Online Presence and the Author, Speaker, and Coach
What Is Online Presence?
The term online presence is still in flux. Some people use it to mean the same as “website” ... but that is only part of the picture.
According to Michael Cohn of CompuKol Communications, online presence is, “any existence of an individual or business that can be found via an online search.”
That’s a decent definition for the term. However, I think a better one is this: “The visibility or influence of a person or business as reflected by mentions of that person or business throughout the Internet.”
You need to understand the implications of that definition.
It doesn’t say you have a website. It doesn’t say you have social media profiles.
The key to understanding online presence is to fully comprehend that it is the mentions of you or your business on the web.
You can be the one mentioning you ... but other people can mention you as well.
That means you can have an online presence without ever going online yourself. You could be a hermit in a cave and still have a presence online because people talk about you online.
Why Is Online Presence Important?
As an author, speaker, or coach, it could mean the difference between profitability and closing up shop.
Marketing writer Rachelle Anne Lynn put it quite colorfully this way: “If you don’t have a website that customers can find ... you are hacking away at your market with an old rusty ax and one hand tied behind your back.”
Why would she say this?
The Internet has rapidly become an integral part of our lives.
To illustrate this point, it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. But it took the Internet only 4 years to reach that many.
The Internet is woven into the very fabric of the modern way of life. From cell phones to tablets to laptops and beyond, people are constantly accessing the Internet to entertain and inform themselves.
Americans spend more than 60 hours per month online. That’s equivalent to spending one month online every year.
Of the North American population, 78.3 percent use the Internet in some way. That’s a growth of 151.7 percent between the years 2000 and 2011.
All this Internet use has translated into one very important thing for entrepreneurs: “78 percent of consumers believe it is very important to look up information about people and businesses before deciding to interact or do business with them.”
This means without an online presence; you will lose business. You are leaving money on the table. You are limiting your career options and income. And, if you want to be in control of that online presence, you need to have a website at its hub.
So how do you leverage this trend in your favor? How do you manage your online presence so that it brings you the readers, clients, projects, and opportunities you desire?
Your Website’s Homepage and Online Presence
The first and most obvious step is having a website. In an ideal world, your website is the hub of your online presence. That means that ultimately, you want all points and pieces of your online presence to point to your website.
Also, your homepage is your most precious and valuable “real estate.” The homepage is like a virtual business card, virtual storefront, and virtual greeting card, all wrapped into one.
According to Jakob Nielsen, a User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group, the homepage has three main goals:
To give users information.
To serve as the top-level navigation for information within the site.
To tell users the website’s purpose.
When it comes to the website of an author, speaker, or coach, I would add one more thing: To establish credibility, authority, and/or personality.
I’ve visited many websites in my meanderings around the web; and one thing that I’ve noticed is that there are a large number of ineffective homepages out there. Moreover, it seems that most of them belong to solo entrepreneurs, particularly authors, speakers, and coaches.
These websites may accomplish all of Nielsen’s goals to some degree, but they often do not accomplish the one I believe is most important—establishing the owner as the go-to person in their field. These websites suffer from what I call the 5 Deadly Mistakes of Homepage Design:
1. Lack of Clarity
I’ve seen homepages that left me puzzled as to what the website was all about. There were too many things to do and it was not clear what the key purpose of the website was.
2. Lack of Professionalism
I’m still surprised by how many people like to use cutesy fonts, free clipart, and clashing colors on their homepage. Some will have distracting background images that make the content difficult to read. Others have noisy animated images or automatic music playing. And still others will have multiple, different calls to action, confusing visitors into saying “No” and leaving.
All these things distract the visitor from the purpose of your website. Even worse, they can increase the load time of your site, so visitors leave before they even see a thing!
3.Lack of an Invitation to Continue the Conversation
Most web surfers suffer from short-term memory loss—once they’ve left a website, they often forget about it, never to return. Therefore, if you want to build a loyal fan base, you must invite visitors to continue the conversation by subscribing to your list. Alas, so many websites of authors, speakers, and coaches either lack this simple tool or de-emphasize it so that it might as well not even be there!
4. Lack of a Reason to Continue the Conversation
Long gone is the time when simply offering a web visitor a subscription to your newsletter was enough to get them to give you their name and email address. That is no longer the case. Now you need to give them some immediate, upfront value with an “opt-in incentive.” And not only that, you need to tell them why they simply must possess this incentive—you have to sell your freebie!
5. Ineffective Copy
As a writer and marketer myself, I understand how hard it can be to write compelling copy that sells you. Most of the authors, speakers, and coaches I know are in the business to serve others and have an over-developed sense of humility. This results in some of the worst copy ever written for homepages!
If you can’t stand up and tell people why you are the neatest thing since sliced bread, then why should they believe you are? And even those homepages that do have decent copy often have it in the wrong order and don’t use appropriate search engine optimization techniques to make this good copy work for them by attracting organic traffic.
That’s why I wrote this book—to help authors, speakers, and coaches not only realize what they might be doing wrong, but to show them how to easily fix these mistakes and turn their website into an effective, cost-efficient, business growing tool.
Look at the 5 Deadly Mistakes and see if you are making any of them with your homepage. There is an easy self-assessment tool at the end of this Introduction to help you. Then flip to that mistake’s chapter in the book and discover how to fix it!
Don’t Panic! You don’t have to fix every mistake all at once. Every step you take to improve your homepage will help you grow your business. So take those steps, put one virtual foot in front of the other, and, as the song in the Rankin-Bass animated TV special, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town says, “Soon you’ll be walkin’ out the door!”
A Note about Off-Page Online Presence
Today, simply having a website is no longer good enough. If you want to manage your online presence and leverage it in your favor, you need to be involved with social media.
More and more people are living a significant portion of their lives online through social media. And it’s not just “kids today.”
Yes, 96 percent of the under-30 population belong to a social network. However, for Facebook alone, the fastest growing demographic is women between the ages of 55 and 65.
Remember, online presence is more than your website. And it is more than social media. It is also online review sites. It is online forums. It is online directories. It is organizational and association websites. It is YouTube, Amazon, news media websites, RSS feeds and so much more. Consumers—including your readers, event managers who will hire you to speak, and clients—are using search engines to find businesses to purchase from and hire. You want your online presence to show up in those searches.
Nevertheless, despite all this “off-page” online presence that you will need to monitor and manage, the most important part of the puzzle is still your website. If you want your online presence to work for you, to attract readers, clients, projects, and opportunities to you like moths to a flame, you still need to take the most important first step: Create your hub.
Register a domain name and create a website that best represents you to potential readers, clients, partners, employers, and vendors. Also, make sure your website’s homepage is compelling to your ideal target market.
Then you can go beyond and develop a presence on the social media sites important to your niche. But that is the topic of another book.