I recently wrote an article about the importance of building a brand for writers, inspired by my good friend and mentor (whether she realizes she mentors me or not), Laura Spencer of Writing Thoughts. One of the best ways to begin building brand awareness is to start a writer’s website. You can offer writing advice to others, sell products and services, as well as have a little fun – you know, diversion from the everyday tasks involved in running your business.
Herein lies the rub – many new freelance writers, bloggers, journalists, and copywriters make some critical mistakes in setting up and running their sites that leave them frustrated and working at a capacity far beneath their potential.
Check out my tips for improving your new writing site that will help you reach your professional potential and your target market in ways that set you apart from the rest.
- Purchase Your Own Domain Name – If you want to blog as a hobby, or simply use your site as a public online journal, of sorts, you probably don’t need to buy your own domain. But – if you want others to see you as a professional [insert title], you’ll need to cough up the cash to do so. It doesn’t cost much and it protects your brand.
- Self-Hosting: The Serious Writer’s Choice – self-hosting affords you far more options for customization of your site. It announces your professional commitment as a freelancer and typically attracts more potential clients and engagement than the free hosting options do. If people are going to spend part of their budget on your professional services, they want to know you’re going to be around for a while. A self-hosted site implies that you’re serious about your career.
- Search Engine Submission – Submit your website to the various search engines as soon as it goes live. Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have fairly easy ways to do this.
- White Space: Haute Couture of Great Content – There’s nothing worse than stumbling upon a website with seemingly never-ending text, even if the text has great information to offer. Remember, you’re writing for the Web, not for the Houston Chronicle or a glossy magazine. People like great content with text that’s separated by subtitles and white space.
- SEO Please – While great content represents the grail of the great website, it’s meaningless if people don’t know it exists (Think about the old riddle…”If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it really make a sound?” – Um…no, it doesn’t unless you or I hear it – adorable forest dwelling animals excepted.) Learn basic SEO practices. You’ll be glad you did.
- Sharing and Subscribing – People Like Options – Offer more than one way for readers to subscribe. You say tom-ay-toe, I say to-mah-toe. Some people prefer to subscribe via email, while others prefer RSS feeds. Give them the option. Provide social sharing options on each page and post and display them prominently. These represent major drivers of new traffic to your site. Ignore them at your peril.
- Self-Awareness and Self-Empowerment – Don’t copy someone else’s online persona. Hell, don’t even think about trying to emulate your online heroes who have already paid their dues and worked in the trenches. Do your own thing. Create an online personality as distinct as your face-to-face one. Study yourself and your talents. Ask trusted friends and mentors to tell you where you excel and where you need to improve. Don’t let your weaknesses get you down. When you become aware of them and accept them, they empower you.
By no means do these tips represent the “be all, end all” of website awesomeness or building your brand. There’s so much more to it. I’ll write about the finer points in future posts, but for now, these do represent the basics – your homework, so to speak.
Give us some of your glitter: Do you have additional tips to offer for website improvement? Tell us about your own challenges and victories, so we can all sparkle together.