You may have noticed some websites now make you verify it is actually you by sending you a text message to your cellphone. For your website, you should implement this type of security. I have it on this site, and when I attempt to login, it will require me to use the Microsoft Authenticator app before granting access. This will prevent any hackers from getting unauthorized access to your files. If you use Wordfence, like I do, then it is already in your arsenal of weapons against hackers. Activate it and use your favorite app to verify you. It is pretty easy. Once activated there is a QR code you scan and it then puts everything into motion.
This is an awesome plugin that I install on every website I build. It has a plethora of utilities that make your life as a webmaster easier. It has had a boatload of updates over the years, and actually is the tool that I used to notify users of a new posting. Personally I think that it is the coolest feature of all. Almost everyone has their email attached to their smartphone. So it is cool that I know thousands of people are casually sipping their coffee and reading their Aaron update. Today, which actually happens to contain some useful information that may save your site one day.
Another cool feature is the “prevent brute attacks” which blocks out thousands of hacker using software – that are trying to log into your site as “admin”. As a rule of thumb, I tell clients to just delete that login and then set Wordfence to automatically ban that IP from the site, if someone tries to login as “admin”, which of course, doesn’t even exist. Also, NEVER use admin as the login and password. Speaking of passwords, a cool trick I learned as a freshman in college — from a buddy who I met online, is to always start and end your password with a space character. You know the long button that you use in between words. Why? Because it is a non-printing invisible to the eye character that a hacker would not be able to distinguish, if he was using like, a keystroke device to capture all your passwords. AH! Another trick, is to use the number 1, and the letter l, “L”, lowercase, as they look the same when printed, and you can also use that weird | symbol. lll|||lll||| is kind of goofy but it is something no one is every going to guess.
The next layer of protection I advise all website owners is to install the security certificate. For one, you will need it when you are selling products or services directly from your site. Even if you use Paypal as your checkout gateway, you still want to assure your customers/clients that it is safe to enter in a credit card number from you site. Paypal is super easy to use, install, and bill your clients. In fact, I send all my invoices to clients through a template invoice, and they can pay with their credit card or bank account immediately. Contact your website host about installing this security certificate. You are less likely to be hacked if you have this simple, cost effective gatekeeper. My hosting package actually included it for free. Otherwise I think it is as low as $20 a year.
Tax Deductions for Website Owners
If you file your taxes as self-employed or owner of a business, then you already know that your website expenses and all hosting associated with it are deducted from the gross income, hence lowering your tax liability. So there really is NO reason at all that you don’t have some of these extras. Dropbox, you need it. It’s deductible. Graphics, (from Photodune) are cheap, and grant you copyright. You need it. Deductible. The web designer who is able to direct your potential customers to a sale and creates a new revenue stream for your business … you need it. People can’t buy what they can’t see. I can’t tell you how many times I see a site and I am left wondering, “What is it you are selling, because I can’t figure it out from your site.” No call to action is very common, and ultimately it is abandoned by possible new readers/subscribers. This site sells things. It sells books, and has a menu directing people to the rest. Mostly it sells ideas. People don’t come to this website to “buy” something. Usually they come to learn something. Probably 80% of new visitors come from Google, Bing and MSN. Most of my long time readers just subscribe to get the blogs and know they really don’t have to go to the main site unless they want to read older blogs.
If everything I just wrote means nothing to you, then you must not be a website owner. So, on a side note, Disney+ just released the movie Mulan, for $29.99, and unlike Trolls that only allowed 48 hour playback, you can play it as long as you are a Disney+ subscriber. So Disney actually listened to feedback from Trolls and grants you forever access without buying it again when it comes out next year on digital and disc for the rest of the world. HOWEVER, if you cancel Disney+, then you lost it.
Also, for American Express platinum cardmembers, they receive up to $20 a month on streaming services. So my Netflix, and Disney+ are free for me, and then I also get $20 a month credit on cell phone services. So for cardmembers it would work out to like, $21 to get the new Mulan. I’m actually watching it right now in the background and it is surprisingly pretty good. I haven’t written an actual movie review in years, but who knows? It could happen.
If you like my posts, please like my Facebook page. You can click like at the footer of any page on the site, or subscribe, also in the footer, and get my posts by email. I strive to post on a regular basis. Especially now that everyone is in lockdown.
In the United States, it is Friday, the beginning of the Labor Day weekend! I am guessing there will be millions of backyard bbq’s. Have a fun and safe weekend friends!
WordPress Site Hacked?
As much as I hate it, websites get hacked. They are actually more vulnerable as WordPress allows more and more plug-ins that have weak security which in turn can infiltrate your site.
I have several sites that have been hacked and I have spent many countless hours sorting through evil lines of code, deleting scripts and files. It’s not a lot of fun, but it needs to be done. If you are not a code geek, then I wouldn’t recommend doing this. Hire a professional.
If your site goes down, pray that you have a WordPress xml backup file somewhere. It is really easy to do. Go into your WordPress dashboard, if you can, and go to tools, export, all content. Save it to your cloud or Dropbox.com account. This is all your precious hard work you have created.
If you can’t get into the dashboard, then you might be able to salvage it if you can get cPanel access to the file manager. If you can, then zip up your WordPress core files, mostly the wp-content folder. Save it to your hard drive. Hopefully you don’t have to use this and you have the XML file.
So, how do you know if your site has been hacked? For starters, it might not load at all. It could still load, but in the background secretly have malicious malware or spam files hiding in deep folders. Ultimately what is going to happen, is your web host server is going to shut down your account and delete the site all together to prevent any infection of other sites. Chances are, your site is on a shared host with other websites. Your site could have been infected simply by being on a server that was attacked.
GoDaddy, Bluehost, and a few others are targets and have had sites go down due to hackers.
After much technical research, hours of reading other people’s issues, I finally came up with my own solution. Delete the infected site. Start over. This sucks, but it has to be done. Don’t try and edit files that that were binary code. Every answer you search for online gives you very technical, difficult, time consuming possibilities. None that are easy.
Contact your host and change your server password, and your cPanel password. They should be impossible to ever crack.
Log into cPanel, go to Legacy File Manager. Find the infected site. Delete it and all the files under it. You are starting over. Everything in that website directory will be removed.
Open Sofaculous, and if the site is in the “overview”, then you will need to remove it. If it is not listed, but still an active domain, then you will need to install a new copy. Install “limit login attempts” during installation.
Log into the WordPress dashboard, go to plug ins and install Wordfence and Jetpack.
Activate both plug ins and set the security level in Wordfence to “Attack Imminent”. Activate Jetpack jump start and also limit logins. This will help protect your site.
Go into Wordfence and whitelist your ip address. Ban all I.P. addresses who try to use “admin” as a user, and who access the wp-admin folder. This will help keep your site safe from hackers. Make it impossible to get into your site.
Delete any plugins that you don’t use. Delete “Hello Dolly”. Delete all the themes except the default theme.
Install your desired theme, and import your WordPress XML file. Proceed to set up your site as normal.
Delete all themes that you are not using.
If you don’t have the XML file, go into cPanel file manager and upload the wp-content file you saved to your hard drive. Hopefully, it will load the content.
Confused with hastags? #hashtags
Welcome to the 21st century
Where the little tic tac toe, from your old dial tone phone is now called something else. It’s called a hash tag.
I know, it sounds like the stupidest thing to rename something that we all call a pound symbol. Either way it doesn’t really matter what you call it, it matters what you do with it, what you label, and how you retrieve it. It is also very important when it comes to gaining new readers.
Chances are you might know what these little doo hickeys are, but if you don’t then you are in good hands. No one actually taught me about them but I figured them out and have been making them work for me quite well for some time.
Basically because Twitter only gives you 140 characters, you had to somehow “code” your tweets so you could find them again, and other people could find them. It is a code that starts with a # and is followed by a word. They need to be connected #twitter, and they are not case-sensitive. You can use capitals but it won’t matter.
Twitter started the hashtags, but its popularity quickly jumped to other mainstream social media, including Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and many more. Many companies and products have created their own hashtags to brand themselves.
I have used my own #QuotesByAaronMstephens when I write something and think I may want to read it again. It also is helpful for people to find your updates. So if people know this is MY hashtag, then they can easily pull it up without having to go through so many thousands of tweets or posts.
Once I started using hashtags that were more common for people to think of, I started gaining more followers. Now I use them for SEO and search engine relevance. When you are in WordPress composing a new post, there are tags you can use which are in your article/blog.
These are actually just like hashtags, but for search engines. If you are just randomly throwing in illogical words, it is going to have a negative effect on your rankings. I would say that only 10% of bloggers who understand SEO actually use these hashtags, tags and categories correctly.
I have experimented using different hashtags, using ones that are trending, and also posting things without hashtags. It is safe to say that you should ALWAYS use at least one hashtag. I am a writer, so I use a lot of writing reference hashtags.
I have a lot of readers who are authors, aspiring and published, and they look to me for education. “If it is working for Aaron, then it can work for me.” Some easy to remember hashtags can be #blog #write #writer #author #indie . There are millions of people who love to read blogs. You might be one of them. Make things easy for your reader. If they know they can find you or your blog by a clever or common hashtag, you will gain more followers/readers.
Be a messenger and share your new found knowledge with a friend.
Facebook Business Likes Decreasing
If you weren’t aware, Facebook has made a decision to clean house. Businesses that have fake “likes” from LIKE farms are in trouble. Facebook has decided to remove dead, inactive accounts. It has not been confirmed, but I am sure they have some sort of advanced software working in the background.
If you don’t know what a LIKE farm is, it is a company that hires thousands of people to just “like” pages if customers pay them. On the surface you can’t tell that a business has fake likes. Meaning they paid an outside company to just like their page and they really don’t. Personally I don’t think that is right. It’s cheating. Facebook thinks so too. They are also attempting to determine the number of fake accounts and duplicates. I only have one Facebook account, but there are tons of people who have more than one, and that is against their terms of service. If they find out, they could ban both accounts. So be careful folks.
Facebook also decided that deceased accounts should also not count. In all fairness, the person who liked that page can no longer interact, like or share postings. The biggest problem companies had with using a like farm is that when they would go to post something on Facebook, there would be zero engagement or likes. So I am sure you have seen pages that post something and there is hardly any like or zero likes. For a lot of people they think that those likes are fake, and purchased from a like farm.
If you don’t own a Facebook business page, then this might be educational for you. I am going to assume you know what a page is, and you just don’t have one of your own. If you do, then you already know that it is not easy to get people to like your page. You might be one of them. You’ve spammed all your friends through the Facebook invite option and only a handful of people liked your page. Why? You have over a thousand, surely everyone is going to like your page, right? Wrong.
First of all, your friends don’t know anything about your new page, and second of all, they don’t know if you own it. It might not be clear. I get invites all the time for people who want me to like their page. Here is my rule, if you didn’t ask me personally, or I can’t tell that it is your page, I won’t like it. Third, I need to see what you have been posting the past month or so, how often you post, and if I find it interesting, educational or entertaining. If it doesn’t meet that criteria, I may not want you showing up in my newsfeed. Sometimes, over-posting can prevent someone from liking your page.
Your business page should have at least an hour’s worth of good reading, just like your website. Many people make the mistake of announcing their premature business page and the only people who like it are the best friends, family and maybe some clients. If you are someone who just reposts other people’s material, ultimately you will just end up sending your potential readers to someone else’s page.
When you do finally decide on your topic for your blog, be sure you write something ample. Use big fonts. If you are using WordPress then you should be using those “H” tags. In the formatting, there is Heading 1, 2, 3, …6, and paragraph and there are some other formats you can use. Those are key in your SEO. I have never mentioned using these in my blogs in the past, but I always, ALWAYS, use them. For one, it makes it easier for you the reader to read. Two, it does some special SEO tricks that help search engines find me. Three, it just looks nicer.
Did you know that your blog/website only has 8 seconds before your reader will make a decision? Think about it. How much time and patience do YOU have? If a page doesn’t load fast then your reader will close out. If your page does load and it is too busy, your reader will close out. If your page loads and the font is too small and a TON of text, your reader may close out. Remember, most people have failing eyesight or are reading from a mobile device. As a blogger you are also a designer now. Layout and design make a huge impact and impression on your reader.
So if you haven’t checked me out on Facebook, I have a few business pages. The main one is my public figure page and the other is my children’s book page. I was asked by a client who has an author page if she should also have a book page. Personally I don’t think it would hurt, and it certainly can help. My marketing of the book was monumental on introducing people to the idea of my book, months before it actually launched. After it launched the likes continued to grow. I have noticed that on both of those pages my likes have decreased like everyone else out there. Fortunately for me it was minimal. I lost like 2 thousand on the angel page and maybe 1 thousand on my public figure page.
I am sure it was due to duplicate or inactive accounts. I know some people are thinking, “Wow, you lost 3 thousand fans? That’s more than I have all together. I’d be freaking out.” I would be except that I have over 200 hundred thousand fans on Facebook, not counting my other social media platforms. I would probably imagine that this website has a pretty large following. There are so many marketing vehicles out there that point people to this website. Lately I have been getting random visitors from StumbleUpon.com. That is another cool website, but I will write a blog on that website another day.
Although, in all fairness, before Facebook was doing their deletion of likes, I would lose likes on a regular basis. Sometimes none, sometimes as many as 30 a day. For whatever reason, someone decided they didn’t want to see me in their newsfeed. I try not to overanalyze and instead focus on the positive.
Thousands of God’s children ARE listening to me, hearing his message. There are also thousands of followers who like reading something spiritual and inspirational. I get messages daily, many of them young boys who look up to me as a role model. It’s a really cool feeling when a total stranger tells you that he wants to be just like you. I also spent a pretty penny (from heaven) on advertising and marketing the book around the globe for almost 10 months. Millions have been exposed to the book, Facebook pages, or websites.
I have some stealth website tricks that I use. On the angel academy website and this one, I have a “like” box that shows up in the right hand corner of the website when you hit page 3 scrolling. If you like the site it asks you to like the Facebook page. The cool thing with this is you don’t have to leave the website to actually go look at the Facebook page. So I got thousands of people to like my page without ever going to see it. It doesn’t activate on the blog posts, but if you click on the header it will take you to the home page.
Once you have your Facebook business page established you should advertise it everywhere you can for free. Your email signature, your personal Facebook cover page and description, your Google+ page, your About.Me page, Twitter profile, any promotions, and anything printed, including your business card. I am not sure how many likes I got from LinkedIn, but that is also another rich platform you can market yourself.
Regardless of profession you are in, if you are seeking clients or customers, you need to be visible. You need your website to come up first if someone types it in Google, Bing, MSN or Yahoo. You never know where your readers are coming from, but you can always direct them to your personal professional website. You are always in control of your website. Facebook won’t be going away due to it’s egregious wealth and power. However there were other social media sites that came and went; Friendster, MySpace are just a couple off the top of my head. If you are blogging on Blogger or WordPress.com, there is nothing from them saying they are going to start charging you or hold your website hostage.
How To Launch a Blog in less than 90 days
This morning I woke up and a friend of mine had posted there is a new book coming out, “How to write a blog.” I kid you not. I checked it out, and since there are so many new bloggers who visit my site I felt I should share it with you. Here.
The book does not say who even writes it. They are currently doing a pre-launch campaign to get people interested. I can tell you that there is tons of free stuff on the internet, like this blog for instance, that are totally free.
Here is what say they might teach you.
1. Discover your blog idea. 2. Blog set up easy. 3. Develop your content and editorial calendar. 4. How to grow & engage your audience with social media. 5. Search Engine Optimization. 6. Additional Traffic Methods. 7. Creating your press kit. 8. Creating your newsletter. 9. Monetize your blog. 10. Tracking your stats. 11. Blueprint and calendar.
You can pre-order it for $67. WHAT?! Yep, you heard me right/write. Again, no credible author, no tangible proof of prior results. Just the hope and promise that you “might” learn those things. Would you pay $67 for that book? I think I know the answer to that one. First of all, that book is totally way priced out of any book in the market. You will only get that money if you can break into the college textbook market and only if you can get a university or college to endorse your book. That means you will need some credentials.
Here is the other thing. They are not even using a traditional publisher and it is not a paper version, it is ONLY an eBook. Yep, you heard me right. The most anyone ever pays for an eBook is $9.99, and that is because of the royalty/commission structure that is set in place, specifically at Amazon.com.
I have a pretty good idea that not many people can even afford a book that expensive, but maybe they would like that information. How about I write that book with my content, do it as an eBook also, give it a better name, or even the same name, and sell it for $9.99?
Ready To Start Your Blog?
Did you know that there are actually lots of different choices and alternatives for blogging. Personally I think anyone who has a thought to share should have a blog. The world needs more writers.
I get a lot of questions from readers who want to start a blog or a website. These probably are not potential clients for me as I usually build websites for clients who have a steady stream of income. Most “blogs” are more informative and usually don’t sell a lot of products or services. I would say that blogs are a collection of ideas, and are composed as a “post”, whereas your website is made of “pages”. All WordPress blogs have to include 2 pages in order to make the site work. The first page is the home page and the second is the blog page. If you do not have these two pages configured correctly then your site will not appear correctly.
Now you don’t have to use WordPress, you can use something else. One of my prior blogs lived on Blogger.com. It is also a free blogging system, has lots of customization, and like WordPress.com, you can use your custom domain name, but you have to pay additional for it of course. If all you want to do is record your thoughts and ideas, then using a free blogging system will do the job.
Your website doesn’t need to be super fancy. Look at this one. It’s pretty plain and simple. It is the layout and the size of the font that makes it easy to read. It is the content that keeps readers coming back for more.
Blogger Advice – More Website Jewels
Hello my blogging friends! Chances are you like to read blogs and you might even fancy writing one or two yourself. Personally I have several blogs and all of them are for different reasons. One thing that I learned a long time ago, is most people can only focus on one concept at a time. Hence the reason large sites have categories. The layout of your website/blog can make or break your readers experience.
This blog’s specific purpose is to educate, inform, and even entertain the reader. Most of the readers of this blog have been following me for years or are fans from Facebook. Those 3 things, educate – inform – entertain, are the key building blocks in developing your own base of readers.
If you are just starting your blog or you are rebranding yourself, what do you want your blog to accomplish? When someone is done reading one of your clever, crafty articles, what experience or feeling are they left with at that moment? Was your blog too short? Blogs are never too long. Trust me on that one. Write with passion and write from your heart. Always read your own work and spell check.
I use WordPress 4.11 and you should too. I get a lot of people wanting to know what theme I use. The theme I use is not for the average user and most will find it very difficult and frustrating. I say this because my site needs CSS access to modify the code. I use a child theme, which probably means nothing to you. I use very little plugins and most of my site is static. If you want a wow me, dazzle super cool theme, then I will recommend you head over to ThemeForest.net, which has thousands of really cool themes. If you are a blogger, go for a magazine/writers theme. In addition to cool themes you can find any plugin you could possibly imagine.
If you were to use the same theme as me, it would not look anything like my site. Sorry, that’s why I like this theme. I can customize it for any company, person, purpose, event or product. AaronMstephens.com, Angel.Academy, SuzanneGrandchamp.com, and many, many more use the same theme. If you want to see a few sites that I have done with different themes, my personal blog, AaronsAfterthoughts.com uses a cool magazine type of theme. My business website, OpusDeorum.com also uses a complex theme. Many of my clients will buy a theme and try to configure it themselves, which is a very long process if you do not know what you are doing.
If you are a writer, and blogging is your thing, then you should configure your site a lot like a magazine or news site. Your blog, the writing part, may or may not be a driving force in your website. Your witty thoughts are being captured by Google, Bing and MSN, and answered in a Jeopardy like format. Reverse your answers to a possible question. If you are not a writer, you can hire writers. Although, most of your fans would rather hear your thoughts, ideas and imagination.
Being a good writer and being a great writer takes practice, repetition, and convey some sort of a message. If you are someone who just rambles and doesn’t have a lot to say, you won’t hold the attention of your readers. Most people don’t like to be overwhelmed with a lot of data. This is one of the reasons I have my blog display little bits of information at a time. I highly recommend that you read, re-read your work before you hit publish. Did you personally learn something from your own writing? If the answer is no, then maybe go back to the drawing board until the answer is yes.
Keep in mind that if you are using a free WordPress site you cannot use these themes, plugins or anything they sell as you do not have that functionality. You just cant have a cool site with these themes. Bummer.
Once you have your website or blog set up, all you really have to do is focus on your writing. I personally like this blog because it is easy to read, it has big black fonts and scrolls easily on my tablet or phone. It’s not busy at all, and in fact is very black and white.
Before you launch your site, play around with different themes after you have some content. You should always have your home page (landing), about, products/services, blog and contact methods. You may not want to give out your email or phone number. If it is a real lead, they will call you directly, so you may want to get a Google Voice number to list on your site. Create your pages, a few postings, your menu and configure your logo. Your branding should also include your professionally lit photograph suitable for 4 print color. Good luck with branding/creating your website!
More Blogs & Articles
Hello friends and welcome to another edition of Aaron’s highly informative and extremely entertaining blogs. One of the things I pride myself is the fact the no one writes like me. I’m not scheduled, repetitive, and certainly not boring. I am always looking for new blogs/writers and many times I find myself let down.
I am a member of a lot of different Facebook groups so I am exposed to a lot of authors. Naturally I am curious what other authors are doing and go check out their website(s), Facebook Business page, if they have one, and what they rank on Amazon for their book. Lately I have seen quite a few authors tooting their horn at what a great social media person they are, and you should register for their class/workshop, and of course, purchase their book. If you give them an email address they might give you something free. Personally I don’t ever feel that whatever they are giving is worth signing up for another mailing list.
Seriously, I get so much email another newsletter just is not going to do it for me. But wait! You are thinking, “Aaron, you have a newsletter sign up on your website.” Nope, I don’t. Have you ever gotten an email directly FROM me? Nope. Do I ever send out mass emails on my own? No. If you subscribe to my site, I don’t know it. WordPress automatically sends out a notification that a new blog was created. I never promised anyone anything, other than stealing you away from what you really should be doing … work. However, you may argue that reading this article IS work as it will help you in your own endeavors. How? I am getting there.
I honestly do not even know how many people are signed up for email notifications or RSS, but I do know it is in the thousands. So I never ask anyone to sign up or promise them anything. Chances are by the time you have lost a half an hour or so of time, you can make up you own mind if you want to read more. An RSS is really super simple to set up. What makes it cool is people will still be notified of your update/article without actually going to your site, opening up email, or getting a notification on your smartphone. It just silently scrolls along the bottom of your screen. Very sneaky marketing. If your blog is interesting, people will look forward to seeing updates. If you slam them with “Buy my product/services” they will quickly get rid of you. Sorry, but that is the way it is.
If you are visiting my site for the first time, you will find there is a lot to read. I like to write. If you are returning for a second or third time you will notice that I keep on writing, just like Dory from Finding Nemo. Just keep writing. Just keep writing. I tell that to writers all the time. Who cares if it isn’t good the first draft, just keep writing. We can fix those things later. The other day I wrote a really long blog. The longer the blog, the better the SEO. It got a lot of exposure and people really liked it. Sweet. I’m glad I can be so entertaining. Seriously, I personally get annoyed reading a blog that is like ten seconds long. Almost all of my writing is pretty lengthy. Since I “usually” write quite early in the morning, many people have already started making it a habit of sitting down with their morning coffee and reading my blog. I think I am a little more entertaining than the same old Facebook newsfeed. Well, that is what a reader told me this week.
One of the really cool things I like about having a large fan base, is the constant stream of comments, messages and tweets I receive. There aren’t a lot of writers you can contact and say “Hey will you write about _____ just for me?” I would like to write Stephen King and say, “Oooooo…write a Colorado marijuana horror story just for me! Even a short story, please????” Yeah, that certainly won’t happen anytime soon. I’m not writing short stories, but I am addressing a lot of topics that people find interesting. Some people are even using my articles in their research papers for school. Yes really. Because they tell me. Anytime I write about WordPress I get a lot of hits on the site. Why? Because millions of people are using it and millions of people don’t know how to use it. They fiddle their way through it and barely make use of it. It’s like cooking. Everyone can cook something. Not everyone is a chef.
So today I want to direct your attention to social media. Why? Because everyone loves talking and reading about it. Mostly people who don’t know what it is, or feel like they are lost in the crowd. Everyone has moved on but you. You are now figuring out how this how Facebook thing works and you hear that people are moving on to other things. Like what? Well, that is why you are here on this site. So I can share that with you. Social Media is this giant elephant in the room. Some people like to brand themselves as experts, write books and charge thousands of dollars just to talk. John Maxwell, Darren Hardy are two that quickly come to mind. The thing I find most interesting, is these “experts” are all old. Sorry, they are. They didn’t grow up with a smartphone, they grew up with something called a “rotary dial”. Older people also use Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. The younger generation, we use things like Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat and StumbleUpon.
I am not going to go into a lot of detail of how to use these outlets, someone has already written about them. For a lot of readers, they are thinking “Okay I know that one, … and that one, but what are those other ones?” I have several people in mind right now. You know who you are. I didn’t know about SnapChat until my friends from one of my Facebook groups told me to start using it with my fans. Of course I asked a dozen questions, but after seeing how it worked I could see a lot of value in it.
I have been struggling with how to reach MY younger reading audience. They aren’t on Facebook. Why? “My parents are on Facebook. They cyber-stalk me.” How freaking funny is that? Well, that is what the kids are saying. “My mom is a total ****** and reads all my text messages and makes me give her my lock code.” SnapChat is a 1-10 second video or message that deletes after viewed. So I signed up for a SnapChat account and then I put a picture of the logo on my Facebook page. I didn’t say what it was, and it did not take you off of Facebook’s site. This is important when you want to have larger exposure. Sure enough, my fans all around the world knew what that app logo was and thousands quickly added me to their friend list. Quite a few older “friends” asked me what it was. I didn’t want to let everyone in on the secret just yet, so I just said it was a way for me to connect with my fans.
As a writer it is critical to connect with your audience. Your audience could span across several demographics. For instance, I seriously doubt there are a lot of kids under the age of 12 that read my blog. Why? The information is not relevant or interesting to them. In the United States a lot of children found out about my book through their parents. Why? Because I wasn’t able to connect with kids. I have several audiences, and perhaps in another article I will go into greater depth. International kids are a different story. I don’t know why.
One way you can connect with your readers is by your writing style. For the most part, I write in a very casual conversational style, just as if I were talking with you. Many of my personal friends say they can actually hear my voice as they read my blogs. Some writers talk above their audience reading level (and lose them) and I just find that frustrating. You should always write at a sixth grade reading level. Why? Most average adults only read at a sixth grade reading level.
The key word I use is CONNECT. Once you have that connection with your readers they are more likely to share, and recommend you and your blog. The “willing to recommend” is very key in getting a viral marketing plan for your book/blog. When you write something, in the back of your mind you should be thinking “WHY would anyone want to read this article? Or tell someone else to go read it?”
So to answer my own question; “This blog introduced me to some new marketing data, social media insights and made me start thinking about whom might want to read my own writing.”
Lately I have been receiving a lot of comments regarding my website; this one that you are on right now. As many people know, there are a lot of ways that one can make/create a website. My first days of websites involved something called HTML coding. It is a very ugly, but logical, computer programming language that I taught myself. I actually wrote my own webpage on Geocities back in the 90’s. It took me 3 months to write ONE page of code. It was, and still is, very difficult and something like a slash / or > can totally mess up the entire page/site.
Later in life I moved onto other software. There was this really confusing program called Dreamweaver, and another even harder called Macromedia Flash. Just the thought of it gives me the shivers. So much work for so little reward. Not my favorite tools and at some point Microsoft got into the game and created FrontPage. It was somewhat user-friendly, and you could make basic sites without a lot of programming knowledge. FrontPage required the server to install “extensions” for it to be compatible. It also required extensive knowledge of cPanel, which is the server side interface that manages the domain, email accounts, redirects, subdomains, 404 pages, FTP access and a whole lot more. At some point Microsoft does what Microsoft does and they discontinued the product and released something called Microsoft Expressions. Again, not the most easiest product to use, but I managed to still create somewhat decent looking websites.
Flash forward and I discover this new platform that everyone is switching to called WordPress. There is nothing I love more than learning something entirely new. So I immersed myself in the WordPress Bible among dozens of other books that were not designed for a beginner like me. I knew code. Fortunately I am also a designer, and a wiz in Adobe Photoshop. You really can’t be a good web developer if you aren’t a web designer. WordPress took me about a year to master, and the things I was forced to learn included tweaking CSS code, using a true CMS system, databases, and of course, plugins. A plugin is another term for WordPress software. Some plugins are free, others cost money.
Probably the single most reason a person would NOT want to use a WordPress.com FREE account, is that you are unable to access the code to modify it, OR install any plugins. Sure you can upgrade through their site to get the functionality, but you end up pay WAY more than if you hosted it yourself, or had someone host it for you. When you decide on a server/host, it should be on a UNIX system (my preference, more stable), and if you can afford it, an SSL certificate so you can sell products. Unlimited everything is great, however realistically, your site will get less than 100 hits per day when you first launch. The standard WordPress installation is only 10 megs. Yes, you heard me correctly. With WordPress you can link all your pictures from somewhere else, such as DropBox.com, Pinterest, or wherever, so you never really need to host big graphics on your account. The same goes with video. You link your YouTube, don’t host it yourself.
Do anything you can to take the load off of your server for when you do have a lot of traffic. I also use a caching plugin on my site. It creates static files to serve to users when they return so it does not take as long to load the site. My site also does something called a “lazy load” where it loads each pages one at a time, from top to bottom. Why? Your reader can only read so fast, why load all pages equally (like old school) when you risk losing your reader. There is something that I call the 8 second rule. After analyzing countless website statistics reports I found that the average user only gives your website 8 seconds before they leave, shut it down, or just give up. Yes, we are impatient people. Using scrolling websites with good text, graphics and organization I am more likely to keep a user on my site than if I let them navigate through the menu alone.
I like to use analogies. People can relate. You can think of your website like a car. In this day and age, almost everyone has a car, just like everyone has a web presence. It may not be owned by yourself, such as your personal Facebook page, but most people have something. Is everyone’s car the same? No. Is everyone’s website the same? No. Could I build a car? Perhaps, with the right training, education, mentors, and on the job training, I am sure I could at some point. Can everyone build a website? Again, same answer.
I am not here to sell you building your own website. Chances are, you already have one and you find it confusing, overwhelming and “Googling” your question gives you a plethora of answers that don’t answer your question. You know I am right. How do I know? I’m psychic. Heh heh. Actually I had those same questions myself long, long ago and there was no one there to answer them for me. Sure there is a huge community, but it takes a lot of research to finally find what you need to know. Notice how I say need.
So what do you need to know? I will decide you are an aspiring author, as I was once upon a time. You need to brand yourself. I can help with that. What do you stand for? What does your book stand for? Who is your audience? How do you know? Prove it. Sorry, that’s how I am. Write it down. You need to pick a font that you like. You need a professional photo. All of those things will be used in your header on your website, the footer on your letterhead and the signature of your email. If you need an example take a look at mine. One thing you might notice is I don’t brand myself as an author immediately, with the major group. It is something that I do, not who I am. There are a lot of things that I am, just as there are a lot of things that you do. What do you want your readers/fans/audience to know you when they think of you?
I add an additional line of branding, using a red font, stating a worldwide best-selling author. I include “The next New York Times …” In this day and age most people don’t give too much attention to the wording and the eyes scan over the words, and brain puts the association where you want them. To think you actually ARE on the New York Times list, when you haven’t made it just yet. The day you have readers/fans from more than a few countries, then you too can call yourself a worldwide critically acclaimed international author. When you break some records, you can call yourself best-selling. I hit #3 on Amazon in my category, so I can call myself best-selling. Some people say top 100 of your category, some say top 50, and others say top 10. Whatever floats your halo works for me. The only person it should really matter is you anyway. You will have your competitive edge that gives readers a reason for liking you and your writing.
You need a biography. Who are you? What have you done? What would people find interesting? Go read other authors’ bios. The day I decided to create this site, I decided people wanted to know a lot about me. I was getting messages daily on Facebook and Twitter so I felt it was time to put something decent together. So my bio is lengthy, but as you know, all of my writing is lengthy. Let me remind you that it is YOUR bio and you can write anything you want. If you aren’t interesting, people will skim over it. I find that people like to “relate” to you. They want to connect and feel that there is something in common. There are thousands of alumni who went to the same University, as well as alumni from graduate school. Guess what? What people connect with you on some level, they are more likely to like you, and also trust you.
Your website should also list your writing. It should be your blogs, online articles, and of course any books you have currently for sale. If you are a debut author, meaning, unpublished, be sure you give your potential readers lots to read. Your blog is free. You can write as often as you like. You can write as much as you like. People like to read, and they like to read for free. There is nothing more satisfying than to have someone get lost in your work, thoughts, and ideas.
Your blog should be incorporated into your website. If it isn’t, you are just redirecting someone to a blog somewhere else, then you lose all your SEO marketability. Ultimately, your goal should be, your blog answers a question, that someone, at some point will type into their browser. When you DO … then Google, or whomever will send them to the site where the article lives. WordPress is not just a bunch of webpages, it is a database. A posting, which looks like a page, is not a page. It is filed and categorized differently. Your postings have categories, tags, and other things that help search engines index your site better. The longer the blogs, the better the SEO. Every time I write a new blog with valuable WordPress knowledge, a new sitemap is submitted to Google, Bing, and MSN.
So I’d just like to end this article, with “What would YOU want to read, that others also would want to read?” That is what you should write. Be original. Be creative. I had challenges, just like everyone else. It has taken me decades to have the design skill level and the technology know how. I have worked with hundreds of owners, C level executives and decision makers consulting, telling them the exact same information I just gave you. As an author/writer, readers expect you to write. What a concept. If you don’t do it on a regular basis you will lose your readers. You don’t want to be a one hit wonder. You want to be a wondrous hit.