In my last post, I suggested.. maybe nudged the possibility, that in today’s digital world, we are all brands, whether we like it or not. This is great for us all because what used to cost thousands in advertising, we can do for little to no cost with digital mediums, but that also means that we have to have all of our ducks in a row.
Those ducks have to have a place to call home for any marketing/branding effort to succeed. Many of us have been lead to believe that as long as you have a presence on social media channels, you have a home. But that’s not really a home, is it? You are a squatter there, not paying rent, electricity or anything else. And as a result, you don’t have any control over what the landlord (Facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc.) demand. I’ll give you the simple example of Facebook’s recent policy change that requires those of us with brand page to pay so that we can get the same exposure we used to get free. The landlord has spoken and we are all suffering.
The easiest remedy to the problem, and an actual requirement for every author, is to build their own website. It gives you a permanent home that you have complete control over and no one can change the rules on you willy nilly. Now, I can hear you all screaming that there is a huge cost attached to having a website and so much extra work, but that’s actually not completely true.
The old days of having to buy a domain and hosting are almost gone and there are so many free alternatives for those of us who don’t want to spend a great deal to build an online presence. WordPress and Blogspot have long been the option for bloggers, but there is nothing better for authors. They both give you a great deal of control of the content and the design and give us a real place to call home. You do have to understand that with a free account, the amount of customizing that you can do is somewhat limited, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
The other great advantage of using WordPress and Blogspot are the thousands of free plugins that will add audio, video, social media and other things to your website without having to pay for the old-time developer and have to explain what you want to do. Being a tech guy myself, this is one of the greatest advantages that has come from the new technology explosion – the sheer number of free tools that you can use to add tricks to your website.
Now, there is another option that does cost money and gives you complete control – you could buy your own hosting and domain name. You would be looking at a rough cost of around US$ 200 for two years and you can do anything you want with it. I have always chose this option because it does give me complete control of the themes and plugins that I use without having to wait for wordpress.com or blogspot.com to allow them, which can sometimes take months. Plus, I prefer the professional and serious look of http://agencyrules.com as compared to http://agencyrules.wordpress.com. But that’s just me…
The Extra Work
Every one of us does something in addition to being authors. We have to make money to feed our families, pay our bills and enjoy ourselves, so few rely solely on writing for revenue. So when you think about managing your own website, the extra work and hassle of one more thing to deal with is just too daunting. But then, you don’t have to write everything that you put on your website either.
The best author websites are a combination of the author’s own writing, tips and tricks picked up from around the Internet with the author’s thoughts added for good measure and cool pictures that you may have seen while surfing. And posting excerpts from your own books is always a plus because it gives the potential readers a chance to get to know you before buying your book. Add in some cool contests and giveaways and you have a website that will keep people entertained and coming back for more.
One thing that you must do immediately setup a Google Analytics account. Google Analytics lets you track where people are coming from, what pages they are visiting and how long they spend on your website. This information is important because you need to know what people are looking for on your website and where they spend most of their time. In a few weeks, I’ll do a more detailed post on Google Analytics and understanding the information that you have access to there. But, in the meantime, set it up so you have data to look at when we start the conversation.
I started off with some basic reasons why you should have a website as an author, but in essence it has become more and more of a requirement. Our readers love to engage with their favorite writers but they can’t be expected to find us, or everything we have written, everywhere on the Internet. It’s our job as brands to put that information out there for them in one easy to find place.
The website also becomes the central location for all information distribution. So whatever you are sharing on Facebook or twitter can be a snippet of a more detailed, thought provoking statement on your own website. It’s more engaging, more interesting and a better way to promote and establish yourself as a brand in today’s digital world.
This post is part of the Tools of the Game series that will help authors understand each piece of the branding puzzle and how to best use and integrate each for better returns, visibility and sales. In a couple of days, I’ll be back with a look into Facebook, brand pages and advertising. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at Google+, twitter, Google Analytics and Google AdWords.
Questions? Ask away… I’ll do my best to answer them as clearly as I can.