Archive for the ‘Writer’s Residence’ Category

SEO and your writing website

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

One of our users recently wrote in with a question about SEO, which basically boiled down to this: How does Google find my website? Moreover, how does Google find my website if the website is created by a third party (like Writer’s Residence) and I don’t have control over the website’s metadata?

SEO is something that every writer should think about (though few writers do) because it’s an important step in optimising your website for marketing purposes. The bottom line is: You want people to find you. Search engines are how people find things. Thus, you want people to find you when they search for (1) your name or (2) keywords associated with the things you write about.

Below I’ve explained (1) how we address this issue, and (2) what writers can do themselves to improve their SEO. I’ve also included links to relevant sections of SEOMoz’s The Beginner’s Guide to SEO, a really useful primer that’s miraculously not boring as sin.

What we do in the back-end

Here’s what we do to help search engines find our users’ webpages:

  • We use ‘title’ tags (the stuff you see in the title bar of your web browser) based on the name you supply on your account
  • We use ‘h1’ tags to describe the main heading of your web page, again based on your name, and one of the first things Google looks at when deciding on a website’s page rank in search results.
  • When you create your website, we “tell” Google you exist so that it indexes your web page from the get-go and makes you immediately findable in search results.

What writers can do to improve their SEO

The most important thing for searchability is CONTENT, and this is something you [should] have complete control over, no matter who creates your website. To that end, there’s loads you can do, but here are a few ways to get started that are most important and easiest to implement:

  • Invest in your own domain name, and pick a domain name that relates to the keyword you want people to find you on (usually your own name, e.g. monicashaw.com).
  • Decide which keywords are most important to your business and use them throughout the content of your website.
  • Link to external and internal pages within your content.
  • Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc) to create external links to your content
  • Use Google Analytics to track your stats; adjust and adapt your keywords as you learn how and why people find your website. (And yes, Writer’s Residence does have a facility for integrating Google analytics from the Settings page)

Finally, you might find this SEO checklist handy: The Social Media Marketer’s SEO Checklist.

How to Make Your Website Theme Rock

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

themesOne of our missions with Writer’s Residence is to provide writers with a website that looks good by default, so you can spend less time “designing” and more time writing. As such, we offer 16 pre-designed website themes (including a few recent additions from the fantastic designers at Wired Canvas), all of which are designed specifically with writers in mind.

But we also give writers the option to create a custom theme, with their own header and color scheme. To that end, I wanted to offer some advice for writers who want to use a custom theme to help them make it look as good as possible. Of course, these rules not only apply to Writer’s Residence, but to anyone who’s got a website that they’ve designed themselves.

Choosing a header image

This is the image that appears at the top of your page. In Writer’s Residence, you can use any size image you’d like (we resize it automatically to make it look good on the page) but a good rule of them is to use a header image that’s a long, wide rectangle. A header that’s too tall will push everything below it off the screen, but all that stuff below the header is important, and you want people to see it when they first access the page.

Good header:

headergood-1

Bad header:

headerbad-3

How to pick your website’s colour scheme

Writer's Residence Custom ThemeIf you’ve ever gone to a website that’s difficult to read because of the text and background colous, then you know how important colors are to a website. Why should anyone – particularly those all-important editors, clients and customers – stick around if they can’t read it?

In Writer’s Residence, you can customize your theme’s header, text, link, background and text background colours. A good general rule is that dark text on a light background is best. But you can also do even better by picking a colors that work well together and which suit your style and personality.

Here are a few of my favourite tools for picking color schemes:

  • Kuler – a community driven web app that lets your browse color palettes created by others. You can also create your own by using the color wheel, harmony rules, and color sliders.
  • Color Scheme Designer – a nice, simple interface that helps you create beautiful color schemes in seconds.
  • Pictaculous – upload an image and this app creates a color scheme based on that image. This could be particularly handy for those of you using custom header images.
  • COLOURlovers – this one’s a bit of fun and another community driven site where people create and share colors, palettes and patterns.

Color Scheme Designer

In the coming weeks we’ll put together some of our favourite website color schemes and palettes for you to use on your own website. In the meantime, has anyone else got some great tools or ideas to share for creating a rockin’ website theme? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

In praise of custom domain names

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Custom Domain Name

The road to establishing yourself as a professional writer may seem long and ominous but one quick and easy thing you can do to speed things along is to get your own domain name. Why? Well, compare the following URLs:

  • http://monicashaw.blogspot.com
  • http://monicashaw.wordpress.com
  • http://monicashaw.com

Of those three, to which would you attach the most cred?

It’s all about professionalism, and professionals have their own custom domain name. It’s really that simple.

How do I choose a domain name registrar?

You need to register your domain name through a “domain name registrar”. But who to choose? There are probably thousands of places out there where you can register a domain name, all of which vary in terms of cost and customer support (the latter being quite important if you’re not very technically-minded).

I have had positive experience with both Gandi and Namecheap, who both happen to be included in Lifehacker’s list of Five Best Domain Registrars. If you can recommend others, we’d love to hear about the comments.

How do I choose a domain name?

Your name is a good place start (i.e. monicashaw.com). Go for something short, snappy and easy to spell, with no hyphens. Try to get a “.com” domain name if possible. If you’re name isn’t available, or you want to highlight your niche, pick a name that’s on topic (e.g. copyblogger.com, foodwriter.com).

How do I use my domain name on my website?

It all depends on how and where you host your website.

Writer’s Residence customers can setup their custom domain by logging into their account and clicking on “Settings”, then “Website addresses” and following the instructions on the page.

Folks using other web services should be able to find instructions with the service’s support documentation.

Do you have your own domain yet?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on setting up your own domain. How did you choose a domain name? Who did you register with? Any particular challenges that I haven’t mentioned here?

8 new themes and a fresh look!

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

8 New Writer's Residence Themes

Rob and Alice, the lovely folk at Wired Canvas—a multi-disciplinary, full service design agency in London—have done a smashing job over the past couple of months producing 8 wonderful new themes for our writers to choose from.

To check them out click the “Theme” tab after you log in to Writer’s Residence.

We think these new themes will show off your writing beautifully.

Wired Canvas refreshed our website at the same time and we’re delighted.

Welcome to Camella, the third member of the WR team!

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

We’re delighted to welcome Camella Tierney to the Writer’s Residence team.

Camella will be helping us with our customer support.

I’ve worked with Camella for the past year on another project and she’s one of those rare people who really gets what it means to look after customers.

-Tim

Sorry for the bumpy ride…

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Hi folks,

Over the past few hours our servers were intermittently inaccessible.

This was due to a distributed denial of service attack launched against our domain name server provider.

Though they have 5 different servers in different data centres the vast number of computers involved in the attack made it impossible at times to look up the location of Writer’s Residence.

Basically a whole bunch of computers controlled by a bad guy overwhelmed their servers with requests.

We’re sorry. We’ve moved to a new domain name service provider which has solved the problem.

If you have any questions get in touch support@writersresidence.com.

HOWTO: Adding a video clip to a writing sample

Friday, November 12th, 2010

We often get queries about adding video clips to Writing Samples.

For this we recommend using a specialist video hosting service like YouTube or Vimeo, they’re specially geared up to host video, both encoding it nicely for the web and they have lots and lots of bandwidth so your videos will load quickly on your reader’s computers.

To add a video into your Writer’s Residence site follow the steps below:

1. Create an account at a video hosting provider

2. Upload your video

3. Find the embed code they supply for putting a video in another site

4. Log in to Writer’s Resisdence and add that embed code into the body of your new writing sample and fill out the rest of the fields

5. Click save and view your writing sample.

Hope this helps and as ever, do get in touch if you have any questions.

Thanks,

-Tim

A sidebar for your Writer’s Residence blog

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Lots of blogs have sidebars with blog rolls, Twitter feeds or search bars etc.

I’ve added a blog sidebar feature for WR that you can get to by clicking on the Blog tab in the management screens and the clicking Blog sidebar in the grey submenu.

That is a markdown enabled field that will show up in the right hand side of your blog page.

I’ve added a blog roll, Google Custom search and a Twitter widget to mine:

http://timharding.writersresidence.com/blog

The blog roll is just a markdown list of links to my friend’s websites:

**Blog Roll**

* [Monica](http://monicashaw.com)
* [Tim](http://gatezero.org)
* [Henry](http://dillonworld.com)

Here are some notes on where to find the search and Twitter widgets to add to your sidebar.

Google Custom Search
– click the ‘Create a Custom Search Engine’ at the top right of the page
– enter your Writer’s Residence website address into the ‘Sites to search box’
e.g., http://lauradavis.writersresidence.com/
– click through next to get the script to copy and paste into your sidebar

http://www.google.com/cse

Twitter Widget
– choose Dimensions and then click the auto width check box
– the finish and grab code button gives you the script to copy and paste into your sidebar

http://twitter.com/about/resources/widgets/widget_profile

Please note that you can also add comments to your blog using a service called Disqus. You can find more about that here:

http://writersresidence.com/blog/2010/09/15/updates-to-the-writers-residence-blogging-tool/

Formatting poetry in Writer’s Residence

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Formatting poetry isn’t as straight forward as we’d like it to be. The Internet seems to have been created by engineers rather than poets. Designed with prose in mind.

You can format poetry, it just requires a couple of tweaks.

When you want to break a line hit the space bar twice at the end of the line and press enter.

When you want to break a paragraph press enter twice at the end of the line.

So for example:

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose[space][space][enter]
That’s newly sprung in June;[space][space][enter]
O my Luve’s like the melodie[space][space][enter]
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.[enter]
[enter]
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,[space][space][enter]
So deep in luve am I:[space][space][enter]
And I will luve thee still, my dear,[space][space][enter]
Till a’ the seas gang dry:[enter]
[enter]

If you want help with the formatting of a specific poem send it over via email and we can help out.

Updates to the Writer’s Residence blogging tool

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

We’ve had a blog feature in beta for a couple of months.

I’ve just added a couple of new features:

  1. Pagination: your blogs will now show 10 posts per page and there is are pager links at the bottom of the screen. This is also true in the Writer’s Residence management screens.
  2. Disqus comments: I’ve added an integration with a blog comment service called Disqus. This will let you add comments to your Writer’s Residence blog by signing up for the free Disqus service and then updating your Writer’s Residence settings to let us know what your Disqus “site shortname” is.

Pagination is pretty self explanatory and is a common feature in all blogs but getting Disqus commenting up and running needs a little further explanation.

Setting up Disqus comments for Writer’s Residence is a two step process.

First, Disqus is a third-party service so you need to create an account with them. Sign up at the Disqus registration page and take note of the site shortname you enter when you create your account, you’ll use this to tell Writer’s Residence about your Discus account.

Now, log in to Writer’s Residence, click the “Settings” link at the top right corner and then click the “Blog comments” link. Enter your Disqus “site shortname” in the box and click “Save”.

Your Writer’s Residence blog now has comments!