Today I’m opening two workshops to help beginners set up websites and blogs. With that in mind, I want to go back to “step one” and review why authors might need a website and blog.
Years ago, authors could get away with pounding on their typewriter in seclusion and never interacting with the public. Now the expectations that go along with 24/7 connectivity mean we don’t get that choice. Our choice instead is: How much interaction do we want to have?
Do we want to keep it to a minimum, or do we want to build an online network? Do we just want to play with other writers and soak up the atmosphere? Or do we want to connect with others who can help our writing become a business that provides income?
As with many things, there’s no “one right answer” to how far we should emerge from our writing caves. The best choice for us will depend on our goals.
Are We Serious about Our Writing Career?
If we’re serious about our writing career, especially about making it a business, there’s one answer that’s close to a requirement. We at least need a website.
Yes, I’m making a statement and saying that as soon as we’re serious about becoming a career-focused writer, we should make two decisions:
- We should decide what name we’re going to use for our writing (so all our blog comments, social media accounts, etc. match with our author name).
- We should decide how we want to create an online presence (so our author name shows up in a Google search).
It’s okay if we each put that “I’m serious about writing” line somewhere different. Some of us will know we’re serious as soon as we obsess over a story idea. Some of us won’t know until much later.
But by the time we’ve completed a manuscript that we’re submitting to agents or editors, we should have an online presence and be Google-able. Of all the different ways to create a Google listing, only a website makes us Google-able and gives us an online home with minimal maintenance.
Whether we take that website one step further and add a blog depends on our goals once again. Either way, using our author name (pen name, if applicable) in the URL (the http://ourname.com web address) will help people find us.
Goal of a Website: Make Our Author Name Google-able
Being Google-able is one of the most important goals for writers who treat their career as a business. Published authors use a website to be Google-able so their readers can find more stories to read. Unpublished authors use a website to be Google-able to other writers—and to agents and editors.
Wait…Agents and editors might Google our name, even when we’re a “nobody” unpublished writer? Absolutely, especially once we’ve completed and started submitting a full manuscript. They might search on our name to see if we’re professional, understand the industry, or have other stories they find interesting.
Goal of a Blog: Make Our Author Name Show up in Related Searches
The main difference between a website and a blog is that a website has several “static” (rarely changing) pages and a blog has a single page with the most recent post on top. If we simply want to be Google-able in case someone searches for our author name, a website is enough. If we want potential readers to find us when they search for things related to us, a blog will show up in wider search results.
The best way to make our website—and thus our author name—show up higher in search results is to attach a blog to our website. Like the proverbial squeaky wheel, Google pays attention to sites that change more frequently, such as those updated with regular blog posts.
If You’re Going to Blog, Do It Right
Some writers want to blog for personal reasons, like an online journal. Personal blogs that aren’t about building up their author name can be run as the author sees fit (to a point). But if we blog to help spread our author name and/or improve our Google-ability, we have to learn which techniques will produce the best results.
For example, some authors have blogs on Blogger or another platform and a website somewhere else. That set-up doesn’t help their ranking in Google as it would if their website and blog were integrated.
The stand-alone blog’s traffic, no matter how high, won’t help the unrelated website rise in the search results. In many cases, visitors to the blog won’t know the author even has a website, so they won’t be tempted to click around and discover what the author has to offer. My website and blog are an example of how they can be connected, giving readers more to explore.
Another issue to watch out for is that a bad blog—unused/abandoned or unprofessional—can be worse than no blog. Google likes seeing regular updates (new blog posts), and agents and editors like seeing a writer who won’t be difficult to work with.
So if someone with no experience decides they want a website and blog, where do they start?
No Experience with Websites or Blogs? No Problem
Last summer I presented the workshop “Develop a Free Author Website in 60 Minutes (or Less!)” at the National Conference of Romance Writers of America. At the request of Kristen Lamb, I’m bringing that workshop, along with a twin workshop, “A Newbie’s Guide to Building a Self-Hosted Blog or Website,” to WANA International for two separate live webinars.
These two workshops are designed for people who have no knowledge of WordPress, websites, or blogs. People should sign up for only one of the workshops:
- Those who want to “test this website stuff out” with a free website and blog can learn everything they need to know to get started with my “Develop a Free Author Website in 60 Minutes (or Less!)“ workshop.
- Those ready to invest in a website and blog they’ll own can learn everything they need to get started with my “A Newbie’s Guide to Building a Self-Hosted Blog or Website“ workshop.
Readers of my blog can get $5 off by using the promo code: Jamisave. (*psst* My newsletter subscribers will receive a special code for twice the savings.)
In future posts, I’ll share more information to help the undecideds figure out whether they want to take the path of a free website or a paid website. As I said at the top of the post, it all depends on your goals. *grin*
Those of us online tend to forget that a huge percentage of writers aren’t online. Many local writing groups are filled with writers who don’t have a clue. People who attended my workshop at RWA last summer thanked me for making the information clear and non-intimidating. With your assistance in spreading the word, I hope to help more writers embrace their online potential. Thank you!
Do you have a website or blog? If you have one and not the other, what made you decide on that approach? What goals do you have for being online? Are your website and blog connected? Do you know writers who would benefit from a beginner’s level workshop like this?