How’s Your Website?

you, the columnist

By Dave Lieber
Dallas Morning News columnist

Dave Lieber

Dave Lieber

As a columnist — a creative entrepreneur who communicates to the public on a regular basis — how is your personal website doing? I mean the one you operate, not the one where your column runs as part of your media company’s website.

Everyone should have their own personal website.

As our digital lives outshine reality, we see that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is correct in his scary prediction. Your online persona is becoming more important than the flesh-and-blood part of you.

If you don’t have a personal webpage in addition to your newspaper’s site, you should consider creating one. If you already have one, how does it measure up to basic 2015 standards?

Recently, humorist Laurie Guest taught a workshop I attended in which she presented the basic necessities of a successful modern website.

Remember that websites now should be mobile-ready. Mobile-ready means that a website fits well on whatever device it is being viewed on. Google says it penalizes websites in mobile-searches that aren’t mobile-ready.

Here, according to Laurie Guest, are six basic elements that our websites should contain:

1. If someone searches your name, will your site come up among the top spots in search results?

2. Does the site show what you do — simply, clearly and prominently?

3. Does your site offer any kind of subscription signup? For your newsletter or the RSS feed for your column?

4. Is a sample of your work one click away from the main page? Ideally, you should have a welcoming video or a story that entices visitors to want more.

5. Is your contact information — a phone number or a “Contact Us” page — easy to find?

6. Does the site offer a ubiquitous call-to-action button? Read my column. Watch my video. Sign up for my newsletter? Buy my book. Book me to speak.

My webmaster, Jon Perry (rebelwithoutapplause.com), says: “Don’t forget content. You blog. If you’re not blogging, then you need backlinks. You give the search engines what they are looking for: fresh, relevant content.”

He taught me: “Don’t create a website in your image. Create one that the customer is looking for. If the website doesn’t make a person pick up the phone to call, fill out a form or buy something, then what truly is the website’s purpose? I honestly believe it is to stroke the website owner’s ego and sense of accomplishment.”

That’s counterproductive, even for you, the columnist. Even though the site is in your name and about you, the challenge is to make it about your audience.

How will it help them? What are the benefits and outcomes of what you offer the world? How does your work make a difference in people’s lives?

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Dave Lieber is The Watchdog investigative columnist for The Dallas Morning News. His new site is www.DaveLieber.org. A second site he operates is www.WatchdogNation.com.

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This piece first was published in the September 2015 issue of The Columnist, the monthly membership newsletter of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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