Note from Nick: This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Welcome Home: The Author’s Complete Guide to Building A Marketing “Home Base.”
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Ready? Here we go!
You might be wondering where exactly to go from here.
You’ve picked out a great-looking, affordable theme, and you’re excited about how things are coming together. WordPress installed perfectly the first time, your hosting company sends you boxes of chocolate, and the skies are raining money.
Most likely, you have some questions—but before you freak out any more, go through this list of the “Top 7 Things” to install on your blog.
For some of these items, there are numerous plugins and widgets that are easily installed through your WordPress administration panel. Just go to the “Plugins” menu, and click “Add New.” There, you can search for a plugin by keyword or topic and install it immediately, with one click.
So here you go: this list is meant as a good starting point; a framework. Use your best judgement, but these are the tools and features that I’ve most often seen on great-looking and successful Home Base websites!
1. Newsletter Signup w/ Incentivized Call-to-action.
In marketing, a “call to action” is the most important aspect of any marketing piece—whether it’s a postcard, email campaign, or website. For your Home Base, it’s crucial to have a call to action that “calls” people to sign up for your newsletter.
We’ll talk more about newsletters—and why you need one—later, but for now just understand that a newsletter is like a personalized invitation for you to market to your reader. It’s more intimate and direct than any other form of marketing, and it’s a medium that’s still used extremely effectively by agencies and marketing departments.
I use MailChimp for my newsletters, and it’s completely free up to a certain amount of “sends” per month. I highly recommend getting an account and taking it for a test drive.
2. A picture of you and/or your book.
What book have you read lately that didn’t include a picture of the author in it somewhere? You’ll find their nice mug decorating the inside flaps or the the back of the cover, or even the front (most likely it’s nonfiction!).
An author’s Home Base online is another place many readers expect to be able to find a picture of you. We want to know what you look like—to see the person who penned the amazing masterpiece we’re now reading.
Don’t overanalyze this—just accept it. I have an About page with my picture, and I use my headshot in many online “outposts” that link back to my site. You can do the same, or you can include a small headshot on the sidebar of your blog’s main page.
The same goes for your book—include a nice-looking graphic of your book’s cover, and link it to the sales page (or external page) where your readers can check it out.
3. A quick “what you write” blurb.
Just because you have an About page doesn’t mean everyone’s reading it. Don’t assume that everyone who visits your Home Base will stop by all of your pages—include a brief (one- to two-sentences) blurb that explains your writing. Here’s mine:
“I love to write. Thrillers, nonfiction, whatever–read my “About” page for more information. More …” (the More… link goes to my full About page”).
A little blurb like this can go a long way—it’s easy to implement on a sidebar of your blog, and it’s short enough that people will be intrigued by it and hopefully click through to your full About page. Speaking of an “About” page…
4. A “Start Here” or “About” page.
Or both—you should at least have a page that tells people more about why they should be reading your blog, and what they’ll find on your platform. In addition, don’t think that because it’s your platform, your About page is about you.
Your About page is actually about your readers—the people you’re trying to attract and win over to your side. Try writing an About page that explains the interests of your target reader, and what they’ll likely find when they arrive.
Similarly, a “Start Here” page is a growing trend in blogging, and it will make a nice addition to your Home Base as well. Literally, a Start Here page tells us where to “start” when we first land on your site.
Consider writing a brief paragraph about the type of content you write, and the overall “sales pitch” of your website (why we should be interested in reading it). After that, include a few of the best posts you’ve written and link to them.
Finally, give us a way to sign up for your newsletter—remind us that your Home Base is just one of the many forms of communication you’re into; your newsletter is the best way to stay up-to-date!
5. Easy-to-use navigation.
Don’t underestimate the power and usefulness of a simple, easy-to-navigate website. Your Home Base isn’t a “web portal” like Yahoo or another giant news corporation—there’s no reason to have grandchild menus hidden under countless child menus.
The K-I-S-S school of thought (“Keep It Simple, Stupid”) reinforces this—provide your readers with a prominent, easy-to-understand menu, and only include links to the most important pages on your site.
WordPress allows you to set up as many pages as you’d like—but you don’t need to have links to every single one of them in the menu system! Use posts, sidebars, and footers to include links to additional pages.
6. Links to social profiles—but not all of them!
I use Twitter and Facebook for most of my social interactions, even though I have a Google+ account, a LinkedIn profile, a MySpace page, and a Goodreads account (and those are just the ones I can think of!).
Here’s my rule: include links to the social pages that you use, and only those. Try to limit what you offer to 4-5 profile links. On my blog, I use a tool called ShareBar (it’s the little bar on the left of individual blog posts that includes links to the different social buttons).
I’ve come across many sites that have links to everything from Digg to StumbleUpon, Blogspot to Friendster—and it’s not that those are bad options to offer, it’s just that I doubt the actual blogger uses each of these social media accounts! What starts out as being a way to promote sharing easily becomes just another way to clutter their site and confuse readers.
On my ShareBar, I have links to share the post on Twitter, Buffer (which is basically Twitter, really, but through a different service), Facebook, and Google+. And guess what? When I moved away from offering 100+ options for sharing, the amount of shares skyrocketed!
Consider ditching the sites you don’t actively use, and only offer the social sites that you regularly visit and maintain. Plus, if one of your readers really wants to share your page on their favorite social site, they’ll find a way to do just that!
7. Testimonials/reviews of your work (preferably good ones!).
What better way to sell your newest book or product than with a few glowing reviews? Even better still—why not offer these reviews right on the homepage?
On some blogs, you’ll find a large area right below the header with a few testimonials and raving fan reviews that cycle through like a slideshow. Click on the testimonials and you’ll be taken straight to the product’s sales page. Genius!
Another great alternative is to list a few of your favorite reviews in text widget on the sidebar—you can include a picture of your book’s cover, or the product image, followed by a few quick testimonials. Again, link it to the sales page.
Try them all!
These are great ways to get your Home Base off the ground in no time—try out each method, and as you choose your site’s design and layout, consider how each of them looks on your homepage and throughout the site. One of the great things about all of the popular blogging platforms is that you can easily and quickly change aspects of the site and layout, without needing to know and code or programming languages.
Experiment, and keep tweaking the things we’ve outlined here, and come up with your own “flavor” of each of these important aspects.