Tag Archives: yahoo

My Experience Building Websites

Recently, an author, Shelley Hitz, held up one of my websites as an example of how an author should design their sites for their books. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. My motto is to “keep it simple” because I dislike really busy website designs, with colors bursting out all over the place, random spots for links, and no rhyme or reason for the design. I’ve spent a lot of trial, error, time, and patience figuring out how to design a really good website that looks somewhat professional so I can get readers interested in reading my novels. I’ve found that a lot of people over-think the whole website design thing, along with obsessing over keywords/SEO, but as long as you submit your site to the search engines, like Google, using their webmaster tools or their analytic tools, they’ll visit your site (or crawl) and you’ll be listed on those search engines anyway. After while, people will find your site through Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines, because it takes to time to filter everywhere.

When I first started publishing my novels in 2008, I had been using Xanga or Livejournal to do a little bit of blogging before that, but I found that neither one received very many visits, mostly because I had absolutely no idea about keywords or SEO. When I published Out of Time in 2008, I knew I needed to create a website since I did a little research on the subject, and found that people were using Geocities for their website host. Unfortunately, a couple of months later, Yahoo bought out Geocities and closed it down, so I had to search for another host. I tried out Blogspot (or Blogger as it’s known now), which I still have, but I found the design mechanics to be kind of odd at the time and kind of limiting since it seems like it required a high learning curve. Blogger also seems kind of buggy and really slow at times, so I searched for something else. I did some more searching and found WordPress.com, so I tried it out, and found that I liked it better, but I still found it better suited as a blog more than anything. I use a lot of different blogging platforms mostly to get seen on Google, Yahoo, and other search sites for those random hits I tend to get when they search for a certain keyword.

I finally found out about freewebs.com (now webs.com) in 2009. Having only two novels at the time, I questioned the idea that author’s needed a website, mostly because I had no idea about optimization. At first, I put the picture of the novels on one page and the descriptions along with them, and a link to Amazon. Around this time, I researched how to get hits, and found many, many references to SEO and software that would submit your site to all the search engines and  even sites that send you hits if you paid for them, because they said it was all about getting those thousands of hits so you could be ranked on Google. Talk about being one of those suckers born every minute. You pay for hits all right, but they’re random, and nothing happens as a result, and you’re out a couple of bucks. Frustrated, I researched some more, and found out about lacing your site with keywords that will get hits by people searching for those particular keywords, so I tried that, basically putting all the keywords at the bottom of my page, thinking that was how to do it. Wrong! One day, I was looking around the dashboard of my site, where I found the settings, which had the site information for the site tagline, site description, site tags/keywords. I put in everything I needed, and hit save. Then I saw that there was a spot for the Google webmaster tools, so I “googled” the term, and found out that Google had ways of submitting your site to their search engine, so I signed up for that. Once my site was officially seen by Google, they crawled it regularly and I slowly began to get hits from various searches.  If you want detailed stats, I found that Statcounter.com works really well. You add your “project” and it gives you the install code for the site you’re using, most of the time it’s HTML, but they have different install guides for various websites. You can see where your visits come from, where they go on your site, countries, visit length, and other various activity.

In 2011, I was taking a Technical Writing class where we had to create an e-portfolio. The instructor used Weebly for her site, so she had us create our e-portfolio on there. I found Weebly was incredibly easy to use and that I could create a site that fit what I wanted. By this time, Webs.com, for me, was really clunky. The way you had to install HTML code was kind of dumb, their templates were sorely lacking, and customization in general was frustrating for me. I ended up with a site that looked kind of unprofessional, to me anyway, and I couldn’t get various things to work correctly. Plus, if you aren’t paying for a premium package, there are only so many pages you can add, which limits an author who has more than a handful of books. I took to creating separate sites on Webs.com for each novel, but I never liked the way they looked, so when Weebly came along, I decided to try that. I like how Weebly is really easy to customize: from landing pages to having headers with pictures or no pictures, and even creating links to various pages your way instead of the default links at the top of the page.

If you want to create a site using Weebly, here are some of the things you can see when setting up the site:

 

Weeblythemes

You can customize your themes, even if you know nothing about HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Just select a theme and then you can customize it to your heart’s content. There’s ribbon at the top of the webpage that has “Elements,” “Design,” “Pages,” “Editors,” and “Settings.” Click on “Design” to take you to the themes page. From here, you can choose a basic template, and under “Design Options,” you can customize the font, link colors, social media icons, etc. If you’re the type who likes doing everything from scratch and you have lots of patience and time, you can build a really customized site through the “Edit HTML/CSS button on the right hand side of the Design screen under “Favorites.” From there, it’ll take you to the theme editor so you can plug in all the HTML you can stand.

 

weeblymanagepagesOnce you’re done with themes, click on the “Pages” button. This will take you to the page where you can create pages for your site. You can customize the page layout, so if you want a landing page, there’s an option for that. You can create a main menu and sub-menus. You can link a page to another website if you choose not to create a specific page or links on your page. So, if you’re an author who doesn’t feel like creating multiple pages, you could skip creating individual links on a page to using a sub-menu that could link to the various stores for your novels. It’s all up to you.

 

weeblysettings

Also on this page, you’ll see the “Advanced Settings.” When you click on that, what you see in the picture is what will come up. You see the page title, page description, meta keywords, footer and header codes. As you can see from what I entered in my own site settings, it’s fairly straightforward. If you’re using Statcounter, you put the code in the Footer area. When you come to the “Site Settings,” you’ll have to make sure that your page title doesn’t interfere with the site title, because through my own experience, I’ve had “Cliff Ball – Author” repeated at least two times on the site description when I posted a link somewhere, so pay careful attention to that.

 

weeblysitesettingsNow we come to the “Site Settings.” As you can see from the picture, there’s the settings for “General,” “SEO,” “Ecommerce,” “Mobile,” “Archive/Un-publish.” Under the “General,” you can change your site address to a domain name if you own one. But, if you have a domain name, it has to be parked somewhere else, like GoDaddy or some other hosting site. Weebly doesn’t do hosting. You can change the site title, decide whether you want extra pages to be under a “More” tab, link to a Facebook page of your own choosing, and three other things that require a “pro” account.

 

weeblyseoNow we come to the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) settings. As you can see, you enter the site description, all of your meta keywords for the site in general, the footer code from whichever tracking site you use, the header code from Google Webmaster Tools, the option to hide your site, and the option to do 301 ReDirects if you’re migrating from one site to another.

After this, you have the “Ecommerce Settings.” It gives you the option of Paypal or Google Checkout, but I don’t think you can use both on the site. This is good if you want to sell something directly from your site.

Next is “Mobile” settings. You enable this so when someone using a mobile device visits your site, they can see it. You can choose whatever color that you choose for that visitor to see your site in.

Lastly, you see the “Archive/Unpublish” link. You can archive your site in zip format or un-publish your site altogether. Once you’re completely done, designing your site, click “Publish” at the top right of the screen, and your site will be published.

I hope this helps you with your website decisions and helps to show you what you can do or what not to do.

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Filed under Website Design

My #Marketing Ideas

I have been an independently published author now for nearly four years, and not until 2010 did I really do any kind of promoting/marketing for my novels, mostly because I had no idea where to start. Since about late 2009, there have been all sorts of assorted experts in the field all over the internet who have popped up with a book on the subject, and if you buy their book, they’ll tell you what the secret is to selling thousands, or millions even, of books. I think what works for one author doesn’t necessarily work for another, so if you’re willing to waste $2.99 or $4.99 or $6.99 for someone to make money off of your naïveté, then go right ahead, since I was one of those people who has done that more often than I’d like to admit.

When I first published in 2008, it was suggested by iUniverse (now I go through Createspace, best money I have ever saved!) that authors create a website to promote and market themselves. So, I found Geocities, created a very basic site, posted the novel cover, the description, and the link to purchase, then forgot about it. When I finally remembered I had it, Yahoo apparently had shut down Geocities, so I searched for another server. Eventually, I came across Freewebs.com, now known as Webs.com, and that’s where I now have my website hosted, and trying to build my “brand,” whatever that really means. Since then, I’ve gone from idea to idea, gimmick to gimmick trying to promote and market my novels. Some have worked, and some haven’t, but here are my top 10 ideas. Your experience may vary.

1) Websites/blogs — With a website, you should know some html, or you can plug in whatever others have built for such a need, and then you can customize it to your heart’s content. You can add videos, pictures, links, etc. The suggestion from across the vast wasteland of the internet is to do SEO (search engine optimization), build back links, trade links with others, or pay for thousands of hits so that your Google Ranking will bring people to you. Let me tell you, that’s mostly nonsense, your site will be listed in Google, Yahoo, and Bing within a matter of days, but you can submit to directories, but I’ve never actually seen a hit from one of those. Only hard work on your part in promoting yourself will people begin searching your name, names of your novels, or similar sounding names before you notice hits to your site. As for a blog, if you want to keep it updated every day, you can submit it to RSS feed sites and link up with others who have sites. With some blogs, like Blogger, your feed will be seen on the side panel of the blog (if they’re on Blogger) that you’ve linked to. A website/blog is good for having a place for readers to come to find out what you’re up to, or if you have a new novel on the market. Plus, if you’re in the market for a job, it’s something potential employers will see, showing them that you have some skills and creativity (or, so I’ve been told).

2) Social Networking — What did we do before Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and all of those other social sites? To be honest, I don’t remember! ha ha. Anyway, I do know that if you join every forum involving writing, e-books, and marketing, you’ll never write, you’ll just be talking about writing, and getting to know other indie authors who are also talking about writing. Facebook is useful for authors in that they give us the ability to have a page for ourselves and our work. Thousands, and maybe even millions, of users can eventually come across your page, they can like it, and even share it with anyone in their social circle. Twitter used to be useful in my opinion, but there are way too many voices out there now, and one can get lost in the “noise.” My best advice for social networking is to do it in moderation, otherwise, you’ll never get that next book written.

3) Press releases — I use free sites like Prlog.org, which is good for visibility, but I really don’t know if it results in sales. Doesn’t hurt to try though, and it’s free. If you want to pay for high visibility, try PRWEB, but it’s really expensive if you’re on a tight budget.

4) Libraries — I used to work in a library, so I know something about this. A lot of indie books go almost directly to the Friends of the Library Bookstore, even though the Acquisitions Librarian “promised” that your books will get on the shelf, eventually. Although, it could’ve been just the one I worked with, because he wasn’t too particularly thrilled with putting my novels on the shelf. My suggestion is to get to know the library staff, usually the poor souls stuck at the Circulation Desk. Sometimes they get to sort through all the donations, so if you let them know that you really, really want your book in the library, they will mark your book for the acquisitions librarian, who will set it up for circulation. Be patient, books arrive at the library from B&T and Ingram every day, so it may take months for your book to show up in the catalog.

5) Book trailer — You can do it yourself by downloading Microsoft’s Live Movie Maker for free. It’s fairly easy to use once you get the hang of it. Of course, if you want something like the “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” trailer, then you’ll have to spend a lot of money for someone else to do it or have taken a video course in college yourself. Once you’re done with it, upload it to Youtube and a few other video sites. Very useful in the fact that the reader may get your book cover and the idea impressed into their heads, and then might eventually buy a copy of your novel.

6) Guerilla Marketing — Basically, this is putting bookmarks or business cards in books at stores like Walmart, B&N, and maybe Half Price Books (if you have one in your area), or even at the library. I have also put bookmarks in those envelopes that have the paid postage from the credit card companies and other spam mailers, and sent it back to them. You can do this for everything you mail out.

7) Bloggers — There are bloggers who will post your novel, review it, help with a blog tour, or give you an interview that will be posted on their site. Some require you to pay for the exposure, and some are free. Even if you get no returns on it as far as sales, it’ll be on Google and other search engines for as long as that post is available. So when someone does a search, that’s another impression you get, and it might even get you some sales out of it.

8 ) Paperback book giveaways — When you first finish your book, have it uploaded, and then available on Createspace, you can then contact some bloggers, or go to Goodreads and post your book giveaway. With bloggers, they can target specific readers who actually want to read your novel. I’ve received a couple of great reviews that way. With Goodreads, people will sign up for the giveaway just because it’s a freebie, not really caring about the genre. I had one person return a book because they thought it was something else, and others who reviewed, who didn’t like that genre, and thought Goodreads required a review. Remember to be choosy about doing paperback giveaways if you want specific readers that are looking for a specific genre.

9) Free e-books — One way to get your novels seen is to give away free copies of your e-books, usually with a coupon from Smashwords. If you want it free on Amazon, set the novel free on Smashwords, distribute it to B&N even if you’re using their publishing platform, and then wait for Amazon to price match. You’ll get a few thousand downloads for a week or two, copies into hands of people who normally wouldn’t have known about you and your work, and possibly some good reviews out of it. You may also get hit and run reviews that aren’t exactly glowing reviews of your work, mostly on Amazon. These are usually 1 star, they question your writing skills, and sometimes even your IQ. The advice to authors is never to respond, be above it all, and have a thick skin. There are instances of authors responding to their critics, and it developed into a clusterfark. Never ever a good thing.

10) Ads — Unless you have a lot of disposable income, creating ads on Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and other sites is a complete waste of your time and money. But, if you get a free coupon for one of those sites, then knock yourself out. I have also advertised on Craigslist and other classifieds all over the States from time to time, and I get the occasional hit to my website from those sites, but I don’t know if they actually result in sales. Mostly, it’s about being visible, and that’s not really a bad thing.

Finally, marketing your novels comes down to hard work, time, and sometimes spending money to make money. There are times you may want to give up, but being persistent will get you and your novels seen, and you’ll see success. These ideas are only some that indie authors may or may not try to promote their books, and it’s really an experience may vary kind of thing.

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Filed under indie author, self publishing, writing