Laura Christianson: When Cheryl Colwell contacted Blogging Bistro, she told me she is a writer of suspense fiction (with one self-published novel under her belt). She is actively seeking a publisher for her next novel.
Cheryl had an existing website and a Facebook page, but said she needed help fine-tuning her brand, building a mailing list, making her website more attractive and functional, and developing a content strategy for Facebook and Twitter.
Cheryl’s request was music to my ears; there’s nothing I like more than helping authors build their online presence. (Except maybe dark chocolate.)
Cheryl Colwell: Before I began work with Laura, I already had a website that I designed after reading a lot about branding. After studying my site, Laura identified some major problem areas. My biggest mistake was branding myself in a dark, suspenseful theme because I write suspense. However, I am an enthusiastic fiction writer who loves travel, mystery, and writing. She made some suggestions, and wow, look at my site now.
Laura: Our first order of business was a website audit. I examined every page of Cheryl’s site from the perspective of her ideal target reader. Since most website visitors give a website a 2-second glance before deciding to explore further or click away, I gave each page a “two-second first impression observation” followed by a 30-second overview.
Cheryl uses Weebly, a free, user-friendly website development tool that offers lots of excellent templates. However, the template Cheryl had chosen was gray and gloomy, with white type on a dark background.
I experienced a major emotional disconnect with Cheryl’s “White Light Suspense” tagline, because the dominant image on her Home page was of trees in a forest with sunlight peeking through. The picture and dark colors created a feeling of peace and repose, rather than Cheryl’s hoped-for result: suspense.
I recommended that Cheryl find a template and color scheme that shouted “Suspense!”Cheryl took immediate action, choosing a clean, uncluttered template with eye-popping burgundy accents.
She axed several pages that were getting very little traffic, moved key elements “above the fold,” and put links to her social networks in her site’s header. Over the past couple of months, Cheryl has continued to tweak her site’s navigation, order of pages, and other elements.
Another key thing Cheryl and I worked on was a strategy for building her e-mail list. Using MailChimp’s free service, we created a segmented mailing list, so people who visit her site can subscribe to Cheryl’s latest blog posts, her e-newsletter, or both.
Cheryl: I had very little experience with social media. Laura brought my brand into my Facebook and Twitter sites, brought me up to speed with MailChimp and tutored me along the way. She and her team are invaluable!
Laura: Working with Cheryl has been a delight. She’s a competent do-it-yourselfer who needed a bit of hand-holding to get her over the rough spots. Cheryl is well on her way to building a unique brand identity within the highly-competitive world of suspense fiction.
You’ll want to subscribe to her Travel & Mystery blog, in which she digs up intriguing mysteries related to historical locations worldwide. Cheryl provides clues to the mysteries on her Facebook page, and the winners get a $5 Starbucks gift card. Who can resist that?