Websites and Blogs for Writers #AIW

PenWebsites and blogs are perfect for displaying a writer’s talents, experience, and potential on the Web. It’s hard to believe that a week has flown by since the 30th Annual American Independent Writers Conference in DC, where we addressed an excellent crowd.

Our colleague Kristen King, whose award winning Inkthinker blog helps freelance writers every day, started the session by going over some do’s and don’t’s of a writer’s web presence–complete with examples of great writer blogs and of what not to do courtesy of Vincent Flanders’ web pages that suck site. If you haven’t taken a look at these terrible web page designs, they’re good for more than just a groan and a laugh–they also offer excellent learning opportunities.

I suggest you start by making a list of what you love and hate in a web page, then expand your list as you get inspired about never following those awful examples. Visitor experience of your site or blog should be a top priority from the get go. That means your site goals must include functionality, usability, pleasing aesthetics, and be coded to standards.

Kristen also spoke about her positive experiences with some of the many low-cost options available for do-it-yourself types who have the time and the inclination to learn how to create and manage their own sites with templates. At the same she noted that nothing beats hiring a pro to take care of tasks that will take you far away from what you need to do for your business. Her presentation was much more involved of course, but you get the idea. Having clear and appropriate goals was an important point of continuity between our sessions.

We led an interactive exercise to get people thinking about three essential areas that must command the attention of anyone looking to refine or create their website or blog.

You have to know what you want from your web presence. If you get in a car to drive to Chicago and have no clue where to go or which direction to head—it’s unlikely you’ll arrive in a timely fashion. Your web presence is no different. Knowing your goals, expectations, and what you’re trying to accomplish is mandatory.

You also have to know your target audience groups. Who is your website/blog for? Hint, it’s not for you. It’s always for your audience. Don’t focus on how great you are and what you do—focus on being the solution for their problems—the answer to their questions or challenges. What do you want to say to your audiences? How you are going to get your content out to them? What role can social networking play? How can you get your content to your target audience folks wherever they already hang out on the Web?

Do you know your web competition and market? If not, it’s time to get acquainted. Take a spin around the Web every three months or so to see what other people in your field are doing. What are they doing well and how can you do some of it better? Are you in professional networking groups? Don’t forget the power of partnering with others—even if at first you think of them as the competition.

Once you’ve answered the questions above, it’s time for another list. This time it should be a list of concrete steps to get you moving toward your professional web presence goals.

If you’d like to know more, there was a great question raised in another session–does blogging counts as serious writing? Panelists Mayra Ruiz and Beth J. Bates weigh in on their blogs.