Learning to Be an Author
Anyone who is serious about being an indie author knows you eventually have to get your own website.
You need a place on the Internet to showcase you: your blog, who you are, what you write, etc. But most people haven't the slightest clue where to begin.
I personally chose Weebly as the place to host my website, even though I have a reasonable background in some of the nuts and bolts of webpages. Part of it was time. I didn't, and still don't have the time to lay out webpages just so, style them, optimize them for mobile displays and all of the other details that make some sites great.
The other major factor was cost. Wordpress would have probably been a better way to go in the long run. But their pricing model promises to nickel and dime you with different things you'll eventually want. Wordpress is sort of like buying a new car a few parts at a time, with markup on each part.
Weebly isn't perfect by any stretch, but I cashed in on a Cyber Monday deal and got my site, domain, and a few bells and whistles for less than $75. If you have done research, that's a pretty competitive rate.
Where this particular site has gone wrong for me is: while they do make it relatively easy to build pages with almost no knowledge whatsoever, they don't help in the places where it matters the most. There are spaces on your page builder for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but there is almost no guidance on what you need to put in there.
If you leave it blank, you've got no shot whatsoever of a total stranger happening upon your site, which is what you need if you're ever going to make it as indie writer. (Friends and family will buy a few of your books, but not nearly as many as you need them to.)
I went the route of "I'll get to that later". So I've wasted a little more than a month with my own site and little chance of anyone finding it without my help. Weebly (and I suspect most others) don't do a very good job explaining this part of the site building process.
A few days after I created my site, I got a cryptic email about something with Google and indexing. I didn't understand it, and thought I'd get back to it some other time. It turns out that I never made my site available to Google, so I was never, ever going to show up in searches. Oops.
It turns out you need something called Google Search Console to help you get through the indexing process and work on your SEO. The console will go through your site pages, then tell you what changes you might want to make. In my case, I had to add a sitemap and a few other things. Weebly thankfully had a sitemap for my site available, but again, did not really mention that you had to pass it along to Google for your site to show up in their searches.
(If you're in the know about a lot of this stuff, go ahead and enjoy a hearty chuckle at my expense.)
Lastly, Weebly gives you a pretty false sense of how your site is doing. It shows consistent traffic on my site (20-25 unique users per day at a minimum). The reality, according to Google Analytics (another must-have for managing your site), is far more grim. I get a handful of visits in a week.
Where does the difference come from? Well, Weebly counts spam traffic to your site in your stats, Google largely filters it out. These visits are not by actual people, they never look at a single thing on your site. I've yet to figure out what the exact purpose of this traffic is, but apparently it isn't harmful.
So now I'm on the right track, though I've wasted more than a month worth of my investment due to a total lack of understanding about my site. Don't make my mistake. Live with having a subdomain (www.yourname.weebly.com) while you set every last detail the way you want it, then invest the money to remove the shackles of Weebly's domain and ads on your site. (Or Wordpress, or Wix, or whatever. All free sites are pretty much the same in this respect.)
And for heaven's sake, learn a little bit about being a webmaster before you're the master of a website.
I learn something new everyday.