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  • Why EVERY Writer Needs an Author Website

    Posted on November 28th, 2012 jean 2 comments

    Definition of Digital SharecroppingI’m lucky in that my dad purchased JeanOram.com for me somewhere around a decade ago and hosts the site for me (he’s into web stuff). However, there is MUCH more than just convenience and happenstance when it comes to writers and authors needing their own author website. (Even for those who aren’t published yet or even soon-to-be published–having your own ‘home’ on the net is very important.)

    I know it is an expense, and in some ways terrifying. BUT if you are making connections with other people in the cyber world and want a place where agents, editors, readers, and other folks to find you it NEEDS to be your own website–or in other words: something YOU control. (I’ll dig into exactly why in a moment.)

    And we won’t even dive into how you need to begin building an audience and developing that precious trust and awareness in your own personal writing brand before you have a product (books!) to sell and that a website is the place to do so.

    But really, the big take-away in this post is this: An author website is important because it is that somewhere you can direct your time and energy and still have it be there next week. It is your home, not just the latest cool coffee shop (social media website or free blogging site) where you hang out but could close without warning–and taking all the poetry you pinned to the walls.

    I’ve felt strongly about writers and authors needing to be careful about what content they place on sites they don’t control as well as how much of their audience is solely connected to their social media account–don’t get me wrong, they are good, but you need to make sure you always direct your audience back to your website.

    Why?

    Three Big Reasons You Need to Direct Your Audience Back to Your Website

    1. Your website will always be there. (Hopefully.) People move on from different social media sites. Also think Fail Whale (Twitter crashes) on a larger scale.

    2. You can sell products from your website–i.e. books. People don’t buy your book based on your tweets about it. You can show more about your books on your website and why it will give your audience something they need. You can also engage in ‘permission marketing’ also known as a newsletter or email list from your website.

    3. You can connect on a deeper level on your website. I might be able to give you soundbites on Twitter, but the ‘real’ content is always a link to a website or blog, isn’t it?

    Why Building Your Online Connections Solely on Free Sites Isn’t In Your Best Interests

    1. You can’t always do whatever you want, your way. That is, without getting in trouble. For example, you can hold any kind of contest on your website. (Although local laws might come into play if it is a ‘sweepstakes’ or something along those lines.) But if you are on a site like Facebook and decide to hold a contest or use Facebook to promote a contest being held elsewhere you are subject to some very stringent rules. What happens if you break them unwittingly or not? Facebook takes down your account without warning. Period. All gone. Hello, good-bye audience. I hope they know where else to find you–like your website.

    2. When you post content (poetry, photos, videos, or written what-nots) on the majority of social media sites you don’t OWN your content. Okay, you do. But so do they. A lot of social media sites, if you read the fine print, mention that they have the right to use your content as shared on their site–or even in modified form–(no matter what) in their own publicity WITHOUT compensation or credit to you. Who cares if you are a photographer or a writer sharing your first chapter on a site like Facebook? They can do whatever they want with it.

    3. I know this might come as a surprise, but not everyone who might be interested in your writing is engaged in social media. There are people out there without Facebook or Twitter or Google+ accounts. However, most people have access to an Internet connection. That means they can come to your website and blog and communicate and interact with you. Not so if you use social media for all your audience building and connecting.

    Social media is good for expanding your audience, websites are great for keeping it. <–tweet it

    4. Free websites and services can suddenly disappear. Overnight. What happens if one of those free sites breaks the law and the site is ‘seized?’ Then what? Or what if MySpace suddenly is dropped for Facebook? Like that’s going to happen. Oh, wait… And then Facebook is dropped for some other big new thing?

    5. The free websites and social media services you are using to gain followers could suddenly change the rules or the way you are allowed to interact and engage with your audience. For example, a lot of Mom Bloggers are moaning that their ‘likers’ can no longer see their page’s updates in their feeds unless they click a certain button. A button their audience probably doesn’t know about–but how do they let them know to click it? Exactly.

    6. It can be difficult to analyze your traffic on a ‘deeper’ level on some other sites compared to your own website.

    7. When people do a search for you online… what do you think they are looking for? Your website (homebase where they can learn more about you on a deeper level and gain an accurate impression of you) or your social media profiles?

     

    Google search. First page results. Top hits are jeanoram.com

    A quick Google search of “Jean Oram.” First page results and a screenshot of the top hits–top two are from jeanoram.com.

     

    The Benefits to Having Your Own Author Website:

    1. As mentioned earlier–selling. You can craft your calls to action (specific requests like: buy my book now [LINK]).

    2. You can create landing pages. These are special pages on your site that you direct people to so they don’t have to surf around, get lost, and leave when you are trying to direct them to something specific. Such as a page where you can buy your books or download a sample of your work, or subscribe to your mailing list (permission marketing which is KEY to connecting with your audience and making sure they know when you have a new release), or even to your contest or media page.

    3. You control everything about your site from its look to the content. Even the arrangement of what you want to draw your audience’s eye to as well as how you choose to interact.

    4. Brand Management. You can also control the impression you make. Everything from style, to content.

    5. There is a certain legitimacy to having your own site and a well-made site can also lend authority.

    6. People know where to find you. Always.

    7. Branding. Because on your own website you can control the look, the brand, the interactions, you can also control the impression you make as well as your brand development. Not as much on social media sites where others can comment, weigh in, and friend or follow you.

    If you want to read more about the importance of building a ‘home’ online and why social media may fail you, I highly recommend this article from CopyBlogger: Read their article on digital sharecropping here. (Sharecropping being–you, the user as the ‘farmer’ and not ‘owning’ the land you are working (social media sites, for example), and also not gaining the profits. Plus, you could be ousted!)

    If you don’t ‘own land’ online (i.e. your own website) I urge you to start shopping around if you are actively building an audience or will soon have a product to sell (ex.–the next month). Building a great website can take months and you want to make sure you start sending your audience to a great place before you find yourself in a crunch situation.

    Do you have a website or blog? Share the URL in the comment section or your thoughts on this topic. I love hearing from you.

    P.S. Want to tell others and happen to be a Twitter user? Click here to tweet this –> Why you need an author website. It might be for reasons you don’t expect.

  • Measuring Your Reach: Quick and Dirty Social Media For Writers

    Posted on February 27th, 2012 jean 2 comments

    Okay, so you’re blogging. You’re on Twitter. You’re on Facebook. You’re on Google+.

    Great.

    But is it working?

    You’re working your tail off to share great information in hopes of creating a valuable brand. But is anyone listening? Is there anyone there? You get a few comments, a few followers, a few “likes,” and some friends. But how far is your reach–really?

    And who is visiting your site anyway? What’s drawing them in? How long are they staying? How are they finding you? What are they viewing the most?

    To find out, we’re going to take a quick and dirty run at a few tools and get a wee bit analytical.

    (Please note that all the tools mentioned in this post are currently free. However, with the majority of these tools you have to “verify” your site to prove it is yours–verifying involves uploading a string of non-intrusive code into your blog/site. Don’t worry, it’s easy and harmless.)

    Six Easy Tools to Check Your Blog’s or Website’s Reach

    Blogger and WordPress: If you use Blogger or WordPress, there is a quick and easy way to check your visitor stats right there in your blog.

    WordPress: Look for is a link to stats in your dashboard. (You will soon need the new (free) plugin “Jetpack” to check your stats.)

    Blogger: Again, look for a link on your dashboard called “stats.”

    What I like about both these stat programs–they tell me which blog posts are the most popular. They also tell me which search keywords are the most popular in terms of bringing people to my blog, which days I get the most traffic, and more.

    These stat programs are handy, but sometimes you want more detailed information that they simply don’t provide.

    Google Analytics: If you are looking for a few more details, it is possible to add Google Analytics to your Blogger dashboard. You can also use Google Analytics with non Blogger blogs and websites, it just isn’t quite as integrated.

    The best thing about Google Analytics is that it gives you information about how ‘sticky’ your blog is. In other words, how many of your visitors are “unique” (vs. repeat visitors), the average time visitors spend on your site, and your bounce rate (whether visitors clicked over to other pages in your site/blog) or if they read and left.

     Pie Chart from Google Analytics Showing New Visitors

    Google Analytics

    Google Webmaster Tools: Again we have Google coming to the rescue. This time with their valuable Google Webmaster tools.

    One of the most valuable and unique things about Google Webmaster Tools is that it tells you if you have web crawler errors, such as broken links, etc. It also checks for malware hidden on your blog or site.

    Google Webmaster Tools--no Vital MessagesGoogle Webmaster Tools

    Naturally, Google Webmaster Tools also does site stats like other tools. However, one thing I noticed that I like is how it tells you which words are used most often on your site. In other words, if you have a science fiction writing blog, but the keyword “science fiction” isn’t coming up as one of the most used words… you’ve gained a little insight as to why you might not be getting the droves of visitors you hope for.

    While the visitor stats between Webmaster Tools vs. Google Analytics may differ, it could be due to whether your visitor has javascript enabled in their browser. If they don’t Google Analytics can’t see them, and therefore can’t count them. Yet another reason to give Google Webmaster Tools a spin.

    (Note: I just discovered that Acme Traffic has a WordPress plugin for GWT so you can access Google Webmaster Tools straight from your dashboard.)

    Server Stats: If you have access to the server your blog or site resides on, you can take a look at what your server is seeing. Often it has the same stats as many of these other tools. However, I have to say that the numbers I get from my server are COMPLETELY different than I get from any of these other tools. My average visitor number is considerably higher according to my server and I think it simply uses a different way of counting. What I’ve learned in the past few weeks are the bit about javascript as well as “duplicate” content. For example if you typed in “www.jeanoram.com” or “http:// jeanoram.com/blog” you went to the same place. So, some stat programs would see those are two separate sites and count them separately. My server, however, would not. Either way, my server stats also give me some goods that these other tools do not. And the fact that I keep having to increase my bandwidth tells me that someone is visiting–even if I don’t always see them or talk to them. 🙂

    Alexa: Alexa Stats was recently recommended to me by a fellow AQCer (Rick Spillman–thanks Rick!). Again, Alexa is a bit different. Below you will see a listing of the top seven high impact search queries for my site–a feature I really like. When you know what people are looking for and what those things are in relation to your site, it can really help you tweak your content. (If you are so inclined.)

    Chart of High Impact Search Queries from Alexa

    Alexa’s High Impact Search Queries

    One of the unique features about Alexa is that you can compare your website or blog against someone else’s. (Yes, it may bring out your hidden competitive spirit!) You can also check out your “global” rating is as well as the number of sites linking to you.

    Another cool feature is their visitor averaging profile. According to Alexa, it appears that the majority of my visitors are mothers aged 25-34 who have a fair amount of education and typically browse my site from work. True? I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s that far off. (However, Alexa says their confidence is low.)

    While Alexa does the “basics” for free, you will notice that their site can be difficult to navigate as they often want you to upgrade and you may need to look a little closer to see their free option and to get to where you want to go.

    One more note about Alexa–their “wayback machine.” Scary stuff–I can view this site as far back as 2008!!! I’ve come a long way baby!

    Klout: Now this is an interesting tool. I joined Klout about a week ago and I love checking it daily because my “klout” (a score out of 100) continues to rise before my very eyes! Klout makes me feel as though I am getting somewhere and influencing folks!

    I should mention that Klout is completely different from the previously mentioned tools. Klout checks your social media networks (At this time, just Twitter–they are working on adding Facebook to Klout) to see how many followers you have, how you interact with others, how many retweets you get, mentions, etc. Basically, it is looking at your social reach or influence. For me, I use it for my @kidsPlay account with Twitter.

    Klout Influence graph for @KidsPlay

    According to Klout, these are the things I
    influence with my @KidsPlay Twitter account

    However, Klout’s system is not perfect. (See above chart.) It thinks I am influential about cars more than parenting which is a real shame considering @KidsPlay is about parenting and play and children! (And I don’t think I’ve mentioned cars once on Twitter, nor do I follow or chat with any car people.) An interesting side note though: I’ve tried Klout for my @jeanoram Twitter account as well. This is an account that I do not use daily, regularly, nor all that purposefully as I do with @KidsPlay. And Klout does see the difference.

    ~

    All the same, Klout, like the other tools I have mentioned, are great to have when you are trying something new and are curious to see if it is working. As some of you know, I have been participating in a one month challenge over on AQC and by checking my stats, I can see that all my hard work is indeed beginning to pay off.

    Tip: With most blog stat programs there is usually a button you can click on that says “Don’t count your own pageviews.” For accurate stats, you want to click on this because guess who visits your blog or site the most? Yeah, it could be you! (Particularly when tweaking new content.)

    So, how about you? Have you ever checked your stats? What tool did you use to check them? What do you think? Did they depress you? Excite you? Inspire you to go with what those stats said was working and work on what wasn’t? Share your experiences.

  • Quick and Dirty Social Media For Writers: SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

    Posted on February 13th, 2012 jean 1 comment

    Oh no! Not another acronym. SEO. What the heck is that? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In other words, get those search engines to recognize your site so you get more traffic.

    Eek! I’m so behind the times! I know nothing about this! Fear not. It’s Social Media Monday and I have some quick and dirty tips for you. (And while SEO isn’t exactly social media your blog where you are going to utilize SEO is.)

    Google Icon

    What is SEO?

    SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In other words, if you are a writer and blogging your heart out and nobody is coming to your blog, there are a few things you can do so your blog or website is seen by search engines.

    How Does SEO Work?

    From Wikipedia:

    SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience.

    Basically, you do a few things (for free–we are going to keep this easy, quick, and free. You can get much more complex about this, but I’m not into exploding the heads of my readers. Nor my own head for that matter) on your blog and increase the visibility of that site by search engines. This will increase your ranking in searches–hopefully done by your potential audience.

    Bing Image

    What Can I Do to Increase My Site’s Search Engine Optimization?

    Good news. Lots. Here are a few things to get you started:

    • If you use WordPress, search for plugins you can install. Search for “SEO.” I’ve started using the Meta SEO Pack (no news on how this is working for me as of yet). If you are using Blogger, some of this has already been done for you. This doesn’t mean you can slack off! Keep reading.
    • Watch for duplicate content. In other words, do you have the same stuff all over your site? Such as your latest blog post showing up on your homepage too? Not good for SEO.
    • Fresh content. The more fresh stuff you post, the more search engines will see you. That’s one of the reasons a blog is a lovely thing to have on a website.
    • Original content. If you are posting the same stuff on your blog as you are on say, Goodreads or Amazon (like a lovely book review), guess which review is going to get top billing on a search engine? Your blog or the mega site Goodreads or Amazon?
    • Links in. You want people linking to you. Whenever someone links to you, the search engines figure you must have something good.
    • Too many outgoing links are bad. If you have a ton of links out on your page, this sends search engines into some kind of tizzy. There is a fancy thing you can do by making your links out a ‘no follow’ which basically means you are telling search engines not to follow those links out of your page. You want that search engine to “stay and look,” right? Right. (An “archive widget” will also be a lot of links out. So, also a no-no.)
    • Tags. You have the option to add ‘tags’ to your blog. Do so. Think about your content and what exactly in your post might be something searchable. And no, tagging it ‘”hot porn” isn’t a good idea, unless you like spam. For this post, some good tags might be: SEO, Search Engine Optimization, Increase your blog traffic, SEO tips, and the like.
    • And lastly, (this one might break your little writer heart) title your blog posts in a way that they are something people might type into a search engine. In other words, “Holy Dickens, Batman” for a post on the wordiness of the Classics isn’t going to get you as many hits as something titled “Word Counts of Classic Novels.” Not as original, but it is something some type into Google. (Yes, I tried it.)

    There are a few quick and dirty tips you can use to increase the traffic on your blog by keeping search engines in mind–and without doing a lot of extra work.

    Have you tried any of these tips? Which ones would you like to try? Go for it now! See what happens and tell me how you do.

  • How Authors And Writers Can Use Social Media For Promotion

    Posted on February 8th, 2012 jean No comments

    I’m reading Chris Brogan‘s book, Social Media 101, at the moment and I came across a great blog post of his while surfing the net. It’s a fantastic list of things authors or writers can do to use social media to their benefit while promoting themselves or their books–without being annoying.

    It is a must read article. Here are a few appetizers from his list before I send you to his blog for the full course:

    Start an email newsletter. It’s amazing how much MORE responsive email lists are than any other online medium.

    Seriously, I did not know that. Yet, I almost always read the newsletters that come in from authors, etc. Makes sense to create one, doesn’t it?

    When people talk about your book, good or bad, thank them with a reply. Connect to people frequently. It’s amazing how many authors I rave about on Twitter and how few actually respond. Mind you, the BIGGEST authors always respond (paradox?)

    I love it when authors reply to my tweets about their books and feel greatly disappointed when they don’t reply. I LOVE twitter for giving a little shout out to published authors. (I can’t wait to be on the other side of that tweet and make some connections and new friends!)

    That’s a little sample of Brogan’s smorg list of 21 tips. Here’s the link to the full article.

    Enjoy!

    And if you have some tips or ideas that you think would rock the social media world, feel free to shoot them into the comment section.

  • Quick and Dirty Social Media for Writers: Social Media Dashboards

    Posted on February 6th, 2012 jean No comments

    Welcome to Social Media Monday.

    Today’s quick and dirty peek at social media tools is about efficiency. Because let’s face it… this social media thing can be a real time sink. You want to use it to your advantage, but you don’t want to spend all day on it. You’ve got writing to do! So, what is an easy way to manage your accounts and update your statuses on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (note: generally you can manage other social media accounts as well)? How do you quickly share a link to that funny writer video, great blog post, or toot your own horn? You use a handy-dandy social media dashboard.

    TweetDeck Desktop

    What is a Social Media Dashboard?

    Basically, a social media dashboard is a place where you can post to your social media accounts from one place. In good dashboards you can see your follower’s updates, post your own updates, schedule status updates for later, create lists, feeds, and more. Your dashboard is linked to all your social media accounts saving you time. You can see all you need to see from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites all from one place.

    Your dashboard can be online, be a handy app, or something you can download onto your desktop, or all three.

    Seesmic Mobile App

    What Are Some Social Media Dashboards?

    There are quite a few dashboards out there and they are all different. Many of them have the basics listed above (give or take a few features).

    Personally, I have tried TweetDeck, SocialOomph, Ping.fm/Seesmic, and HootSuite. Currently, my favourite of the three is probably HootSuite and Seesmic due to the interface (quick to figure out) and the amount of work I can get done from one place. As with everything, all have their flowers, all have their poop.

    SocialOomph Online Screenshot

    TweetDeck, HootSuite and Seesmic allow you to see what your follow folks in Twitter are tweeting which is lovely. You can also schedule updates to be sent out at various times throughout the day or month (SocialOomph is great for this as well).

    SocialOomph has it’s own pluses such as great business features–so if you want more and don’t mind paying, this may be your ticket. Plus, it is a lightweight site which means speed. None of this bogging down like some of the other sites. However, you can’t view what your follow folks are tweeting and reply to them using the free version.

    I haven’t quite figured out the whole Ping.fm thing. It seems like you can only post updates–however, you can send your updates to more social media sites than I’ve ever even heard of! That’s got some pluses to it. It also seems like it is connected to the Seesmic dashboard (same company?) which has the whole gorgeous dashboard thing going on. It is what Ping.fm isn’t.

    In the end, I am flipping between several as I figure out which one will meet my needs the best. So far it is looking like it will either be Hootsuite or Seesmic.

    How Do You Get a Social Media Dashboard?

    Many are free for what you may need as a writer. However, they usually have business plans  that cost a bit per month but have more features. Depending on how you use social media, you may require one of these plans. Or you may not.

    Linkies to the folks I’ve mentioned:

    SocialOomph.com    Seesmic.com   Ping.fm   TweetDeck    HootSuite

     

    Do you use a social media dashboard? I’d love to hear what you think about it. Pluses? Drawbacks? Or as I say, the flowers and the poop.