June 2, 2011

Branding 101: Be Google-able

Pen resting on signature line

Google-able.  Yes, I made that word up, but I bet we all know what I mean.  If someone does a Google search on our author name, will they find us?

This issue comes up more frequently now as writers want to know if they should have a website and/or blog before they’re published.  That’s a complicated question that doesn’t have an easy answer.

Yes, agents and editors (or readers, for that matter) are Googling prospective author clients more frequently.  While not showing up in an agent/editor’s search probably won’t hurt us, it might give them the impression that we’re not serious, or that we don’t have a good grasp on the current reality of authors needing to do most of their own publicity.

Agent Rachelle Gardner has gone so far as to say:

almost wanted to announce that I’d no longer accept queries from anyone who doesn’t already have a good solid head start on a platform. (I won’t draw such a clear line in the sand, but consider yourself informed.)

And in the case of readers, not being Google-able can mean the loss of a sale if they’re looking for more information about our books.  Maybe they want to know if a book they heard about is part of a series.  Maybe they want to see if it’s the first book in the series.  Or maybe they don’t like Amazon and want to know where else they can purchase it.

We must “exist” in some way on the internet, preferably on page one of a Google search.

Options for Becoming Google-able

  • Start a blog.  Blogs get more attention from the Google-bots during their searches for information (assuming the blog has updated content).  I love watching the search terms that bring people to my blog.  While the unusual search strings amuse me (“muse pervert shower writer” is my favorite—why yes, I did write a blog post about that), the number one search term that brings people to my blog is my name.  People have come here after searching for me by name 143 times.  That’s pretty darn cool if you ask me.  Creating a blog with our name is the number one way to ensure that we show up in a Google search.
    • Caveat #1: Have a plan for ensuring you’ll still have time to write.  Personally, I want to be a writer who blogs, not a blogger who writes.  In other words, I don’t want my blog to take up so much time that I neglect my novel writing.  I think many writers have this concern.  There’s a reason I decided to post only twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
    • Caveat #2: Make sure the blog is professional.  Childish-looking blogs and/or blogs that expose bad behavior can hurt us.  A bad blog is worse than no blog at all.
  • Create a website.  While static websites get less attention from the Google-bots than blogs, they are better than nothing.  Again, as long as a website is professional, it will give the impression that we’re serious about our writing.  There are tricks with search-engine optimization (SEO) to make websites (and blogs) show up higher in the search results.  I’m not an expert on SEO, but I know some themes (like the Thesis theme I use) automatically optimize and make it easy to use keywords and meta data.
  • Create Social Media Profiles.  Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, LinkedIn, etc.  All of these will show up in a Google search, demonstrating that we’re active and engaged on the internet.
  • Commenting on other blogs.  Comments on other industry blogs will show up in a Google search, but each comment is a separate listing, so someone searching for our name would see one entry on page three, another on page seven, etc.  This effort will prove that we exist, but that’s about it.  This method doesn’t create a “home base” for our platform.

Warning, Will Robinson!

Yes, I know I dated myself with that reference, but I needed to get your attention.  It’s possible to do everything above and still not be Google-able.  How?  If we don’t use our author name on our blog, website, or profiles.  A Twitter handle of @writer175 won’t help if someone searches for us by name.  Use your author name for everything.

Also, it’s possible to do all of the above and still not show up until page 187 of a Google search.  I’d hate to be a Mary Johnson and trying to make a name for myself on the internet.

Or what if you have made a name for yourself in ways that will hurt others’ impression of you—and I’m not even talking about those risqué pictures on Facebook.  What if you wrote several Ph.D. abstracts on the ingredients of nasal mucus and now you want to be a sweet romance author?  I wouldn’t want to have those items show up during a Google search either.

Don’t worry, every problem has a solution.

The Secret Weapon to be Google-able

  • Use a Pen Name.

This is your secret weapon if you aren’t ready for a website/blog, have a common name, and/or are already too well-known in an unrelated field.  (Now, you know why I chose a pen next to a signature line for the image above.  *smile*)

This isn’t about trying to deceive anyone (as Kristen Lamb says, “It’s a pen name, not witness protection”).  This is about maximizing your Google-ability.  Pick a name that doesn’t have 50 bazillion other people all shouting to be heard.  Or that doesn’t have your non-author life competing with your author brand.  If you pick the right name, your online efforts—no matter how small or limited—can show up on page one of a Google search.

If you choose to go this route (and as Kristen points out in her blog post, there are many reasons why pen names aren’t always a good idea), use your pen name for everything you do as an author.  Your blog name, website, Twitter ID, etc. should all be under the pen name.  As I mentioned in my last post, consistency is everything when it comes to branding.

(Note: I’ve heard that Facebook doesn’t allow people to have two profiles—real name and pen name.  In that case, you might have to skip straight to the step of setting up a Facebook page, rather than a profile, under your pen name.)

I’ll admit I was lucky.  I didn’t do much beyond internet surfing before setting out to be an author, so I never had a Facebook profile or anything to create a non-author “Google trail.”  (In fact, up until the last few years, I didn’t show up on Google searches at all.  I was rather proud of that fact back then, like an under-the-radar spy.  Heh.)  But these techniques can help anyone be Google-able, no matter the circumstances.

What do you find when you Google your author name?  Is it obvious you’re a writer from the results?  Have you done anything to improve your Google-ability?  Can you think of any ideas I missed?  Did I unintentionally give you homework again?  *smile*

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Comments — What do you think?

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Sarah Pearson

Nothing comes up for me yet, but I’m working on it 🙂

M. Howalt

Really good pieces of advice!
When I google my pen name, I get a published flash fiction story as the first hit, then two that have nothing to do with me (actually, one of them does slightly does, but the relevance is obscure), and after that, there’s my blog, my Twitter profile, and my Flickr profile. Oh, if I use ” “, I practically only get me. XD

M. Howalt

Also: I’ve picked your blog for a blog award. 🙂 Please claim it here:

Lili Tufel

This is an excellent post, Jami. I love the “Google-able” word! I’ve followed Kristen’s blog for a while and have always felt that this is one of the most important pieces of advice.

Paul Anthony Shortt

The first four or five results on a Google search for my name are my Twitter account, blog, and Facebook. I’m pretty chuffed that, despite not having the most unusual of names, it still seems relatively unique out there.

Brooke Johnson

It always makes me happy when I see that people have found my blog through my name, though I only have a handful of people finding me that way. It’s really hard to have Johnson as a last name. It’s so common, and – dare I say – boring. Before I was married, I had an interesting name, unique even: Brooke Hobby. Not common in the least bit, simple, memorable. Even after getting married, old friends still call me by my last name. But now I am Johnson, making this branding thing a whole lot more difficult than it should be. I have to work that much harder to get my name out there and make sure that it leads prospective readers my way.

Maryanne Fantalis

I look like a real estate mogul because my home sales keep coming up (I’ve moved a few times — not a lot, but it appears that way!) But what I want to do — and maybe someone can help with this — is delete my 12yo daughter’s Blogger blog that I allowed her to set up with one of my email addresses because she was too young – now, of course, it’s showing up when you search me and I can’t figure out how to delete it. Help, anyone? Maybe there’s a way to delete the account entirely?

Anne-Mhairi Simpson

Wow. I just Googled myself. I show up (and it is me, although I’m not entirely sure about the two LinkedIn profiles – fairly sure they’re both me, though) on nine different sites on the first page. Google definitely thinks I’m all over the place! My Twitter account is first, then my university profile page (bizarre how that trumps my own website), then my website and then a bunch of guest posts, my old blog (which I’m keeping because old comments and blogrolls link there) and the LinkedIn profiles.

Not bad at all 😀

JA Paul

You know what’s funny, Jami Gold, if that even is your real name (said in your best Austin Powers voice) is that when I google my author name of JA Paul your blog post from when you interviewed me and my muse comes up one higher than my own website. I think this demonstrates the power of blogs over websites.

I can hear your evil laughter from here.

And this time I did have all my homework done – except the whole blog thingy.

Helen Ginger

When I goggled my name the top ten listings were: 6 of me and 4 of another Helen Ginger. Pretty good I guess since the other HG is a federal judge.


This is a great rundown of Google searches. I’m lucky I have a very unique last name (and first, for that matter), that being “googleable” has never been a problem. I started out my artistic career as a filmmaker, which used to be all that came up, but now my blog shows up first and then Twitter stuff.

Irene Vernardis
Irene Vernardis

Great post Jami 🙂

I would like to add Commenting on others’ blogs. Making comments on other blogs, not only lead other people to your blog, but everytime someone clicks on the name, a link to your site is created which is noted by the bots. Moreover, the name on the comments is noted by the bots in relation to that site. I’m not saying “post comments” on others’ blogs for that factor, it’s not good, but don’t avoid comments.

Thank you for the interesting post 🙂

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

Years ago I was alot like you…I thought it was cool that my name didn’t pull up anything on the web. That under the radar feeling made me feel all snug and warm. Now a days, I think I’d cry if my name didn’t show up.
I’m very glad to say that when I google Tamara LeBlanc author, or writer, or romance, etc, I see more than a few pages of just me.
I have Kristen Lamb to thank for that. She made me realize how important it is to put my brand out there in a positive way. I think I’ve accomplished that so far.
The next thing I have to really concentrate on, other than finishing my WIP, is to get a website up and running. I’d like to model mine after successful, interesting, fun websites like yours and Kristens. I love how your bio, blog, website, books page are all connected!!
I have to get crackin’ on that.
Excellent post jami!!! I agree with you 100%!
Have a great weekend!!

Roxanne Skelly
Roxanne Skelly

Here’s stuff I’ve done…

Make sure you put links from your blog/website to your twitter/facebook/other accounts. And from those accounts to your blog.

Don’t just do twitter and facebook. Linked In, livejournal and so on still exist.

And definitely reply to other blogs. Every time I do so, it’s fun to watch my blog stats show a little blip. Not that I’m getting a huge amount of traffic, but hey.

If I google my name, the first 4-5 pages of search results are me…I guess I’ve been busy.

Catherine Johnson

I used to come up as kangaroobee but now I have changed to CJohnsonWriter on Twitter and catherinemjohnson on my blog, I’ll have to search for one of those on Google rather than just Catherine Johnson, of whom there are many writers, not least the screenwriter for Mamma Mia the musical!


I googled my name. Some other sonia lal’s facebook and linkedlin comes up and my own shewrites and booksblog comments. and my friday flashes (which is a bit odd.)

Gene Lempp

Thanks to Kristen Lamb I’ve been able to build a consistent platform that brings 32K Google hits, most of which are me. The one glitch is my Facebook, which is not under my name but was started solely to be able to keep in touch with family. I rarely use it. Also, I’m not on LinkedIn but should probably look into it.

The main thing, as you point out is consistency. Beyond that, great content and a decent personality give people a reason to find us and remember our “author platform”.

Great Post Jami 🙂

Kait Nolan

This is so so true, and I’m a poster child for why. I started building my platform before I released any work. I picked my pen name (for reasons you mentioned above…someone else already HAS my real name and has snapped up all the virtual real estate thereto), grabbed up the domain, facebook, twitter handle, and everything else associated with it. And I worked on building it. For two years, via all the methods you mentioned. So when I commented several months ago, on a post Kristen Lamb made about self-publishing, agent Laurie McLean thought I sounded interesting, immediately googled me, looked at ALL the stuff I’d done, including the snippets of work I had posted at my blog, and offered me representation. Because unlike all the people who were querying her, I knew how to use social media to build a platform. She tells me our story is now becoming something of an urban legend among publishing.

It’s never too early to start.

Darcy Peal
Darcy Peal

Hmm, my name shows up in quite a few places but even though they don’t have much to do with writing I would still rather not use a Pen Name.
Have I done too much in the past to use my real name as my author name? I guess time will tell.


[…] you read my last post, you know the steps to be Google-able.  The last piece of advice I gave in that article was if all else fails—use a pen name.  That […]

Darcy Peal
Darcy Peal

Yikes! I’ve been Googling my name and I must show up in about 100 places. How is poor little Blog supposed to catch up?

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Kirsten Lopresti
Kirsten Lopresti

Great post! I mentioned it on my blog.


[…] How many of you have joined Roni Loren on the Tumblr train or circled up with Patrick Thunstrom, Jami Gold and Kristen Lamb on […]


[…] should decide how we want to create an online presence (so our author name shows up in a Google […]

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