Spend a few hours purusing websites and blogs, reading books, or other research about marketing for writers and see what people talk about most. They talk about having a website. They talk about getting traffic to said website. They talk about building a following via social media, to further bring traffic to said website. All in an effort to gain readers (and writing gigs for freelancers) – clients and readers, the almighty pot o’ gold to a writer.
If you read enough, you can usually figure out your own version of a treasure map for readers. Little bread crumbs and clues to lead them to your website, in hopes of either gathering up more readers (presumably so you can later get them to buy your book) or garnering the attention of clients (so they’ll be so impressed with your writing ability that they literally throw money at you, begging you to write for them.)
Most of the stuff you read about talks about gathering a following. For me, reading that kind of stuff brings to mind a cross between creating a treasure map and turning yourself into the Pied Piper. I can just see you, decked out in green tights…with a little feather in your felt cap…wooden flute in hand…skipping along the little dotted line of your treasure map…leading readers and clients to your website.
But what about the treasure at the end of the map? Once you get to that X, then what? What’s in this treasure chest you’re leading everyone to?
In other words, what should you have on a writer’s website…this place, this X on the map you’re trying so hard to get everyone to? The question periodically comes up on writing forums and other gathering spots for novice writers. Someone’s always asking ‘what should I have on my site?’
Now, I could go into all sorts of complicated details about what pages to have, what platforms to use, SEO tactics, and all that complicated mumbo jumbo, leading you to believe there’s some sort of voodoo magic stuff involved or required. Boy, wouldn’t that make me sound all expert and stuff?
But seriously. It’s not that complicated. In short…you need to answer 3 important questions for readers and clients once you get them to your website. Those 3 questions don’t change when Google reconfigures their algorithm. They don’t depend on your niche. They’re unaffected by site design or technical elements.
It’s just simple common sense.
Visitors to your site want to know:
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Answer those three questions and you’re good. Answer them better than everyone else and you’re golden. Answer them, make visitors believe in you, show them you know what the hell you’re talking about and you’re a huge success, with multimillion dollar publishing contracts, agents begging to represent you, freelance clients kissing your feet and pouring your champagne for you.
Okay, so maybe not that last part…but you get the idea.
How you choose to answer those three questions is up to you. I will say this: most visitors, in looking for answers to “who the hell are you?” are gonna look for an About page. That’s kind of a no-brainer. But be sure there’s enough info on your other pages that visitors can figure out in under 3 seconds where they are. In other words, all your pages should scream “I’m a writer – this is my site for clients” or “I’m a writer – come see my latest book and buy it” so even the most mentally lacking visitor knows what you’re site is about, why it exists, what they’re expected to do there.
How you answer the other two questions is up to you. You know (or you should know) your market and what will speak to them. But keep in mind, you can’t just answer “why the hell should I care” and “what the hell are you going to do for me” and leave it at that. No. You have to PROVE your answers. You do that with samples, a portfolio, links to published works, etc. So naturally, your writer site should include that all important proof. Otherwise, you’re just blowing smoke and no one will believe a word you say.
The rest? Well…the rest is up to you. Site design, layout, copy, and overall presentation should speak to the folks you’re trying to attract. Your writer site is, for all intents and purposes, your online resume. Spend some time on it. Don’t push to have it all perfect, or you’ll never get it done. However, be sure you present your best possible image. Try doing something different, funky, or otherwise creative. Make yourself stand out from the crowd…and let me tell ya, the crowd of other writer sites is a BIG one. Make yourself noticeable. It’s worth the extra effort.