What Author Websites Need to be Effective

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1106 Design

June 16, 2016

website designDid you know you have about three seconds to convince a website visitor to stay longer and explore? First impressions are critical. Site visitors will quickly form an opinion about your site, your author credibility, and your successfully self-published book. Here is what we recommend to keep people on your site for longer than a few seconds.

A Clear Website Identity and Purpose:

Your site should have a logo and perhaps a slogan. What is it and who are you? An author? A book? A business? A blog? Something else? You may know, but your first-time visitor does not. The site needs a graphic header to catch the eye. Your book should figure prominently on your home page, and the main purpose of your site should be identifiable without a user needing to scroll down the page, along with a call to action to encourage them to explore your site further. Confused visitors don’t stick around.

A Website Structure that Makes Sense:

I recommend working with a web designer to map out the site structure so that any text you add, now or in the future, has a predetermined place. Sidebar navigation is also a plus. Steve Jobs famously said, “Design isn’t decoration; it’s communication.” The reader’s eye must be led from the most important information to the least important information in a logical way.

Great Website Content:

We recommend the following pages as a starting point, but your content depends largely on the purpose of your site. For example, if your book is meant to promote your consulting or other business services, you will want to include a page about what services you offer.

  1. Home page: Includes basic information about your book, plus images of the book, the author, and easy-to-find links to your bookselling page.
  2. Book Overview: Typically the text from the back of your book, plus a photo of your book cover.
  3. Book Reviews: Your endorsements and links to online reviews of your book.
  4. Author Bio: All about you, plus one or two photos.
  5. News & Events: Links to interviews with you, write-ups and reviews, scheduled author appearances, book signings, book fairs, webinars.
  6. Buy the Book: Links to your book seller pages on Amazon, etc., plus your own eCommerce if you are selling and shipping the book yourself. Don’t forget information for bulk purchases!
  7. Blog: Yes, you need a blog. Blogs give examples of your writing so that readers are more motivated to buy your book. The blog allows them to get to know you and what you stand for.
  8. Contact Me: Typically a message form rather than your email address. If you are comfortable doing so, include your address and telephone number.

Your Content Must Be Accurate:

Make sure your text does not contain any errors. Web readers are forgiving, but too many typos and missing words begin to detract from the credibility of your message and sends a negative message about what readers might expect to find in your book. This is easily fixed by working with a content writer and proofreader.

Social Follow and Share Buttons:

Where can your community find you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and other social media hangouts? Make sure your social “follow” buttons are displayed prominently at the top and bottom of each web page. Don’t confuse these with social “share” buttons, which are meant to allow your readers to share your blog posts with their own communities. Both social follow and share buttons are necessary; I find not being able to find an author on Facebook to be equally frustrating as not being able to easily share a good blog post with my friends.

Mailing List Subscribe:

You should reach out to your fan base regularly. One way to communicate with your readers and website followers is through a newsletter that should be sent every two weeks or even weekly. Yes, your fans can be notified about blog updates through an RSS feed button (which should be located with your social follow buttons) but a newsletter allows you to put your blog post right in their email inbox, along with other information you think they might find useful. Make sure your newsletter includes social share and follow buttons. I suggest MailChimp as they provide free accounts up to two thousand subscribers, and it is easy to use. You can easily include a sign-up form on your website.

Website Ads:

There’s nothing wrong with monetizing a site with ads, but they should be grouped under their own heading and designed in a consistent way. Interrupting the reader with an ad every few minutes is rude, and sends the message that your only interest is in making money. Make sure that the ads are placed so that they don’t seem haphazardly placed or make the site look disorganized.

And to make sure that you are holding the interest of your website visitors, track visitor statistics. How long do visitors stay on your site? Which pages do they visit? Which pages receive the most visits? Which of your blog posts were the most popular? This is all essential information that allows you to learn how to best tweak your site to make it a better experience for your visitors. Include a Google Analytics tracking code on your site; sign up for Google Analytics via your gmail account. If you have nothing better to do, you can while away your time watching visitors go through your website in real time (not that I’ve ever done that—cough, cough).

For examples of author websites, visit our Author Website Samples page. To discuss your author website, contact us!

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