"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Yes, Shakespeare had a point. But when it comes to changing your moniker after marriage, the impact can be much bigger than the line at the DMV.
Ditching your maiden name in the days of SEO, websites and publications might mean losing web hits, jobs and your personal brand.
To Change or Not to Change?
From your personal brand to social media accounts, to email, credit cards and importantly, your SEO, your name is out there and attached to who you are and what you do. It's a big decision -- even if you're not watching your analytics or checking daily Google alerts of your name.
As Women of HR blogger Shauna Moerke put it, "If you are looking to stand out as a recognized leader in your field and/or build your social media brand, having great SEO counts for a lot. Colleagues, head hunters, hiring managers, your mom . . . everyone can use (and does use) the internet to find information on you."
For me, the choice was easy: I wanted to take my husband's last name. But as a published author and former print journalist, I risk disconnecting myself from the body of work now out there with my name attached.
Former News & Observer "Taking Stock" columnist Sue Stock did what many women do: kept her maiden name for professional uses while legally switching to her husband's name.
"I actually think this is a really nice way to handle things because it allows you to be your public self when you need to be and a more private version of yourself when you want to be," she said.
While living in North Carolina, the coupon queen also became queen of Google Search for her name, scoring the top spots for her Twitter account, column and other social media profiles. She left the paper last year and began writing in a new state using her married name. Her Google rankings fell swiftly.
"Changing your name out there publicly and starting to publish under a different name is almost like starting over in terms of SEO," she told me.
Questions to Consider
If you don't have a body of work out there with your old name on it and don't have much invested online, this isn't as big a debate. But if you are well known as the famous artist Jane Smith and the hits on your website Janesmithartist.com are increasing, you might want to keep your old name, at least professionally.
Here are some questions to ask about your SEO before you go:
1. How often are people searching for your name (new or old)?
2. Is your name connected to your personal or professional brand online?
3. Do your domains include your name?
4. Will changing your Twitter/FB/LinkedIn name confuse people?
How to Minimize the SEO Impact
Exactly what path you take with the name change is up to you. But here are a few ideas for easing into it:
1. Keep your domain name. Changing it means losing links. Just Google this topic for a ton of research and discussions.
2. Keep your name for professional purposes. Obviously your mom is going to figure it out, but that random old work acquaintance who is now hiring at her new company may not.
3. Use both for awhile. I've been putting my maiden name in parentheses in some profiles so that people can figure out what happened. It also covers you no matter what name you're using.
4. Make a note on your site if you have a body of work under different names to explain the difference.
5. Don't be shy about mentioning your old last name to those who say they want to look you up.
6. Figure out a plan early. If you're new to career life, now is the time to think about what you will do someday if you marry and/or change your name.
There will be some gray areas. I'm still giving my maiden name for one thing and my married name for another. But as Stock said, it's just a matter of time.
"I have found that as time has gone on, more people are finding me searching for Sue Serna than Sue Stock, so I guess my Sue Stock persona will naturally phase out for most of the people at some point."
Your turn: Change or keep?