Sunday, October 5, 2014

Don’t be Taken to the 'Website Design' Cleaners - 5 Tips to Creating an Author Website as the First Step in Your Online Marketing Strategy

By Karen Cioffi

There is an abundance of website design and hosting services on the internet. You can get services that handle both the design and the hosting, or services that provide one or the other. Whatever your needs, there is a service out there for you. But . . . consumer beware.

Some design/ hosting website services prey on unsuspecting and naïve authors or individuals and charge to not only create a site, but they keep control of managing the site. The customer is only allowed to add or edit content on the site.

This means the author can’t add links, change images, or tweak the site for SEO optimization, such as page title optimization.

I get upset when I hear of occurrences like this. There is no reason why a design and hosting service needs to control website functions and features to the point that an author or individual needs to pay the service to add or delete a simple link. And, some services charge a monthly fee. They’ll set up your website for free, but you have to pay monthly to keep it going.

Authors need to be aware. There is so much information online advising the basic dos and don’ts of creating a website, but you do need to do a bit of research to find it. There are plenty of legitimate and reasonable services out there also. If you’re confused or uncertain, ask around.

Here are 5 starting tips to create an author website:

1. Choose an effective domain name. Think about it carefully. You want a name that will be search engine effective (keyword optimized), reflect what the site is about, and is able to grow with you (unless you are creating the site for a specific book). You can also use the subheading to elaborate on the domain name.

2. Decide if you have the skills, or want to learn them, to create a website of your own. If you have the time and patience you can do it!

3. If you decide you need help with creating a website, look for someone who wants to establish himself as a website builder, or someone who does it in her spare time, or a writing/marketing service that does it as more of a courtesy to clients. You will pay much less. And, try to make arrangements that will include the designer teach you how to manage your own site. This will make updates, changes, and posting much easier, and cost free.

4. If you feel you can create your own, you can choose a free hosting site, such as WordPress, Weebly, or Blogger. On the flip side, if the thought of having to create a website feels daunting, go for; it’s very user friendly and good for beginners. And with its updates, it has a number of features much like other websites.

5. Keep in mind that down the road you may want to have a website that can be effectively optimized and that’s more SEO versatile, so you may want to have a paid WordPress site from the beginning. The prices range from around $3 and up per month – depending on how long you sign up for and the service.

While these five tips are the starting point for your author website, they will hopefully help you from being taken to the website hosting/design cleaners.

Want to know if your website is performing optimally? Karen Cioffi is an online platform and website optimization instructor and offers website audits. Visit to learn more.


  1. There are many businesses that prey on naive writers.

    One reason I can think of for a website design company to insist on that sort of control over the site, though, is so that people who lack the technical expertise to set up a website in the first place are not able to screw it up so badly that it reflects badly on the website design company. I think there's a very valid argument to be made both ways. In any case, it's something that should be hashed out before the contract is signed, and these tips will help to clarify the objectives and the level of involvement (or costs) that an author is interested in having with his or her site.

    I highly recommend a WordPress site (self-hosted or paid-for and ad-free on It's a nice trade off between highly flexible and customizable and accessible for writers who don't code. It's such a standard platform that almost anyone can help out, and the community of WordPress bloggers is generous with free advice and assistance. There are some lovely pre-built themes (free and premium) and most can be customized to suit anyone's needs without too much effort.

    I think with some of the changes Blogger has made to be more user-friendly, they've actually become LESS user friendly - and WordPress is just much more comfortable for me, personally. But I like both for different reasons. Blogger was my first. You never forget your first. :)

    1. Holly, so true. There are those who will need help along the way, but it's important they find services that don't take advantage.

      I love WordPress. I also have two Blogger sites. Blogger doesn't offer the same SEO features though.

      LOL My first website was a Yahoo Small Business site (if I remember correctly) - I don't even know it they still have them. It was so much more complicated than WordPress.

      From my experience, most writers don't code, so I try to find solutions for them that won't break the bank. :)

  2. I use for the 4RV websites, and I have found it very user-friendly. Weebly is also a good website for people who are not tech savy. I have a WordPress site, but I find it very confusing. Blogger for a blog works for me.

    1. Vivian, I looked into Weebly at one point, but it lacked optimization features that WordPress offers.

  3. Once, blogger came out with the different pages & other improvements, it works well for a website. Mine isn't fancy, but it's serviceable to keep my message out there.