Website vs. Social Media: Which Path Should You Take?

career indie author

career indie author introduction

Website vs. social media? There are people who decide to ditch the website in favor of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

This is not a good idea. You can invent a lot of time and effort in social media, and have fun doing it, but social media has significant shortcomings that can be mitigated or avoided by having a website.

a. Social Media is Not Permanent
Remember MySpace? That was the place to be in the early days of the internet. Then it fell out of favor when Facebook came along. How long will Facebook be here? No one knows.

As long as you keep up the payments to your hosting company, your website will always be around. Or as my wife likes to point out, until we reach peak oil, an EMP, or the zombie hordes arrive. But as I point out in return, if we have any of those problems, a vanished web site will be the least of our problems.

b. You Are Not in Control
Social media sites are moderated by bots and your enemies. Say a photo-scanning bot decides the cover of your vampire novel is too bloody. *Zip!* Down it comes, and your account is suspended. Doesn’t matter if you’re about to release the new book in that series, it stays down until you can convince FaceTwitTumGram to put it back up.

You may think I’m exaggerating, but Amazon has specific no-nos about covers, such as no guns pointed at the reader, and no blood showing. Sometimes, it’ll refuse to publish a cover without explaining why, too. Facebook’s bots search for nudity and has pulled pictures that it thought contained nudes, but did.

Then there are the problems with censorship. If you piss someone off with your opinions, you can be reported for making harassing statements? They can harass you with an anonymous complaint. Twitter formed a group of advisers that has been used to suppress free speech it doesn’t like. Even Scott Adams, the creator of “Dilbert” reported that he had been “shadow banned.” This meant that he could look on his timeline and see the tweets he made, but Twitter made sure no one else sees them.

He later reported that he could see his viewer numbers drop on Periscope as well. And a site that tracks Muslims activity called Jihad Watch has seen their reach drop artificially on Twitter and Facebook.

On your website, you can be a free in your talk as you like. You cannot be censored.

c. Social Media Is Ephemeral
Social media is awesome because there are millions of people on them.

Social media is awful because there are millions of people on them, and they’re all talking at the same time.

(Overblown Claim Alert: It only seems that way. The 80/20 rule applies here. Twenty percent of Twitter users are responsible for 80 percent of the tweets. A 2014 Wall Street Journal story claimed that just 13% of Twitter users have tweeted more than 100 times. But that still means you’re among more than 125 million people.)

3. A brief word about search engine optimization

What is search engine optimization (SEO)? It is the practice of writing and editing material that is published online that allows search engines to rank your page high in searches for that material.

Every day, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines scan millions of webpages. They use various methods to determine what is on each webpage and how valuable it would be to people looking for that kind of information. This process is done automatically using algorithms. This is also done automatically, without the use of human judgment.

What is this mean to you, the author? It means that when you are posting a webpage about your new book, there are certain things you can do that will help place your book high in the search rankings. Naturally, if someone is searching for your book by title or author, your book page should appear on the first page of a search.

This is fine if all you want is an audience composed of people who know your name and the title of your book. But you can also use good SEO practices to place your page before people who don’t know you or your book, but who are looking for books like yours.

Let’s say you’ve written a political thriller set in Washington D.C., and you think it would appeal to Brad Thor’s fans. Adding a paragraph to your book pages description that “fans of Brad Thor will love this book,” you will have increased your chances that your book will appear before fans searching for his books. It’s a small chance, to be honest, but I wanted to give you an idea of what’s possible through search engine optimization.

Once you understand search engine optimization, you’ll begin to get an idea of what to add to your webpage to attract your potential readers. Let’s say that you’re a quilter, and you’ve written a number of guidebooks on how to design and so quilts.

On your website, you have a page devoted to each of your books, with excerpts, and links to the various bookstores. But you can also add pages that are not about your books, but are about the practice of sewing quilts. You could have pages displaying the quilts you’ve put together. You can write blog posts that discuss the problems quilter’s face along with your solutions. You can recommend books and classes that you found useful.

The more material you add the more confidence search engines will put in your website. They’ll see that you are an expert on the subject, and they’ll respond by placing your website higher in search engine results. This means that quilters who have never heard of you before will suddenly start seeing your website placed before them more often. This increases the chances that they’ll find your site when they’re searching for help with their quilt and buy your books.

So is there a secret sauce that will guarantee that Google will always place your website on the front page of it searches? No. There are best practices for search engine optimization but they change from time to time. Blame scammers for this problem. As soon as they figure out how Google ranks its pages, the immediately start throwing up bogus pages in an attempt to get there scams before the public. Google and other search engines change their algorithms in response, and the dance begins anew.

You’ll need to educate yourself on what the correct current practices are. In general, if you don’t try to game the system, if you put up good, high-quality material, you’ll stand a better chance of winning in the long run than the people who think that they can take shortcuts to success in search engine optimization.

But here’s one practice that I think will be useful no matter how the algorithms are designed: Use good keywords.

What is your page about? The answer, in anything from a single word to a phrase, is the keyword. For example, if you wrote a book called “The Trouble with Angels,” the title could act as that page’s keywords. In order to designate that as the page’s keywords, you would need a WordPress plug-in such as SEOYoast, which has a keyword box that you would fill in with that information. There are other keyword practices to follow. The keyword should be used several times on the page. You would refer to “The Trouble with Angels,” not “the book” or even “Angels.” The keyword should appear in the page’s title (the headline of a blog post, for example). And the keyword should be in the page’s URL, such as “www.peschelpress.com/the-trouble-with-angels”. If you have a photo of the book cover, it would be useful if the file name was “the-trouble-with-angels.jpg” and not “43590821303.jpg,” and its alternative name (called, in HTML-speak, ALT) should have the keyword there as well.

All of this can be done easily in WordPress with the SEOYoast plugin (there are others out there; this is just the one I use). If done correctly, anyone who types in “The Trouble with Angels” should result in your page being at or near the top. Assuming you’re selling it there, only your Amazon book page should rank higher.