Extreme Web Makeover III: Trees at Risk

There’s an old saying that the cobbler’s children go barefoot. Eleven years ago, I published my book, Trees at Risk: Reclaiming an Urban Forest. An environmental history of Worcester, Mass., the book traces the decline of the city’s public trees and parks, and serves as a cautionary tale about the high price we pay as a community—in quality of life as well as land values—for neglecting our urban forests.

A niche market, certainly, but the book has been well-received by people who care about tree stewardship, local history and urban ecology.

My Marketing Challenge
Only problem: I simply never took the time to market the book properly, and have yet to fully penetrate that target market here in Central Massachusetts and beyond, wherever communities are struggling to preserve publicly owned trees—an issue that has become much more salient with the arrival of the maple-loving Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) here in Massachusetts and four other states, as well as Canada.

So, I have many copies of the book stored in my basement. And I need to get them into the hands of people who care about my subject. I’ve had a website, treesatrisk.com, for several years, but the site wasn’t getting much traffic. Time for the marketing consultant to finally apply her skills to her own book!

Rethinking the Strategy for My Book’s Website
My first step was to rethink the marketing angle for the book. For my original website, I had just lifted copy from the back cover for the homepage and my bio, excerpted part of the book’s introduction for a sample, included a review and links to some news stories about the book and a TV interview, and had a page to buy the book. The site was simple and attractive enough visually, but had no punch or any real strategy.

But I realized that I had a natural hook. Worcester, most unfortunately, has struggled with an ALB infestation since 2008—we’ve lost nearly 31,000 trees here and in surrounding towns to the bug, which destroys maples and other hardwoods. I actually predicted the infestation in Trees at Risk, since the city has a predominance of maple street trees. So I refocused the website on the infestation, and repositioned the book as an authoritative account of the circumstances that led up to the situation we’re now in.

Revised, Targeted Content and a Fresh Look
With excellent help from Ed Booth of Insight Dezign, I created a custom version of StudioPress’s “Balance” child theme, using a Genesis platform that takes WordPress one step further with code that guards against hacking.

The design has a strong visual focus for featured content on the homepage—in my case, a review quote and image of the book linked to the Buy page. I rewrote all of my content to tell the story of Worcester’s current tree crisis, placing it in the historical context detailed in my book. Other content changes and embellishments:

  • Keyword-branded, custom urls for each page
  • Photos that I took of trees around the city
  • Custom header matching the book’s cover text treatment
  • An easy-to-skim, chapter-by-chapter summary of the book’s contents
  • A more engaging book excerpt about the Hurricane of 1938 that places the ALB devastation in perspective
  • A personal bio as well as the story of how and why I wrote the book
  • A page of ALB resources
  • Embedded excerpts from my TV interview
  • Strategically placed excerpts from a great review of the book by the Journal of Political Ecology
  • A Beetle Blog, which gives me the opportunity to write about the ALB and tree stewardship, telling the story of what’s happened since the book was published and creating content that will boost search and my own authority as a source for interviews and speaking engagements
  • New pricing that reflects the impact of Ebook pricing on the print world
  • Links to the Buy page at the end of each page, in the footer and right sidebar

I relaunched the site last week, promoting it through email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and I’ve begun personal networking, once again, to promote the book and the website. Feedback, so far, has been quite encouraging. The site launch prompted two sales already, and I now have the strategic, authoritative platform I need to move all of those books out of our basement family room, into the hands of tree-lovers.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.


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