Still not sure you need your own website, under your own name?
Boomer the Dog proves you do!
Before we get to Boomer, here’s a wrap-up of what I’ve been saying about owning your own name:
Like it or not, you have a public image. It’s an image magnified many times over by the Internet. The single biggest part of that picture is the impression created when people look you up using Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines.
You Will Be Googled
And you will be googled! If you ever apply for a job. If you ever aspire to a promotion. If you ever seek to hire an employee. If you ever recruit clients. If you ever go dating, fall in love, or propose marriage. If you ever write a book. If you arouse someone’s curiosity by doing none of the above. You will be googled.
What will people learn by googling you? Ideally, they’ll find information about the “real you”. Here’s hoping that that information is both accurate and positive. More important, however, than information is the impression folks get from all the results that pop up when they google you.
If you have a common name — like, say, “Gary Matthews” — then a lot of the results that pop up probably won’t even be you. Unfortunately, some of the overall image those links create will stick in searchers’ minds. The connotations will linger. Those impressions form a large part (and perhaps the greatest part) of your public image.
If your name is uncommon, then the links that pop up may (or may not) be primarily about you, the real you. They may (or may not) give a positive impression. That depends on what the people creating those links think of you, how well they know you, how careful they are. There’s also a lot of luck involved.
That’s where your website comes in. That’s where owning your own name on the web comes in. If you own your own “domain name” (e.g., GaryMatthews.COM) and you have an active website under that name, then you have a voice in creating your own public image.
With luck, and some work, your voice may even be the dominant voice.
But if you don’t own your own name on the web, or if you own it but haven’t used it to put yourself out there with a website, then you’ll have no voice.
You’ll have a public image — the impressions created when other people google your name. It may (or may not) be a good image. It may (or may not) be the one you want or need. But you will have no voice, no input, in creating it.
Because you didn’t show up. You left your fate in the hands of other people. Good luck with that.
How does Boomer the Dog prove I’m right? We’ll get to that. But first, my struggles with owning my own name.
Owning My Own Name
I’m Gary Matthews. The real Gary Matthews. Okay, there are some other Gary Matthewses who also are real. (Boomer isn’t one of them.) Aside from that, I own the web-domain GaryMatthews.com, along with several important variations.
I’ve worked hard, and spent plenty, to do that. Then I’ve put myself out there with a website — this website — where I explain who I am and what I have to offer.
Even so, it’s been hard to get my website onto the front page of Google’s results, when people type “gary matthews” into the search field. That’s because there are several famous Gary Matthewses, notably two Major League baseball stars. Google, figuring you’re more likely looking for them than for me, tends to display them first.
But lately I’ve been appearing on Google’s front page, even when “logged out” people search for my name. (Thank you, Google!) The logged-out part is important: If Google knows who you are, and thinks you’re connected with me, it’s more likely to show my site in the top results. That’s great — but I also care about neutral and generic searches.
After a year of hard work, creating and sharing valuable content, I’ve begun appearing — mostly, though not always — on Google’s front page. Sometimes at or near the bottom, though I’m hoping to rise. The good news is that I’m the only “Gary Matthews” who appears with a profile photo beside my nicely dressed-up link (or “rich snippet” as Google calls it). On whatever page that happens, I might as well be the top result, since that’s what draws the eye.
Then — Boom! …
Along Came Boomer
Around Chicago, there’s a fiftyish, unemployed IT consultant named Gary Guy Mathews. (Note the spelling — he uses one “t”; I use two.) Mathews thinks of himself as Boomer the Dog. And he wants to be known that way.
In pursuit of this public image, Mathews sleeps in a doghouse, eats from a dog dish, and dresses — publicly as well as privately — in a dog suit. He chases cars. He barks at people he meets. Not sure how he relates to fire hydrants. He owns a website, BoomerTheDog.net, where he promotes himself. (Chalk up one believer in the value of owning your own name on the web!)
In 2010, Mathews made national headlines by filing a court petition to change his legal name to “Boomer the Dog”. A judge declined the request, noting that a 911 emergency operator might not take seriously a life-or-death help request from a caller identifying himself as a dog.
That was then. But now, panicked by their alarming shortage of real news, major reporting outlets seem bent on resurrecting Boomer’s story, He’s resurfaced on ABC, NBC, Huffington, various national papers, and throughout the blogosphere.
And most of these so-called “journalists” can’t be bothered to spell his name right! Instead, they (mis)spell it like mine — with a double, not a single, “t” as it really is.
So now, when you search the Internet for “gary matthews”, Boomer the Dog is once more all over the Google front page. In many cases, stories about him outrank my website. In some (depending, among other things, on where you search from), he has bumped me back off the front page, and onto page 2.
Now before you charge me with taking myself too seriously — no, I don’t. Here are some selfies I shot for the social-media weekly event known as Caturday: the day (aka Saturday) when cat-lovers post pictures of cats on sites such as Google Plus. (Yeah, I know: Cats everywhere are asking: “But isn’t Caturday every day?” It’s cats, not me, who take themselves too seriously.)
But my name is my brand. That’s true of any writer. It’s also true of you, be ye writer or no. All things being equal, you really don’t want emails like the ones I’m getting, asking me if it’s true that I’m Boomer. Some of those notes were joking, and I joked back. Others, I’m not sure of.
I’ve told the story, previously, of my writer friend who shares her comparatively unusual name with a writer of erotic fiction. The latter created a website showcasing her work — and as I’ve conceded, it was good work. I found it artistic and tasteful. But my friend didn’t necessarily want erotic fiction being associated with her name.
Boomer the Dog will fade from the news, maybe to surface again later. Or maybe not. Either way, I’ll still be there, owning my own name. I’ll be publishing and posting valuable content, hoping this earns ever-higher notches on the Google front page. I may need to struggle to keep the public image I want. But with a website, I have, at least, a voice.
Because I don’t want “Boomer” to be the only thought that crosses your mind when you hear my name. Yes, do think of me. Just as more than a dog, please!
And then contact me for help with owning your own name, and building your own website. You need this!