First impressions are often made online today, and your online identity is your public face to the world. In addition to doing a Google search on your own name to find out what exists about you, setting up one or more Google Alerts so that you can thank the source and rebroadcast what was said about you (or manage it if it’s not positive), tracking what’s said about you and/or your products on social media outlets, and making sure you own a domain that maps to your name, you need to think strategically about what you want your online identity to be. Choosing an identity doesn’t mean you’re locked into it forever, or that you can’t branch out, but it does give you a starting point to establish yourself when you’re just starting out or are working to establish your brand.

Recently I’ve worked on website projects for clients who happily have their hands in multiple pies. For example, they might have a consulting business and also be an author. Ideally these projects start with an established web presence for the consulting business, which can then be leveraged for marketing the related book – and a new site can be created specifically for marketing and selling the book. But what if the book came first? And what if a single person consults about Topic A, and writes books about Topic B? What to do then?

Unfortunately, there’s no single answer here – but there is a overall approach to figuring out the right way to move forward:

Think strategically about your brand, then develop it and follow through.

It’s not difficult to do, but I often see individuals struggle with this idea because they haven’t planned ahead – they create a bunch of websites before thinking about how they will all work together.

Let’s say you’re a consultant who authored a book related to your consultancy, but you also authored some other books about a totally unrelated topic – let’s say fly fishing…

For the consulting side of things, think about whether you want to be known as an author who does some consulting, or a consultant who has authored a book. The analysis here is to determine how you will present yourself to the world through your web presence, including your keywords, and links back to your site. This is how people will get to know you, and how you build your brand. If you’re Suze Orman, you’re all set – you have the name recognition you want. But if you don’t have name recognition, think about whether you want to develop your name or your expertise as your brand. You may want your name and your expertise always paired – but how do you get there? Well, if you wrote a book with the goal of gaining name recognition as an expert, then I would start with a web presence focused on the book – make the domain name the book’s title, or other straightforward keywords that will bring in your target audience. On that site offer yourself, the author, for speaking engagements – build your name as an expert associated with the book, then create a web presence around what you have to offer as a consultant with that expertise. Over time, the book will become one of many offerings you make available through your consultant site – but you have to invest in branding yourself as an expert with regards to the book content first.

For the fly fishing side of things, don’t expect that your consultancy and your fly fishing expertise will ever be completely separate – with minimal investigating, people will know that you are the source of both fly fishing books and an online consultancy. But think strategically about how you will or won’t bring those two things together. Perhaps you decide your name is better utilized for the marketing of your consultancy, so you create a title for yourself for your fly fishing books – eg: the fly fishing expert. Your name will still be associated with the fly fishing books as the author, but you can determine how prominently it is or is not featured. Also, you don’t need to have anything on your consultancy site that has anything to do with fly fishing, but you may consider ways your experience in one might affect the other – that way you can acknowledge that you do both, but capitalize on how one might enhance the other.

At the end of the day *you* are the one who determines how you represent yourself online – so make sure you’ve thought through your options. If you have a little bit here, and a little bit there, and you’re not managing how it works together, it’ll be difficult to go after a larger, cohesive success.