This article is the first part of a three-part guide to Digital Marketing for the budding author. Keep coming back for the other two parts in the greatest trilogy of it’s kind since… Ever!
Digital marketing may seem like a couple of dirty words to the average storyteller, who feel that the word ‘marketing’ should be banished to a dungeon where the ghost of Bill Hicks will be forever yelling in its horrible face. But whether we like to admit it or not, marketing is hugely important to our world, especially now that so much of our world is online.
Google hold approximately 90% of search engine traffic, which means that paying no attention to search engine rankings and the traffic that it could bring to you and your work is just plain ignorance. Being an artist and being stupid are two completely different things. You can optimize your online presence and market yourself without selling out. Nobody is asking you to perform in a Pepsi commercial or sing on a Gap advert! Digital marketing can be embraced without too much pain and suffering.
For the benefit of readers who like to take coffee breaks and like a Twitter hiatus in between periods of concentration, this feature will be split into three parts (a trilogy, if you will). Make sure you come back and check out parts two and three when they appear. There’s so much to cover in the digital marketing world, and all of it is important to writers who want to expand their online presence!
Choosing a Domain Name
When you’re marketing yourself, the first port of call is to get yourself a self-hosted website. By self-hosted, we mean to have a .co.uk or .com after your domain name, rather than having .wordpress.com or .tumblr.com at the end and having the majority of the legwork done for you.
The benefits of having your own domain name are endless. First of all, it shows to any agent, publisher or employer that you are a professional, not just somebody who has taken a half-assed decision to write. If you’ve gone to a site like www.godaddy.com or www.lcn.com and purchased a domain name and a hosting service at a cost, it shows that you are serious about your career as a writer and that you should be respected. As all writers know, putting yourself out there is half the battle.
Once you have decided which company to purchase your domain from, you have to choose a domain name. A lot of writers decide on their name followed by the word ‘writer’. This is fine if you have quite a short name, or an easy to spell name, but it can cause trouble if your name is difficult to spell or to type out. We are talking about potential clients and readers of your work here: They have to be able to find you!
A long domain name or a difficult to spell domain name will cause more problems than it is worth. If your name is bringing up difficulties, consider using initials and then your surname, something like jsmith.com rather than Jeremiahsmith.com, which could be misspelt or forgotten a lot quicker. You only have to include the word ‘writer’ in the domain name if the name has already been taken by another domain owner. But if you’re desperate for the domain, you can contact them and make them an offer to buy the domain.
Choosing the Right Theme for Your Niche
Web design has come on leaps and bounds over the last few years, and it has meant that guys with no or virtually no design training and put together a great site without having to commit to three years at university and to become fluent in HTML (although learning basic HTML is highly recommended and isn’t anywhere near as scary or difficult as it looks or sounds on paper).
Once you have purchased your domain name and got hosting for it (from the same company hopefully, as it makes it a lot easier to keep organized when you need to renew or cancel it) you can start to focus on putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Your journey should start with finding a great theme, and the majority of people will recommend that you choose WordPress to host with.
There are hundreds of thousands of stunning and easy to use WordPress themes out there. They can turn the biggest Luddite into somebody who can piece together a decent website in no time at all. WordPress have achieved this by treating consumers as humans rather than experienced techies, and this means that a lot of mental breakdowns, broken furniture and brain aneurysms have been avoided as a result, and a number of fantastic looking and well-functioning websites have emerged, making all the layman’s look like professionals.
When it comes to choosing your website themes, you can find plenty on the biggest WordPress theme marketplaces: ThemeForest and Mojo Themes. Between these two you will find thousands of themes that you can purchase for as little as $20 and as high as $100 and get a great looking site as a result of your purchase. Make sure you go through the different categories to find the right kind of site. There isn’t much point in buying a theme in the ‘Retail’ or ‘Photography’ section if the site is going to be focusing on your writing. The ‘Creative’ and ‘Magazine’ categories should be the best place to go for writers to find the right theme. Each theme comes with support from the designer and can be uploaded as a file into your site fairly painlessly. That’s when the fun begins!
Before you start going crazy either through creative fun or because you have no idea what you are doing, make sure you check out some guides, either on YouTube as videos or through content guides. This is so important, as momentum is everything. If you get stuck and leave your site alone, you may not come back to it, and when you finally do come back, you’ll have even less of an idea of what to do to make it the best it can be.