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Posts Tagged ‘author website design’

Blogging mishap: The content is overpowered by the background image

If you’ve been following Marcie and me for a while, you may agree that we have a generally positive, upbeat attitude and outlook on life and writing and book marketing. I feel the need to make that caveat, as I’m about to post the second of two cautionary (i.e., “DON’T do this!”) posts in less than a week.

And like my last admittedly opinionated commentary (about reposting someone else’s content not being blogging), I also came across this one through Google Alerts for “book marketing.”

It is a post titled How To Create A Successful Book Marketing Campaign, written by Bob T. Taylor for Vu Books.

Please understand that in this instance, I am NOT critiquing content. In fact, I reserve comment on the content, entirely. My point here is that the appearance is problematic. In attempt to create an interesting backdrop for this blog, the designer cleverly incorporated an image of some books, photos, and writing implements. The problem is that the image is too dark, so much so that it makes the text of the blog  the entire point of the page, as you are no doubt aware  very difficult to read. As I said, this is a clever concept, but if it is to work, the background image must be MUCH  lighter, creating significant contrast with the text.

Compare for yourself…

This is an actual screen shot from the Vu Books blog.

This is a mockup of the same screen shot I created using a comparable background image. The primary difference is that I made the background image about 70 percent lighter than in the original version. In my version, the text of the books is not competing with the text of the blog post to create illegible chaos.

This lesson applies equally to blog sites and traditional websites. A background image can go a long way to build interest, brand your site, and make for a generally more favorable experience, provided that it doesn’t overpower the text you actually want your visitors to read! In this case, I  might also consider increasing the font size and putting some space between the lines. However, depending on your blogging platform, choices like that may or may not be available.

The main point is to ALWAYS keep your reader in mind. Make it easy for them to enjoy visiting your blog/website and give them a reason to want to come back. If they can’t read the text  especially of a blog post  they will most likely click “NEXT!”

To appropriate background imagery!

Laura

P.S. If you’re not using Google Alerts, you should be. You can ask Google to email you whenever your selected keywords are mentioned in new online content. It’s simple to sign up and helps you stay up-to-date on your topic, industry, trends, or even your own name.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Once your author site is ranked, you must use SEO to maintain that ranking

(Click twice SLOWLY – not a double-click – to enlarge the image.)
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We’ve spent a great deal of time talking about how to build a successful author website. From design to content to eCommerce, we’ve given you a lot to think about. We talked about how essential SEO is to improving your site’s visibility and ranking in the search engines so that it is among the top results for the designated keywords.

Our first conversations about SEO were more from a perspective of getting ranked in the first place. One day, your author website is born, but how do people find out about it? They can’t, unless you put some effort, energy, and/or money into good SEO. Today I want to emphasize the importance of ongoing SEO to maintaining your ranking.

Scott White is a personal trainer in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the person who taught me most of what I know about search engine optimization. Why do I trust Scott more than any other source on the topic? Because Scott built his website from scratch in the early 2000s, spent a few years getting it ranked on the FIRST page of the major search engines for one of the most competitive search terms in the world (personal trainer – try it in Google, and you’ll see it returns 54 MILLION+ results), and has kept it among the top two pages of search results ever since.

Why is this so incredible and important? Research suggests that only 8 percent of all Web users will delve deeper than the first or second page when doing a search. MOST people won’t bother to keep looking for you if you’re not at the top. To maintain a top ranking for years on end takes skill, effort, and energy … or money.

Came across this on Facebook on 2/24/12.
Would gladly credit it if I knew who created it.

The good news is that the search term for which you want to rank your site is likely to be a lot less competitive than “personal trainer.” You can always improve your rankings by adding geocentric keywords to your search terms. For example, “dental school success tips Northeast” as opposed to merely “dental school success tips.”

Now, I am not suggesting that you hire a company to do your SEO for you, although it is something you might want to consider, if you have the budget for it and you don’t have the time and/or skills to do it yourself. A good SEO company should offer services such as:

  • Review of your site content or structure
  • Monitoring your SEO rankings and tracking your traffic
  • Technical advice on website development: for example, navigation, hosting, redirects, error pages
  • Keyword research
  • Competitive analysis between your site and others in your industry
  • Content development and regular addition of fresh content
  • Management of online business development campaigns
  • SEO training
  • Expertise in specific markets and geographies

Right up there with unreliable Web design companies, SEO service providers can be sketchy, so you’ll want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth. A few questions to ask anyone (or company) you are considering hiring to help maintain SEO on your author website include:

  • Can I see some examples of your previous work?
  • What kinds of success stories can you share with me?
  • Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business?
  • What kind of results can I expect to see, and in what timeframe?
  • How do you measure SEO success?
  • What’s your experience in my industry?
  • What’s your experience in my country/city?
  • What are your most important SEO techniques?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • How can I expect to communicate with you?
  • How will you share with me the changes you make to my site and your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?

If you’re going to spend your time, effort, energy, and money to get your site ranked, don’t let it be for nothing. Do whatever you can to hold on to that ranking, because the Web is a most competitive place: someone else is just waiting to take your spot should you become complacent.

Happy ranking!

MARCIE

RESOURCES: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35291 and http://www.isitebuild.com/seo-maintenance-services.htm

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Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

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Proper eCommerce is essential to the success of your author website

OK. You’ve found a Web designer you trust. You’ve got stellar copy and great SEO in place on your author website. You’ve got every duck, flamingo, and penguin lined up and everything looks good to go. So how’s your site set for eCommerce? Right – the part of the site that actually allows you to sell books and accept payments. This part needs to be done well, or the rest of your work could all be for nothing. A proper eCommerce component is essential to your success.

Things to consider when developing your author site’s eCommerce structure:

CAPACITY. Internet marketing expert Tracy Repchuk is just one of many I have heard who insist on PayPal as one necessary method of payment, if only because it is so well known. Not everyone is enamored with the online payment giant, but it does get the shopping cart job done, for the most part. While PayPal attempts to be all things to all online retailers, the service is limited. If you will be offering multiple products, subscription services, or other complicated pricing options, you might want to go with a more established merchant account service.

SECURITY. You’ve no doubt heard about the little problem with ID theft in our country. Internet fraud is a related problem. No one wants to get scammed or lose money making a purchase online. So one of your main concerns as an online retailer is working out the security aspects of your site. Retail-Revival.com offers an EXCELLENT eBook about creating an eCommerce site, with very good information about security, among other things.

CONVERSION. Volumes have been written on the subject of converting Web visitors into buyers. One of the longest running and most informative sites on this topic is grokdotcom.com. You’re an SBM*, so I trust you to be able to do your research and get the necessary information/help around this.

I realize that a lot of this stuff is quite technical in nature – and yet another reason you may want to turn your site design and construction over to a pro. But if you want to sell books and other products, it’s essential. Don’t panic or get scared, just get informed and get the right people in place. You can do it. Your book sales – and your readers – are depending on you.

Happy selling!

MARCIE

*Savvy Book Marketer

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Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

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Ideas for finding a QUALITY DESIGNER to build your author website

So we’ve been talking for weeks now about the importance of your author website to connecting with prospective readers and making sales. Here’s the question: Who should do your website for you? I completely understand issues around budgeting and why – if you have some natural (or learned) skill at it – you might want to build your own website. WordPress offers excellent tools for creating a pretty nice-looking DIY site.

However, there are a number of good reasons for finding money in your budget to hire a professional Web designer. Among them:

  • Hiring a professional designer can save you time.
  • The Internet changes constantly – your website should reflect that dynamism and change with it.
  • A friend/relative will never prioritize your work the way a paid designer will.
  • Some designers have good SEO knowledge and skill that can benefit you.
  • A pro will be able to optimize your site for various browsers (and mobile devices).
  • If you want a site that makes a splash of any sort, you may need the design skills of a professional.
  • One thing that will make your site look great – and work well – is a finished appearance, which a professional designer can do for you.

So, once you decide you will make the plunge and hire a Web designer, how do you find the right one for your author website? To be honest, more than any other industry I’ve encountered, this field is rife with the sketchiest of feedback in terms of the quality of service providers. I long ago lost count of how many friends, colleagues, and clients have told me they were misled, ripped off, or had otherwise bad experiences with Web designers. That is just my experience, but ask around. It seems to be an unfortunate trend in the industry. What that means is that it is up to you to do your due diligence and make sure the designer you’re hiring is worth the money before you plunk down a dime.

Here are some things to consider before making a decision about which designer to hire.

GOALS FOR YOUR SITE. Is your site going to be mostly a brochure site where prospective readers can come and test drive a sample chapter or two? Are you looking to build a speaking career around your book? If so, that site is probably going to be somewhat different. Do you want a forum where readers can interact with each other? There’s no right or wrong, but you must know before you begin what you want your site to do. Then, go find a designer who can do it.

EXPERIENCE. The best designer may or may not have a ton of experience under their belt. Either way, you’ll want to look at sites they have already created to get a feeling for whether they synch with your goals for your author website. There may be something to be said for hiring a designer who specializes in author sites; however, you probably don’t want a cookie-cutter site that looks like a bunch of other authors’ sites, either. So make sure the designer you hire has the breadth, imagination, and listening skills to capture exactly what you want to create in your site.

As thenextweb.com puts it:

Web designers come in various shapes and sizes. Many specialize in one technology or another, and further, some specialize in specific visual styles or servicing a particular demographic. I know of a few designers who do nothing but political sites all day, every day — and they nail the style that they are known for.

While expertise in a style can be useful, and an agency or freelancer that targets your specific area might sound great, there are some who simply re-hash the same few designs over and over again. There’s a big difference between knowing a particular style of design well and innovating within that style, and trying to make a living as a one-trick pony with under-developed skills.

FREELANCE vs. COMPANY. The next thing you want to decide is whether you will hire a freelance designer or an actual Web design company. Each has its pros and cons, but in this industry neither is a sure bet – so again, do your research!

WHERE TO LOOK. The best place to begin is by asking other people (authors) whose sites you like: “Who did your site?” They will likely give you honest feedback about their experience working with their Web designers. Another place to look is on Web design galleries (a Google search can get you there). If either of those options doesn’t pan out, you can always try the freelance sites like Guru.com or eLance.com. The most important thing to remember is not to rush this process. Find a designer you feel good about, and whatever happens, go with your gut.

LOOK AT THE DESIGNER’s SITE. Make sure you visit the designers’ sites to see how they represent themselves on the Web.

Sitepoint.com recommends asking yourself the following questions, at minimum:

  • Do they tell you who they are and what they offer?
  • Do they appear to have the specific skills you need?
  • Do they have a portfolio you can view?
  • Does the designer describe their technical background?
  • How well do they use color on their own site?
  • Are their page titles appropriate and informative?
  • Is their site easy to navigate, and to get back to where you began?
  • Would your visitors/readers like a similar navigation system?
  • Are all their pages accessible, with no broken links?
  • Is the overall page design consistent?
  • Can you easily find the Contact Page and Site Map?
  • Are things on their site aligned properly?
  • Is the text on their site easy to read?
  • Do the pages load quickly?
  • Do all links open in new tabs or new windows?

PRICING & CONTRACTS. Other things to consider are pricing and the sort of contract they offer. Pricing for Web design runs the gamut from several hundred dollars to many thousands. Of course, part of that has to do with the complexity of the design, but unlike many other industries, a high fee is not always a guarantee of good work. I like how thenextweb.com puts it: “You might find that many really talented designers aren’t charging particularly expensive rates, so don’t take their previous work as an indicator of price.” And as far as a contract goes, it’s always a good idea to get someone with some legal acumen to look over any contract before you sign it.

REFERENCES. Lastly, remember to get references! Find a few people who’ve worked with the designer before and get input from them. Remember, though, consider the source. If three out of four tell you they had a great experience, there may be more to the story for the one who did not.

Yep, it’s going to take some work, but when you end up with a site you (and your readers) love, you will be glad you made the effort.

Happy hiring!

MARCIE

__________________

Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

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