Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Googling In Private? - Debbie Bennett

Do you google yourself? It might sound like something you really shouldn’t admit to at all, but let me assure you it’s a vital part of maintaining your online presence.

If you’re a new author, google your name before you even think about publishing. See how many other people share your name and what they do for a living. Promoting yourself as Jane Doe, Children’s Author will be a lot harder if Jane Doe, Mistress of The Seductive Arts hogs all of the front page of a google search! You might want to think about changing your name, writing under a less common pen-name, or just adding an initial to stand out from the crowd.

Debbie Bennett is my real married name. I’ve always been me online, with a real picture (the pros and cons of this are for another time and blog, maybe). I was Debbie Louie for the first 26 years of my life – at least that was unique. Certainly in the UK as I was growing up, most of the Louies in the pre-internet phone book were my relations. Louie is phonetic Cantonese – how immigration wrote down my grandfather’s name when he landed in Liverpool with the Chinese navy at the start of the 20th century.

Bennett is a very common name. Maybe I should have written under my maiden name? But it didn’t have the right ring to it and I didn’t want to be in the middle of the alphabet on a bookshelf (I was optimistic back then …).

I’ve been online a long time. I had an email address back in the 1980s and was participating in forums even then (anybody remember CIX?). I did a lot of online stuff for the British Fantasy Society in the 1990s, editing their publications for more than 10 years and handling memberships for more than 15, so gradually my name got known, with the result that I’m currently number 1 on google for Debbie Bennett, as well as several other hits on the first few pages.

The ebook retail sites aren’t quite so organised though. Apple insists on listing my books on the same “page” as Debbie Bennett, the Christian singer. It doesn’t really affect me much, but I’m sure her audience doesn’t appreciate some of the stuff I write about – if I was her, I’d be googling more often and trying to do something about it.

There are several Debbie Bennett teachers and scientists, and a couple of dancers around the world, I think. But the most entertaining was Debbie Bennett PR agency, whose email was so close to my domain name that I used to get a lot of her messages and one or two invitations to celebrity bashes. I found out the correct email and forwarded them on – and eventually found her phone number and rang her up for a chat!

There are ways to get yourself on the front pages of google. I don’t pretend to understand Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), but if you google the term, you can find out how to increase your chances of getting hits when somebody googles your name.

Other things you should set up include Google Alerts. Here, you type in your book title, or a unique phrase from your book, and google will report back periodically on where it’s found this search term. Great for finding pirate copies of your stuff, or reviews you’d forgotten you’d asked for or just for listening to see who is discussing your work and where.

So don’t be embarrassed about looking for yourself online. Happy googling!


10 comments:

Guernsey Girl said...

Excellent advice - thanks. I wanted to call myself Marilyn MonRuax (my grandmother's maiden name was Ruaux) but wince at the thought now...At least it would have made me stand out from the crowd!

Lydia Bennet said...

vanity googling is important! and fun - fascinating to think of those other you's living different lives. one of me runs a small select dress shop on the south coast or used to. thanks for this Debbie esp the google alert, alert.I've never done that before and will look into it.

Lydia Bennet said...

an ex of mine btw, with a seemingly very unusual last name, has 2 namesakes who, if memory serves, are a cop who heroically saved someone's life, and a murderer who cut someone in half!

Lynne Garner said...

Thanks for the heads up on the google alert - will add to my to-do-list to sort later this week.

Dennis Hamley said...

Debbie, you've wasted a whole morning for me. I've been vanity googling since 10.30. I'd never been beyond page 4 before. It's lucky I have a name shared by, it seems, nobody but two American gentlemen,one dead. I finally packed in at page 66 and it was virtually all me! But I've found some reviews hitherto completely unknown to me and also a truly great discovery. I've always wondered if an ancestor of mine might have founded Hamley's toyshop. I even once went with my kids to claim kin and got a fairly effective bum's rush. But on page 63 I found the website of Collecticus, which does exactly what its name suggests. They were advertising a unique die-cast model of a bus made especially for Hamley's and in the description gave a brief history of the shop itself. And it was found by William Hamley of Bodmin, who refused to go down a tin-mine like his brothers but instead went to London to found a toyshop. Well, I know about his brothers,Bob and Dick, who were both captains of tin mine levels (their sister Betsy ran the Dame School in Lanivet, near Bodmin.) I'm directly descended from them, though I didn't know about William. But this means I was right all the time! I'm going back to Regent Street and claim kin again! So thank you, thank you, thank you Debbie, for guiding me to a great revelation.

madwippitt said...

Debbie, were you really not tempted, just a teeny weny bit to go to the celeb parties?

Bill Kirton said...

Fascinating, Debbie. It almost made me do a Dennis but I forced myself to stop after 10 minutes. I came out, though, feeling (mistakenly, obviously) that I was quite famous.

Reb MacRath said...

Terrific advice. It also works for titles, using both Google and Amazon. In rewriting and, finally, publishing a book first written almost 20 years ago, I learned at a glance that I had no choice but to retitle the novel. White Knights has been done to death. Luckily, I had a fall-back choice that hasn't lost its freshness.

Debbie said...

I think they might have noticed if I'd tried to sneak into parties! And Dennis - that's fascinating that you are related to the toyshop and definitely worth a discount!

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I've always known there aren't many of me, and those that are are probably related. It's not that common, even in Poland. Not that it makes it any easier to spell!