Archive for the ‘Web/Tech’ Category

Thursdays with Amanda: Helpful Tools for Building, Hosting, and Designing Author Websites

September 18th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 4 Comments

literary agentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

 

A funny thing happened the moment I joined MacGregor Literary. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the moment I joined. Could have been a moment or two later.

Anyway, I became the “tech person.”

Due to what was probably a massive dose of ageism and the fact that I knew how to blog on WordPress (whoopty-do), I was soon the de facto knower of all things tech. So, whenever our website broke, the solution was to call Amanda. Or the posts weren’t showing up like they should–call Amanda. Or we needed to set up some kind of new account or change something on our site or figure out why in the world Twitter was being crazy–call Amanda.

Eventually, this responsibility was shared with another within our company, and rightfully so. Because here’s the truth…

I know little-to-nothing about tech stuff. I can’t write or read HTML. I have no idea what “Nameservers” actually means. Or if I’ve even spelled it correctly. I can barely navigate GoDaddy (in my defense, it’s the least intuitive, clunkiest website ever), and I’ve just now gotten the hang of a few website building tools through WordPress…and only because I painstakingly replicated what I saw a REAL webmaster do.

And yet…I’m one of the go-to tech people.

Yay me.

My husband always gets a kick out of this, because when setting up electronics or the like, I’m the type to refer to wires as “the blue one” and “the spirally short one,” whereas he says “input” and “output” or something of the sort. Or for the longest time I thought the universal hyperlink icon was a paperclip. A PAPERCLIP, PEOPLE! It didn’t dawn on me that the icon for “linking things” was a chain link (duuurr). So there I was, telling people to “click on the paperclip.”

THE SECRETS TO MAKING PEOPLE THINK YOU KNOW MORE ABOUT TECH AND WEBSITE STUFF THAN YOU ACTUALLY DO

I feel that on this blog I tend to come across as someone who knows a lot about the tech side of things. But clearly from the stories I’ve shared above, I don’t. What I do know has been the result of me forcing myself to learn. I didn’t grow up with the Internet or even a computer. But I’ve adapted. And I can now pose as a tech person even though what I really do is poke around and try things until I either figure out (*cough* Google *cough*) a solution or realize I’m in over my head.

Here are a few of my not-so-secret secrets:

1. I’m really really really good at Google searches

2. I’m great at following directions

3. I don’t have this mindset that I’ll “break” the Internet or whichever program I’m using

4. I’m not afraid to ask for help

5. I realize that this can be learned…but I won’t be an expert right away. I allow myself time and I go at my own pace.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BUILDING AN AUTHOR WEBSITE (WEB HOSTING, WEB DESIGN, SITE CREATION)

Okay, all this to say that I’ve been working on setting up a website for awhile, but again…since I know almost NOTHING, and since I want my site to be AWESOME, I figured I’d start at the beginning.

I need to figure out what program I’m going to use for my site (WordPress? or something else?). And where I’m going to host it (apparently, hosting outside of WordPress is cheaper and better for IT problems, and other reasons that I don’t really know right now). AND I need to figure out where to get a template (pretty design) so that I don’t have to conform to pre-made templates and can ensure my site has what I want it to have.

To get started, I rallied the troops.

I posed the question on Facebook, and here are some of the recommended sites, hosting services, etc. Just in case you too are in the market for a website and don’t know anything about anything.

Suggestions for Website Hosting

GoDaddy.com – Despite the many recommendations, I’ve used them before and don’t like them. They’re tricky to navigate. Not intuitive at all, so I won’t be using them.

Hostgator.com – This got a few mentions

BlueHost.com – This one also was mentioned more than once

TigerTech.com

iPage.com

DreamHost.com

HostMonster.com

GreenGeeks.com

 

Suggestions for Web Hosting and Building (or just site building/maintenance)

Squarespace.com – Seems to be a site for those who like to be cutting edge, but we’ll see

WordPress.com – This was the most-mentioned for website management and creation, though many self-hosted elsewhere (list above)

Weebly.com – apparently good for ecommerce, this seemed to be the second most popular format

Wix.com

Medium.com

 

Suggestions for Web Themes

ElegantThemes.com(a WordPress Theme site) – Lots of recommendations for this one

WordPress.com – Many used the free themes and tweaked them. In fact, quite a few people said that at some point they have used WordPress all the way for hosting, templates, and maintaining their site.

StudioPress.com (a WordPress Theme site) – This also had many recommendations

MichaelHyatt.com (a WordPress Theme site) – he has a theme service called Get Noticed that someone recommended

 

So…that’s a lot to wade through. But we’re going to do it together! Over the next few weeks, I’m going to research these suggestions and present my findings on this blog (Thursdays). Then, I’ll let you know what I end up going with! And if you want to help and do some research of your own, all the better. Share your results here. I’m going to start by researching the hosting sites, since that’s usually step 1 (along with figuring out where you’re going to buy your domain…my plan is to buy from the hosting site).

Are you in the market for an author website or maybe a new design? Or a new hosting service? Tell me about it!

author website book

Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Musts for an Author Website

July 10th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 11 Comments

2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Websites…every author should have one. They are your central hub; your validation point. They are what will tell the world that you’re up and running and serious about this writing thing and that you aren’t going anywhere soon. All because you have a website.

It may seem silly, but that’s how we view these online spaces. They have a way of making everything OFFICIAL in a way that Facebook and Twitter and Google+ can’t. Weird, yes. But it’s true. I mean how many times have you googled a band, a company, a service provider and winced at the fact that while they may have a million Yelp recommendations or a slew of Facebook follows, they don’t have a site?

There’s something about a website…it’s like an online stamp of approval. And so yes, every author should have one. In the past I’ve talked about the components of a website, and I also touch on this in my book, but I wanted to provide a down and dirty list of 5 MUSTS FOR AN AUTHOR WEBSITE.

My hope is that you’ll spend the weekend adjusting your site to hit on each of these five things.

  1. LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA. Take a look at your site’s home page. Is there a clear way for visitors to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram? Do you have those buttons clearly displayed? This is important, because you don’t know how your fans will want to interact with you. When they show up to your site, it’s an opportunity to get them to connect on a more intimate level. So, you want your social media links front and center.
  2. PLEASANT IMAGES AND DESIGN. It doesn’t need to be expensive or overly fancy, but your site should be a space that is pleasing to look at. The colors and fonts should be up to date (don’t be like Joe Lando), and your author photo should be somewhere within the site. These days it’s easy to find beautiful site templates that can be used on WordPress and other similar sites. And many times, they’re either free or less than $100 to purchase.
  3. AN ACTIVE SITE. I have a weird opinion on blogs…I think they are the single most time-consuming, difficult thing you can do to try and grow a platform. So no, I don’t recommend that your blog be your sole marketing focus. BUT! Blogs come in handy when it comes to getting your site ranked well on Google (SEO), and they also do wonders for making your site appear lived-in. By updating your blog at least once a week, you’re proving that you actually spend time on your site. You’re a living, breathing author and you want to interact with fans! Another way to keep your site looking alive and well is to adjust the text from time to time. Keep an updated calendar of events, and adjust the home page wording to reflect different times of year, or different promos/events. This will make your site come across as an active space.
  4. INCENTIVE TO VISIT. While updating your blog and making your site feel lived-in will give some incentive for visitors to return, you really want to have other dangling carrots. Consider your audience and your brand, and determine what you have to offer that will get people coming back for more. For some, having a great blog will be the key factor here. For others, they may find success with offering PDF downloads that are updated every quarter or so. Or maybe their speaking schedule/tour is enough to get people coming back to check in. OR, maybe for the nonfiction author, the site could have video curriculum that can be used in conjunction with the book…thus giving readers a reason to visit over and over again. The idea is to keep them coming back, and to avoid having a site that can be visited once and then forgotten about.
  5. GOOGLE ANALYTICS. All of the above will be for naught if you aren’t tracking your numbers. I can’t stress how important a program like Google Analytics is to an author site. It will not only tell you how many visitors you’ve had, but it will show you how the visitors got there…what search terms they’re using to find your site, what social media programs they’re using to connect with you, and what kinds of posts have received the most hits. Google Analytics provides an unlimited source of knowledge. You can truly know your visitors, thanks to this program, and in turn, you can cater your blog and site to better meet their needs. Thus increasing traffic and, yes, GROWING YOUR NUMBERS!

Those are my five tips on having a great author website.

What are your tips? Or what are your website struggles?

Thursdays with Amanda: Everything You Wanted to Know About PPC Advertising

May 29th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 5 Comments

2014AmandaAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Some weeks ago, I talked about keywords and PPC advertising. My husband, who used to be Google-certified (before he switched gears to work in the hobby game industry!), agreed to answer whatever questions you could throw at him to the best of his ability. Remember, his knowledge base is a few years old, and I’m sure things have changed. But I’m also sure that his insight is valuable for any author thinking about doing a PPC ad campaign!

1. Can you talk about what you did for clients?
To sum it up, I managed PPC advertising campaigns for several different clients to achieve specific goals. But what does that mean? Here are some definitions:
What is PPC?
PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising are those ads that are at the top and/or to the side of the search results page on Google (Bing has it too, but I didn’t work with theirs very much). I created and managed these ads for my clients using the Google AdWords program.
How does it work?
Every time anyone uses Google to search for something, PPC ads are triggered based on the words they used to search, also known as keywords. A keyword then tells your Google AdWords account to show the ads that you have created that are linked to that keyword. Each time someone clicks on an ad, you are charged for that click based on the bid you have put on that keyword.
2.  How much does a solid PPC campaign usually cost?
It really depends on how competitive the keywords you’re trying to use are. When you create your campaign, you will select keywords that you want your ads to be triggered by. You also have to set a maximum bid on each keyword, stating how much you’re willing to pay for someone to click on your ad. Every time someone searches for a keyword, ads are triggered based on that keyword, but the position of the ad on the page is based on the keyword bid. Now, highest bid doesn’t “buy” the top spot. Google uses an algorithm to determine the relevancy of your ad based on the information on your website. For example, this prevents a refrigerator company from having an ad that advertises “Abs in 60 Seconds” that directs you to their website using keyword “abs,” and placing a bid of $50 per click to make sure their ad is on top. So, you don’t have to have the highest bid on a keyword, you have to have a good bid paired with a relevant ad.
That being said, let’s talk about overall pricing. You can run a PPC advertising campaign for as little or as much money as you want to put into it. Just remember, if you’re paying $50 a month for advertising, and your keywords are set at $5 per click, 10 clicks and you’re done for the month, so you as the advertiser need to make sure your dollars are being spent to achieve your goal. For instance, a law firm that only takes on 1-2 new clients per month might be fine with 10 clicks per month, and may be willing to pay $5 per click.
My advice here is to start out with a budget, and re-evaluate your budget after at least a month of your ads running. You may find you need to spend more in advertising, or less, depending on your goals.
3. What words or phrases work best?
This was my favorite part of PPC advertising! There is no “magic phrase” that gets you the best ad. Instead, this is where you get to experiment! Google AdWords keeps data on all of the ads that you have created, and it will always try to show the most relevant, highest performing ads. That leaves you to experiment with what works best for the ads you are creating. When I would create a new ad, I would make several variations with the same message, and have them all active at the same time to see which one performed better. After a week or two, I would take a look at my ads to see which one is standing out better. I would then create more ads with variations on the “best” ad. I would change out one or two words, or maybe change the order of the phrases, and send those out to see how they performed. Be creative!
4.  What are common mistakes?
Common pitfalls I’d see for people managing their own PPC campaigns would be to not track their ads and keywords closely. You need to be monitoring everything! Does Ad “A” work better at the top of the page, or 2-3 spaces down? Test, collect data, make a decision. Is Ad “B” bringing the right audience to your website? Test, collect data, make a decision.
You’ll also want to be patient with your ads and your keywords. You can’t make an informed decision on just a week’s worth of data. Give them time so you can get a good distribution of data.
5.  Fraudulent Clicks?
Never fear! Google has already got this covered for you. Google’s got an algorithm for this too, and will monitor your ads and keywords to prevent this from happening to you. Google will not charge you for what it thinks are fraudulent clicks. It works really well, and I never had a problem with how they did it. I didn’t work with Facebook, so I am not sure how theirs works.
6.  What age groups does PPC target?
One of the best features of PPC advertising is the fact that you can target specific demographics or areas. You can set parameters to have your ads only shown to people of a certain age group or sex if you want to. You can then tailor your advertising to that demographic.
7.  Where should your ad go?
You’ll always want your ad to link to your own website, or a website that you have permission to link to.
8.  What does a strong campaign look like?
A strong campaign is one that achieves your goal. Do you want people to come to your website? Do you want people to come to your website and sign up? Do you want people to come to your website, sign up, and make a purchase? Do you just want people to know about your product?
A strong campaign is only as strong as its advertiser. You’ll need to be constantly monitoring your budget, your keywords, and your ad performance if you want to maximize the dollars that you’re investing into your campaign.
There you have it, folks! Let’s all thank Tad for taking the time to answer these questions, and let us know what you think about PPC advertising in the comments below!

Thursdays with Amanda: What Do You Want to Know About PPC Advertising?

May 15th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 5 Comments

2014AmandaAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I often get questions about ads. When to do them. Where to do them. How to do them. And the biggie, do they even work? 

For a short while my husband worked in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. He was Google-certified and everything. Since I just talked about keywords, which I believe to be a vital part of any ad campaign, I figured it may be worthwhile to shoot some questions at my husband and see what he has to say.

SO LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW! I WANT YOUR QUESTIONS.

If you’re a bit fuzzy on PPC ads, simply go to Google or Yahoo or even Facebook. Those text-based ads that you see on every page are generated by individuals who pay the host (Google, Yahoo, etc) every time someone clicks on the ad. Sometimes they pay $0.50 per click. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. And you’ll notice that the ads that show up for you aren’t the same ads that show up for others. This is because the ad owners have chosen who to target with their ads. They’ve tagged the ads with keywords. Once you do a search that matches, the appropriate ads start popping up.

It’s a science, really, and like I said, my husband had to pass a test in order to be Google AdWords certified, and thus write and manage PPC ads for his clients. So he has plenty to say on the topic, even if his advice is three years old.

What do you want to know about PPC advertising? Maybe you want to know how much it costs? Or common mistakes? Maybe you want to know what phrases work best or what kind of a conversion rate to look for? Or maybe you want insight on timing and strategy?

Post your questions here, and I’ll do a Q&A with him next week. If you’ve ever considered running a PPC campaign, here’s your opportunity to get your questions answered.

 

Thursdays with Amanda: The Art of Keywords

May 8th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 10 Comments

2014AmandaAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

When I first started working in marketing, I had one task. Read. Absorb. Learn all I could about…parenthood. Well, it was actually strollers and carseats that I was specifically supposed to learn about, but in order to understand the product, I needed to understand the lifestyle.

And I was 25. No kids. No husband. No interest in the topic of parenthood whatsoever.

I remember this time of life so0ooo very vividly because I was completely bored out of my mind. I had gone from a job that involved travel and presentations and sales to one that felt as though I were a trapped bird within a computer screen cage.

Four months later, I was an Internet-smart parenting whiz. I knew the struggles and the panic and the don’ts and the things that they fail to tell you about childbirth. Granted I never actually put my knowledge to use, but that wasn’t the point. The point was for me to speak the parenting language. To learn the jargon and the trends and more importantly…to learn the needs. The desires. The wants.

And that’s when my boss had me put together a keyword chart. This chart would be the backbone of all of the marketing and writing we did on behalf of our client (who happened to be an internationally-known baby gear manufacturer). It would give us the words to use in our online copy (back when wording was fairly heavily weighted in SEO) and would allow us to position our client as a company that “understands” parents and their language. The keywords would affect everything that we ever wrote on behalf of the client.

WHAT IS A KEYWORD?

A keyword is informational. It’s a word or phrase that describes something. Typically in the SEO world, it’s thought of as something that lives on the back end of a web page and describes that page. And if that page is selling a product, like a book, then that’s when the keywords will be descriptive of that book. If the page is an author page, then the keywords will describe that author’s brand.

An easier way to think of it is in terms of an online search. Keywords tend to be the words that you type in when looking for, say, “chocolate cake recipe” or “cheap oil change in Atlanta.”  Keywords come in both short-tail and long-tail form. The short-tail contains simple, generic words or ideas, like “romance novel” or just plain “romance.” These keywords have a large reach. The long-tail form is usually two or more of the short-tail words put together…typically phrased like a question or a thought. This narrows the keyword’s reach and creates a more specific phrase that targets a smaller audience. So, while “romance novel” targets all romance novels and romance readers, “difference between sweet and contemporary romance” zeroes in on those specific romance genres and that specific problem. Long-tail keywords will reach fewer people, but the people they DO reach will tend to be perfect matches. Short-tail keywords have more of a spaghetti-to-wall approach. You throw them out there, and see what you end up with.

HOW TO FIND KEYWORDS?

There are plenty of programs out there that help with generating keywords. Many times, they cost a bit of money. The free programs usually require manual research…but that’s not a bad thing. Spending time online, reading and absorbing the words your target market uses is invaluable. It helps you truly start to speak their language.

One of the most common tools to use is Google’s Keyword Planner, and there are plenty of articles to help you understand and get the most out of the program.

SO WHAT DO YOU DO WITH KEYWORDS? 

By having a list of keywords at your disposal, you can:

1. Use them in your Tweets and in other social media communications. Fact is, while hashtags tend to be a primary and popular way of weeding and sorting Tweets, there are rumblings that Twitter might be thinking of phasing them out. After all, you can just as easily search for keywords and phrases as you can a hashtag. So while it’s a great idea to include a specific list of hashtags in your keyword chart, be aware that really great nouns and descriptors also carry weight within your Tweet and make it “findable.”

2. Use them in your  PPC ad campaigns. Nothing is worse than an ad that has a few buzzwords (such as “free”) but no meat (“Free” what? Free book? What kind of book? Who is the author? Why do I care?). Keywords add clarity to any ad campaign.

3. Use them in your back cover copy. If you’re seeking traditional publication, this is a great way to convince the publisher that you know your readers. If you’re an indie author, then you have the added benefit of making sure that this copy actually makes it on your book’s page! You then can ensure that you’ve done your best to make your book’s blurb resonate and connect with your target audience.

4. Give them to your publisher’s marketing team. Let’s be honest…publishers do their best to develop great keywords and metadata for their authors. But they just aren’t going to be as thorough as you. By handing them a list of keywords, you’re giving them a goldmine, as they can draw on those words to do all of the above.

5. Include them in your proposal. If you’re in the process of pitching your book to publishers, you’ll be interested to know that metadata is making its way into proposals. In fact, it was this tweet by Jane Friedman that got me thinking more and more about this topic:

 

I realize this is the tip of the iceberg, and there are gobs of articles out there if you’d like more info, but it’s a start! If you haven’t really thought much about keywords and really turning your book or brand into a list of descriptive words and phrases, then I challenge you to give it a go.

WHAT TIPS OR ADVICE DO YOU HAVE REGARDING KEYWORDS?

Thursdays with Amanda: The Beauty of Social Media

January 23rd, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 1 Comment

2014AmandaAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Today, it is on sale for $2.99…check it out!

It’s been snowing here like crazy (I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana). There was one snowfall in which we got something like 16″, and the snow has continued to come. Three inches here. One inch there. And we’re only halfway through winter.

I’ve been ridiculously curious about the total amount of snowfall, but couldn’t find the information anywhere. I mean weather sites seem to all be trapped in the 90s, and news sites are only interested in the here and now. So I almost gave up…until I decided to reach out to one of our weathermen via Facebook.

Curtis Smith has over 31,000 Facebook followers, but when I visited the page I found that he is fairly active on it. So, I posed my question. He replied in a couple hours and instead of providing me with a website I could use to get such information in the future, he invited me to come to him with my questions.

Oh, and for the record, we’re at 34.6″ so far.

________________________

Yesterday morning, I was doing the Health Care Juggle. After being on hold for an hour, I was told that I had called the wrong number, and so I was transferred. That person said that I had been transferred to the California office, so they transferred me again. Then THAT person said that I had reached the Connecticut office, so I was transferred a third time. That person told me I had reached the wrong department and they gave me a new number and transferred me, promising that it was right. It wasn’t.

In the midst of this, as I watched my hair turn gray, the seasons change, and wondered at how my phone battery hadn’t completely died yet, I hunted for the health insurance company online. If you’ve ever noticed, health insurance companies don’t provide many email address or simple ways to contact them. They FORCE you to use the phone, which most likely deters most people and ensures that the reps only have to deal with the most important of cases.

Despite not finding a good email address, I was able to find their Facebook page. And I let them know exactly what was happening and that I needed an email address just in case the latest transfer was in fact a dead end.

They supplied me an email address within 10 minutes.

The health insurance provider is Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

_________________

My phone has been doing this freaky deaky thing where it sounds like the person on the other end is hitting one of the numbers. And not just hitting it, but holding it down with their cheek for like TWO WHOLE SECONDS. I hate it.

For awhile I thought that my authors were simply clumsy. But after experiencing this with numerous people, I began to wonder. What was even more curious was that the person on the other end never seemed to notice.

Clearly, my phone has a problem, but I didn’t want to go into the Sprint store. I mean can anyone think of a worse way to spend a Saturday afternoon? So, I hit them up on Facebook. They dialogued with me, troubleshooting the problem as best they could until the only solution was that I visit a store.

Sigh. You can’t win every time, right?

________________

This is the world we live in. It’s a world in which people and companies that used to seem so difficult to connect with are a Facebook post away. I talk about this in my book, The Extroverted Writer, but it’s worth mentioning here…

If I can get ANTHEM to respond to me on social media…if one simple Facebook question can get my meteorologist to provide me with information that doesn’t really matter but is fun…if I can troubleshoot a phone issue with Sprint…

Shouldn’t I be able to connect with my favorite author?

Shouldn’t I be able to interact with them on Facebook or Twitter or SOMEWHERE?

Yes, fan mail is nice. It’s warm and cozy and meaningful. But today’s fan mail comes in the form of Facebook messages, Tweets, and blog comments.

So whenever you wonder whether it’s worth it to keep your Facebook page or your YouTube channel or your Tumblr going, remember…THE FANS EXPECT IT. And when they need it, they will use it.

And they will think it’s awesome.

Extroverted Banner

Redesigning My Website – One Author’s Experience (a guest blog)

November 20th, 2013 | Career, Marketing and Platforms, Web/Tech | 12 Comments

When I mentioned to Chip that I recently had my website redesigned and sent him the link to check it out, he asked me to write a blog post and share my experience with you.

To give you an idea of where my site was when I began my redesign process with Aaron Robbins, I need to share a little about my website history. I began blogging in 2008, on a free Blogger blog at the URL mycup2yours.com. The platform served my purposes well (writing parenting posts geared toward moms) and I was happy with the functionality and design.

Over the next few years, as my blog began to grow and my passion for writing in the parenting genre became more serious, I changed the appearance of my site, added more selections to my navigation bar and more widgets to my sidebar. I admit, at the time, I didn’t really have a long-term vision for my site. (I was just tweaking it here and there.) I also bought the domain for my name and created my own website through WebSiteTonight for gennyheikka.com. While I wrote about parenting regularly on mycup2yours.com, this second URL was where I had my writing bio and information about the children’s books I had written.

Managing two sites turned out to be time consuming, so a little while later, I made a major change, switching from mycup2yours.com on Blogger to gennyheikka.com on WordPress, combining the two. So not only did I switch blogging platforms, I changed URLS and  years of blog posts at mycup2yours transitioned to gennyheikka.com.

It was a hard decision and one that came with complications in terms of SEO, redirects, and lost subscribers, but it was the right thing to do from a branding perspective. I wanted one place that readers could find me and all my work, rather than going to one site for my blog and another to find out about my books, speaking, and other writing.

All of that to say, when I looked at redesigning my website recently, the site I had was a combination of what had compiled over the years and what was pulled together as a result of that transition. I wasn’t sure what to keep, what to toss, or what functionality I even wanted. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted my new design to be clean, simple and welcoming.

I love how it turned out. 

genny

My homepage.

books

My books page.

resources

My resources page.

Honestly, I have Aaron to thank for how it looks and functions. I love the forms he put on my Speaking Page, and the video, audio, and photos he suggested for my Media Page, as well as the different ways people can connect on my site.

While I went into the website redesign process mostly focused on what my site would look like, Aaron asked questions that helped me dig deeper into things like why I write, how I’m impacting those who read my work, and how to best tell that story (all things that would impact my design, though I didn’t realize it.)

Some of the questions he asked me–that I’d encourage you to think about if you’re considering a new website–were:

Why do you write?

How would the world change if your point of view wasn’t available?

Who are the people already reading you?

Why are they reading you?

What needs does your writing fulfill in others?

What do you have of value that you can give away regularly?

I never knew there was so much behind website design, but I learned that going through a detailed process of answering these types of questions and making sure your website aligns with your answers makes your digital content much more clear, compelling and useful.

While I give the credit for my site design to Aaron, I do have a few nuggets of advice that I learned from my experience. If you are looking at redesign your existing site, here are some tips:

1. Ask questions before thinking about appearance (what do you do, and why do you do it?). Your answers will impact your site’s look, feel, and functionality.

2. Take time. A well-thought out website doesn’t happen overnight. My website redesign took about four months and it was definitely worth the process.

3. Look at other people’s websites and become familiar with what you like and don’t like about them, but then focus on your own unique site and what you want people to do or feel when they arrive there.

4. Choose a good designer that you enjoy working with. (Read more about Aaron at the end of this post if you are looking for someone. He specializes in authors, and I highly recommend him.)

5. Be open minded. Several times in my design process, Aaron introduced ideas for things I never considered for myself, but that I love, like forms for people to contact me for speaking engagements, a beautiful gallery for my book thumbnails, a media page with video, audio, and photos, and more. Looking to the expert is definitely a good thing!

If you want to learn more about designing your author website or building your online presence, you can also listen to Episode 16 and 18 of my podcast (Part-Time Author Podcast, free on iTunes), which are dedicated to these topics, and in which Aaron goes into a lot more detail.

And if you want to learn more about Aaron, watch his fun video below, or visit aaronrobbins.com. He has a heart for writers and loves working with them to tell the story of their stories.

Genny lives in Northern California with her husband and two kids, where she balances writing with motherhood and loves both. She’s an author, speaker, blogger and coffee lover. Her book for moms, Finding Mommy Bliss, is being released by Hallway Publishing in April, 2014.  

Thursdays with Amanda: Social Media Critiques, Part 13

May 2nd, 2013 | Marketing and Platforms, Social Media Critique, Web/Tech | 5 Comments

Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon andBarnes & Noble.

 

 

I’ve got a special thing going on over at my Facebook page…Submit your novel’s opening line TODAY and I’ll give free feedback! Check it out, and I hope to see you all participate.

 

Okay, diving into some more social media critiques:

1. Ardis Nelson provided her website and Facebook page

  • I feel there are too many options on your site’s navigation. Music, Current Projects, and Resources could probably be done without. They just don’t provide much to the reader, while they clutter the site and distract us from the book!
  • What incentive does the reader have for visiting this site? It’s very much focused on you, but readers are selfish! They want to know what’s in it for THEM. What will they get out of reading your blog. What will they learn?
  • Again, I’m not quite sure what readers get out of frequenting your Facebook page. Think about rewarding them for their time with tips, advice, interactive questions, giveaways, and more.

RECOMMENDATIONS: I’d try focusing less on yourself and more on your readers. By including them in the conversation, I think you’ll find your online experience will be much more lively.

2. Jo Huddleston provided her website and Facebook page

  • This is a funny comment, but the image at the top of your site is realllllly big :)
  • Think about eliminating some of your pages and tabs. For example “Mail” can be made part of the “Contact” page and “My Thoughts” seems to fit more naturally into your “Blog”
  • Until I get to your “Books” page, it’s not very clear what you write
  • For Facebook, you shouldn’t be using your personal profile. I encourage you to create a professional page where you can best interact with fans.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Your site could use a redesign, and it could be cleaned up. For maximum impact on Facebook, try starting a professional page. It’s a great way to interact with fans.

3. Well Rounded Home provided their Blog

  • I really like how this blog is organized! I never felt lost. Everything was clear to me.
  • I take it you don’t have a book you’re promoting? That’s fine! Just wanted to make sure.
  • I think you could post more pics of your home and family to your blog! I think readers want to see more of you.
  • Content on our blog NEEDS to focus on your goal of providing insights and help on parenting, homemaking, etc. Anything that doesn’t fall into these main categories (like a Kenny Chesney music Monday) should be left out. :)

RECOMMENDATIONS: You have the framework! Now fill this awesome space with content that hits home on reader expectations. And then promote the heck outta it.

 

What thoughts do YOU have on these sites? And how do you find content that fits your readership?

Get Published teleseminar with Michael Hyatt, Chip MacGregor, and Amanda Luedeke

April 1st, 2013 | Publishing, Resources for Writing, Web/Tech | 4 Comments

 

Join us (Chip and Amanda) and Michael Hyatt, bestselling author and former CEO of Thomas Nelson, for a complimentary LIVE teleseminar on Wednesday, April 10 at 8pm Eastern Time (7pm Central, 5pm Pacific).

During this call you’ll have the ability to get your publishing questions answered by the three of us. You’ll also learn many of Michael’s insider secrets on getting published and building a platform for success.

The call will last about an hour. It’s free for all to join and there will be an MP3 recording / replay shared with all who register. When you register you will have the option to submit a question for us to answer

To register now, click here.

FAQs

Q: What is a teleseminar?

A: Think of it as a giant conference call. You dial in (or listen via streaming web audio), along with others and listen while we share and answer questions.

Q: How much does this cost?

A: It’s free. If you choose to access the LIVE call via phone, you may incur standard long-distance charges if you choose a dial-in number that is not local to you (there are multiple dial-in number options). Other than that, no fee at all.

Q: What is the date and time?

A: The LIVE call will take place on Wednesday, April 10 at 8pm Eastern Time (7pm Central, 5pm Pacific).

Q: How can I access the LIVE call?

A: You’ll have two options. Our call capacity is 3,000 total. Five hundred can access the call via phone, the rest via streaming web audio (listening via your computer). Access is on a first-come, first-served based on registration and which access option you chose. We will notify you prior to the call with the specific phone number and web address.

Q: I can’t make the LIVE call. Will there be a recording?

A: Yes, we’ll make the recording available to all who registered after the LIVE call.

Q: How do I ask a question for you to answer during the call?

A: When you register there will be an option for you to submit a question. We’ll also take a few LIVE questions during the call itself.

Q: Do I need any special equipment?

A: No, nothing special needed. You won’t need to download anything to access the call. If you use the dial-in access then you simply make a phone call. If you use the streaming web access then you simply open a web browser, click play, and listen. We will send the instructions to you via email.

Q: When do I get access information after I register?

A: We will send you access information via email a day or two before the call and a reminder email on the day of the call.

Plan to listen in! We’d love to have you there.

Thursdays with Amanda: My New Marketing Book for Writers!

February 28th, 2013 | Books, Career, Marketing and Platforms, Resources for Writing, Web/Tech | 14 Comments

Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

Have you enjoyed our Thursday chats on marketing, promotions, and platform-building? I sure have! But so many times it feels as though I’m cramming info into my posts or even breezing over content. And what’s worse, is it’s become clear to me that this site doesn’t exactly make it easy to dig through my old posts!

So, I have some exciting news! 

I’ve written a book ALL ABOUT how to use the Internet to grow an author platform! Here’s a peek at the cover:

From websites to Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest and more, I cover the essential topics, pulling from some of my best posts while also adding in plenty of new content. Whether you’re a social media newbie or guru, an unpublished writer or an industry veteran you’ll come away with actionable items that you can put into practice now.

THE EXTROVERTED WRITER: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform releases March 15 on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, and Smashwords (for ePub version or all other ebook devices). For now, it will be only available as an ebook.

If you’d like to recieve a notice when the book is available, sign up for the newsletter here. (It’s not the fanciest newsletter provider, btw. So don’t judge me!).

Please share this post with your friends! AND if you’ve been a fan of Thursdays with Amanda and would like to offer an endorsement, hit me up at ExtrovertedWriter@gmail.com. I’m hoping to receive testimonies from writers in all walks of life, published or unpublished, who can testify that my Thursday with Amanda tips help make their social media platforms stronger.

Thank you all, and let me know what you think! Sound off in the comments.