This article describes a very simple approach to tracking Ego Surfing - people searching for themselves or other people online.
Some examples of why this is useful: an employer may check your name online when you submit a resume, you may want to keep tabs on searches on your friends or foes, or you may just want to keep your own Ego Surfing in check so that you would know approximately how many times you typed your own name into a search engine.
So how is this done?
I chose Google as my search engine because of its current dominance. The solution is to open up a Google AdWords account and register all the names you are interested in tracking. You have to create some sort of an ad that will appear when your target name is searched for. An important point to make is that you want this ad to be such that visitors will not actually click on it as you will then be charged the Cost-Per-Click (CPC) rate that was determined when you were defining the target words.
I suggest creating a vague ad for a person-finding website such as peoplesearch.com as it will probably not intrigue visitors enough to actually click on it. You don't need (or want) them to click on the ad for you to track how many times it has been searched for.
The AdWords control panel shows the exact breakdown of how many times each of your search terms (in this case, names) has been displayed and clicked.
For purposes of this article, I set up Ego Tracking for "john smuda".
Do a Google search and notice the ads on the right-side:
Even if visitors click on the ad and Google thus charges you, you can set limits to your daily spending. Limits can be as small as $1.
Google determines CPP rates based on the search string you are defining. If the name you a researching for is very popular, this trick will obviously not work.
Tracking "Britney Spears" will put you head-to-head against many advertisers that are using her popular name in their targeted ads, making the CPP high. But if you are searching for an average less popular name, you should get a standard CPP of about $0.10.
If you design your ad to be sufficiently vague and cleverly dumb, nobody will click on it, yet the ad will have been displayed.
The only thing you need is a valid credit card number and a few dollars on it, be cause the startup fee for an AdWords campaign is $5. After that, you can track everything - most likely for free - in your AdWords control panel, knowing exactly how many times a certain name has been searched for on the Google network.