How I Fixed My Sucky Writer Website

I spend a lot of time improving the look and feel of this-here blog. Just take a look at that ripping new subscription box over in the sidebar, for instance.

But meanwhile, my own writer website was kind of thrown on the back burner. Yeah, that’s a screen shot of it there on the right. Lovely, eh?

Over time, it started to look dated. Stuff got broken and I couldn’t update some of the pages anymore.

I limped along for a while, because the site was still getting me some nice gigs, and it ranked great for my key search term, as you can see.

But finally…I couldn’t take it anymore.

So I called on my awesome, hardworking yet affordable webmaster, David Robert Hogg. He helped me create a much better look for my writer site — and when I say “helped,” I mean he did like 95% of everything, and I checked the links to make sure they worked.

Even better, now it’s in WordPress, so I can easily update it myself in future.

Wanna see? You can take a tour below. In this short video, I show you chapter and verse on why my old site sucked, and then show you how the new site does it better.

Hopefully some good ideas in there for writers to use on their own sites.

If you can’t see the video display, you can view it here.

If you’d like a little free feedback on your writer website… leave a link to your site below and tell me the biggest question you have about how to make your site better. Most interesting question posted by Tuesday noon PST wins a free ticket to my Webinar, How to Make Good Money Writing Online, on May 24! I’ll announce the winner on the blog Wednesday. To see the material we’ll cover in the Webinar, press the big button below.


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52 comments on “How I Fixed My Sucky Writer Website
  1. Kymlee says:

    My blog is my writing website. I figure the best way to showcase my writing was to have it up front and keep it updated. At first i wasnt telling people what services I offered, so I’ve made lots of changes recently. But still, I’ve never had a critical eye give me feedback other than telling me the redesign looks good, so I look forward to seeing what you have to say. URL: http://kymleeisawesome.com.
    Kymlee recently posted…Book Review- Free-Range KidsMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Wow, I like the look of your site, Kym. If I could give you one tip it would be to think about what you want to focus your blog on — it seems to be on various topics. If you want to use it to get paid blogging gigs it’ll be a stronger calling card if it sticks to one niche.

      Once you’ve found that niche, look at your headlines…like almost everyone’s, they could be stronger for SEO and pulling you readers through Google.

      Also think about what the most important action is you want people to take — maybe subscribing? Or following you on Twitter? Then, make that the top box in the sidebar. Put your great mini-bio right under that.

      • Kymlee says:

        How did i know you were going to tell me to find a focus? Lol. I’m intersted in so many things, but i’ve been leaning most toward writing about parenting and motherhood, but i don’t want to be a mommy blogger and i’m interested in so many things… I’ll have to give that some real thought. Thanks for your analysis Carol.
        Kymlee recently posted…Book Review- Free-Range KidsMy Profile

        • Carol Tice says:

          You’re in a boat with a LOT of bloggers there…it’s so fun to blog about whatever’s on our minds that week. I’d say that’s what the vast majority of bloggers do.

          The problem is that doesn’t create a good sample for paying clients, who will all want you to understand blogging to a niche audience and about one particular topic week after week.

          Also, it’s not in service of a single audience, so it’s hard to monetize as well. It’s hard to find out what to sell if your audience is sort of bits of 10 different demographics.

  2. Joanna says:

    Hi, I would love to know how to make my site more appealing – I have some things in the sidebars but it all looks too crowded so am wondering whether to remove the popular blogposts widget. Any advice would be helpful. Thank you! I have been reading your site and have found the advice a great help.
    Joanna recently posted…Some pictures from the Bristol 10km – 15 May 2011My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Joanna —

      Like Kym, you seem to be covering a lot of territory…you might want to focus in more. Maybe every post has some Bristol angle? Or it’s all about parenting, or nightlife, or whatever?

      Anyway…I’d get your sidebars down to one. It has a cluttered look this way.

      And is that Suite101 ad box driving you some revenue? If not, take it down, as it makes your site look a bit spammy, especially up that high. As an alternative you might move it down.

      • Carol Tice says:

        Woah, just realized I didn’t answer your question about the Popular Posts widget. You don’t want to lose that! It keeps your best posts on your home page all the time, instead of letting them disappear into the blogroll. It’s one of the most powerful things you can have in your sidebar.

        Many people make the mistake of having “recent posts” or “recent comments” which really do nothing for you. We don’ t want to know what you wrote lately, or what people said lately, we want to know what you wrote that is the MOST AWESOME STUFF on your blog. Right?

  3. Samar says:

    My website doesn’t suck – I think. It also doesn’t get me much work. In fact, I find more work through twitter than I do through my website. Which tells me that even though my website is nice to look at, something important is missing.

    I just put up a Hire Me page on my website http://www.samarowais.com. I’m hoping this will help me bring in the kind of clients I like.

    So my question is, how do I make my website and blog more client friendly? Right now the blog caters to fellow freelancers and the website gets ignored more or less.
    Samar recently posted…Warning Signs of a Bad Prospective ClientMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Samar — think I hadn’t seen your site in a while — you have a KILLER graphical front page! Everybody should take a look. Wish mine looked that good.

      I’m a little baffled on why it’s not referring you clients. You probably need “freelance writer” in more key places. I don’t know about ‘social media enthusiast.’ That sounds like you’re playing around having fun on social media, not necessarily like you’re available to do it for me. Also, I’m a fan of contact info being visible on the home page and every page, not hidden under a tab.

      On your contact page, I’d blow up your forms. Nobody wants to fill those out. As it stands, you’re making three asks on that page — email me, fill out this form, fill out this other quote form. Forms really discourage people. Each subpage should only have one goal (Derek Halpern taught me that)…one thing you want customers to do.

      Your portfolio page could be stronger. I don’t know if presenting it in blog format is the best, and the places you’ve written for all sound small. If you’ve written for any brand-name places, put them up at the top. If they’re big but we don’t know them, I’d go to the page format, so you can say a bit about each market, ie “I’ve been writing for Alex Top 1000 market X for 2 years.”

      I’m betting those 6 clips aren’t all you have. I’m a big fan of putting many, many clips on — take a look at my articles page. (I just got a client like this BTW, I didn’t know their name from Adam, but they turn out to be huge, so it’s not uncommon.)

      • Samar says:

        The theme I’m using on my website and blog is The Client Machine by Freelance Folder. I got it customized by having my own vector designed but otherwise, it’s all Freelance Folder. You can get the theme here: http://freelancefolder.com/get-the-client-machine/

        Thanks for the 1 call-to-action tip! Will definitely work on that.

        As for the portfolio, you’re right. I have written for some big blogs since then. Yours for example and I’m a staff blogger for a couple of web design blogs (1st Web Designer & Hongkiat) where I write freelance related posts. One has almost 21 k subscribers while the other has around 10 k. I’ll make it a point to add their clips to my portfolio and mention how big those blogs are.

        Also, since my niche is blogging, I figured it was a good idea to link to blog posts. I’ll look into changing the portfolio page layout and working in your suggestions.

        Thanks a bunch. Commenting on your blog always gives me invaluable advice and insight! 🙂
        Samar recently posted…Warning Signs of a Bad Prospective ClientMy Profile

  4. Susan Greene says:

    My concern about my website promoting my copywriting services is that it lacks visuals. The only photos I include are a headshot here and there of me, such as on the About page.

    I have about 75 articles I’ve written, for example, and none has any pictures with them because the text is about copywriting. Other than showing someone typing at a keyboard, I can’t think of any images that would be relevant.

    I worry that my site is too copy heavy and could be boring or intimidating to prospective clients. Advice?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Susan —

      Actually, the biggest thing I’d say is — to quote Derek again — 14 is the new 12. Your typeface is too tiny! It looks like it might even be 11 or 10. Blow it up and make it more readable, particularly on smart phones and other small devices.

      One thing you might consider in the graphics department is to ask permission to reproduce the headers of some of the sites you blog for, particularly if they’re nice-looking. Might provide something visually.

      Personally, I don’t care — my site doesn’t have graphics on my portfolio pages either. I don’t think clients care that much either — I think they come, they read clips, they like, they hire. It’s sort of not a beauty contest and more about functionality — can they quickly come on and find out what they need to about you?

      Consider doing a highly scannable home page like I created for my site.

      Also, I found myself confused by the fact that you have a “portfolio” page and then an “articles” page, which is really resources for prospective clients to learn about copywriting and using a freelancer. I’d change that to say “resources” or something along those lines.

  5. D Bianchi says:

    I am still in the process of making my writer page. My link will actually bring you to my blog that I have been writing on for a while, not my in-progress writer page. My question is more about how to work it all in together. I have my blog, which is a parenting blog (Gen x Mom), but I don’t use this as a writer page for my freelancing. So, this is why I recently started making a separate page for this. I am thinking I will link them together somehow. I will continue to write on my parenting blog about all things parenting the way I have been, but should my writer page but an actual blog too or can I keep it as a sort of static page that just highlights me as a freelance writer? Do I have to write blog posts there? I am just not sure if at this point in the game I will be able to keep two blogs updated, not to mention not even sure what I would put on a writer’s page. So…..my question is….do I have to put blog posts on my writer page or can it be static?

    • Carol Tice says:

      You definitely don’t have to blog on your writer site — I don’t. I had my blog there originally but eventually it spun out because the audience was totally different. As you can see in the video, I have a box that links you over to my blog, which shows that I definitely have a blog in case they want to hire me for paid blogging. But I agree given your blog topic it’s sort of a different activity.

      One thing you DON’T want to do, though, is have your writer site be static. I try to put something new on mine weekly, usually an article clip, which I put in my Favorites sidebar so it changes the home page. Greatly helps with SEO and inbound marketing — helps your site rank well on relevant searches for a freelance writer in your market.

      If you’re not sure what to put on a writer website, feel free to take a tour around mine for ideas.

      You could put a widget that excerpts your most recent blog post in a little sidebar…that might help as well. But probably they’re better as separate sites.

      If you’re interested in paid blogging gigs, I’d add images to your blog posts — prospective clients will want to see that you know how to do that, pick a nice photo, properly attribute it, and get it on a post.

  6. Happy day, Carol
    I appreciate your offer, and I am looking forward to your response:) As you can see by how far back my archives go, I am fairly new to this arena. My question is this:

    I am preparing to write an E-book and wonder how I can best use the blog articles I’ve already written as jumping off points?

    OK, I’m going to jump in with a second question as well… How can I best format my ‘writing’ site to engage people towards consultations? By the way, I am developing meditation apps right now that will go “somewhere” on this website 😛
    http://www.ahnalira-connectedcounsel.com/

    Thanks so much for your help!
    Ahnalira
    Ahnalira-Connected Counsel recently posted…Beyond Law of AttractionMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Ahnalira —

      It’s hard to use previous blog posts as a jumping-off point to promote the book…once you have it, you can write new posts on topics that naturally segue into mentioning the book, though. And maybe some previous posts are part of the material for the book, too — certainly I adapted some material for my ebook from my blog.

      As far as making the consultation aspect more prominent, remember Derek’s rule — look at your home page and say, “What’s the one thing I most want people to do on this page?” Looking at it, it might be follow you on Twitter (your social buttons are at the very top)…or subscribe to your blog by RSS…or email…or something else. You’re probably making too many asks right up top.

      One option is to use the Von Restorff effect on your tabs – -you could turn the lettering in the consultation tab red or green or something to make it stand out from the others. That would drive more traffic there. You could also blog more on topics about that — have clients tell stories in guest posts and link to that page, for instance, or discuss (with client’s permission) recent wins.

  7. I know I need to add some clips to my samples page. What other pages should I have? When a client requests a quote do you have an online form for them to fill out? Or do you handle this individually through conversation? My writer site http://www.quality-writing.net Thanks Carol.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Wade —

      I do have a questionnaire, but I don’t send it until we’ve had an initial live conversation. I’m not a fan of online forms.

      You definitely need to get your clips on there! Then make it as nice looking as your blog.

      I got advice at SOBCon to kill the brown tones I had in my blog, and I’m going to make the same recommendation to you. Apparently brown doesn’t ‘read’ well online — people don’t see it much so it’s kind of offputting.

      Get a white background behind your text on the writer site so it’s more readable. Have to say I’m not a fan of the woodgrain thing going on…kinda distracting. Also, let’s have a big, nice photo of you right on the home page. People hire people, I like to say. When they come to a contractor’s website, they like to see you.

  8. This is so informative, Carol!

    Actually this feed is for my blog site but, following your advice a year ago, I registered my domain name and started a writer website at http://www.patricia-anne-mcgoldrick.com/.
    Not sure which site has more appeal?
    P-A-McGoldrick recently posted…NHL GLORY DAYS–THE BIG M!My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi P.A. —

      It seems like neither site is very active — I’d work to combine them into one site.

      The dark gray backdrop of the writer site is uninviting and not easily readable. Try to get it to white.

      Also, I don’t readily see where your clips are. Make them more prominent if possible.

      The blog design has some basic issues — a left-hand sidebar instead of right, only one post displaying so the blog looks empty, a tiny graphic on the header so it’s not very engaging. And the name is PM27’s Blog. Are you trying to be incognito? Why the mystery, I wonder. And there’s no meaningful tagline that brings more information. Basically, nobody wants to read it — and no search engines will send you relevant traffic — because we don’t know whose it is or what it’s about. Think about key words to include.

      Both sites feel a bit hastily put together (though I know they probably aren’t!). Bring your personality — try a mini-bio on a home page with a nice big photo of you — and get it all organized in one place if you want it to bring you gigs, would be my thought. Probably your name URL is more useful to you as a writer site. The other one is on the free WordPress and doesn’t have any intuitive SEO in the URL, so you could lose it and combine them, in my view.

  9. PatriciaW says:

    Can a writing website be dual purpose? I’m planning to create a writing website. I’m writing fiction, and have sold some short stories, but I’m also freelancing in non-fiction areas, such as personal finance and health. Does it make sense to have a single site, or should I have a different site for each audience? (My blog is primarily related to my fiction writing, although I’ve recently begun blogging about my freelance work as well.)
    PatriciaW recently posted…Reader-Writer Tidbits – May 16- 2011My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Patricia —

      I guess my gut reaction is…create one site for everything and see if that feels comfortable to you. As you go along, one side of your writing may get so big you’ll feel uncomfortable…that something isn’t getting expressed the way you’d like.

      Then it’s time for two sites. That pretty much describes the process I went through to split my blog off of my writer site. It seemed great to have them together for a while. Then after a while I saw ways that was limiting the potential of the blog…so it needed to spin out.

      I’ve seen folks who do both have perfectly good writer sites. Just make nice clear lands for your different sides of writing and give it a whirl, I say. I think most people find it hard enough to maintain and update one site! Start there and see if you think you have more bandwidth, and if two sites are really needed.

  10. Hi Carol,

    I’ve been doing some tweaking too – including figuring out why the header on my inside pages was dangling when people viewed the page on larger screens. And you already know I added a blog several months ago.

    One of the more noticable things I’ve done is to add more photos to pages to be more visually appealing.

    I thought it was interesting that you’ve seen several writers do an all-in-one homepage. Could you share those examples so we can see how they are pulling it off?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I might do to make my site even better.

    Thanks!

    • Carol Tice says:

      One I liked has recently been redone, but it still packs a lot onto that landing page is Yolander Prinzel’s: http://www.yolanderprinzel.com/ .

      It’s not that it’s “all in one”…but that it could be. There are more pages with more detail — more testimonials, awards, clips…but why not set up the home page so that they can look at one page, scan it, “get” that you’re the type of writer they’re looking for, and call you? Many people won’t really browse around your site — they’re busy. I think having a one-page scannable home page gives you an advantage, since most writer sites are set up so you have to look at 2-3 pages to get a sense of the writer and their work.

      One thing I think I still want to do is enliven some links on that page so they could see clips right from there. Make it even more one-stop.

  11. Excellent post, and congratulations on your site revamp! While my blog for writers is completely up-to-date, I need to revamp my website for my business (ironically, a web design business). You’ve given me the kick in the pants I needed to get started! 🙂
    Krissy Brady, Writer recently posted…10 Places to Find Writing MarketsMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Isn’t it funny how our writer sites fall on the back burner? I kept meaning to get to this…finally broke down and paid David or it still wouldn’t be happening.

      • I completely agree! It’s ironic really. I have an entire list on my desk of backburner items that is starting to discolour due to how long it’s been sitting here, LOL.

  12. Thanks for the mention Carol. If any of your readers would like a site review of their blog or website then come on over to http://davidroberthogg.com/

    SEO advice, usability, and layout are the main focuses but I can address any issues that publishers might have with their site.

    Cheers.

  13. Mike Biscoe says:

    Hello Carol,

    My clips are all from content mills. I decided to flaunt rather than hide this fact. I know mills are totally Doctor Evil and I will gradually remedy this. How does the section look all the same? Also, as proud as I was when I first came up with the caption on the homepage photo I also find it makes me feel a bit like a used car salesman. What’s missing?

    Thank you!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Mike —

      The review time is really over…but what the heck. What about just “I can help” in that caption instead of “I can assist you”? Seems sort of highfalutin’ and wordy.

      Honestly…hide the fact that they’re from content mills if at all possible. Instead of putting the names of your markets, put the titles of the articles and group them by subject to show expertise.

  14. Hi Carol,

    I’m a very new freelance writer. My portfolio is slowly blooming and I am figuring out what type of writing I want to do. I definitely want to start a small writing services business but I have no idea where to start.

    My question is:

    Does a home page have to be wordy? I mean, it’s all about writing and I have a photo with a quote on it only. I quite like it and love the concept of ‘less is more’ but I wonder if it applies to the web.

    Any feedback would be appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Jennifer Morton

    • Carol Tice says:

      If it were me, I’d probably want a bit more than a photo caption to convince someone to hire me as a writer! At least one clever paragraph about what you do and what sets you apart. Doesn’t have to be ‘wordy,’ but it has to be informational.

  15. Carol,
    This “newbie to freelance world” writer read your comments with great interest.
    Took a while to process/recover and now will look at applying some of those tips.

    PM27’s blog was the name for this, my first blog as I did want anonymity of sorts when I first set out into the social media-sphere; now, will rethink it as I have become familiar with this venue

    –Patricia
    P-A-McGoldrick recently posted…NHL GLORY DAYS–THE BIG M!My Profile

  16. Zohan says:

    Great! Me too get a better look for my website like you did, but in my case i am very late in it! But now everything fixed
    Zohan recently posted…How to Surf Multiple Website In Same Browser WindowMy Profile

  17. brij says:

    Hi Carol

    Looks like i am a little bit late about your offer of the webinar, but it does not harm to have feedback on my writing (It you are still up to it )

    Since you have been at this for a while and i am just a casual blogger (with a wannabe writer lurking in there somewhere), i could benefit from your experience

    Look forward to hearing from you….

    thanks
    brij recently posted…An ode to the exclamation mark ‘!’My Profile

  18. Steve Maurer says:

    Hi, Carol.

    I know I’m late to the party but I just wanted to thank you for all the great information on your websites. I’ve been reading on your sites all morning, ever since I got your article in Write To Done today.

    I’ve been writing for one of the more legitimate discount text sites for over a year. However, it’s time for me to take the next big step in my career.

    Thanks again for sharing your expertise with us.

    Steve Maurer
    Maurer Content and Copywriting
    Steve Maurer recently posted…Content or Copy?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Steve –

      Thanks for coming on over from WTD! Nice to see you here.

      If you’re looking for freelance writing gigs and how to get started in that, feel free to check out Freelance Writers Den too, my support and learning community for writers looking to earn more.

      • Steve Maurer says:

        Already been there! Like I said, you’ve sparked a fire under my butt today and it’s still burning. I noticed that the Den was closed for new members, so I put my hat in the ring for a notification when it opens again. From the description, it looks exactly like what I need!

        I belong to Ali Luke’s Writers’ Huddle (one of the founding members) and that has been of great help. The Den looks like a place where I can get to the next level and get my career moving faster.

        Thanks again. I’ve been working on my website and this gives me more info to cast a critical eye on it for improvements.

        Steve Maurer
        PS. Absolutely loved your post on “Getting Pregnant.” I smiled the whole way through!
        Steve Maurer recently posted…Content or Copy?My Profile

        • Carol Tice says:

          Hi Steve –

          I didn’t know about Writers’ Huddle – I’ll check that out!

          We have a writer website review thread in the Den, so once you’re in we can give it a look and help make it better.

          Glad you’re on the waiting list…sometimes I let those folks in when we’re not officially open 😉

          • Steve Maurer says:

            That would be excellent! I have my pocket book ready and waiting!

            BTW, the Writers’ Huddle is primarily designed for improving your writing skills but also includes business building techniques. The group consists of both non-fiction and fiction writers and we have learned and continue to learn a lot from each other. Ali Luke is a fantastic mentor.

            Thanks for your reply. Right now, I’ve got to go sit in a pail of water so I can get some writing done! LOL
            Steve
            Steve Maurer recently posted…Content or Copy?My Profile

  19. Anja Emerson says:

    A writer’s website is like a virtual business card and the way it looks is key to the way one is perceived by potential clients or fellow writers.

    I’m still in the process on working to improve my freelance writer’s blog, so if anyone has any useful tips or constructive criticism, please feel free to let me know what you think.
    Anja Emerson recently posted…ResumeMy Profile

  20. Kim says:

    Hi Carol.

    I’ve read this post before, but came back for a refresher and.. it’s gone! 🙁

  21. Hi Carol,
    Thanks for your great feedback. I’m learning the tricks of the trade from you. Recently, I launched my maiden wordpress blog to reach out to clients. Please could you find some time and let me know the changes to be made in order to make it more friendly?

    Looking forward to your kind help.

    Regards,

    Pankaj
    Pankaj Mondal recently posted…Binary Option FraudMy Profile

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