Improve your social web presence – for writers


This coming Saturday I’m in Brighton at New Writing South running a one-day workshop on ‘Improving your social web presence’.

I know that there are readers of this blog and of my email newsletter who have already been on one of the three-evening courses I’ve run for NWS in the past. I’ve already been asked ‘will I learn anything new if I come along to this one-day course?’

The short answer to this is ‘possibly not’ – but it depends on whether you’ve put into practice what we covered on the previous course.

But I know how it often goes – you finish a course full of good intentions, but real life/ deadlines/writing gets in the way and you never quite settle into any social media routines. The blog never really gets going, the Twitter account starts to languish and you’re thinking “I really ought to be doing that social media stuff.”

If this sounds familiar then yes, you might find a one-day sessions will kick you off and get you actually DOING rather than thinking about doing. Or you might just think “OK I know this already but I need to be doing it.” If you’re someone who benefits from external kick-up-bum nudges then it may be what you need. But if in your heart of hearts you know you’re still not ready/willing/able to embrace the social media thang, then the day may not work for you.

What I do hope to cover is:
Why we’re doing it – where to start – what social media is good for (and what it’s not) – what to spend your time and creative energy on (and what to avoid) – how to make valuable connections – how to present yourself in a way that works for you – how to play (and enjoy) the long term game – how to keep social media in persepctive. Plus brilliant bluffs, scrumptious shortcuts, terrific tools and incredible insights.

This will be a general, channel-neutral day (in other words, we won’t focus exclusively on any one social tool or network, but take a broader view). If you’re looking specifically for Twitter or blogging help, sign up for my future workshops – Master Twitter in a Day (November 15th) and Set up a Blog in a Day (February 7 2015).

These’s no magic to social media, and I’m certainly not promising that a great blog or Twitter account is the key to fame and fortune, or even book sales. But these are powerful tools and channels that were never available before, and they’re here to stay – in one form or another. They have changed many aspects of our lives as writers. Understanding and adapting to that is crucial for anyone looking to further their writing career.

There are still places available for all three day courses – sign up here, or please pass on the details to anyone you know who may be interested. New Writing South members get 10% off.

A basic SEO primer for writers, part 2


There are some simple steps you can take to help get your blog, website or profile found on the web. In part 1 we looked at what search engines do, how to find your keywords & how and where to use them.

But finding and using relevant keywords (sometimes referred to as ‘on-page SEO’) is only one part of the process. As well as relevance (as determined by keywords), search engines also look for recency and authority.

Update, update, update

The web is choked with old material. Some of this is still pertinent today. But there are long-abandoned websites, obsolete links and ancient blog posts galore. In Google’s worldview, new is best. The more recent the material the better. It’s a rather crude measure, but the principle is that anything posted on blogs five years ago will have been superseded by more up-to-date information. And certainly when it comes to online shopping, news, sport, the economy, weather and a lot of the day-to-day stuff, last week is old news.

If your blog, website or profile pages hasn’t been updated for a while, search engines will deliver more recent pages in their results, and yours may slide in the rankings. That’s one reason why a blog (rather than, or in addition to, a static website) is a good idea. As long as you post new material to it regularly (more than once a month).

Some business bloggers will tell you that it pays to post something every day, or certainly every week – that the more regularly and frequently you post, the more likely you are to see your search rankings improve, which will bring more visitors to your pages, more subscriptions/comments, the lot. This can happen – although it’s not everyone’s experience – but if writing is your primary business, rather than pro blogging, you would probably have to think very hard about making that kind of time commitment to blogging.

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you

To stand out in some way on the web, you need an authoritative presence. Authority, as measured by search engines, is demonstrated by a number of things, but it basically boils down to who knows you. One indicator is the quality of inbound links. There are websites and bloggers with proven authority – think BBC, national newspapers, Huffington Post, Mumsnet, Richard & Judy and so forth – and if they link to you, it’s seen as an indication of your authority.

You might reasonably be thinking ‘oh sure, I’ll just go and get my book reviewed at the Guardian – how easy is that?’ OK so it may not be so simple. But there are opportunities to be had once you start looking: commenting on articles, answering calls for reader stories, taking part in online workshops or discussions, guest blogging, submitting your blog or site to a directory.

Start with the ‘low hanging fruit’ – if you’re a member of a professional association, make sure your blog or website (or Facebook Page, if that’s your primary hub) is listed (with a link) in their online directory. Then go to the media sites in your niche and pitch an article, a guest blog, a review. Check out the social sites where your readers (or potential readers) hang out and see what you can contribute there. Always ask for a link to your blog or profile page in the byline. Be aware, however, that these days many links are ‘nofollow’ – which means search engines are directed not to follow them, and therefore won’t offer you any SEO benefit. So by all means link-build, but do it for the PR and exposure rather than purely ‘link juice’.

Getting inbound links used to be a mainstay of SEO, but these days authority is established and demonstrated as much by a person’s social web presence – who are you connected to? Who follows you/links to you/retweets you? Who has you in their circles?

Being a good social web citizen does pay off in terms of SEO. Do everything you can to facilitate this. For example, make sure your various social profiles link to your hub (whether it’s your blog/website, your Amazon author page, your Facebook Page or whatever).

If you’re interested, go over to and find out how you fare in terms of social authority. Compare yourself to other writers in your field. But don’t get too hung up on Klout – it’s only an indicator.

The bottom line is this: by all means pay attention to SEO, but a strong social web presence will do wonders for your web visibility and is more likely to open doors.

Your (social media) hub is where the heart is


Everyone needs a home on the social web. Maybe you already have a website, or an author page on Amazon or Goodreads, or a LinkedIn profile. Any of those might be your home base, or hub.

But I’d like to talk you into thinking of your blog as your hub. A blog is different from a plain ol’ website, which is why you see so many authors having a blog alongside, or even a part of, their main promotional website. And that’s not a bad thing, because it kind of separates out the purely promotional stuff from the behind-the-scenes conversation.

An author website can be static – updated only when there’s a new book, a launch or other news. It can be out-and-out promo – find out more about my books and buy them, here’s my media page, tour details, publisher and agent contacts etc. It’s your shop window. It’s where you wear a clean suit and your brightest smile.

Your blog, on the other hand, is far from static. And it might even be a bit scruffy around the edges. You can wear your jim-jams, no-one will mind. It’s the place where you can be as much yourself as you want to be – which doesn’t mean baring all – please!

But it’s a place for conversations (rather than press releases), for confidences (rather than hype) and for giving (rather than selling). Honesty, generosity, listening and sharing – isn’t that the way we make friends in real life? So why would it be different online?

A blog is your own space, for you to define by whatever criteria feel right for you. It’s where you have a genuine voice, unmediated. Over time it grows into an amazing trove of your writing, your thoughts and anything else you want to add to it – whereas a profile page on a social or commercial platform has much less flexibility for expression, plus it could change or even disappear without you being consulted.

Create a blog and make it your home and your hub – it’s where the heart is.