the Christian writer
The Christian Writer
Ok, maybe your new book hasn't sold a million copies... that doesn't mean your work isn't good stuff! As we all know, the rules of the publishing world just don't seem fair. Writers with the big names get all the book deals - until now!
Yes, folks, the publishing industry is being turned upside down by the internet. All the rules of the publishing game are being re-written as we speak... or read. Although I'm not an accomplished writer (no duh), I have spent several years studying how Christian writers can have a significant influence through this powerful new medium.
First, let me tell you about my work. I publish more than fifteen separate websites, all with a topical emphasis. I've found that people are searching for answers to personal problems on the internet. Typically, a wife in St. Louis has a couple of minutes before bedtime to search the internet on how to improve communication in her marriage. She's not interested in a 218 page hardback book. She wants a few tips. She wants to know if there is any hope for her problem marriage. The confidentiality of this medium allows people to explore as never before. (Can you imagine someone walking up to the reference desk in a small town library and asking... uh...where can I find information about bladder control problems... of course... I'm looking for a friend... of course?)
This creates a wonderful opportunity for a writer and a Christian. As never before, we have a new vehicle by which we can reach the world... and almost for free. If you want to reach the un-churched, you need to consider what we call a 'bridge'. For instance, let's say your passion is scrap booking. Do you know there is a huge amount of search activity on scrap booking? As you develop your site on this topic, you gently 'share your faith' as a Christian writer with this audience.
As you develop your bridge site, you must realize that the most beautiful website is no good... if it can't be found. If you are like most of us, operating without a million constituents in your database, you won't bring many folks to your site the way Focus on the Family does, by publishing their web address: www.family.org. Instead, you will only be found through search engines. And if the search engines don't like your website, you won't be found. (It's depressing to get three visitors a day on your website that you've spent weeks developing!)
Ok, so how do we make our website search engine friendly? First, you must realize that search engines learn about your site through a 'robot'. They 'crawl' the web, cataloguing information about websites with their robot. Realize that robots don't 'see' anything. They just read. They don't see your lovely graphics, they just read the graphic filename, something like right-photo.jpg. That's no help to the search engine. Instead, the robot reads "html", which is the programming language of internet browsers like Internet Explorer by Microsoft. Very often, you can see the html of a website in your browser by selecting 'view' and then 'source'. A text window will pop and and display the html for the page.
So what does the robot want to see? Search engines are secretive about what criteria they use and the weight they give to each. I'll simply tell you how I build a website to be search engine friendly.
First, I begin by 'buying a template'. I buy templates at www.templatemonster.com and at www.boxedart.com. Take for example my site, www.christianfathers.com. I found that template at BoxedArt. I changed the graphics and text using Frontpage. Then I began building my web pages. If you will notice, while my index page is more attractive, most of my pages within the site are basic.
(Note: If you would like to have a free template of my basic pages, go to this webpage. Then hit view and source. Save the html to a text file where you can later cut and paste the html into your web design software. Yes, you have my permission to use this code mentioned above on your website. May God bless your work! I didn't let you get away without a blessing.)
I want the pages to be simple and easy to understand by the robot. When I know the theme of a particular page, I go to a website that helps me understand what key words people are using as they search for information on my topic. This key word tool is provided by Overture. I published an article on my ChristianFathers.com site about father/daughter dates. When I used the Overture tool, and found that people were searching the terms: 'father and daughter' extensively. So, I'm going to publish this article and try to get the robot to list it under the key words 'father and daughter'. Whenever someone enters those key words in a search engine, I want to be ranked well in the results.
Now, everyone has an opinion about what part of your html is most important to search engines. I try to fit those key words in all of the following places:
1. page title meta-tag - considered by
many to be most important,
(If you are not knowledgeable about html, then all of the above will sound like mumbo-jumbo. It's not worth your time to design your own pages if you are only going to publish one site. Hire an expert at web design to do this for you... but make sure they understand search engine optimization. If you want the 560 page version of search engine optimization, I suggest Search Engine Positioning. If you click here and buy it at Amazon, I'll earn 15% - thanks!)
Now a warning. Don't try to do anything 'tricky' with your search engine optimization. You could easily be banned from the search engine. Be Christ-like in all your web design!
Now, after I've published the site, I'm ready to submit it to the search engines. I focus mostly on Google and AllTheWeb.com. Don't try to submit your site to 1,000 search engines. Many of those are scam artists who simply collect and sell your email address to spam artists. (ha!.. scam...spam) Next, go to the Open Directory at dmoz.org. This is a 'human edited directory'. It is important that you carefully submit to this directory as it carries importance with the search engines. Take some time to learn about how you can properly secure a listing with Open Directory. There are websites whose entire focus is on how to get listed there.
Now, a note on domain names. I think that good, generic domain names are valuable. For instance, I have a website called www.PreventingDivorce.com. Pretty self explanatory, huh? If someone types in prevent divorce in the search engine, my domain is just one more place for those key words to appear. Plus, when the search results are presented, my audience clearly understands what my site is about. Compare this to something like www.ckcb5.com/intro.htm which makes no sense whatsoever. Also, I like to purchase several domains for each topic. For instance, I have the domain www.SuccessfulMarriage.com, but I also plan to publish at www.MarriageCommunication.com, www.MarriageConflict.com and www.MarriageImprovement.com. If one of these sites doesn't do well with the search engines, then I'll just direct the traffic to a site that enjoys better traffic. I register domains at www.gkg.net where they offer more affordable rates.
As an author, I think you should own you name in the dot-com version. I have www.CarlCaton.com that I'll use if I ever become a successful web publisher. (Ha!) Also, I would also secure the domain name that reflected the title of my book. What a great way to stay in contact with your readers. Who knows, you may want to add study questions or information on a sequel there. You will certainly need it to properly direct the flow of your fan mail!
Now, if you really don't want to publish your own website, at least go ahead and secure your name in the dot-com version in case you change your mind. Who knows, you may soon become the next up and coming Christian writer.
Finally, if you would like to submit your articles for me to publish, I would be happy to consider your work. The purpose of this site, www.peopleoffaith.com is to publish great work from authors who may not be well known. Also, if you do have a website, I can link from my site back to yours. "Link popularity" is important with search engines and if you have an abundant number of links coming into your site, the search engine will likely assume you are an important website. (I would have suggested link popularity above, but most people find it very difficult because other web authors don't want to take the time to investigate your site.)
Submit your articles to firstname.lastname@example.org. In your email, please disclose that I have full permission to publish your article. That saves me some legwork... thanks!
Thanks for the chance to share what I think are some of the best kept secrets to your success on the internet as a Christian writer.
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tips for the christian writer