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.