One of the ways people check you out these days is with a Google search. The results might be unpredictable if your online profile is a mismatch for your ‘real’ life. Worse, it can portray you as stuck in the past if absolutely nothing shows up. Some people have no interest in how they appear (or fail to appear) online. Yet employers, interviewers, and the kids next door may find occasion to type your name into their search bar. (Yes, sometimes people are just busybodies.) If you don’t show up on Google, they may resort to checking social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace for some kind of profile.
Regardless of whether you want to seriously compete in the corporate world or just find a job, you should attempt to build an Internet presence. It’s a good idea to look at what’s already there to see where you might find a niche. You can begin by entering your own name into Google’s search bar. Why Google? It’s the first place most people begin a search. Make sure you also check the findings of other search engines such as Yahoo, as the results might not be the same. A lot of interesting stuff will pop up, so remember that you’re looking for what the Internet says–or doesn’t say–about YOU.
If your name is commonly misspelled, try entering some of the misspellings. If you have a username you’re in the habit of using, do searches on that too; same thing for any aliases or pen names. The Internet is full of answers if you ask the right questions.
I’m fortunate in that there is very little online competition for my name. For my author name I include my middle initial, the letter ‘K.’ I search for my name both with and without it. The number of returns are smaller when it’s present, as it’s one more limitation in the search. Phyllis is considered an older, almost archaic name, while Twombly is somewhat unusual in both Canada and the US. It seems my main ‘competitor’ is a Marvel comic book character who lived for 600 years in the American Midwest. Most people who want to know more about me as an author are not going to confuse the two of us.
One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve joined various networking sites is that almost everything you do raises your visibility in search results. Join a social networking site, or a fan club, or get an Internet interview and you’ll get that much closer to dominating the first page of a search. Sometimes your blog entries or the comments you posted will pop up.
Being an author greatly increases how much my name dominates the search results. When Been Blued came out, it was the beginning of my online presence. When Martian Blues came out with a hardcopy edition available, the number of search returns grew again. It will be interesting to see whether the release of Martian Divides raises it or whether there will simply be a combined listing that includes all three titles.
In time the Internet may adjust to filter out and delete older material, but for now you should consider anything you put online to be out there ‘forever.’ If there’s something you don’t like that keeps popping up, you’ll have to produce a lot of positive newer content to compensate. Generally, the older the entry the harder it is to find…unless someone knows exactly where to look for it. If you have something of ongoing importance that’s being buried, you should revisit it often and update it to keep it from getting lost in cyberspace. (If it’s extremely important, you may want to consider creating links to relevant sites–with the proper permission, of course.) Probably most of the material out there is forgotten, but far from gone.
Thanks for reading. 🙂
Phyllis K Twombly