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:
I 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*Pin It