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Archive for February, 2012

Websites –The Hub of Your Internet Presence

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

As you can see, on the Build the Hill graphic, the only thing bigger than your website is your actual books.

Your website is your essential presence on the ‘net, your ultimate landing page.  Now you may decide to use your blog for this purpose, and that’s fine.  But you need to think of your website as your all-in-one landing place for everything you do across the social media.

That’s a big task, right?

That’s why it’s so important to do some real thinking about how you want this part of your presence designed.  It needs to have clear jump points to other places people can find you on the ‘net and clear points of interest that can and do change as you grow and expand.

Let’s first look at some things that don’t work on many websites:

1)  They are static.  Their top page looks the same tomorrow, with the same content as it did six months ago.  BORING!  If your content doesn’t change and you demonstrate that to me every time I visit your website, why should I bother coming back?

2)  Weird or hard to follow layout.  If I land at your website, how long will it take me to find:  your email address, your book links, your blog?  If I have to look, you’ve lost me.  So make your navigation system impeccably clear even to someone who has never been there before.

3) Although the top page should be dynamic, you can use the underlying pages for static content.  Your bio would work great on your website as would links to your books, blurbs, etc.  Just don’t put those on top. Static goes BEHIND dynamic. Not on top.

4)  Never, EVER tell me about you first.  I know, counter intuitive, right?  Well, not if you are the reader.  If you land on a site that says:

Hi, I’m a writer from North Carolina. I grew up by the seashore, but when I got married, we moved to…

How long are you going to stay?  Unless this is your long-lost friend, not long.

Tell me in your opening paragraphs WHY I should stay on your site.  What am I going to learn here, what I can I find here.  Give me, the reader, a REASON to stay! Introduce yourself on your bio or about page NOT on the top page.

5)  Make your site interesting and inviting or at least in line with what you write.  Don’t give me a boring, business site if you write romance.  Every single element on your site must be in line with your purpose for having that site.  For example, on my site I won’t use Ad Sense, etc. because I’ve seen times when their content doesn’t match my purpose.  Same with Affiliate links.  I will put my own books on those, but not random ones because I don’t want a new visitor to show up at my site and see a dead girl with blood streaming out from the book Amazon just happened to place over there.

BE INTENTIONAL about your site and your overall presence on the ‘net.

If you sell Christian fiction, don’t show up on another site somewhere else cussing and trashing everybody.  That seems obvious, but sometimes, people don’t realize just HOW cohesive people expect you to be if what you’re promoting is Christian.  Be the same person across the ‘net.

There are many other topics with designing websites to be found such as Search Optimizing.  We will touch on these a bit in the coming lessons, but this is an area that changes quickly and I’m not an expert at it (though I once was very good at it and then got sidetracked and technology moved on without me).  So, ask your website designer for a list of things to do to optimize your site (SEO–search engine optimization). If they don’t know what that is, get a new designer because a pretty, well-laid out site only goes so far.  You need to understand how to get that site found in the gazillion pages on the ‘net.

Next time we’ll talk about what can go on a website.

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Categories: Basics Tags: , , ,

Types of Landing Pages

February 23, 2012 2 comments

Last time we talked in general about Landing Pages. Today I want to give you a little better understanding about how many and how varied landing pages can be.

First, remember that before you can send anyone to your content from a promo, you must have a place to send them. We call these “Landing Pages.”  Think of landing an aircraft.  You wouldn’t send up a plane from Europe If it didn’t have somewhere to land, right?  Similarly, when you do push marketing (and sometimes pull market), you need to have a destination, a landing page ready to go.

That sounds very simple, but good landing pages don’t just happen, and GREAT landing pages can mean the difference between a sale and no sale, a subscriber and just a visitor.  Now I will be honest. I fret a lot about my landing pages, and I wish I had more technical knowledge to get mine to look like some I’ve seen.  If you’re like me, do your best to make your landing page excellent, and then as you learn more, keep revising.

There are several types of landing pages you will want to think about making.

Website – Although I don’t recommend sending every promo to this landing page, you do want it to be as good and as clear as it can be.  Remember also that most of the time If someone types your name into a search, this is the page they will find.  So does the theme blend with your writing?   Do the colors work with the theme?  Is it pleasing to the eye?  Is the layout clear and straightforward?  When you get your website going, have some friends come and look it over.  Do all the links work and go where they are supposed to?  Watch for misspellings, typos, and grammatical errors.  You are, after all, an author and people expect your writing to be near perfect. Don’t give them a reason to leave in the first 30 sentences.

Book Pages – Book landing pages are usually designed by the book seller—such as Amazon, but sometimes like with Amazon, you have a lot of control as to how “sellable” your landing page looks.  We will go through these points in coming lessons.

Author Central – on Amazon, you want to set up your Author Central page and make sure all of your books are listed.  This can be a great overall landing page.

Blog posts – Blog posts when done right can be invaluable to your promotions.  Remember pull-push?  Well, a blog post landing page can have pics of your books and info about you in a blog column with great content (an article) in the post section, and you can have a push market tag for one of your books at the end of the article.  Best of all, once you set up a blog post, you can point back to it forever!  So remember when you write these to think:  timeless.  You want something that 3 or 5 years later, you can point back to it, and it still has value to visitors.

Guest posts – Being on someone else’s blog creates a great landing page, and again, you can point back to these even after the initial run (so keep a list of them!)  Oh, and this is also a great way to repackage your blog posts and let them go to work for you again.  In fact, one really good article could run over and over again on various blogs indefinitely. Also, although you are not in control of the layout, etc., remember to include a link back to one of YOUR landing pages.  The host should be willing to give this since that is your payment for free content.

Bookshelf  —  Because I have so many books, I like having a bookshelf landing page or one that lists all of my available books.  That way visitors can see they have a wide range of choices if they choose to read my writing.

Interviews – Like guest blogs, these are great.  You do the interview and you can then promo and point back to it indefinitely. After a few days or a week, you can also copy the interview to your site or blog for archiving, which you can then point back to indefinitely as well.

Character Interviews  — If you write fiction, you’re going to want to try your hand at these challenging types of interviews because they seem very popular to the reading public.  Again, if this is a character interview for another website, include a tag!

Reviews – Reviews can be stand-alone landing pages or they can be one element in a great Amazon landing page.  We will discuss reviews in coming lessons.

It is worth putting thought and effort into your landing pages, and we will discuss each in greater depth.  For now, consider where your strengths lie and where you might need to work.  For example, have you done several interviews but you have few reviews?  Or maybe you have never taken the time to get your Amazon landing page in order.   Don’t worry.  We’ll walk you through all of it.  Get ready to have some fun!

Landing Pages Overview

February 21, 2012 1 comment

Landing pages and learning to design them are critical in building an effective marketing campaign.

Landing pages can be any of the following:

website

blog page or post

Amazon buy page

Review

Interview

Guest blog

Amazon author page

Basically they are anything you would choose to point to for readers to JUMP that would continue the relationship.

The ultimate “Landing Page” is your book.  So remember, before you do any of the rest of this, make sure that book is Top Notch and ready to reel readers into becoming repeat readers!

Now, your Landing Page should ideally walk the reader through the promo chain again.  To do this on pages you control (like website and blog), you need to think about the theme of what you’re wanting to convey.

If you write suspense, you don’t want your blog theme to be wine and roses.  Conversely, if you write romance, don’t make the theme of your site dogs and cats.  Think all the way through your campaign.  If you write romance and want a site about dogs and cats, then you need to do 2 separate sites as those would attract two different audiences.

On a side note, some authors fall into the trap of making their website or blog be about writing.  Now I have no objection to this per say.  Just know that if you do that, you will be attracting writers and authors, not readers.  And most writers/authors are focused on their books, not yours.

Once you get the reader to your landing page, you must then walk them back through the promo chain.  So let’s say that you have a blog post.  You write a great tweet and get people to jump to the blog post.  Now what?

Your headline and your hook need to grab their attention.  Then provide great info.  Now they are beginning to see you as someone with valuable information.  At the end of the post, make a request and provide a JUMP.

For me, this is a promo of one of my books usually and links to Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

You might want to make this a JUMP to your website or to another article.  Think through where you want them to jump to.

If you don’t have control over the landing page (i.e. it’s a guest blog or interview), be sure to do as much of the promo chain as possible.  And anyone who does an interview or lets you do a guest blog should be willing to let you have a tag back to your own stuff.  Think those through!

Good luck and I’ll see you next time.

The Promo Chain–Next Step

February 16, 2012 2 comments

Last time we talked about The Promo Chain.

Today we’re going to go one step further, but first we’re going to go one step backward.  Obviously if you want people to make the JUMP, you have to have something to jump TO. That’s where “Landing Pages” come in.

We will talk a lot more about building your landing pages later.  For now, I want you to see that the Promo Chain is not static.  It is not a one-time and you’re-done deal. It needs to be well-thought out in every content and promo you do.  Here’s why.

Let’s say that you do a tweet that makes people jump to a landing page that reads like this:

Hi, my name is Staci Stallings.  I was born in Texas and have lived here all my life.  I love to cross-stitch and play the piano. Of course I like to write too…

Do you see the problem?

1) No HOOK!

(And I’m boring too, but we’re going to ignore that for now.)

When you get someone to make the JUMP, your Landing Page must restart the Promo Chain… even if it’s a content package.  If it doesn’t, they will be gone.

So a dynamic marketing campaign looks like this:

A single tweet is easy (okay, easi-er!) to get The Promo Chain right.  When you do a whole campaign or a whole career, it gets more challenging.

Each landing page, to the best of your ability should start the chain over again.  (Some, like Amazon book pages, you don’t have control of layout, but there are things you can do to make it a great landing page, and we’ll talk about that later.)

For now, how and where are your promotions breaking down on The Promo Chain?

This diagram would take you from a tweet, through a blog post, and onto an Amazon buy page. And that’s just one example. There are thousands.

Just start thinking about bringing a reader from that first hook all the way through buying.  The better you set this up, the more potentials you will turn into readers!

The Promo Chain

February 14, 2012 3 comments

As you can tell, I like visuals especially in marketing because I read something and go, “Wow. That’s really good,” and ten minutes later I can’t remember what I read or how to do what I read.  Sometimes I go over and over and over instructions because as words, for me, things don’t always stick.  So for today before we jump into the ways to package content and how to promo, I want to explain something else that makes or a breaks a marketing campaign.

I call it “The Promo Chain.”

This is the chain of events that must take place to turn a prospect into a client, a potential audience member into a reader, a visitor into a reader, or Average Joe into Your Biggest Fan.

It’s pretty simple really, but I’ll bet you’ve never given a lot of thought to how it actually works.  In fact, the crazy thing is you go through this chain thousands of times every day and you don’t even know it.  The trick is to know it and to use it, so you get results and not frustration.

The Promo Chain looks like this:

Let’s go through each part.

Hook — What hook do you give to the potential reader?  WHY should they read this promo or content? If you don’t hook, I don’t care how good the rest is, you’ve lost them.

Info — What do they need to know to become interested, to stay interested, and to decide to “continue the relationship”?

Request — Some people have a really good hook, they give great info, and people are eager to do more, but if you don’t make a request or give them a way to continue the relationship, they are gone.

How To — Tell them HOW TO continue the relationship.  You’ve gotten their attention, given them great info, you’ve asked them to continue the relationship, now you’ve got to tell them how to do that.

JUMP — This is where you’re trying to get to with all the others.  You want them to take the next step and choose to continue your “conversation” or “relationship.”  When you learn to do this effectively, you will begin to turn potential readers into subscribers and subscribers into readers.

Let’s look at The Promo Chain in action:

Here is a tweet.  Tell me where this tweet breaks down on The Promo Chain.

#Author @StaciStallings has released a new book.  It’s called DREAMS BY STARLIGHT. You should check it out!

I would tell you, it’s probably broken before you ever get started, but there are several problems.

1) Don’t START with the info.  I don’t care that Staci Stalling has released a new book unless I already care WHO Staci Stallings is.  And since this tweet should target NEW and previous readers, this is not very effective.

2)  You should check it out! That’s our request, so check one there.  But wait!  How do I check it out?  Am I supposed to write down the information, go to Amazon, and do a search?  What if it’s not on Amazon?  Don’t give potentials roadblocks if you don’t absolutely have to.  They should be able to read, click, read, click, read, click.  If it’s read, click, search and search and search.  Or worse, read and no click, you’ve lost them unless it’s a 100% pull message.

Let’s try another.

“I was obsessed with this book.” COWBOY by @StaciStallings Buy it NOW! via @Amazon  http://ow.ly/8oyQ6

1) Hook.  Pretty good hook.

2) Info.  Check

3) Request. Check (although this one seems a little in your face to me 🙂

4) How To (in some venues like blogs, you might want to make it even clearer like Click Here. Twitter doesn’t give you that luxury as you don’t have many characters to work with.  But everyone knows what a URL means.)

5)  JUMP.  Here’s the part that’s sometimes frustrating.  It may take someone as many as 10-12 imprints to jump.  Sometimes it doesn’t. If your hook and info are so good they can’t pass it up, they will click.  But just know that you will go through this process thousands of times to get an audience built up.  So keep writing!

Promo Platforms Overview

February 9, 2012 1 comment

This is fair warning.  The minute I hit save on this document, something new will come out, or something will change to render some of it out-dated.

That’s what happens with the social media today.  “Keeping up” is literally impossible, so my advice is don’t even try.  Choose the things that fit your style and use them.  Forget the rest or you will drive yourself crazy.

Here are some of the promo platforms we will be discussing as we go forward in this course:

Twitter

Facebook — Profiles and Pages

Facebook — Groups

Blogs

Google+, Shoutlife, Christian Chirp, et al.

All of these deserve at least a glance to see how and if they might fit into your marketing strategy.  Some will fit you well.  Others will feel like sandpaper.  Use the ones you like.  Disregard those you don’t.

What I want you to know here is that in addition to your content and how it’s packaged, you need to also have a strategy for platforms to promote your products as well.

Now I am the #1 biggest breaker of this rule.  For 4 years I had a blog, and all I did was put up new blogs twice a week.  Okay, I did invite my previous followers over to it (and lost 90% in the switch), but I honestly didn’t know how to promo what I was putting up.

Part of the problem was there was no Twitter and I was Facebookaphobic. So although I had tons of great content, I didn’t have a lot of new subscribers, etc. because they couldn’t find me because I wasn’t at all visible.

The point of promo platforms is to make yourself visible!

I will also tell you that for many in the Christian author realm this can seem like an uphill battle you’d rather not fight.  First, you’re a writer.  You like to sit by yourself for hours and talk to your imaginary friends. Secondly, isn’t it arrogant to say, “I’m terrific. Please come and check out my writing”?  I hear you.  Believe me, I do.

But there is that verse in the Bible about not hiding your light under a bushel basket.  Remember, the Light you are carrying here is not you. It’s God, and of course you want to carry HIM everywhere, right?

So get into that frame of mind when we talk promo platforms and I think you’ll be ready to climb every mountain to get the Word out!

Building Virtual Content

February 7, 2012 1 comment

Today we are going to shift our discussion from real world marketing to online or virtual marketing.  This is an area that has HUGE potential for many authors, but so many are thrown to the wolves when they hit the social media.

The problems here are varied:

1) Too many social media to effectively use consistently

2) Too hard to learn and relearn everything

3)  Hard to know what you will like to do and what you won’t

4)  Confusing and overwhelming.

5) Nothing seems to “work” like it does for everyone else.

We’re here to take care of the last two and hopefully #3 as well.  #2 is just something you will have to get acclimated to as the change on the ‘net never stops or slows down (remember Skills are Queen and often what you learn will help you learn new things down the road).  Just know that learning and change are coming and breathe when they show up!

As to #1, yes there are a lot of choices and more are showing up every day.  My best suggestion is to choose no more than 4 social media sites and learn and use those. Do a couple at a time and then add.  If you get super-good on those and want to branch out, great. But don’t get sucked into thinking you have to try and know everything.  You don’t, and it won’t work.

In this course we are going to talk about two major topics that should work hand-in-hand.  Divorce them from each other, and you will be in trouble and frustrated in no time.

Remember this…

Notice that it’s our CONTENT that we’re using both to pull more people into our audience and to push (sell) our books with.

When talking about virtual marketing and building your hill, it is critical to have a plan in place to address two main issues:

1) How do I package my content?

2) How do I promote my content?

Today, we’ll do a brief overview of how you can PACKAGE your content on the ‘net.  Here are the main ways your content can be made available:

Websites

Blogs

Guest Blogs

Interviews

Reviews

You Tube Videos & Trailers

Short description of each:

Website–this was the earliest way to promote yourself on the web.  Many people now have blogs to do what websites used to.  However, I like to think of the website as a hub for everything else you do on the ‘net.  There, you can have links to different blogs you either write or write for, your Twitter feed, other guest blogs, etc.  You can have a bookshelf of your books and a bio.  Of course you can do all of this in other places as well.  I just think it’s important to have one landing place for all of your out there promotions.

Blogs–Blogs hit the virtual world and took it by storm.  The original term for this is “weblog.”  A weblog, or blog, is anything you want it to be.  The content can be about you, your hobby, your writing, your business.  Blogs are usually short articles about a topic of interest to your reader.

The way many bloggers went off track early is that they focused on themselves, making their blog more like a journal.  Then the idea began to morph into helping others in the industry.  So many writers began writing blogs–giving advice on writing.  Unfortunately, that proved stifling for many because they didn’t have a lot of new ideas and there were so many other writing blogs, it was hard to gain much of an audience.  Even worse was the fact that you only attract other writers doing that.  I have nothing against other writers, but they are also trying to market their books.  They don’t necessarily want to buy yours.

We will talk about blogs and all of this more in depth in the coming months, so stay-tuned.

Interviews/Guest Blogs/Reviews — these are all the places you “appear” on the ‘net.  These appearances are a double-bonus.

First, you get exposure to someone else’s audience, and that person has an incentive to promo you because you’re on their blog.

Second, you have something else you can promo that’s not straight from your blog or website.  This lends credibility to your brand, making you someone others want to talk about and listen to.

YouTube, etc. — There are about a million ways to create and package content on the ‘net. You can put your book trailers on YouTube or put Book Samples on YourBookAuthors.com.  You can post excerpts and even have your article read out loud with cool animation behind it.  You can sign up with Yahoo to be a Contributor.

All of these and so many more are ways to package your content.  We will talk about each more in-depth in the coming months.

Once you get some of your basic packaging ideas down, feel free to branch out and see what other cool things you can do!

Next time we’ll talk about promoting the content you have.

Until then, have a blessed week!