How do I get google to distinguish me from another author?
June 11, 2014 6:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm an author with a google problem. I have the same name as another author (completely different genre, though) and if you google that name, my books show up alongside hers in search results. This has been a recurring problem for years, to the point where I'm planning on tweaking my name for my next book, but for now I'd just like our books not to be conflated. (Google also combines images of me and this other woman, although I'm not as concerned about that). I've tried reporting this issue to google, but so far haven't had much luck penetrating the bubble. Any tech-savvy people have ideas on how I can distinguish my work? Thanks in advance...
posted by Victorian Gal to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
MetaFilter's Own Jessamyn West is a published author, as is another Jessamyn West. MeFi's jessamyn may have some good insight into this.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:09 AM on June 11, 2014

Thanks for the reply! I'll email her.
posted by Victorian Gal at 7:13 AM on June 11, 2014

Author disambiguation is a difficult unsolved problem. Your best bet is a unique pen name and hope that in the future no one else starts using it.
posted by Sophont at 7:19 AM on June 11, 2014

I agree, which is what I plan to do in the future. But that doesn't solve the current problem of the work that is already out there (plus a new book coming in a few months). I wish I could change my name for the soon-to-be-published book, but my publisher won't let me. I have to save the fresh start for next time (if there is a next time).
posted by Victorian Gal at 7:22 AM on June 11, 2014

my books show up alongside hers in search results

What exactly do you mean by this? Do you mean the Google search results for "Victorian Gal" are like
Victorian Girl new releases
Victorian Girl on Amazon
Victorian Girl Official Website
Find Victorian Girl on Books4Sale

And it's not clear which of those links relates to you and which relates to Alternate Victorian Gal?

The thing is, Google just shows links which match your search term. It's not designed to catalogue authors and help you distinguish between authors with the same name. It's not "conflating" you with the other person, in the sense that Google is somehow confused and thinks you are the same person - it's just showing the websites it knows with the name "Victorian Gal" on. There's not really any existing way for Google to do anything about this.

The only real way to make it obvious to people searching is - as you've realised - to change your pen name, e.g. to Victorian J. Gal or something (adding an initial would make it obvious to existing fans you're the same person while making it more obvious that Victorian Gal and Victorian J. Gal are different people).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:23 AM on June 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh hey! I did not have a ton of luck with this. Google is a robot and they don't particularly care and if your results and her results are getting mixed, that may be a desired result for them which sucks but is true. They just link to pointers and are not content themselves (again, I feel your pain, but focusing on what you can actually do something about will be useful) Best advice which you maybe already know is

- differentiate your name (middle initial, nickname, etc) especially if she is more popular. If you've self-published anything republish under your differentiated name
- Wikipedia is your friend - if you're a published author, make sure that there is a list of books on your Wikipedia page
- Make sure other big book sites have it right. Amazon, Goodreads, Open Library (I work there, let me know if I can help)
- Make sure your author websites differentiates you "Jessamyn West, librarian author of Revolting Librarians Redux" or something similar and consider including genre words in you write a particular type of book

I guess, not to turn this into too much of a thought exercise, but what are you specifically concerned about? That people won't find your books? That people will go to her website and not find yours? That people will think you wrote her books? Think about what the problem to be solved is and see if that helps you approach it.

Also, on preview, you mention your publisher. They should be working on this providing good quality content attached to your name which should help push up the Google rankings. It's worth thinking about whether this is just an issue that irritates you (I understand!) or if it's a real business-level issue that will affect sales, discovery, etc.
posted by jessamyn at 7:24 AM on June 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'm with EndsOfInvention - I think this is intended behavior with Google. If you and the other Victorian Gal are roughly equal in popularity, I would expect both of your books to show up in a Google search (unless, say, I searched "Victorian Gal SF" and "Victorian Gal Romance"). The two ways to fix this are to change your name, and/or to become significantly more popular/famous than the other Victorian Gal.
posted by mskyle at 7:30 AM on June 11, 2014

Hey guys,

Thanks for all of the responses. I should have specified that I'm mainly concerned about the "box" thing (for lack of a better phrase) that gathers my information on the right side of the screen after a google search. I understand that two people will the same name are going to be confused in a general google search, but it would be nice if the other author's books didn't appear under my biographical information in that separated box. Am I making sense?
posted by Victorian Gal at 7:47 AM on June 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, with regard to the biographical "box" that shows up on the right side of the screen of a google search, it IS conflating me with the other author. Her books show up under my name and biographical information. I want that to be fixed!
posted by Victorian Gal at 7:53 AM on June 11, 2014

When you say you've reported the problem, do you mean you've clicked the Feedback link below the bio box and then clicked on all of the "Wrong?" links by her books/pictures showing under your name/bio?
If you have, it may be that any amendments don't take effect until there are a few matching reports. Try getting your publisher and friends/family to submit feedback as well maybe?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:00 AM on June 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

EndsOfInvention, yes, that's what I mean. And you're right--I should get everyone I know to submit feedback that her books are "wrong." Maybe that will work. Thanks very much...

In the meantime, I am trying to convince my agent and publisher to let me add just an initial to my current name. Fingers crossed...
posted by Victorian Gal at 8:12 AM on June 11, 2014

Victorian Gal, I would also ask your editor to speak to the publisher's ebook production and/or digital departments regarding this. Errors are common during the info submission process and most likely they send weekly (or daily) correction requests to their direct contacts at Amazon, Google, Apple, etc. The size of the publisher and the outlet is a factor here, though, so it's not guaranteed that your unattribution request will get handled, but it's worth a shot.
posted by greenland at 9:01 AM on June 11, 2014

Look up "Google authorship" and follow the protocol for your webpages, online content, etc. It is not a full solution but should help somewhat. An author I work with adopted a middle initial for this purpose, as above.
posted by 8603 at 9:29 AM on June 11, 2014

Above my pay grade, but in addition to the great suggestions above, the other author may be equally frustrated with the situation. You could coordinate with her so that you don't both adopt the same middle initial.
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:03 PM on June 11, 2014

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