I can’t promise that will be easy for you to make the top page of Google results (depending on how common your name is), but I can promise you will see big improvements if you put even a little work into improving your author or writer’s name search results–because nearly no one ever does. And that includes your competition.
The first step is to Google your first and last name. If a lot of people have your exact name, add the word ‘writer’ after when you search, like an editor or agent would do when trying to find you, to clarify things.
Print the results or take a screenshot to refer to later as you make improvements. (I wish I had done this–it would be great to show how much I improved with so little work!) Don’t freak out if you barely have anything that shows up on the first page or two or if your top results are okay but not your favorites.
Questions to ask of your results
Is there anything potentially confusing or damaging that comes up? In my case, there was a fake Twitter account that was pretending to me at my old employer and was tweeting scam content. It wasn’t really succeeding, but it wasn’t great to have it there (on the first page of search results!), so I’m glad I took the initiative to remove it. That involved contacting my old employer and having them ask Twitter to remove it for copyright violation reasons. Twitter took down the scam account quickly (within a week), but it took a few weeks after that for Google to stop showing the deleted account in my results, even though the link no longer worked. I just had to wait it out. Hopefully, you will just have typical results, but better to get moving on those longer-term battles first before the fun stuff.
What should be on there that isn’t, or that is too far down? This is where you want to think hard because you can change this: adding content to Google, or improving content for Google, is far easier than removing results. So, weirdly, what is not on there is more helpful to consider than what is…like…
Are all the social media accounts you want an editor or agent to see showing up? If not, it could be because your name is not your user handle; if so, consider changing that. It’s ideal to have your social media accounts be your actual name plus a writerly word — especially instead of something random (i.e., ElayneCrainWrites beats pancakelover8909 if you have to get creative — you’ll be easier to identify on both that platform and also by Google). You can usually change your account handle without starting a new account. Side note: if you are going to bring your middle initial into this, make sure you refer to yourself everywhere that way. For example, don’t call yourself Elayne N. Crain on Twitter and Instagram, but then submit a query from Elayne Crain. Submit the query from Elayne N. Crain, too, then. It’s essential to be consistent if you want Google to start piling things up and recognizing you for whatever the editor or agent will search for.
You won’t be able to remove legit content from someone who shares your name, but you can outrank them–and probably pretty quickly! The biggest thing is to make sure anything that is yours that does show up is current and echoing the same information (especially your name!). For me, I had to update my bio in many places because some said I lived in Nashville, some Melbourne, some Seattle, etc. Some mentioned I was a writer; others didn’t. That could be confusing to anyone who only knows that I currently live in Seattle and write picture books, let alone Google. Some of the social media places that Google loves are Linkedin, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you have an account there, definitely make sure it talks about you as a writer, in addition to whatever else is on there. Same with the other social media biggies (Instagram, YouTube, etc.)
Consider creating social media accounts for those you don’t have–especially Twitter and LinkedIn. Even if you create a Twitter account and pin a Tweet that says, for example, “I am only on Twitter sporadically; see me on Instagram (or whatever) at @ElayneCrain,” that will help you in Google search results–plus, you’ll have reserved your name if you want to use that account later. And if you don’t have a LinkedIn account or have one for your day job, you can still either create a quick one that explains you are a writer or add it as a hobby or interest to your existing profile.
Once you have updated all you can, you have to wait for Google to notice what you’ve changed, which can feel frustrating. Set yourself a reminder to re-Google yourself in one week, two weeks, and a month. You will see improvements, as well as weird rearranging of things you may not have expected. It can be like whack-a-mole — you get something great added, but now something else you like is lower on the page. That’s okay and normal. The main thing is to get as many items as you can updated and working together so that if an editor or agent goes to look for you, they find you without much effort–and so they see you at your online best.