In this part of my series on WordPress For Writers, I’ll cover the basic things to consider when using WordPress on site promoting the work of writers and authors. For more on the subject, see other articles in the WordPress for Writers and Authors series.
This article assumes you have some basic familiarity with WordPress and web publishing with websites. If you are new to WordPress, see my many WordPress Tips, Blogging, and Blog Exercises categories on Lorelle on WordPress, Learn WordPress, and the WordPress Codex.
In WordPress, there are two types of content “holders,” posts and Pages (with a capital P to differentiate from web pages with a lowercase p). Pages hold timeless information, and posts hold timely information. If you’ve ever worked on a magazine or newspaper, think of posts as articles and Pages as masthead information. Posts are sorted by categories and tags. Categories are the site’s table of contents. Tags are the index words.
That’s a quick overview of the main content references about WordPress.
WordPress Site Models for Writers
The three basic site models for WordPress are:
- Static Model
- Blog Model
- Integrated or Hybrid Model
The Site Model concept is based upon the design of the front page of the site and the arrangement of posts, Pages, categories and tags within WordPress known as site structure and organization. The navigation of the links to posts, Pages, categories, and tags defines the user experience and customer journey, literally the way the visitor uses the site to access the information they are seeking.
It begins with the front page for most web designers.
The Static Site Model is great for those who do not want the interactivity or to publish article content. Professionally, I call these “billboards on the web” as they serve up the basic information the visitor needs and not much else. Not that the site needs more than that, but it might.
The Blog Model is a familiar layout and structure, putting the most recent posts at the top. If a site is interactive and serves return visitors regularly, this is the ideal layout and structure. A Blog Model design doesn’t have to be boring or feature posts in a reverse chronological list, but the emphasis is on the timeliness of the content so the date is often prominently featured in the design.
The Integrated or Hybrid Site Model features static content with a separate blog access point. For example, static Pages are used to present information on the front page of the site along with About, Contact, and other Pages from within the main navigation, and article content is relegated to a separate Blog page. For those wishing to integrate a blog into an existing or static website design concept and control what content the visitor sees on the front page, this is their most common choice.
Which one is right? There is no right or wrong. There are also variations on these themes. It is the site model that best meets your needs for the site, for readers, for marketing, for content delivery that is the right one for you.
One point I will make is that I usually recommend the blog model over all the others.
If you choose the static site model, it is because you just want to present information about you and our books and be done with it. It’s a billboard on the web, a general portfolio site, and you spend your time elsewhere.
If you choose to feature static content on the front page of the site, a welcome or promotion of the latest book or marketing campaign, with the blog separate, you are tending to serve first-time visitors more than repeat visitors. If the majority of your site’s traffic is return visitors, you’ve now made them click through something they’ve seen over and over again to get to the good stuff. Like splash and welcome pages, help your readers get right to the good stuff faster and consider the blog model or a modified hybrid site model WordPress Theme that features the most recent blog content in addition to the static marketing material.
A blog model puts the information right up front for everyone to see. You can use sticky posts and other methods to promote your latest marketing campaign, but serve repeat visitors if you wish to build a community around your site.
One of the most common problems with the Integrated or Hybrid site model is the thinking that a website and blog are separate, or the blog is added as an after thought. With WordPress there is no need to have a separate blog, but still many authors do. The problem is that the two sites aren’t on the same publishing platform which means double the work, and the design and branding messages don’t match.
This is a great loss as the message and branding is not consistent across both sites, and visitors get confused when they click the link for the blog and end up on a totally different looking site.
Stop thinking of the blog and the website as two separate things. They aren’t. One is not for advertising and the other for storytelling and sharing. One is not for marketing and the other babbling. It’s all content. It’s all marketing. Integrate it all into what you are doing and serve your fans better.
Website Models for Writers
Now, let’s add the writer and author to the site model mix.
There are three basic site models for writers. Remember, there are always variations on a theme. These are just the starting points.
- Author Site
- Book Site
- Topic Site with Books
The Author site is all about the author. Author first, books second. The content is related to promotion of the author and their work, book tours, speaking engagements, interviews, etc.
The Book site is all about the book first, author second. It is about the book or series of books, the universe, world, culture, time period, and genre they exist in. It’s about the fans of the books. Harry Potter is a great example of a book site as it is all about Harry Potter, not necessarily about the author.
A Topic site with books is a model that puts the focus on the topics, and the books and author are ancillary to the content. Topic sites are often associated with a specific craft or genre such as DIY, knitting, painting, home building, woodworking, etc., or a genre such as romance, celebrities, place, time, culture, etc. A great example is Martha Stewart. You would think that it would be about Martha all the time, but her sites are focused on home crafts, home living and lifestyle. They are not about her personally, nor a specific book, but the entire topic that the books and her television shows and work supports. She has become a brand, a label that serves her craft and genre.
An author site features categories such as Books, Events, and specialty topics related to the author and their work.
A book site features categories representing the places, culture, characters, and the topics of interest to fans of the book or the series.
A topic site features categories on the breakdown of the topic. A knitting site by an author publishing knitting books might feature topics such as Knitting Patterns, Tips and Techniques, Adventures in Knitting, Knitting Projects, etc.
Knowing the content you wish to offer to readers helps you decide how to structure and layout the site.
Which do you choose?
Consider why someone would visit your site? Is it because of you? To learn more about your book(s)? Or to know more about the speciality and subject matter?
In WordPress, most WordPress Themes and site are set by default to be in the blog model. To use the static site model, never create a post. Put everything on a Page and arrange it with custom menus (Appearance > Menus).
For a hybrid or integrated site with a separate blog, create two Pages in WordPress and leave them blank (for now) called “Home” and “Blog.” Go to Settings > Reading and set Home as the front web page of the site and Blog to display posts. Save it and check out your site. Now you may add whatever you wish to the “Home” Page in WordPress for a static front page, or work with a WordPress Theme with a page template that allows for a customized front page look and interaction such as the Twenty-Eleven WordPress Theme.
Core Content for Writer Websites
The first thing you need to know about designing a website for writers is that you don’t have to know much about web design. Research has proven time and again that a pretty website has no influence on traffic or return readers. It’s the content that brings people back for more.
As described in the first article in this series, an author site needs the following basic elements:
- About: This is the author bio and resume. “About” is the web standard name for this web page, not About-us, About-Sally, About-the-author, or any other variation. While it is a standard, authors may substitute “Bio” instead.</li.
- Contact: The contact web page is titled “Contact” not Contact-us or any other variation. It features an informal introduction and invitation to contact the author, a list of social media links and channels, and a contact form. The contact form may be customized in a variety of ways to direct email from the site to a variety of people and purposes.
- Subscribe: A Page featuring subscription options to encourage readers to follow your site via email notifications, feeds, and other methods including a newsletter or mailing list.
- Books: A listing of books published and upcoming by the author. Books maybe featured in many ways on WordPress, which I will cover later.
- Media: Called Media or Press, this is the page of testimonials, reviews, articles about your book and you, and all the information the media and readers may wish to know. It is your marketing material and resume.
- Free Stuff: Readers like free stuff. Free stuff may consist of sample chapters, unpublished chapters, character sketches, short stories, and other material related to the books. Or it could include contests for free book copies and other prizes. These are featured on posts or Pages depending upon the longevity of the campaign and material.
- Articles, Announcement, News: The main reason people return often to author sites is for updated information and a chance to get to know the author better. Give readers reasons to return through your content. Set up an editorial calendar and assign deadlines for articles, article series, announcements, and behind-the-scenes stories about your writing, books, and events.
- Integration with Social Media: Integration with social media on your site happens in multiple ways. Simply put:
- Social media sharing links/buttons should be featured on all posts and Pages you wish readers to share with their social network.
- An RSS Feed Links Widget allows the feed from another website to be featured in a widgetized area of a WordPress Theme such as the sidebar and footer. This allows you to display a list of the most recent posts from another site on your site.
- Automation of social media involves registering your site with your social media channels using the WordPress JetPack Publicize feature. When you publish a new post on your site, a summary with the link is sent to all your social media channels.
That’s the furniture for your author website. Now what do you do with all of that stuff?
There is a place for everything and everything has its place. Even on WordPress.
WordPress Content Organization: Posts VS Pages
Pages in WordPress hold timeless content, content outside of the reverse chronological order of posts. Pages include About, Contact, Events, Resources, References, Books, etc.
Choosing which content should be in a post and which in a Page creates frustration for many, especially people who think of a website like a book with every web page a Page. They are all web pages in a website. The difference is determining which is a post and which is a Page.
Think about it. Which of the following are posts, and which are Pages?
- Listen (music or band site)
- Favorite things to do on a date
- Favorite Recipe
- Top 18 Skateboard parks in Portland
- You’ve just been featured in the newspaper
- List of books you’ve published
It makes sense for a biography to be a Page, if it is your biography or the biography upon which the site is built. If the site is a genealogy site, biographies need to be on posts as they are part of the articles, the stories of the site.
Listen makes sense to be a Page if your site is for a musician or band, but what if it is music you just happen to like to listen to that you wish to share with your readers. Then it is is post.
An article called “Favorite Things to Do on a Date” is a perfect article, unless your site is a romance or dating site. Maybe an article like that is a featured bit of content and should be considered as a Page.
The same applies to the next two. An article on skateboarding and a favorite recipe might be just a post, but if the site is only about skateboarding in Portland, Oregon, or a cooking site and you wish to highlight your absolutely favorite recipe, consider making it a Page.
So the answer is “it depends.” Think it through.
A newspaper article about you and your work is exciting, and timeless. Something you may wish to promote for years. Might work on a Page, right? They are timeless content. However, the article alone might be best served highlighted on a post as news, with a link on your About, Bio, or Media Page to the article reference and the original web page featuring the article on the news website. Just because it is valuable to you doesn’t mean it deserves to be a Page, but it might.
A list of books you’ve published should be on a Page in WordPress, right? It’s important to highlight your books and promote them. But what if you’ve published 150 books? A single Page with images of the book covers, reviews, summaries, where to buy, etc., can make for a huge single Page. So group them together into sub-Pages by collection, genre, etc.
Or maybe you have a category called “Books” and each book is a post. Add the category link to the main navigation menu and every time you publish a post about a new book, the information is featured on the front of the site, in the book category pageview, sent out to everyone subscribing to email notification of your website, and featured by clicking the link in the main navigation called “Books,” leading to the book category pageview. You could even have sub-categories of the types of books and feature those. In WordPress, there are many ways to do the same thing.
Here is the difference between posts and Pages in WordPress. It’s important to understand the difference to help you make a decision.
- Posts are content featured in reverse chronological order. Pages can be in any order.
- Posts are timely. Pages are timeless, existing outside of the chronological order.
- Posts highlight what’s new, hot, the latest update. Pages hold the most important information.
- Posts are grouped by categories and tags and indexed by search engines frequently. Pages are organized by navigation menus and lists, and indexed by search engines only when updated or changed.
- Posts trigger an email notification to those who’ve subscribed by email to your site. Pages don’t.
- Posts appear in site RSS feeds and syndication uses of your feeds. Pages don’t.
Menus and Site Navigation
We’ve taken care of the content, posts and Pages, now it is time to explore the options for a writer to control the path a visitor takes through the site.
WordPress has the ability to control and customize the navigation areas of a site.
By default, Pages are featured across the main navigation menu, often found across the top of a WordPress Theme above or below the header art. Posts are featured through links to Categories, Tags (in a tag cloud), and most recent post lists.
WordPress has a Menu feature to allow the author to choose what appears where in the primary navigation and other areas on the site such as navigation lists in the sidebar.
The default order of the main navigation inline with web standards and user expectations is:
Home About Books Events Policies Subscribe Contact
Remember, these are not called “About Books” or “My Books” or “Subscribe to the Site” or “Contact Us.” Keep these to one word titles to keep the site layout clean and meet user expectations.
Policies may not be necessary on the main navigation unless they are critical to the business of the site, such as a disclaimer that the author is not a lawyer or medical professional. A Policies Page is required today on every website, especially a commercial site like an author site, but the link to the Page may be found elsewhere.
If the site features a Blog, Blog is found between Home and About.
English and left-to-right languages put emphasis on the left margin, lose interest in the middle, and return to attention at the end of the line to the right. Home, About, Books, then Subscribe and Contact are critical gateways to information on your site.
If you need navigation to other areas of your site in the main navigation, those menu items go between Events and Subscribe. They may include access to free stuff, resources, or references.
In the sidebar, readers expect a list of Pages, the timeless content, and a list of categories. A tag cloud featuring the most popular tags on your site is optional, and helps to direct the visitor to content of specific interest.
Don’t forget the footer. Almost all WordPress Themes now offer widgetized footers. Key navigation and information may be placed there as well.
Once you have figured out the bones of the site, where all the content goes and what goes into the content, it’s time to design around the architecture you’ve created.
Design for Author Sites
A good author website is one that serves the author, the fan, and the would-be fan. Design accordingly.
A beautiful, expensively designed website does not guarantee a greater income, more books sold, greater engagement, or any better results than an averagely designed, free website.
That statement isn’t to take money out of the pockets of web designers and developers. If you can’t afford them, don’t settle for someone cheap or a next door neighbor or your child to design your site. A professional web designer and developer should be trained thoroughly in web marketing, programming, design, SEO, and content strategies. They can hold your hand through the process, but know before you go. Learn the basics yourself and you will protect yourself and enjoy the process more.
Remember, WordPress is a tool, just like Word and Scrivener.
So what design decisions do you make? It is easy to change the header art in WordPress, a good place to start.
If the site is about the author, the author should be featured in the header art. If the site is about the book(s), they should be featured, possibly with the author or without. If the site is about a topic, then the header art and design decisions should reflect the topic.
The key of a well-designed site is that it leaves no doubt as the purpose, mission, and intent of the site.
Remember the old maps featuring “There be dragons here.” There weren’t dragons, but there was fear, fear of the unknown, of getting lost, of leaving your familiar neighborhood and being surrounded by things and people you don’t know.
From the moment someone arrives on your site, it should feel like they’ve walked into a familiar neighborhood and into a friendly house that welcomes them and encourages them to sit down and have a cup of tea and stay a while. To rest, relax, and have a good chat.
It should entertain, amuse, delight, inform, and even educate the visitor.
What that looks like is different for every author. Trust yourself. Experiment. Know that you can change the look and feel of your site in an instant with little effort with WordPress.
As mentioned in the first article of this series, Ree Drummond didn’t become the famous Pioneer Woman and TV cooking show host by focusing only on the words and pictures. She studied the traffic and statistics of her site. She evaluated what people wanted, and realized that visual tutorials worked well for her and for her audience. She produced more of that and moved that content out prominently.
Always evaluate the results, feedback, and ROI of your site. You may do it once a year or more frequently such as quarterly. Reevaluate and make changes as you learn and grow.
Tip: Register Your Authorship with Google
Authors are the copyright holders of their written and published material. Google now offers a way to ensure you are the “owner” of your content on the web by defining authorship to your online content.
Google Authorship is a form of online identification, Google’s unique identifier. Supposedly, it is proof that you are you and not a fake you.
The process begins by creating a Google+ account. That verification process establishes you as a valid person on the web according to Google. Fill in your profile with an image and the details that define you on the web. Note: You do not have to share personal or private information on the web. You choose what to share.
In your Google+ profile, add all the sites and social media channels identified with you and that you own.
On your site, you need to identify yourself as an author according to the world of Google. This is done by creating a link with
rel="author" in the link. Mine looks like this:
<a rel="author" href="http://lorelle.wordpress.com/" title="Lorelle VanFossen on WordPress covering WordPress tips, blogging, and web publishing.">Lorelle on WordPress</a>
This is a properly formed HTML anchor tag used to create links on the web. Notice the addition of the author attribute.
That’s enough for other search engines to identify you as the author of the content. Google needs a little more. It needs the link to go to your Google+ account.
An example to my account is:
<a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/107155666869509300116" title="Lorelle on WordPress with Lorelle VanFossen on Google+.">Lorelle on Google+</a>
There are also WordPress Plugins for those using the self-hosted version of WordPress to put a Google+ authorship link on yor site, but they are really not necessary.
Here are some tutorials to help you through the process.
- Claim Google Authorship for Your WordPress Website in 3 Easy Steps – Copyblogger
- How to Set Up Google Authorship on a WordPress.com Blog | Communication Creations
- Setting up Google Authorship for Your Website – Treehouse Blog
- 3 Steps To Get Google Authorship For Yourself And Your Website
- How-To Add Google Authorship To WordPress Correctly