For over a decade, I, Jesse Friedman, have struggled with the perception of my identity. While this is not a valid identity crisis – I know who I am – it has been challenging to manage the reactions of followers who “Google me.” My efforts to shine as an expert have been overshadowed by the depravity and evil contributions of another Jesse Friedman.
At the turn of the century, there was a brief window of time where I owned the Google SERPs (search engine results pages) for the term “Jesse Friedman.” It was a point of pride as I was cutting my teeth on keyword analysis and backlinks, trying to grow as a search engine optimization expert. The proof of my expertise existed in pixels and bytes on your screen, confirmed by the world’s most powerful search engine. That was, until about 8 years ago.
In 2013 Google pushed an alert to my phone, igniting a series of buzzes and chimes, quickly redirecting my attention. There it was, the most confusing and offensive message I’ve ever received:
“Jesse Friedman is 100% guilty of sexually abusing children…” – Daily News.
I can still feel the tightness in my chest as I started navigating through the alert. My mind was racing through possible explanations of what was happening here. A case of mistaken identity, a prank, a well-thought-out phishing scheme? Instead, it turns out the article was 100% accurate.
In 1987 when I was about four years old, that Jesse Friedman conspired with his father Arnold Friedman to collect and distribute child pornography and molest the children taking Arnold’s computer class. I grew up, went to college, and established myself as a qualified and respected expert, speaker, and author without ever identifying this homonymous evil.
The publishing of the Daily News article marked the end of my reign as the dominant Jesse Friedman on Google. That Jesse Friedman had lost an appeal and the media pounced on the opportunity to relive the events leading up to Capturing the Friedmans, which is the name of a documentary that recounted the entire affair. The Wikipedia and IMDB pages for the documentary now rank 4th and 10th, respectively.
I would never again rank well on Google. Today, the closest I come is a spot on the bottom of the third page, which links to my Amazon author profile. I did fight it for a time, utilizing my skills as an internet marketer and SEO, but alas, I gave up the good fight. Competing against a polarizing and popular criminal story complete with Wikipedia pages, documentaries, and sites dedicated to his innocence would have consumed my professional life.
The lore of the Jesse Friedman juxtaposition became quite popular among my colleagues when “Jesse Friedman” was googled during a presentation to a group of executives. This was an attempt to introduce me, as I was not in attendance. As a result, I am now referred to as the other Jesse Friedman and not that Jesse Friedman.
In the future, if you’re looking to Google me, I suggest you amend your search to include the clarifying term “WordPress,” at least while that query still reflects the right Jesse Friedman.
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