Hey, SE Readers. Happy 2020! Joan with you today, not only kicking off a new year but a new decade. Can you believe it’s been twenty years since we had all the crazy hoopla about Y2K?
When I was a child, the year 2000 seemed far into the future. For me (and many), the thought of almost everyone having a personal computer didn’t exist. Being able to communicate instantly with virtually anyone in any location on earth at any time was something that never crossed my mind.
But in 1991, the worldwide web became available. By the mid-nineties, many households had computers. Information was now at our fingertips. Online shopping sites began to emerge, and companies scrambled to purchase domain names and put their information on the web. Celebrities and authors alike began to buy their own domain name and create websites. Blogging became popular.
These days every author should have a website or at the least, a blog. My colleagues here at Story Empire, P. H., and Craig, have written posts on this topic, but I’m going to elaborate a little further and talk about making your blog user-friendly.
What do I mean by being that? By definition, user-friendly most often refers to a piece of equipment or software that is easy to learn, use, understand, or deal with.
Let’s look at the last part of that definition in terms of a website or blog. You want people to visit, and once they do, you hope they will return. Don’t make things hard on your readers. The last thing you want to do is drive them away. These few simple steps will help.
Choose a well-known blogging platform. There are a number available. The most popular are WordPress and Blogger. I started on Blogger ages ago, but it didn’t take me long to make the switch to WordPress. Of the two, I believe it is a better platform and certainly has more extensive use. Other options include Squarespace and Wix. I think I’ve only visited a couple of blogs that used Squarespace. One of them made it nearly impossible to leave a comment.
Speaking of which, don’t make it hard for users to leave a comment. I personally dislike it when I see my comments held for moderation, especially on sites I frequently visit. After a while, I’m tempted to read and move on.
If you’re concerned about spammers, there are anti-spam applications to help with catching trolls. If you use WordPress (dot) com for your blogging platform, Akismet is free. We receive hundreds of spam comments every day on the Story Empire site. While Akismet isn’t perfect, it catches probably 99.9% of them. On occasion, it will place a legitimate comment in spam, but it’s a simple process to approve and release.
If you feel you must moderate comments, WordPress has an option to hold a first-time user’s comment for approval. Once you approve them, subsequent comments from that user will post immediately.
Eliminate Captcha codes. Are these annoying little pictures really necessary? Most are formatted in a way that makes them difficult to read, and often a user must try two or three times to get it right. Readers are busy people. They are doing you a favor by coming to your site. If they take time to respond to your post, don’t make them feel like they aren’t human by having to put up with this annoyance. Again, use a spam filter application.
Respond to your readers. Actively engage with them and make them feel what they’ve said is important to you. You may not always agree with a reader, but at the least, acknowledge them. If someone acts in a belligerent or offensive manner, don’t debate with them. You always have the option of deleting their comments.
Allow replies to comments. Often a reader wants to know if you (or someone else) has responded. By allowing replies, it’s easy to keep track of the thread. Again, I’m talking WordPress, but it’s a simple step to fix.
On your dashboard, click on settings, then discussion. Make sure the box is checked “Enable threaded (nested) comments.” You can select the number of levels desired. By default, WordPress is set for five. Here’s a screenshot:
Offer New Content: Occasional reblogs are okay, but if you want to draw and attract visitors that are interested in your work, you should be posting original content at least once a week.
Don’t know what to say? Post snippets of your WIP. Give readers a little taste of what is to come.
Decide on a weekly theme that is relative to the type of books you write—mystery, crime fiction, paranormal, etc. If you write mysteries, choose a real-life mystery and write about it. Crime fiction—lots of stories out there. Paranormal—write about ghost sightings.
Participate in a writing prompt. Several sites offer these weekly, either a photo or word. Doing that gets your creative juices flowing.
You don’t have to do all the things mentioned, or you may come up with something else to write. The idea is to attract the type of visitors that will read your books.
Get rid of ads. These days we are inundated with ads and commercials. I refuse to visit some websites because so many ads slow the site down to the equivalent of dial-up speed. (Remember those days?) And pop-up ads? Forget it. I’m out of there.
If your budget is tight, for as little as $48.00 per year, you can have an ad-free WordPress blog. That’s only $4.00 per month. You can easily spend that on one latte or cappuccino at Starbucks or a meal from a fast-food restaurant.
You are a professional author. Make your blog and/or website look professional. The good news is you don’t have to spend a fortune to do so.