Fix Your Writer Website With This Video Critique

Carol Tice

Fix Your Writer Website With This Video Critique. Makealivingwriting.comLast week, I kicked off a fun contest — my webmaster David Robert Hogg offered to do a free writer website review for one lucky reader of this blog.

And we all got lucky — he actually chose two winners and provided 20 minutes of detailed critique of each. This video is packed with insights about design, usability, and how to set up your site to rank well on search engines.

Thanks to all the writers who entered and shared their questions about how to improve their writer websites.

Congrats to Heather Tucker of Cloggie Central and to Tom Bentley of, who won the prize! Below you can check out David’s critique of their writer websites.

Enjoy all!

Can’t see that? Try clicking this link.

I had a few thoughts of my own, beyond what David goes into in the video:

Cloggie Central: Heather, I searched and searched but could not learn your last name from your site. That doesn’t present you professionally. I finally figured it out by clicking your email link (which was very difficult to find — it should be in your sidebar and visible at all times, on every page).

If your email address didn’t happen to have it, I would be unable to learn your whole name. I see David found your full name credited on photos in the blogroll…so why the mystery? I would imagine you’re sending quite a few possible clients away from the site due to this problem.

I totally agree with David that a tagline for your blog is essential, so people instantly know what the site is about.

This site has a dual nature in that it’s promoting your blog about Holland, but it’s also trying to sell your writing and photography services. I wonder if your tagline might help you swing it more toward getting hired with something like, “An expat travel writer/photographer in Holland”  — or something that puts the emphasis on the fact that you are a pro writer.

Tom Bentley: I’d just say I’m not a fan of the dual/left-hand column layout you have going on — see if you can get it down to one right-hand column, which is where most people expect to see the sidebar. As David says, simplifying will help here.

I think David didn’t mention it, but getting the .wordpress out of your URL would make you look more like a serious writer pro. It doesn’t cost much, and if you won’t invest that little, it makes prospects wonder how serious you are.

I’m really down on writers using a quote from a famous writer as their tagline. You’re the writer here! It feels like you can’t think of anything good to tell us about who you are.

Like Heather’s site, The Write Word has a dual nature — you’re trying to get hired, and you also seem to be trying to build a writer blog. If it were me I’d write a landing page for the home that’s about your writing services, instead of having the blog be the home page.

Members of Freelance Writers Den can get feedback on their writer websites as part of their membership. Learn more now:

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  1. Josh Sarz

    Wow, I really love your input on their blogs, Carol. I’m going to check my own blog and get to work on your tips right away.

    You’re right. Having the word ‘writer’ placed somewhere easy to find might help people know that I offer my writing services.

    Thanks for this video and blog post, Carol.

    Have an awesome year ahead.

  2. Katherine Swarts

    Talk about making a mystery of your last name, or even your FULL name: bloggers are notorious for that. At least twice I’ve wanted to quote or refer to a blog post (as interesting commentary, not an expert source) and found I had no way to describe the writer other than “blogger Mary” or “the blogger called XPerson.” Maybe it’s a carryover from chat room days when people were warned to give minimum information about themselves to e-contacts.

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve had that experience too — Heather’s is definitely not the only blog where I had that happen. It seems like some people are worried about disclosing too much or afraid to be who they are online. But authenticity and being a real, approachable person gets you gigs.

  3. Tom Bentley

    David and Carol—thanks so much for taking the time to critique my site. Many good suggestions there. I’ll huddle with my webmaster soon and see what we can come up with.

    (I’ve been out of the country for a while and only returned yesterday, so I’m befuddled even as to where my kitchen is at the moment, much less site sidebars.)

    Thanks and Happy New Year, Tom B.

  4. Heather

    Wow! What a great surprise and thank you so much to David for the feedback and Carol for organising the contest and the feedback as well. Cloggie Central is about five years old but it has gone through a lot of changes (from personal to more business in nature) and the move to WordPress (it was previously on Blogger) and the design is a very recent thing, so feedback is really handy.

    Quite a few tips to take away and work on for the start of the new year. The photo size in particular is a great help because it was something I had questions about already. I do have two questions that David might be able to give some insight into.

    1. Is it worth going back and changing all the alt tags, captions and file names for the photos (obviously a gradual project) or is it a “too late” type of situation?

    2. What is your best suggestion for dealing with photography copyright. Directly on the photo itself, in the caption, not at all?

    Many thanks again!

    P.S. The last name issue was purely an oversight, no secret identity intended. 🙂

    • David Robert Hogg

      Hi Heather. I’m glad you found it helpful.

      Yes, it’s probably worth it to change alt tags and captions on evergreen content that you think could be coming up in a Google or Bing search. So posts that tackle a subject that people are actually searching for (use the Google keyword tool to find out: can benefit from good SEO practices but posts of a more personal nature (e.g. “A Great Day At The Park”) could be easily left as they won’t be getting any search traffic.

      The file names are a bit more involved to change, so I’d leave those. In any case, be sure to implement these as you move forward.

      For photo copyright, I’m tempted to say don’t worry about it. But if you are going to do something the only way you’ll see any benefit is to imprint a name or logo right onto the photo. Otherwise it won’t have much effect.

      I hope that helps. Let me know if there are any other questions.

      • Heather

        Thanks David! One last thing, would you recommend re-uploading the photos on past posts in smaller sizes (which would also fix the file name issue, unless I am wrong) or leave them and work from this point forward?

        Happy New Year!

        • David Robert Hogg

          If they’re getting some traffic (and slowing down your site) then yes. If not then I wouldn’t worry about it.

          Good luck.

          • Heather

            Great, thanks.

  5. Debra Weiss

    Wow. I loved watching the video reviews. I gained two or three page’s worth of notes for my own site. I put a few of the tips into practice on my site already. I can’t believe I never thought to remove the date.

    Thank you, David, and Carol, for taking time to provide these reviews. They were tremendously helpful.

    • Carol Tice

      I took my dates off a while back. I love that the posts are more evergreen now — which makes since the advice mostly is fairly nonpareil.

        • Carol Tice

          I don’t know! I’ll see if I can get David to weigh in on this.

          I think the main issue is that you don’t want the date appearing either on your blog when people arrive, or in search when people look at the text of what’s at the beginning of your post, as it immediately looks dated…but let’s see what David says. I think people tend to scan the headline and first sentence in search results…but perhaps it’s better to get it out of the URL also.

          • David Robert Hogg

            I think the date within the URL can still have a subtle effect on users – but clearly it’s not as obvious or prominent as within the actual post. I’ve never seen Google “date” a post based solely on the permalink but it could still weigh on how much they value the post as recent content.

          • Carol Tice

            Sounds like I should find out how to get rid of it in my URLs too eh?

          • Debra Weiss

            Thank you both so much for your replies! I noticed some of the big names in blogging aren’t doing it so I thought I’d ask.

  6. Lynn Allen

    So much great content to thank you for. I took lots of notes and hope to have my own site up soon. The critiques gave me a better idea how to set it up and keep it simple.

    Carol, I’m so glad I found your site. You have created something helpful and inspiring.


  7. Kathy

    So, how do you go into your WP blog and get those dates off?

    PS Loved the explanation for how to use meta title tags and meta descriptions, David. You’ve brought them out into the “light” so that I now understand how to be smart about how I work with them.

    • Carol Tice

      Don’t know if you’re a Den member, Kathy, but we have a couple of WordPress videos in our storehouse on fixing common WP problems, and that’s one of them.

      • Kathy

        Yes, I am a den member, Carol. I’ll go and look!


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