macedonian (assuming that Google Translate picked the correct language), but the cached title is still "Free your mind".

If I were in your shoes, I would:

1.) Assume that it will take at least a week or two to re-index your site and start ranking your new content.

2.) Add some content. One of the most surefire ways to get Google to respond to content changes is to add a metric shit tonne of new content.


Your site is all but completely devoid of content, no wonder Google isn't ranking it as relevant. Try writing some content first.


Just to counter all the advice in this thread:

my personal website was whole 2 pages of static content (landing page with not much content + 1 blog article) until very recently, and hosted under .github.io domain (bought a custom domain only recently), and it very quickly became top-3 google search under my name.

However I think the problem here might be due to using .mk domain and Google thinking that it's not very international. Note that when you search on https://www.google.mk/?hl=mk then it shows up on the first page.

Getting .com/.net/.io and putting just a bit more unique content is probably a good way to get started. Put a 301 redirect from old domain to the new one. Put a link on LinkedIn etc. if not done yet. Then just be patient.

BTW Hello from Nice - 230 fellow here.


There are no simple hacks to get to the top. You need people to be searching for your name, find your link, and then spend time on the page. It helps a lot if you have posts that show up on Reddit, or other social networks.

Since there is no content at all on your site there's no way anybody will stay on your page.


How does Google figure out if visitors stayed on the page? Chrome telemetry (creepy)? Google Analytics (are you required to use this to get a good ranking)?


If a user clicks on a link on a search page, stays a few seconds on the new page and then press 'back', and clicks on another link on the search, that's a pretty strong signal to Google that the first link wasn't that good.


Hmmm. If true, I wonder if cmd-clicking the top N links into other tabs can be distinguished or if it's harmful for their ranking. Also, does going back cause a reload?


I'd guess that various clicks in a small time frame can be trivially detected and discarded as noise. The vast majority of the users do not use that pattern.

I don't think it causes a reload, but it can also be trivially detected using JavaScript.


Usage of Google Analytics doesn't affect your PageRank, but it is one way to find out what people that clicked through to your site searched for to find it.


The domain name itself is one of the most important factors for google. Apart from that your h1 says welcome and has an <hr> inside. If you put your name in the h1 it's gonna help your ranking.

There is no content at all on this site. If you want to get up in the rankings you need to provide content that is relevant to your name.

Btw the html entities you're using miss a semicolon which is invalid html. I think google likes valid html better :)

Hope that helps, Martin


Is there a significant penalty to having a domain name where the ccTLD finishes the word (youtu.be)?


The Google Search Console has a International Targeting section, where it associates your site with a country, which influences "how your site appears in search results, and improves our search results for geographic queries." This can be disabled.

They have some ccTLDs which do not automatically associate your domain to a specific country as specified here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/62399

.be is not in the list.


in my experience, google does not include the tld for purposes of a full word match on the domain. Last I tried this was about a year ago.


Sort of related. In college when facebook first started, we had a page called "The Michael Lees of Berkeley" with dozens of members. One of the Michael Lees is on the no fly list which has been a hassle for the others.


Since we're in the SEO land let me ask a relevant question. Say I have an e-commerce site. If I buy an expired domain from some other e-commerce site which was in the same market as mine can I have any benefit whatsoever?


Yes. This is now a common white hat tactic. That instead of paying someone to try and build links for you (blindly email a bunch of sites and ask for links). You purchase a site and then direct all of that traffic to a subdomain of your site / 301 the entire domain over / 301 specific URLs over to the new resources (which one of these that makes sense is case specific).


or you just use that domain for your site, as it (supposedly) already has built Domain Authority and Trust Flow. Redirects pass on some linkjuice to the redirected domain. But not as much as using the domain that HAS it built up already.

A grey/black hat SEO tactic is to use that domain as part of a PBN (private blog network). Basically manufacturing backlinks to boost your money site.


Nice. So how much should I pay for an expired domain in case it's already taken? Up to say a couple hundred bucks or more?


Like everything -> it depends.

This is part of why people buy sites on Flippa or Borderline.biz or whatever. There's a lot of factors that go into it: is it still getting traffic? Is it reputable? Is it listed as a malware site? How closely related to your own site it is, etc.

If you're starting out on a new project and would like to get almost _any_ organic SEO traffic in the first year of your existence, you should probably buy a domain (domain age is that strong of a ranking factor).


This is considered "white hat" behaviour? Both approaches look like straight out of internet scum 101.


I thought Google looked to see if domain entries have changed and if so took that into account and counted against the prior ranking score.


Wouldn't that mean a website that has been transferred to a new owner would have to start from scratch? Unless Google has a way of distinguishing an old site from an old domain.


Do all the things.

1. Full name as a .com helped me. Put your name in the page content too, whether it is a heading or a footer.

2. Content. Content. Content. Google needs a good reason to put your site at the top.

3. Site needs to be mobile friendly.

4. Use webmaster tools. Use Data Highlighter to show google what parts of your page are important. Make sure structured meta data is okay too.

5. Google Products, why wouldn't google prioritize sites with Google tag manager where they can learn even more about your sight and their customers.

Proof: https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=jono+shields


Interesting that you didn't mention inbound links. Despite all their anti spam efforts, Google rankings are still mostly about who has the most inbound links from the most prominent sites. Pagerank[1] still seems to trump everything else, content, relevance, etc.

[1]https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank


I've struggled with similar issues. From what I've read, it's all about getting other more established sites to link back to your page. I believe the easiest way to do this might be to start blogging or host original content in some form.


As others suggested full name in domain name and title might have something to do with it, but I'll also suggested to add few external links to it even if it's just links from random internet forums you rarely usimg and such.

And yeah not that it will improve position of your page, but adding google analitics and veryfying your page in google webmaster always help with getting it indexed faster especially if page might get some visitors. And if you dont like Google you can always remove it afterwards.

Nothing of sort would work of you were John Smith, but considering your name about as unique as mine this should work.


just buy paid adwords for your name. the cpc will be rock-bottom (no one else is buying) and you won't pay very often. Prob $5/mo tops


Can you elaborate? Does google reward you if you pay up? It cannot possibly be about the ad that is generated somewhere?


He's saying that you'll be able to easily get the ad space that appears above the list of unsponsored results. Since your name is a relatively unique phrase, it's unlikely other people would compete for those ads, so your cost should be low.


If your target are also users from outside of the Republic of Macedonia then forget the .mk domain. Use a generic tld.


PART I: If you're looking to improve your Page Rank you need to understand the basics of SEO. Basically you need to increase your Domain/Page Authorities. How? By creating links to your web pages from domains that have high authorities... e.g. Reddit, Hacker News, etc. You get a huge bonus if your website is being mentioned by other big websites within the same categories. If you're selling cars and your website is mentioned on dog.com, it might boost your authority but not the quality of this reference (also known as the Spam Score).

PART II: Let's say we're back in the 90's and you just purchased the domain name pizza.com, assuming your website is about pizzas... then forget PART I, you'll rank #1.


The first link I get for "Viktor Vojnovski" is what I assume is your twitter. Which has a link to your site. Isn't that good enough? https://twitter.com/vojnovski?lang=en

And your site is like link number five on the first results page for me. So that's climbing the ranks pretty fast.

I have done absolutely zero SEO and my personal site (egypt.urnash.com) is the first result for every search for "egypt urnash" I've ever done on any search engine. I have also had this URL be my main presence on the internet for at least a decade, I've lost track. There's a ton of content on there with lots of links pointing to it, too. Have patience. And put some stuff on your site.


Like this: https://www.google.com/search?q=ron+ilan

(Best is to get a dot com domain a decade ago and add some links. Works for every name noun and adjective.)


Your full name does not appear at all in the human readable text of your website...


Your website needs to have high quality content and you need high quality websites linking to your website to rank better. Tweaking the speed and server setup isn't productive until you've done this.


a good way to do this is chosing a very unique username.

    - sincerely, meatsock.


first of all, i think you made it over complicated. just gh-pages and cloudflare would work very well. you might need raw storage for your images and stuff use something like imgur.

increase those: - number of external links in your website - number of links to your website from external resources make them available in your public profile, fb, twitter, linkedin, github etc.

make your site multi paged somehow. so it will seen as resourceful (eg. you can make intro in the main page but add pages that explains how you did in some project and link them with first page)

include links of websites of companies you worked for

for fonts use googlefonts or some cdn, use same stuff for external resources this will have your site linked with billion visitor domains

have proper mobile version have https properly configured with hsts ^ these are important, use page speed insights to increase those

btw i didnt do anything much but when searched my domain comes in #3rd place, first 2 are linkedin and github. name is "mert akengin" domain is n0pe.me for reference.


Does Google still prefer .com TLD over others? I moved from it to a country-based TLD and have similar problems with indexing now.


I think it depends - I've owned "steve.org.uk" since the nineties and I used to be the first result for searches for both "steve" and "steve kemp" in the UK.

Now I've relocated to Finland and I happened to do so just as steve.fi was expiring. So I've migrated to that domain as the lack of nested domain is easier to handle.

I'm still in the top five for "Steve Kemp", but personalized searches make it a little hard to tell. (My biggest problem is that there are a bunch of sites that link to the baseball player, who shares my name, including wikipedia etc. Hard to outrank that!)


Content and links. If there are lots of competing search results for the same query, one of the factors that Google uses to rank them is the number and quality of the sources of incoming links.

How do you get links? You put something on the site that's worth linking to and promote it. There isn't really a shortcut here.


Change your name to something unique.


It is quite unique. Almost all of the results in the first three Google result pages are legitimate, mostly pointing to a plethora of social networks profiles.

edit: put original edit in sub-comment.


Quite unique? There is one other internet user with my first name and I once accidentally got signed up to a social network account meant for him.

Your name is either unique or it isn't...


Unique as in I can't find anyone else with my name+surname on the internet. Quite, as in I can't be sure that a person with that name does not exist (short of a SHA-1/MD5 hash as suggested above, but even there one cannot be sure: https://security.googleblog.com/2017/02/announcing-first-sha...). :)


Can't seem to edit the original post any more, so here goes an update.

Thanks HN! https://vv.mk/ is now on the first page of a my name search on google.com.


I see it on the first page, so it seems like google has come around to it by now.


Have a unique name and commit a crime that makes the news.

Probably not the kind of advice you're looking for. You should define the scope better. ;)


Maybe it would help to have your name on the webpage (other than in the title block)?


You need at least a bit of interesting content!


edit: other people have said what would be my reflexive suggestion: a domain name that is actually your name would likely get a lot of search ranking juice. Besides having a meta title of your name, you need to have an h1 tag -- and not just the html; it should look like a major headline -- with your name, as opposed to what it is now ("Welcome").

Here's an easy fix:

     <h1>Welcome to Viktor Vojnovski's homepage</h1>



------------

> but it seems logical that a personal website would be returned as the first result.

Does it? If I'm an employer researching a job candidate, and the job candidate has bought their own vanity domain but left it empty of worthwhile content, would visiting that page be a better use of my time than that candidate's Twitter, LinkedIn, or public Facebook page?

The fact that your page itself lists these social media URLs makes your homepage, theoretically, more useful in a broad kind of sense. But it's not obviously more useful than just directly seeing your tweets on first click.

And on a quasi-technical note, think of the heuristic/algorithmic hoops Google's search engine would have to resolve in order to rank a page like yours over Twitter and LinkedIn:

1. LinkedIn page is ranked first because LinkedIn is an extremely popular site.

2. Random webpage that links to LinkedIn page should get quality points because it also purportedly links to the person's other social URLs, and a normal human being would find that useful.

I know Google search logic and variety of signals is quite complicated and probably handles situations like these, but think of how easy it might be to game such a heuristic that gives pages quality points based on the quality of pages that they link to. That's almost exactly backwards of the original Google BackRub algorithm.

Other than getting legit sites to link to you (putting the URL in your Twitter bio might help, though Twitter renders it with a nofollow tag), your easiest bet to get higher is to add content to your site. A blog with intermittent updates would be ideal, but are you really unable to write a public-facing biography for yourself?

The ultimate question is: the purpose of Google and the Web are not to make things nice for any one user. Ideally, Google surfaces results that it thinks humans actually would be satisfied on clicking on. Let's imagine that someone, anyone out of the billions of Internet users on any given day, decides to search for your name.

Can you put yourself in the place of that user and honestly believe you'd be satisfied with landing on your basically empty homepage? Web users don't benefit from all the meta optimizations that you've added, they are there for the content.


Make your Google Plus Profile.




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