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Building a strong internet index

For web writers, one of the strongest tools you can build is your index. Whether you decide to sign up with free services such as Geocities or paid hosting, your index will remain your reader's passport to you. You will find it easy and good self-promotion to include your index address with your signature on emails, leave it when you sign someone's guest book and when you leave messages in discussion boards. Indexes are like catalogues, in more ways than one. Catalogues hang around but people regularly pick them up to browse. Your index may remain on a person's favorites, but with good content, organization and updates, they will continue to visit.

A writer's index is much like a portfolio of work. It provides the reader with access to that writer's works, projects and bio information. It helps to keep the web traveler focused on whose work he's reading, and it provides a place for writers to store their treasured URLs for use in future pieces. An index tells your reader who you are and just how busy you've been.

Keeping an index is the simple part. Remembering to add new URLs to your current work is the tough part. I've wasted more notes on myself as reminders, although lately I have come up with a simple solution. As soon as the work is posted, I go to my index site and place the URL for my readers. When a writer has so many projects or work lists, an index makes it easy and quick for readers to navigate.

Setting up the index is relatively simple. No particular format, although the following suggestions should be read carefully.

  • Don't overload your index with animated gifs and large graphics images. These take longer to load and most people are not going to wait for that. They will surf on.
  • Do make sure the best of your working links sits in the window *above the crease* or in other words, sits on your page above the bottom of the first window. The less a traveler must scroll the longer they will remain on your site.
  • Do keep your articles in a nice orderly listing. Categorize them any way you wish, although it isn't that important a point. I have found that what I think are my worst works, people read like crazy. Often my best works are passed over for the more sensational of the items for reading.
  • Do include links to sites you've built or helped to build, contributed to or otherwise had much to do with its being there. Graphics should be kept to a minimum and banners no more than 475 x 75 for fastest load.
  • Do state your information clearly and avoid overly fancy fonts. Many people don't have those fonts on their computers, thus they cannot see it anyway. Keep your fonts to a readable professional choice.
  • Do segregate and highlight those projects which you feel are your finest, or most interesting. I list my pen name alter ego on the right column of my index. My books are listed in the right as well.
  • If you wish to place your author picture on the index, make sure it's tasteful and small. Large and gaudy images of writers may turn some readers off. Most writers want to attract an over all audience. If yours is a specific readership, then by all means, go with the reader tastes.
  • Make absolutely sure you have a contact email for your index. Often editors will happen on your site by cruising your links or accidentally. Make sure they can contact you for a possible assignment. (it DOES happen you know).
  • Always specify your copyright. That is important for your own safety. No real reason for working to feed a pseudo-writer now is there?
  • Include a bio, brief or extensive. My favorite part of cruising writers' sites is reading about other writers. I enjoy seeing photos too. Often I will be amazed at how vivid a picture of them I got just by reading their work. A bio helps the reader get to know you. Authors' words leave impressions on us and we as readers tend to want a bit or two on who is creating this image in your mind. But - don't write a resume for a bio. Bios should be no more than a few hundred words or so. Maximum would, in my opinion be approx. 400 or so. Always give your name and any previously published books. Don't list each article you've ever sold. List what periodicals you've listed with unless the list is severely long. Pick and choose what you feel are the best of the bunch. Add a group or two you're involved with and end on a friendly but semi-professional note. Something a touch personal to keep the reader/editor smiling.
  • Create your page in a format that people will enter and move about with clarity. Extraneous images, backgrounds and effects are not necessarily attention getters. For writers, the index is not like other personal pages. Our readers/travelers are lovers of the written word to begin with or they most likely would not have made it to your site. Give them what they want. Give them content. The effects they can see anywhere. What they are at your index for is a good look at you and while they're at it, a good read. Make sure they get what they came for.

  2009 JLD


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