Sunday, July 13, 2008

10 steps from obscurity to #3 on Google (under “book writing coach”)

I’ve heard it said that having a website no one knows exists is like having a billboard in the middle of the Sahara dessert. I believe it. I’ve had a website almost as long as I’ve been in business, and it was the world’s most expensive (and confusing) online brochure. Now, it generates viable leads every week. It didn’t happen overnight. It took time, advice from experts, lots of learning, and, most of all, doing.

1. It began at an SLPA meeting at which a marketing expert named Bobette Kyle knocked my socks off with her presentation. She offered the audience a free marketing workbook and 30 minutes of consulting time. I signed up. Her first suggestion was to redesign my website to reflect my new goals.

2. I’ll spare you the details of starting over from scratch. It was a series of false starts and frustrations. In the end, I bought DreamWeaver and did it myself. Of course, there were so many things I didn’t have a clue about, such as how to do, like making buttons for my navigation bar or settin up a template. Basic stiff.

3. I hired Pat Weaver, a computer wizard from the Webster school district. She became my fixer and teacher. If I wanted to learn DreamWeaver, she was the best.

4. Finally, I went back to Bobette for a brainstorming session on marketing planning — an essential step! I had to have a marketing plan, and it really wasn’t all that mysterious to write one when a marketing exert was asking all the right questions, and all I had to do was think through the answers.

5. My overall goal was to build my business as a ghostwriter, book-writing coach, and editor. One strategy was to expand my online presence. Tactic #1 was to write and submit articles in my area of expertise to online marketing sites. So, that’s what I did. I wrote them; Bobette submitted them to about 30 online sites, including, the gold standard. At the bottom of each was a little blurb explaining what I do and how to contact me. At this point, there are close to 60 articles, which are also on my website in two formats: web pages and PDFs.

6. In the meantime, I kept adding to and improving my site. I did the design and writing; Bobette did her magic behind the scenes. The key was obtaining quality inbound links from authority Websites, like relevant directories or topical Websites. This helps search engines find and list my site and potential clients find me. A novice could do that, I suppose, but it’s so worth it to pay a consultant who knows what she’s doing. I started showing up on search engines, and potential authors started contacting me. To me, that was a miracle.

7. Tactic #2 was to join social networking sites like Gather, LinkedIn, FaceBook, and Eons, among others. That took a lot of time; and, truthfully, it is my weakest link. Networking sites can become so addictive and time-consuming that I forget to work. Obviously, I still have a lot to learn about that aspect of Web 2.0.

8. There has to be a way to encourage people to e-mail and then capture their addresses when they do. And, even more important, then, I have to give them something free — information, reports, eBooks, anything that will benefit the reader and compel them to make contact. So, we set up a way to do that on my home page. The e-mail addresses go to EzineDirector, which automatically sends out the eBook I offer. It will also send out a regular newsletter and do all kinds of other things, automatically, if I set them up.

9. I struggled with the idea of doing a newsletter. I feel that a newsletter should be full of news and other helpful messages. Doing the requisite research is a big job, so I finally decided to send one only when I have something worthwhile to announce or share.

10. I don’t know what took me so long, but, eventually, I discovered blogging; and I love it. I set up my blog on BlogSpot, which is free, easy, and basic. I keep discovering new things I can do and adding them to my blog. My topic, of course, is writing; but, unlike articles, I find blogging gives me more flexibility. It is personal, so I can reflect on a whole range of writing-related topics that don’t fit in the article format.

Those are the basics. In between the numbers are all the things I have done wrong while learning to do them right, and, believe me, there have been many. There is so much to learn and so much to do, it could consume most of my day. But, when you are a writer who sells services as well as words, that is your full-time job. Marketing is how you get to do it.