Author Websites: How to Build It (For the Non-Technical Writer-Types) - article

Building an author website can feel like a daunting task if you don’t have html and design skills. Thankfully, it’s easier than ever these days to build a site without those skills. There are a number of sites that offer free domain purchases when purchasing hosting services, such as JustHost, iPage, fat cow green hosting, Yahoo! Web hosting, Hostmonster, and more. These service are usually very inexpensive (some less than $10 per month!) and providers typically offer everything you need, including storage space for content (including images, videos, etc.), a free domain purchase (this is the website URL. Think, site building tools and templates so you can build the site yourself, an administrative control panel so you can manage the site yourself, shopping carts (online store features so you can sell your book), a photo gallery, email accounts (think, a means of building or linking to your blog, and integration with online marketing tools like Google Adwords. You can even make a blog your website. Services such as Blogger and WordPress offer easy ways to build a website and offer elements such as new web pages on the site, a shopping cart, or a friend followers that allow people to follow your blog.

When you create your website using one of these tools, the provider usually offers templates. So you can easily select a template that has the color scheme and layout you like (i.e. where are the menu buttons, the blog, and the visual elements placed). It is usually as simple as purchasing the domain name and hosting service, creating a log in, accessing the control panel/administration screens, selecting a template, and then adding content to each of the pages. Each hosting site and site building tool is a little different and you’ll have to get used to how it all works. But it’s not uncommon to be able to have a website up and running in a matter of hours. 

There are some basic pages to include in any website, such as the home page, which is the landing or starting page for everything else on your website.

One recommendation that can help is for you to design the website before you build it. That is, know the domain name you want (remember and define the kind of pages you want on your website and how they relate to each other. For instance, you might have a “books” page and then several sup-pages beneath it, one for each of your books. There are some basic pages to include in any website, such as the home page, which is the landing or starting page for everything else on your website. This page usually includes a welcome message and links or buttons to all the other pages. You’ll also want an “About” or “Bio”, which is all about YOU. You’ll also want a “Contact” page, a blog, a page for “News” about you and your book, and an “Events” page so people know where you’ll be promoting your book. Once you know the structure, write out some text for each of those pages (and spell check it!), gather the pictures you’d like to include, and then start building! 

You’ll want to read up on Search Engine Optimization so you can do the things on your site that will help the search engines find you. That’s too big a topic to cover in depth in this article, but as a starting point here are some tips:

- Ensure your domain name has your book name in it or your name in it, depending on which is the focus of your branding efforts.

- Page titles, blog titles, link names, the descriptions of photos, and menu options are some of the things search engines look at. Ensure they have key words or search terms in them.

- When you add content to the site (i.e. a blog post, text on the About page, etc.), ensure it has key words in it but don’t just “dump” them all over the place… they have to make contextual sense or the search engines will know you are just flooding the page with terms.

- The book “Search Engines Optimization for Dummies” is a great resource for understanding how search engines work and what you can do to ensure your site has a high ranking and is easily found.

Creating a website doesn’t have to be something you fear. It’s easier than ever to build one.

Adding certain things to your website can help promote you further. If you want to do a newsletter updating people or advertising a book release, you can add a form or link depending on if you are using a program for the newsletter or if you are just sending it out yourself via email. Another thing you could add is a link to your Facebook or Twitter pages. Both of these social networking sites can help you to promote your work or yourself. By simply putting the links to your account, people can either follow you or make a friend request.

Creating a website doesn’t have to be something you fear. It’s easier than ever to build one. Just find the right tools (like the book and hosting services noted above) and jump in. A website is a living thing – you will constantly be updating it and adding new content. So don’t worry that you have to get it “perfect” the first time out. You don’t. Just get it up there, and then refine it as your knowledge and confidence grows. You can do it!

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