The Big Mistake of Author Websites and Blogs


By

Wordpress    Blogger

One of the easiest ways for an author to get a site up and running is to use Blogger or WordPress. As convenient as this is, and as wonderful as I find WordPress, this can lead to a critical error.

Authors end up using a blog as their website, but aren’t interested in blogging.

So their site looks like a neglected, un-updated blog or a lackluster website.

Don’t get me wrong: Both Blogger & WordPress can be used as effective site-building tools. But most new writers don’t go the extra step of structuring their “blog” as a website. Let me explain.

  1. Having a blog means you’ve got yourself a website. (Blog = site.) Blogging is simply a functionality or a way of presenting information or content on a website. A website may or may not feature a blog.
  2. Blogger and WordPress systems focus on blogging functionality. They put the blog front and center, and assume that you are interested in blogging. If you are interested in having a site only, then you have to take steps to change the presentation.

You do not have to blog, and if you don’t have much interest in the form, then please don’t pursue it. As with any form of writing, it takes a considerable investment of energy and time to do it right and get something from it. (See my 101 crash course here.)

But I do recommend every writer have a website, and using WordPress or Blogger is a good way to do that for free and still conquer the learning curve. (See my post here.)

So, how shall we transform your blog-focused site into something more appropriate? We want to make the landing page static. The landing page is what first appears when people visit your site.

While technically such a thing is possible in Blogger, it is not straightforward. (If you want, search Google to view available tutorials.)

For that reason (and others!), I always recommend authors use WordPress when starting their first site. In WordPress, go into your Admin, and click on Settings > Reading.

Wordpress Static Front Page

You want to tell WordPress that the front page (the landing page) should display something OTHER than blog posts. To show you an example, visit janefriedman.wordpress.com. Here’s what I did:

  1. I created a page that I called Welcome. As you can see below, I’ve designated that as the front page of my site. The content you see on this page is what I typed right into the page content field. (Click here for a screenshot.)
  2. I created another page called News & Events, but I left the content field blank. Because I’ve designated this as my “posts page” (see below), the content here is populated by anything I add to “Posts” in WordPress. (Click here for a screenshot.)
  3. You could also designate NO page for posts (leave the option blank rather than selecting a page), and your site will not feature any blog posts, only static pages.

Wordpress close-up static

What I’ve done is basically create a website where blog posts exist, but they are not the focal point of the site. This is probably a desirable situation for many authors, yet they make the mistake of putting their blog at the center of things when it doesn’t deserve that attention.

Take it from me: There’s no need to blog to have a website. But please do set up your site properly to avoid the appearance that you do blog, but very badly!

 

Opt In Image
Writing + Money + Life

If you enjoyed this article, then I think you'll love Scratch, a new digital magazine that I founded to help writers learn more about the business side of publishing. It explores how a writing life can be sustained—and even thrive—in the digital age, and writers share thought-provoking stories about the role money plays in their personal lives and careers. Browse the free preview issue here.

  • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Jane, the link to  janefriedman.wordpress.com goes to a page marked private. Thought you’d want to know.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Thank you! All fixed.  :)

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Thank you! All fixed.  :)

  • http://ebookfriendly.com Piotr Kowalczyk

    I’m using this pattern for my ebook discovery site http://ebookfriendly.com and wonder if that affects SEO in any way

  • http://twitter.com/willentrekin Will Entrekin

    Terrific post, Jane. I only recently discovered the functionality. Now that I’ve started posting more, posts seem more recent and consistent, but I’ve definitely had the problem of inconsistency in the past. I think it’s something writers have to explore, too, in terms of to what degree one can maintain constant engagement without becoming exhausted.

    I’ve been using my posts page as my landing page, but part of the reason for that is the ability to integrate widgets (so I can put the Twitter timeline and a link to The Prodigal Hour there on the front). I haven’t figured out how to include that sort of functionality on a separate page. Though I’m sure it’s probably possible.

  • http://twitter.com/xoxoANP Anittah Patrick

    No, it does not affect SEO. What will probably affect SEO for your site the most is the fact that your top tabs do not align necessarily with the top search terms related to ebooks. I would recommend conducting some basic keyword research using the Adwords keyword tool (if you do not run any paid search campaigns, you can use the external tool, which is still helpful as you get 100 results vs. 800) to see what people are actually searching in the US / the world related to ebooks. This may help you think about the way you want to structure your top tabs and organize your content. 

    I used exactly what Jane is talking about for http://kittylit.com but I also determined the top-level tabs in part by looking at what people search for when it comes to literary magazines. Not only does that mean I can maximize the chances for visibility in search engines, but MOST importantly, it’s basically like having a free focus group tell you how they think about a given topic (/search phrase).

    Hope this helps and good luck!!

  • http://twitter.com/dawngroves_ Dawn Groves

    Hi Jane, great article and the comments below it are also very good. I’ll tweet it. 
    dawn
    http://www.yourproductivitysucks.com

  • http://www.daisyamongroses.com Daisy Among Roses

    Thank you for your invaluable advice as I begin my writer blog.

  • http://www.joannemacgregor.com Joanne Macgregor

    If I blogged, I wouldn’t have time to write, so I have gone the website route. I’m a technological Luddite, but I still managed to build it in an evening on SquareSpace.com. I’ve found their service easy to use and they give exceptional help and person-to-person support.

  • http://ebookfriendly.com Piotr Kowalczyk

    Thanks so much for the advice, Anittah. The whole idea of a site which is distraction-free is giving me a lot of work. I’ll follow your advice and adjust keywords for navi buttons.
    Seen you site, very nicely designed:-)

  • http://janicegablebashman.com/ Janice Gable Bashman

    My author website landing page goes directly to my blog but that works for me since each week a different guest author blogs about the writing process. If that were not the case, however, I would want a static landing page as you suggest. I find WordPress to be great for my author website. Thanks for the great tips and have fun with the online class. It sounds like a fantastic tool for writers needing to build websites.

  • http://www.jillkemerer.com Jill Kemerer

    This is exactly what my girlfriend has been researching this week–talk about a timely post! I’m e-mailing her your info. Thanks so much!

  • Sgweidener

    I love my blog/website – the Women’s Writing Circle – on Blogger. I can place my book cover front and center with reader reviews and links on how to order, provide links to my writing, workshops and editing services and feature popular posts as a colorful sidebar.  And I love how easy it is to download my own photos . . .all for $10 a year and my own domain name to boot.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Great points.

    It is possible to integrate widgets, though much depends on the theme you’re using and its flexibility & customization (assuming you don’t know how to code it yourself). 

    Graphene is one theme I like that allows for ultimate customizability on where your widgets are, how your sidebars appear, etc — for either your static front page or a posts-driven front page.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Thank you!

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Appreciate you reading & commenting!

  • Anjali

    Very useful, this. I fumbled my way through this on my own a couple of years ago on WordPress, wanting to set up a site that started out as static but eventually turned into a blog. Thanks for taking it upon yourself to summarize and educate!

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    You’re awesome, Anittah! Thank you!

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    I’ve heard of other fans of SquareSpace! Interesting.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Thanks, Janice!

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Love synchronicity! Appreciate the comment.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    My only advice is just be careful building something of longterm value on a platform you can’t control!  ;)  

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Thank you for reading & commenting!

  • http://twitter.com/annerallen Anne R. Allen

    Thanks so much for the clarifications and detailed how-to. I keep telling my readers a blog is a website and can function very nicely as a hub for the pre-pubbed author. But they have to actually blog. Now I see they can use a blog as an author site even if they don’t want to blog regularly. This will make a lot of aspiring authors very happy. Bookmarking this. 

    Also, thanks to Joanne M. for the info on SquareSpace!

  • http://tamlinsey.wordpress.com Tam Linsey

    I  don’t care much for websites that have a page that says “welcome” and requires me to click on it to move on. I want to get to a page with tabs right off the bat. But I do see the logic behind NOT landing on a blog entry if it is not kept current.
    I blog, but only a few times a month. I’ll restructure the site so my landing page is static, but I need to write something interesting and timeless to put there. I guess I need to come up with an author’s statement :)

  • http://twitter.com/dtfpress Deborah TaylorFrench

    Thanks. I am actually having fun blogging three times a week. I jumped in with WordPress.com, not wanting to learn code.

    Now I want to create a Web site to link to my blog so I can sell writing and other related author products. Copyblogger suggested buying the Prose theme and getting help building a custom and easy to maintain Web site.

    What’s your suggestion for adding a Web site to my WordPress blog?

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Well, yes — that welcome page I modeled is for instructional purposes only and not a “real” site I promote. For a long time, this site had a static front page that had my mission and bullet-list of my key activities. Definitely craft it carefully.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    You already have a site; you don’t add a site to your WordPress blog. It would be like adding a site to a site!

    If you follow my instructions here, you can integrate both on your existing site.

    I do not recommend investing in a premium theme like Prose until you own your own domain and are self-hosted.

  • Pingback: The Big Mistake of Author Websites and Blogs | Jane Friedman | Publishing iPad Book Apps for Kids | Scoop.it()

  • R.J. Keller

    Thanks for the info, Jane! Especially the screen shots. 

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Excellent!

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Appreciate you visiting!

  • Nathan Carriker

    Guilty as charged.  I simply don’t have the time, energy, and drive to compose new material on a schedule of any kind. I write what occurs to and moves me when it does, so I guess I better make this change. Thanks for making the point and the references for how to do it.

  • Sgweidener

    Thanks, Jane. Maybe I’m naive, but I think Google will survive – at least as long as I am in the author’s game!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tami-Richards/100000757072851 Tami Richards

    Great information, Jane. Thank you very much. Now I have a project – I never really did want to blog, but that’s how my wordpress is set up. Thanks to you I can repair the damage.

  • Charise

    Great post! I am using my site as all in one blog and site. I do have the the landing page as my blog, but only post weekly. It says that in the tag line (a weekly cocktail of grace, humor and life). Because it is only weekly, would you recommend I change the landing page? It is unreasonable to think I would blog more frequently at this point.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Wonderful to know I have offered a possible solution.  :)

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Yay! Mission accomplished.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    I’d say you’re totally fine. 1x week is respectable, and especially if that’s established up front, no worries.

  • http://twitter.com/dtfpress Deborah TaylorFrench

    I would rather not have to add another site or build a separate Web site from my blog.

    I believe WordPress.com does not permit selling anything, but WordPress.org does. So that is my problem. Also my theme has limited widgets. There is no contact me widget or widgets to offer items for sale.

    And I do own my own domain on 1 & 1.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    It can turn into a whole different conversation if you want your site to have eCommerce functionality (actually have transactions work through your site rather than going through a third party, e.g., PayPal, Amazon, etc). 

    If that’s your goal, then you really ought to get off WordPress.com all together and integrate things under a domain you self-host.

  • Pingback: Welcome « Welcome()

  • Pingback: ROW80 Check-in + Blog Posts That Rocked My World | Jenny Hansen's Blog()

  • http://www.angelapeart.com Angela Orlowski-Peart

    A very helpful post, Jane. I have my blog on Blogger but I’m getting ready to switch to WordPress, hopefully in a near future. Thank you for sharing these tips.

  • Anonymous

    Jane, thanks so much for this post and the clear instructions. This seems so obvious once you point it out, but I’d made the mistake.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Awesome! It should be a relatively painless process to import your blog posts to WordPress. Good luck!

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Helping well-intentioned people one day at a time. ;-)  Thanks for commenting.

  • Pingback: Wetmachine » My Thoughts Exactly » My David Mitchell Cloud Atlas Problem()

  • http://mistygatlin.com Mistygatlin

    I followed this and wasn’t pleased with how it turned out on my particular page.  now, I can’t get it to go back.  Even though I changed my settings back to where the first page is my latest post, it’s going to my “about me” page.  How do I get it back to its original state?

  • Mistygatlin

    Now I feel silly because it’s working.  I guess it took a while to go back.  Thanks for this tutorial!

  • PW Creighton

    Solid advice, it really depends on what you want to accomplish. There are benefits to having a dynamic landing page especially for SEO efforts just as there are for creating static pages like a site.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Good point. I would favor a good image and appearance (a focus on what matters to your audience), and not worry as much about SEO, especially if blogging is not important to you.

  • http://twitter.com/Suzannesan Suzanne Hill

    I’m working on my website now and blogging about twice a week.  I’ve been writing for a while and have placed part of what I’ve written on Scribd.  Twittering and Google 1+………….Have I forgotten anything that I need to do in order to state that I’m truly serious?

  • Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 12-15-2011 « The Author Chronicles()

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    That sounds pretty good to me! Keep being consistent.

  • http://neilfein.com Neil Fein

    Great advice. I did this with my editing website when I realized that I had no need of the blog stuff. Then I upgraded to a custom domain name. If I ever move to self-hosted WordPress, I’ll get rid of the WP menu bar as well. 

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Excellent!

  • http://kenradaniels.com/ Kenra Daniels

    Thanks, Jane! You’ve given me the push I needed to go ahead and implement my plans to expand my WordPress. I have several pages outlined, including a static landing page, but haven’t taken the time to actually create the pages and publish them. So, thanks for the push!

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Happy to hear that! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Patrick Samphire

    A bit late to this entry, but…

    Excellent advice, Jane. I’ve long argued that a blog should *not* be the homepage of an author’s website. Even if a large part of your self-promotion is your blog, it’s not the right way to introduce yourself to a new visitor. That first impression, that first fraction of a second in which a visitor makes a judgement of your site, is too valuable to dedicate to a random journal entry.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Totally agree! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Pingback: Meet the Writer: Jane Friedman | Women of Google+()

  • http://www.stevebichard.com/ Steve Bichard

    I as so glad that I found this post Jane.
    I have a few blogs on Blogger, but always admired the style or wordpress. I was worried that my new site stevebichard.com to go with the launch of my new book would look just like yet another blog, so I went for wordpress and took your great advice. I had been not sleeping and got up at 6 am to google and found this post.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Wow! Excellent, so glad you found me. :)

  • Pingback: Wordpress or Blogger for a free website | Steve Bichard.com()

  • Pingback: Build a More Effective Author Website | Jane Friedman()

  • Pingback: Wednesday’s Links « Part Time Novel()

  • Pingback: Links Through the Grapevine « Kate Policani()

  • Pingback: Blog Out Loud with Les Miserables « virtualDavis()

  • Pingback: Wednesday Ramble and a ROW80 update « Many Worlds From Many Minds()

  • Pingback: How to market your book, without spending money (3): Blogs and Websites. | Jules Bronte's Blog()

  • Pingback: Building Your First Website: Resource List | Jane Friedman()

  • RaShundria Muldrow

  • Pingback: All Things of World()

  • John A

    Makes sense to me. Simple to understand.

  • SeliC (http://selic.co/)

    Nice advice.

  • Tips on Blogging

    hello.this is great and awesome article.thank you so much for sharing some info.

    Tips on Blogging

  • Pingback: author blog | Live Free | Live Free()

  • Survival Jones

    This is fantastic advice! I did not understand why it has to be a static landing page, but I get it now. Many thanks Jane! I’ll try it out for http://www.absyedauthor.blogspot.com … but it is on blogger, so it might take me a while :)

  • http://www.professionalghost.org/ Teena Lyons

    This is great advice, before I used my developers I struggled to make myself a website. Even as a writer I struggled to keep on top if it.
    I am very proud of my website now, http://www.professionalghost.org and although I have a blog on it, it is not the focal point of my site.

  • Pingback: Live Streaming Κάλυψη Συνεδρείων()

  • Shenoa

    This article was perfect for me! I was frustrated with my wordpress site for exactly the reason listed above. I really wanted an author website, not a sadly disused blog. After reading your article, I completely revamped my page, and now I love it! Thank you

  • cinta bella

    thank for your information, i hope to increasing may blog site

  • Pingback: Do You Need to Rethink Your Author Website's Key Elements?()

  • Yvonne Spence

    Thanks for this! I have been blogging for a while, but have only just taken the plunge to set up a website/blog with my own domain and this information is just what we need because I didn’t know how to do this, and get nervous of making a big mistake with a new site!

  • Pingback: #8.2 Gli errori da evitare: il blog dell'autore()

  • http://www.markhoult.com Mark Hoult

    Good advice Jane – thank you. I’ve been guilty of the same half-baked approach in the past. I now feel inspired to stride forward with more resolve.

  • Piliger Black

    Great advice. As a new author just about to self publish on KDP, I was on the verge tonight of creating a blog … and now I am concerned about two things.

    Firstly – it is my first book and thus difficult to know what to blog about without discussing the plot and giving it away.

    Secondly – What do readers want to hear ? about me ? or writing in general ? or JUST about my book ? .. I can start with posts about how I came to write a book at 58. I guess I could talk about books and writers I like. And blog posts I see elsewhere that I like/agree ?

    Any thoughts on those issues anyone ?

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    There’s no definitive answer, but the answer is more difficult to find if you’re a fiction writer. I address some of the issues here: http://janefriedman.com/2011/08/24/blogging-for-writers/

  • Angelo Marcos

    Ok, I know that you wrote this about 3 years ago now, but I’ve only just found this page, so I just wanted to say a belated thank you..! I was having a lot of trouble with creating a landing page, and in about three seconds you solved that particular problem for me.

    So thank you again!

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    That’s why it’s still here! :)

  • Pingback: How To: 7 Steps to a Great Writer Blog | Carly Watters, Literary Agent()

  • Pingback: Seen In Ink: The New Writer-Reader Relationship | Ernest & Edgar Literary Blog()