Use Google Alerts to keep tabs on your author platform.

What will an agent see if she Googles you right this instant? Are you tracking your name in real time as it appears on the Internet?

If you answered no, you have a problem. Luckily, it’s easy to solve with Google Alerts. Google Alerts automates the process of Googling yourself and sends updates directly to your email so you never miss a thing.

“I do a Google and social media search for every query I read,” David Rozansky, publisher at Flying Pen Press, told me via Twitter. He’s not alone. These days, you can be certain agents you query will run a Google search on your name. They aren’t just checking for negative stories or bad behavior; they need to assess your platform.

“Platform…is your visibility as an author,” Chuck Sambuchino writes in his book Create Your Writer Platform. The better visibility you have, the more salable your writing looks to agents and publishers.

With that in mind, it’s crucial to keep tabs on those Google search results. Here’s how:

If you don’t have a Google account, you’ll need to sign up for one to use Google AlertsOnce you’ve logged into your Google account, go to www.google.com/alerts. Google gives you a form to create a new alert right away:

  • Search query: Your full name, surrounded by quotation marks.
  • Result type: Everything.
  • How often: Up to you, but I recommend once a day. This will give you a daily update with any new Google search results for your name. If your name is high-profile or you write about a controversial topic, you may want to choose as-it-happens to make sure you’re the first to know if something goes viral.
  • How many: Again, up to you and how tightly you need to monitor your online image. Only the best results — where Google weeds out irrelevant results — is sufficient for most writers. By default, search results pages are filtered similarly, so choosing only the best results gives you something close to what an agent sees when she Googles your name. If you feel more comfortable weeding out those junk results on your own, choose all results.
  • Deliver to: Choose your email address.

You’ll notice Google displays a live preview of your search results as you adjust your alert settings. I made a few notes on mine here to demonstrate some important things you can learn from these results. There are ways I could fix these platform issues, but we’ll save that for another tutorial.

alert settings

Click the image to see a larger version

Once you’ve finished filling out the form, click Create Alert.

You’re all done! Google will keep you abreast of what’s happening when people search for you. If you want to get really fancy, you can create alerts for competing authors, relevant topics, your agent’s name, and anything else you want to monitor. 

Questions? Requests for future tutorials? Leave them in the comments.

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