I am a doctor who recently got divorced and have legally changed my name. Do you think I should keep my former name on my website and online, to assist in patient recognition or for SEO purposes?

This excellent question was posed by one of our clients. The physician had legally changed her name, but didn’t know the best way to proceed when it came to changing it online. On one hand, she was ready to be done with her old name, but she didn’t want this change to affect her visibility online.

She was right to be concerned! There is a very good chance that patients who haven’t seen her in a while, or prospective patients who have been referred from a friend, will search using the old name.

Three Steps to Name Change Success

Whether it was a divorce, marriage, or entrance into the witness protection program, it’s important that you change your name not only on your website but also on external directories and profiles like healthgrades.com or avvo.com. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: this is going to be a tall task, but it’s a necessary step. To help you through this process I will outline exactly how to go about finding where your name is listed on the Internet, and then give advice on how best to make the changes needed.

Please note: As the client who asked the question was a doctor I am going to use a physician in the examples below. However, any professional or business owner who relies on her name for brand recognition needs to attend to each of the steps listed.

Your Website Makes the Transition

This will be the simplest step in the process. We recommend that you find all mentions of your old name on your website and change them to your new name. The only exception to this rule will be on your bio page and perhaps your homepage. Mentioning your former name on these pages will prevent prospective clients from thinking, “Oh, I’ve got the wrong person!” On these pages, your new name should be prominently displayed, but under that you should add something to the effect of, “Dr. New Name, formerly known as Dr. Former Name.” You can even wield a bit of wit here, saying something like, “New name, same excellent medical care.”

Audit Your Local Listings

Ideally, you’ve already performed a local listings audit and have an extensive, well-organized list of everywhere your business is listed. If so, please move on to step three. If not, it’s a good idea to do this now. Start by searching for your name and your profession on Google. You will use the search string equivalent to “former name doctor”; for instance, “Rachel Elkins podiatrist.” You may wish to make repeated searches using synonyms: “Doctor Rachel Elkins,” “Rachel Elkins foot doctor,” and so forth. Make a list of every website that pops up in your search results.

Add to this list every website you know you’re listed on. This should include Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and any listings or social media sites that you’ve already claimed (Healthgrades, Avvo, etc.). Another good idea is to use the free services at Yext. Yext will show you exactly where you’re listed, Internet-wide. Add any sites that Yext finds to your list. You should now have a very thorough list (we suggest using a spreadsheet to organize this list) of the places your name is listed online. With this list in hand, move on to step three.

Change Your Information

It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of this process. Starting with the results that popped up in the search of your name, begin visiting the websites and editing your name. This will be a tedious task, as it’s possible you’ve never claimed the majority of your listings and will therefore have to register on with website before being able to make changes. But don’t let this deter you! It’s a crucial step that you simply cannot skip! Go down the list, one by one, making notes in your spreadsheet when you successfully make changes. As you do so, feel free to add your new name disclaimer in the description box that most of these websites provide. “Dr. New Name, formerly known as Dr. Former Name; new name, same excellent medical care.”

Pro tip: Make the most of your time by ensuring that your name, address and phone number are identical on each site. Even a “&” on one site an “and” on another, a listing of “Stephanie” on one website and “Steph” on another will wreak havoc on the success of your local listings. So scrutinize each of your listings, correcting these mistakes as you go.

Successfully Establishing a New Web Identity

Has this answer helped you better understand how to change your name online? If so, please feel free to share this article using one of the buttons on this page. And for timely, expert information be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Good luck out there, and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to call us at 888-886-0939.