Hello dear readers (again, I mean you Mom)! Welcome to the digital age (just in case you weren’t paying attention)! Today, people spend as much of their time online as they do in the real world. If we break it down, there isn’t really much difference in trying to get noticed in person or in pixels. It all comes down to content and character. When you’re walking down the street and others can actually see you, achieving both isn’t too difficult. How do you accomplish them over the worldwide web? The answer: an awesome website (and an online presence over various social networks, but we’ll discuss that another time).
So… it probably isn’t necessary for you to ask if a writer should have a website. I only have one answer and it isn’t likely to change. (It’s “YES, you do.” Just in case you didn’t get that.) You’re website is, in essence, you in words… and images. And links. (You get the idea.) It’s you on the internet. It serves as your resume, portfolio, and business card. Since you can’t put a pair of killer heels on your website to get it noticed, you do the following:
1. Tune your content.
Make sure your write-ups are regular and relevant. (Yeah, I know. I’m one to talk.)
As to the first, you have two options. First, keep your posts regular by scheduling them. Let’s face it: it’s going to be hard to keep up a steady stream of updates. Write your content in advance then set your website to post them even when you’re not online to do it yourself. This is especially useful during busy months when you don’t get to spend as much time on the web as you’d like. The second option, though it isn’t one I’d recommend (though it is one I’ve turned to more than once), is to backdate your posts. This basically defeats the purpose of keeping updates regular, but is sometimes necessary. Most blog sites now allow you to do both (i.e. schedule and backdate your posts). Take advantage of these features.
As to the second, there is no easy way out of it: RESEARCH. As a writer, you’re reaching out to a specific niche. Find out what your readers want to hear, then give them what they want. In this case, Google is your most valuable ally. This is probably the most difficult part of the process, but it is also the most important.
TIP: When running a search on Google (or any other site), try to enclose some of the words in quotation marks (e.g. “trends”+”childrens literature”). This lets Google know that you’re looking for those words specifically. You’ll get more appropriate results.
2. Let your character shine through.
No one wants to read through encyclopedia entries for fun. Jazz up your website with elements that reflect your personality.
Easier said than done, I know. However, if you want to DIY, I have a few suggestions that might make the whole process a lot easier (and less expensive).
Wix is an online site builder that allows users with no coding skills to create stunning websites at absolutely no charge. Their platform makes use of simple drag and drop tools. You choose a template you'd like to build on, then customize it. You can insert any form of media (e.g. images, audio, video, etc.) that you either upload yourself or pick out from their library. If you want to change how things look on a page, you just move it around like you would an element on Photoshop. The system makes the entire design process hassle-free.
What I particularly dislike about Wix is that to publish your website, you have to use the url they assign you. To attach a custom domain to your site, you'll need to upgrade to one of their paid plans. If you don't update to at least a Combo package, you'll also have to deal with their ads on every page. (Prices are pretty reasonable, all things considered.)
If you're still on Blogger, Joomla or Wordpress, then you should look into Artisteer.
Artisteer is the first and only Web design automation product that instantly creates fantastic looking, unique website templates and blog themes.
The software, much like Wix, allows users to either build on a template or start from scratch. You can customize everything from the layout to the font. The downside is that Artisteer doesn't come cheap. (It goes for $129.95 for the Standard Edition.) It does however give you the option to try it out for free. The trial will not allow you to save your project, which might seem limiting at first. It will however, allow you to export your design to your blog or website.
Pagemodo is a web tool geared towards social media marketing. It helps you edit Facebook cover photos, make custom tabs, schedule and design your social media posts and create contests for your Facebook page. I use it for post design.
The post designer is a relatively new tool. You pick a template, then replace the elements with ones you want. There are some limits to the things you can make your own. For instance, you can't add your own images to templates that don't already have images attached. Also, like Wix, you'll have to deal with the watermark that they put on all of their images unless you upgrade to a paid account. The watermark is pretty small so I don't really mind sticking with the basic service. It's pretty handy. I discovered it a few months back. I've been using it ever since.
So there! These are some of the tricks and tools I employed while giving my website a makeover. Hopefully they will be of some use to you.