Is your author website DOA?
Once upon a time, the Internet was shiny and new and only certain people had websites. Mostly companies, maybe famous folks. For the average author, though, it was a reach. Fast forward to the cusp of 2012, and a website is no longer an optional luxury. It is an absolute necessity for doing business, particularly for a self-publishing author.
OK, so if this is basic stuff for you, feel free to skip ahead. You’ve read it here before: this should go without saying … but, after visiting a number of author sites lately, it occurs to me that some of these things very much need saying AGAIN.
Every successful website contains three discrete elements:
DESIGN is the way the site looks. The colors. The fonts. The menus and buttons. The choice to utilize Flash, video, or other movable segments. It also incorporates functionality. How well is the visitor able to navigate the site, moving from page to page, or section to section? What is the overall feel, tone, and personality of the site? Is it elegant? Whimsical? Humorous? Thoughtful?
Remember, you are not your reader/Web visitor. When you are thinking about the design aspects of your site, consider your end users! Imagine you are your ideal reader, seeing your site for the first time. Does it invite you in? Make you want to look around and learn more? Or is it cluttered, busy, or schizophrenic?
CONTENT is the stuff that fills up your site: the words, images, videos, links, etc. YOU – the website owner – are responsible for creating the content for your site. This means that you must either take on a new/different writing role: copywriting. Or you must hire someone to do it for you. There are books, courses, videos, and every kind of tutorial you can imagine about copywriting for the Web, if it’s not your strong suit. Honestly, I think every author should have some skill in the copywriting arena. But there’s also a lot to be said for hiring a pro who can turn out magical copy for you almost effortlessly.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the behind-the-scenes work that allows your site to be found on the search engines. If someone types in your name, does your website come up first, or is it way down on page 2 or 3, after all the other sites that are selling your book(s)? Although a good Amazon ranking is important to many authors, it’s equally important that YOUR site be found on the first page of results, particularly in a search for YOUR name. SEO is the tool that will make that happen. There are many things you can do to improve and enhance your site’s SEO, but if technology confuses, confounds, or frustrates you, it’s probably in your best interest to bring in a consultant to help you.
The interesting thing about building a successful website is that each of these three essential components is often so separate from the others. Many Web designers understand the concept of SEO, but do not specialize in it. As the owner of the site, you really want to act as the quarterback, pulling all the pieces together to make sure they are all working in harmony. This is easier to manage if you are writing the copy and choosing the images. If you’ve hired someone else to handle that portion, it becomes even more essential to make sure the Web design complements the copy and helps the SEO, that the copy contains good key words to boost your search rankings, and that your SEO expert is using appropriate strategies and key words.
We’ll be exploring all of this at greater length in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you may want to take tour of your website, scanning for some of the significant flaws that could be hampering your sales success:
- No email capture. If you don’t have a way to capture the names of your site visitors, you are missing out on an obvious and essential marketing opportunity.
- Using a newsletter as giveaway. Newsletters are passé. How many are you subscribed to? And how many do you read? Find something interesting and creative to give away.
- No author bio. This one is just inexcusable. Sure, people are visiting your site to learn more about your books, but as an author, you’re in a unique position because your product is so personal. YOU wrote the book, so people also want to know about you. Reward them for caring with a nice bio and picture.
- Hard-to-find contact info. Don’t make the user hunt for your contact info, especially not the media! Make sure to include all your social media links.
- Too busy; too many sections/frames/boxes. You don’t have to put everything on the front page. Easy-to-use navigation buttons that steer your users where you want them to go will serve you much better than a junky, cluttered home page.
- No call to action. What do you want your visitors to DO next? They won’t do it if you don’t tell them.
- No samples of your writing. Like your bio, this is simply a courtesy to your readers. You want them to buy your books, don’t you? Well, how will they know they want to buy your books if they can’t first sample your writing?
- Nowhere to purchase. I am banging my head against a wall as I write this one. Even if you can’t or don’t want to handle fulfillment personally, you must include links on your site to the places where your readers CAN purchase your book.
- Irrelevant links and content. Make sure every aspect of your site is geared toward building your relationship with your reader. If you’ve written a travel guide, by all means, include links to travel resources. If, however, your book is about knitting, dump the travel/recipe/theatre/cosmetics links, unless they are somehow relevant to your knitting book.
- No event calendar. If you are doing book signings and events, make it easy for your readers to find them.
Surely you’ve found yourself frustrated by a website at some point in time. Remember that, and guard against doing the same thing to your visitors. Managing a website is a big job, but an important one. Review your site regularly to make sure your visitors are having such an optimal experience that they will visit again, and more importantly, tell others about you and your site.
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Monday, Sept.26 – Internet Radio: Are interview opportunities just waiting for YOU?
Thursday, Sept. 22 – Rehearse your BOOK PITCH until it rolls off your tongue fluidly
Monday, Sept. 19 – Want to be attractive to the media? Include a MEDIA ROOM on your website!