This is the last installment of my advice on improving your online presence as quickly and inexpensively as possible. (Read Part 1 and Part 2, if you missed them.)
This week: Claim your domain(s).
Whether or not you’ve read their books, Stephen King, Sue Grafton, Mitch Albom, Dan Brown, Lisa See, Dave Barry, Anita Diamant, and Malcolm Gladwell are names you should recognize from the best-seller lists.
To find out more about an author, the average web-savvy consumer will simply head to www.authorname.com.
So…do you own your domain? No? Why the heck not?
Registering your domain costs approximately $15 a year. If you decide to create a website, the hosting charges are extra. More on that later.
If you have an unusual name, your domain registration will be a breeze. If you have a more common name, you may find that it’s already taken. In that case, opt for something like:
The capitalization is mine—upper and lower case don't matter in web addresses.
Early on, I registered PaulaLJohnson.com, and nabbed PaulaJohnson.com several years later when it finally became available.
It’s best to stick with .com addresses and avoid using a hyphen in the address because it sounds clumsy out loud.
If you’re thinking about writing under a pen name, register that as well. I’m sure the author Lemony Snicket would agree.
If your name sounds common (Terry) but has an unusual spelling (Teri or Terreigh), consider registering the incorrect versions as well. Walmart owns both walmart.com and wallmart.com.
You can register your domain(s) with any one of dozens of companies. I use DreamHost. Their hosting fee is about nine bucks a month, and you can host multiple sites for the same price.
Once you have a domain, put it to work. While work is underway on your website, use “domain forwarding” to point yourname.com to your blog, LinkedIn profile, or any URL you choose. Is this legit? You bet. Danielle Steel's domain is forwarded to her page on her publisher's website. You can change the domain forwarding destination as often as you’d like.
Owning your domain means you can create domain email addresses. Ditch that old AOL or Hotmail account in favor of firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, keep tabs on your online presence by setting up Google Alerts on your name and the titles of your published books, stories or articles. Google Alerts are free, easy to set up, and will hunt down the search terms you specify on both sites and blogs.
Look for other self-promotion ideas in future Thursday posts.