So, two important things about writers and websites and online presence:
Getting your name out there is Good; Relying only on Google rankings is Bad
Anne noted that, "The point is to get your name out there where the Google spiders can find you," and then quoted a publishing acquisitions editor who said this: "I don't read the query (sorry aspiring writers!) I look for two things: genre and word count. I then Google the author. I'm looking for the number of times the writer's name appears on the Internet. I'm searching for a website or any attempt to build a platform.”
Ha ha! "Sorry aspiring writers!" Wow.
Here's some news for you: The "number of times the writer's name appears on the Internet" can be fixed and faked. As I said in my lost ranty comment, you can FAKE THIS STUFF and so it all comes back to popularity contest. Several sneaky people have approached me to put links to them on my blog. At first I was all, "why on earth are you asking me? My blog isn't anything!" And then I realized that's the point (which was depressing). "Nothing" blogs are more likely not to care about linking back to you--and back links "up" your search rankings.
This is an echo of the perfidy of Klout rankings and how fake those are--which I discussed a few weeks ago.
I don't deny at all that a blog or the start of a social presence is important, however. Anne is right that you want Google to find you. But just remember that the metrics associated with such thing are unreliable--so if people only use those to see whether someone is a viable commodity or not, there's something sadly missing.
Having an author website accomplishes more than you think it is does
Second thing in Anne's post that I responded to:
That’s why a website you have to pay somebody to update for you isn’t as useful. People want to connect with you—not your web designer. The difference between a website and a blog is the difference between putting an ad in the Yellow Pages or personally giving somebody your phone number. Blogs are friendly. And if you have a blog, you don’t need an expensive website. Here’s what Nathan Bransford said about formal websites:
"The thing about author websites is pretty simple, in my mind. They're expensive. Are they worth the return on investment? I don't know. I can't think of a time I've ever bought a book based on a visit to an author's website. But I have definitely bought books based on author blogs. I know I may not be the average reader, but I still have a hard time seeing how it's worth the investment unless the website is really spectacular."
This set of commentary was a little confusing. I wasn't sure if Anne and Nathan meant you should never pay someone to update a website for you or not pay someone to design a formal website for you. Most websites you pay a designer to do for you are updated by you. If you're a big time author and can't handle updating your site or are too busy, there is still huge value in having the website. But I don't think Anne and Nathan were addressing big time authors with PR teams at their disposal. I shall explain below.
First, full disclosure: I design web sites for authors and other small businesses. Design only. Our clients update their owns sites. You definitely don't want to pay someone oodles of money for a formal website. But if you have no design skills and no clue on where to start for a website, but you know enough to know that a website that looks like a llama vomited all over the screen is going to harm you, then hire someone. It's possible to do it cheap. We offer it cheap.
Know that a blog is a social media tool, and appropriately fits into a website. Here's what you do with both:
- Use your blog to engage in discussion with people
- Use your formal website to inform and market to people
I also discussed this in a post a while back called Author Websites: Not Just for Pubbed Authors, but I guess Anne and Nathan didn't see that post. :)
I welcome discussion about this. Thoughts about the Google rankings? The author website? One of the commenters on Anne's post said "Whew, I won't worry about a website for me then!" I hope I've clearly outlined here that a website does matter, and it does communicate other things than a blog does. But it's important to note that for the writer just starting out, you don't necessarily need a website yet. I always recommend getting your own domain name early, however.