At some point in your writer's journey, you may consider having a website. There is a certain expectation of it, it can help expand the audience for your writing, it can be used as a general marketing tool and it can help promote books and other writing items for sale.
Before you consider starting a website, you should consider the pros and cons. Interestingly, in many cases, they are two sides of the same thing:
• Technological difficulty
• Versus a blog
Starting a website isn't as difficult as it might at first appear. Using a hosting service and the platform they provide, a person can start a website without too much difficulty. It isn't any harder than learning how to use any other software. You don't need to know any computer coding to be able to have a website. As an example, I created and have maintained my site, at www.msakran.com, without typing any coding. Many hosting platforms offer built in templates, so often it is as simple as picking a pre-designed layout and writing the text to fill it.
While having a functional website without knowing any computer programming is not that hard, there are limitations if a person does not know how to work behind the scenes. Depending on the platform that you are using, getting things to look or function exactly how you want, without knowing the mechanics of coding, can sometimes be difficult. You may find yourself making compromises because of the limitation.
Having a website can be free in a direct sense (you still have to pay for things such as an internet connection). If you want a basic site, with a subdomain as your domain (i.e. yoursite.hostingsite.com instead of www.yoursite.com), no site email (i.e. your email address would be email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org), possible ads placed by your hosting service on your site, as well as other limitations, you don't have to spend any direct money at all.
For a small monthly fee, anywhere from $5 and up per month, you can have your own registered domain (i.e. www.yoursite.com), no ads from your hosting service, and various features such as unlimited storage and the ability to imbed videos.
Although you can have a website for free, there are some downsides. Having a subdomain as your domain might not look as professional as you want and having placed advertisements can detract from your site. Also, some of the restrictions, for instance limited storage, can be a hindrance.
If you go the other route, and pay for a site, the costs can add up if you decide to add features. Registering your domain, having hosting, having site email and having added features can quickly add up in cost. Additional costs may be incurred as traffic to your website increases.
If you have a website, you want it to achieve something. You might want to get your work out to a larger audience, market yourself as a writer, or market something you have for sale. A website, used effectively, can help you do all of these things.
A website gives you an online presence. This allows people to find your work. When people find your website, or you tell them about it, it can improve your image as a writer. A website also gives you a platform from which to inform people about your work and potentially sell it.
While a website can be helpful in promoting a writer's goals, it does have some limitations.
First, building an audience can take time. When you first start out, you might get very few views per month. It might take years for you to build a sizeable audience.
Second, while a website can improve your image as a writer, it only does so to a point, and only if the website is effective in conveying an image that interests your audience. It’s only a piece of what goes into a writer's image.
Third, while you may get traffic on your website, that traffic doesn't always generate sales. There is a large step between a person viewing your site and them making a purchase. It's often a step that isn't taken.
When you are trying to promote yourself as a writer, whatever your goal, a website is a piece of the marketing puzzle. There is much more that you could and should do.
One of the benefits of having a website, is you get to decide what is on it. You can decide all of the text, visual elements, any sounds, and so forth. It is all up to you, and within certain restrictions (such as not violating copyright or the terms of your hosting agreement), you can do what you want. Also, since you are in control, you can change things whenever you see fit.
One downside of being able to decide all of the content – is that you have to decide all of the content. Deciding what goes in the header, in the footer, in the graphics on each page, on the home page, on the about page, etc. can be somewhat daunting at first. There are a lot of decisions to make and a lot of empty spaces to fill.
Additionally, since you are in control of your content, and there isn't necessarily a filter, there could be the issue that you might put content that you might later decide wasn't the best choice. There are a variety of reasons why this could happen, and although you can change the content, you can't change that it was there.
Versus a blog
If you are considering having a website, you might also be considering having a blog. If you think of a blog as having the conditions of a free website (a subdomain as the domain, possible ads from the hosting service, limited functionality, etc.), a basic paid website can have a number of advantages. It also has advantages simply from the structure.
A website, depending on circumstances, might give a more professional appearance than a blog. Because of the higher level domain and general difference in look, it can sometimes convey better. To some people, a blog is perceived as something anyone might do, whereas a website is seen as something more substantial.
Also, a paid website, without ads and more functionality, might just work better for a writer.
One main advantage of a website versus a blog is in the amount of ongoing effort. A website can be structured like a brochure. It can be something that is made once and only updated as necessary. By contrast, a blog, by its nature, requires much more frequent updates. Because of its chronological nature, posts need to keep happening on a blog to keep it up.
Even if a website is updated with more frequency than a brochure-type site, it still might not match the possible daily frequency of updating a blog.
Again, considering a blog like a free website, one con is that a website can cost money. To have a website, that "looks like a website", it might cost $5 to $10 per month on the low end. With added features, it can be more.
Another thing to consider, is that while setting up a website is not as technically difficult as it might seem, it is more involved than setting up a blog. For example, with a website that has its own domain, you'll have to go about registering it. You don't have to do that with a blog, that has a subdomain as its domain.
Also, with setting up a website, there might be many more content and style choices to initially make. You might use a website template, where you just have to fill in certain spaces, or you might start with a blank screen. There can be a lot more to initially setting it up.
If you do decide to have a website, two things you'll have to think about, among others, are: what should you put on it, and how can you promote it?
What can go on your site?
At first, you will probably want to go with the standard pages. You might have a home page, an about page, and a contact page. You'll have a menu of some kind and information in the footer. You would then add other pages and elements depending on how you will use your site.
For example, you might have pages for items you sell. Depending on how things are structured, you might actually be selling them through those pages.
You might also have pages with samples of your writing for readers to read.
You could also have a page of links that go to various sites related to the writing that you do.
Additionally, you could have a page with a site map. This can help people find content on your website that might be layers deep.
You might also consider having videos, sound, various graphics, maps, calendars, forms as well as other types of items. There are various options available depending on what you want, the platform you are using, what features are available and your computer skills.
How can you promote your site?
There are many ways that you can promote your website. There are too many to describe here, but here are a few:
Search engine optimization: By focusing on this, you can raise your site up in search engine results for certain terms. This can help people find your site. Although there is a lot to search engine optimization, some basic ideas include: having relevant terms on your website in relevant places and context, filling in the metadata for your pages appropriately, updating your site regularly, and having people link to your site.
By lines and other mentions: If you are the kind of writer who gets items published in magazines and on websites, this can help you promote your website. When you get an item published, often the publisher will have some paragraph about you after the item. They might also mention you on their website as well as on their social media pages. In these various mentions, they might mention and link to your site, which can help promote it. Additionally, the content that you have written serves as a sample of your work, and can help promote you as a writer.
Social media: If you have social media pages these can be tools for promoting your website. With social media you can reach and interact with a potentially large number of people. If done appropriately, you can use social media to let people know about your website.
Word of mouth: Although it may seem old fashioned to use word of mouth to promote something that is technologically based, it can still be effective.
Search engine advertisements: Search engine advertisements are ads that come up in search engine results. Although they can be structured differently, one way they can work, is that someone searches for a term that you have designated and your ad appears in the search results. If they click the ad, you pay a fee. The fee could be only a few cents, or could be very high depending on circumstances. You can use this tool to direct people to your site.
As you think about whether to have a website or not, there is a lot to consider. Among other things, you'll have to consider the technical aspects of it, how much you are willing to spend, how effective your website might be, how a blog might be an alternative, and what type content you would have. If you do decide to have a website, you'll have to come up with content for it and promote it.
Hopefully the above has provided a starting point for this process.
M. Sakran is that guy who walks those dogs. He is usually found standing by the side of the road while one of his dogs plays in a ditch and the other wonders why he isn't getting a treat right now. When not catering to canines, he tries to be a writer. He's had over seventy items published, including a collection of poetry called First Try, and has also self-published an eBook called Understanding: poems with explanations. You can find his poetry related blog at msakran.wordpress.com and his website at msakran.com.
M. Sakran is that guy who