Friday, January 15, 2016

You’ve Got a Site—Now What?

Okay, so you’ve designed your writer’s Web site or had it done for you, now what? Many people think if they design and launch a Web site that visitors will come. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, it usually takes at least three and sometimes six months for visitors to find your site. Why is that and what can you do about it?

The answer to the first question is simple. In order for people to find your site, they have to see it in search listings, but getting into search listings is no easy task. The extraordinarily long time it takes for your site to appear in search engine results is because it takes time for search engines robots to crawl your site. The next time you view your new site, imagine little things moving all over your pages. They’re recording keywords in the content and what the content is about. Then they send that information back to the mother ship, let’s say Google, so the search engine can create a listing that appears in visitors’ searches.

But once search engines have found your site, things will change and visitors will start going to it. However, by promoting your site through Email and social media, you can get visitors to go to it even before search engines list it. It’s imperative to promote your site from the very first minute it appears online. And don’t stop—ever.

In this era of social media, it’s important to let readers know where else you’re active online. After you get your Web site up and running, be sure to create a professional Facebook Page. This isn’t the personal page that most people use, but one that shows you as a writing professional. It’s the type of page people “like.” You’ll have to work to get people to like your new Facebook Page, and this could take some time. But once you’ve created your Facebook Page, you’ll be able to download the code for widgets to put on your site, so that visitors can go to it.

Unlike your Web site, your Facebook Page is more to show fans what’s happening currently in your professional career. Don’t, as so many book authors do, create a Facebook Page for your book. Rather create a page for your writing business on which you can showcase your writing, no matter what kind you do.

If you have notable media coverage, good reviews, positive testimonials, or a significant following on a social media site, such as Instagram or Twitter, tell your site visitors about it. In fact, you may want to create a media page on which you post press releases and links to articles and reviews about you and your work. Doing so will show visitors that spending time on your site is worth it.

Give your visitors a reason to come back. Just telling them you’re a writer isn’t enough. Just promoting your book isn’t enough. You must offer them something. Don’t just post articles or stories you’ve written. Instead, choose them for subject matter that may be interesting to your readers, so they’re then actively reading your work. Inform and entertain them.

If visitors reach the bottom of a page on your site, that means they’re very engaged and will likely go to other pages on your site. Use this as an opportunity to add a call to action, such as an email newsletter sign-up or the sale of your book. If you don’t engage them first, you won’t sell anything.

To maximize the effectiveness of your website, install a site analytics tool. Google Analytics is a free and popular tool available to anyone with a Google account. Once you install it, you can  immediately collect data on your Web site traffic and visitors. It will also tell you which pages of your site are the most popular. This will help you plan for future additions to your site. And most importantly, your site statistics will tell you how people get to and use your site.

About 20–30 percent of your site traffic will come from mobile or tablet devices. Is your site optimized for those visits? While it’s important to keep cell phone users in mind, don’t design your site specifically for them, or for that matter, for any particular Web browser. Design your site for the majority of users. Owners of too many sites today are redesigning their sites just for cell phone use which takes away from how they look on a wide computer screen.

Remember, you don’t have to launch and perfect everything on your site at once. In fact, doing so is against the grain of the digital era. Start small but smart, and build your skills and presence over time. Customize and add more complex functionality as you get more comfortable with the technology, and as you develop specific skills and career goals that require the investment.

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