I realized recently that I have reviewed more than 100 writer websites and blogs. Along the way, I’ve noticed some basic mistakes many writers make.
In fact, in the Blast-Off class, Linda Formichelli and I usually review a few sites, and then we ask the participants to start telling us what’s wrong. Because it’s so often the same problems, once they’ve seen us review a few, they know what to fix on their own site.
What are these common gaffes? Here’s a look at five issues I see a lot:
- You don’t have a writer website. In one live event I did earlier this year, more than half the participants had no site yet — nowhere to send clients to look at their portfolio online. Writers whine to me, “Awww, do I really need a website?” Only if you want to get good-paying clients. Without one, you essentially don’t exist in today’s media marketplace. C’mon — take over your Zoominfo profile or join NAIWE for the free WordPress site. Something. Anything. Have a site by tomorrow. No excuses.
- Mystery header. Does your header say what you do and where you are? That’s what you want, because then Google will send you clients. If the headline doesn’t say what’s up on your site, the tagline needs to say it. It is impossible to overestimate how bone lazy people are when they hit new websites on the Internet. They are not going to delve into the question of what the point of your site is if you don’t make it crystal clear…they’re just going to leave, within a few seconds.
- Too many hats. If your site is selling natural vitamins, your crystal healing sessions, and your freelance writing, it’s not a strong tool for selling the writing. Ideally, your site is just about your writing (and maybe editing or proofreading) services. Keep it all in one wheelhouse, or people will be boggled. Also, your writing comes off as some kind of sidelight instead of something you’re focused on.
- Too much clutter. If you’ve got three sidebars stuffed full of widgets with pictures of who likes you on Facebook, Google AdSense ads, contests, a mile-long blogroll, archive links, and a host of other miscellany, realize you’re creating confusion. What is it you want the reader to do on each page? Usually, on a writer site, the answer is to contact you. On your blog, it’s probably to subscribe by email. So clear out the other stuff and make that the most prominent, easy-to-find action. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers says it best: One page, one goal.
- No contacts. Seriously, on Blogger blogs, I could expire before I figure out where they’ve hidden your email address. Others tuck it away at the bottom of their sidebar. Do you want people to hire you to write or not? Then get that contact info at the top of your sidebar and visible on every page, not hidden under a ‘contact me’ tab.