Monday, May 24, 2010

How Do I ... ?

I'm really not very good at self-promotion.  I mean, what I do -- especially in heraldry, which is mostly research, write, and teach -- I think I do pretty well.  I've even come to terms with being able to tell people that I am an "internationally-known author and lecturer", which is in fact literally true, although it sounds perhaps a little conceited to my own ears.  (I mean, I grew up with myself.  I can probably remember every embarrassing moment in my life.  It's hard to set yourself up too high in those circumstances.)

And yet, for all this research and writing, creating and publishing, I'm not actually selling very much of my work.  I mean, I've got a website( where I advertise what I've written and note the presentations I've made and that I've been booked to make in the near future.  I've got separate pages (in the "Heraldic Arts" section of that website) for: the books, large and small, new and reprints that I sell, along with an heraldic bingo game; used books that I've found and can sell at a reasonable price (that is to say, a price I'd be willing to pay for them, if I didn't already have a copy in my own heraldic library); needlework charts of various heraldic charges; 15th and 16th Century heraldic clipart; and even, on the "Free Stuff" page, a monthly 3"x3" needlework chart of some heraldic charge or other.

But traffic at the website is flat.  I mean, there are people dropping in, looking at one or more pages,  and all that, but the overall figures of number of people coming by the website are not increasing, and those folks who do drop by seldom make a purchase.  I'm pretty sure that the traffic is not increasing because, as I said above, I'm not really very good at self-promotion.  And because I _really_ don't want to become one of those people who regularly pops into a relevant newsgroup or on-line forum and just advertises a website.  When I've published a new book or something similar that may be considered mildly newsworthy and appropriate to the group, I've gone ahead and posted a short blurb with some basic information about it and a link to the website for those who want to know more.  But I certainly try not to do it often enough to become a pest; that would be, I believe, entirely counter-productive.

So I find myself in a quandary.  I need to sell what I've got in order to show me that's it's worth my time and effort to research and write more.  (For example, if I only sell, say, half a dozen copies of one of the sets of period clipart, that's really not much incentive to spend the 80-120 hours of work that goes into creating a new set.)  But how do I promote what I think are useful and, I believe, educational items in ways that are not intrusive, not seen as "spam"?  How do I let people know that, for example, that I have for sale a book about the earliest (to my knowledge) American roll of arms, certainly the most complete review of it that's been made to this time, and the one to include line drawings of the arms as they appear in the roll (The Gore Roll,, without turning off the very people I'm trying to inform about it?

I don't know.  As I say, it's a quandary.


  1. Here are a couple of ideas:

    Most web traffic these days comes via Google of course, and it (and users) are very sensitive to the "TITLE" element on each webpage. See how Google sees your site by entering a site search in Google:

    You'll see that a lot of your pages have non-specific titles, like "Speaker Presentations". You want to make sure the TITLE element has important keywords that people will be searching for: "Speaker Presentations on Art and Heraldry" (for example). Go through all your pages and adjust this "microcontent" to be more visible in the half-second scan people give a Google results page: "Appleton Studios" says nothing to a stranger but "Appleton Studio of Heraldic Arts" says alot.

    Next, look through your website statistics for the keywords that people are already using to find your site ("heraldry", "design", artwork" whatever...). Focus on these, and be sure the keywords are reinforced on each relevant page. You may have all the beautiful pictures in the world, but Google is really only about the words on the page.

    Give those a try for a month or two and see if you get a boost. Then look carefully at the statistics and repeat the process again.

  2. Good points. Thank you for your thoughts. (I'd completely forgotten that I hadn't tweaked the title elements on all of the individual pages on the website. That's what I get for being my own webmaster, I suppose, in addition to everything else!)