Me, myself and my Google twin

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (MCT) — Right now, Lynn Keane is out there somewhere, going about her business, being Lynn Keane.

Which Lynn Keane finds a little weird.

Even weirder, there are three or four Lynn Keanes walking around in their respective Lynn Keane worlds, living completely different lives from the Lynn Keane in question — the Lynn Keane who is a 42-year-old real estate investor from Gold River, Calif., who, until recently, hadn’t even considered the possibility of there being a band of rogue Lynn Keanes.

One of them, she knows, is in her 30s and lives on the East Coast. Another is a 50-something sports psychologist who puts on a benefit 10K every year. A third lives in Britain, but Keane doesn’t know much about her.

How does she know any of this stuff at all? The same way any of us know anything these days — she Googled it.

More accurately, she Googled herself — performing that quiet act of vanity we all undertake when we think no one’s looking, just to see where we rank in the World According to a Search Engine.

It’s a very human impulse, says Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University in New York and, he might add, one of three Robert Thompsons at Syracuse alone.

“There is this natural tendency that you want to know that you’re part of the record,” he says. “One Googles oneself for the same reason one gets up really early in the morning in subzero temperatures and stands in front of the window of the `Today’ show, so that someone might see you waving a sign (on TV).”

But what starts as an act of validation can sometimes end up being just the opposite.

Rebecca Roush Googled herself, expecting to be rewarded with a laundry list of her own accomplishments. Instead, she was introduced to some other Rebecca Roush, a limelight-stealing, attention-hogging, clearly overachieving Rebecca Roush who selfishly dominated the entries.

She had discovered her Google Twin — that person who shares her name and her Google entry, and with whom she is saddled in the annals of Internet history like siblings forced to share a room.

“There is something offsetting about finding your Google Twin,” the Davis, Calif., resident says in an e-mail.

“It’s like all of your attempts at individuality get swept away.”

Most people will probably never meet their Google Twin. Some are only children. And some, like Thompson, have so many twins that it’s not even worth it to care. Unless, of course, one of them is stealing your identity.

But those with an unusual but not-too-unusual name know all about their twins, and they develop odd little relationships with them whether their duplicates know it or not.

Sometimes, we’ve got nothing but love for them. Sacramentans Aleta Carpenter and Amy McAllaster, for example, feel a certain affinity for their digital doppelgangers because they share unusual names and spellings.

Sometimes, we wish they would keep their distance.

Karen Sandler, a 52-year-old novelist from Cameron Park, Calif., is slightly bitter at her Google Twin, who snapped up the preferable domain name and stuck her with a dreaded dot-net address.

And sometimes, we’re downright resentful of these impostors who have stolen the glory that is rightfully ours.

“I started to get angry at my Google Twin,” Roush says. “What right did she have to be more popular than me?”

No right at all, she ultimately decided, and began bombarding her own Web site with hits in an attempt to outrank a twin who, in her mind, had begun to qualify as evil.

OK, so now it’s starting to feel a little like sibling rivalry. But, even stranger than the way we feel about our Google Twins is how much we sometimes have in common with them.

The Gold River Lynn Keane is a triathlete. So is the East Coast Lynn Keane and the sports psychologist Lynn Keane.

The Sacramento Jeff Byrd attended the same college at the same time as the Florida Jeff Byrd, and both have three sons the same age.

And the Mary Watanabe of Elk Grove, Calif., like the Mary Watanabe who works at Stanford University, is white but has a Japanese surname by marriage. And — get this — they both have red hair.

Whether these similarities are pure coincidence or the mysterious workings of fate is, of course, up for debate. But for his money, Thompson is going with the former.

Some people might be looking for a parallel, he says, or could even be distantly related to the person who shares their name.

But in the end, Google and the Internet have widened our concept of community and given us access to unprecedented information, enabling us to make connections that would never have been possible before.

“As humans, we may be (as individual as) snowflakes,” Thompson says. “But an awful lot of us have the same name.”

Feeling just a little jealous that your Google Twin is outranking you? Hey, they say a little sibling rivalry is healthy.

But, say you just happened to know a few tricks that would allow you to take your rightful place at the top of the hit list. That wouldn’t hurt anyone, right? Like, maybe if you got a couple of pointers on how to best position yourself for search-engine supremacy so that you can become the Google VIP you know you are deep down inside — there’s nothing wrong with that, right?

And after all, if Fred Gleeck of is just going to give away these very handy tips for getting a little more Google love, you could hardly avert your eyes and stop reading, right?


Here’s what he says:

  • Get your own Web site, complete with a address. Gleeck recommends his own to get the party started.
  • If you want a high Google ranking, you probably should have already done that, since Google rewards sites that have been around longer.
  • If your Google Twin has already underhandedly claimed the address, add a “The” in front of your domain name to distinguish yourself as the real deal.
  • Once you get your site, load it up with tons of information. Google figures that a dense, information-packed site is worth more than a one-pager with a picture of you and your dog.
  • Don’t make your site overly saleslike. Google puts a higher premium on the informational than the commercial.
  • Make sure a lot of other Web sites are linking to you, but also make sure they’re relevant to what you do. If you’re a beekeeper, say, and are linked to other beekeeping sites, it’s better than if you’re a beekeeper linked to sites about Britney Spears.