Hopefully you’ve figured out that you want your authors website to sell books.
Maybe you also know you need to get people to sign up to your email list somehow.
But here are 5 other important things you’ve probably never thought about.
1. Get out of the way
You’re a writer, not a photographer or a sculptor or an artist (if you are those too, that’s fine, but you probably need a website to focus on one thing at a time). It’s risky to build a big, pretty, graphically complex site that conveys the essence of your brand. It’s hard to pull off well and easy to miss the mark and make something ugly. It will also make your website slow to load and confusing.
You’re a writer.
You need to connect with people through your writing.
You need to have blog posts, excerpts, witty anecdotes, a moving story of your personal journey through hardship and your quest for success. You need people to be able to get into your writing quickly and easily, without a bunch of distractions. Text legibility is just about the #1 consideration. You need enough of a framework that everything looks clean and professional, but not a bunch of pictures, colors, contrasting design styles, and other muck drawing their eyes away from the writing.
2. Load in 3 seconds
You might think it’s not that big a deal, but you are going to lose at least half of your potential visitors if they have to wait more than 3 seconds. If they know you and are looking for you (true fans) they might wait. But those are probably people who have already bought your books. You’re trying to connect with new readers who haven’t.
3. Give them a win in 3 seconds
After your page loads, browsers will spend about 3 seconds scanning to see if anything interests them.
Do they see what they were searching for? Do they see anything that catches their attention or interest?
A powerful headline is usually the right way to do this (copy writing is a seasoned skill, but you can cheat and use headline generators).
You need to solve their problem (or at least promise to), or catch and hold their attention with a strong headline, a great subtitle, and usually a short story or anecdote.
If they haven’t found anything they want in 3 seconds, they’ll leave.
(If you have enough great content, they’ll keep coming back on accident, and after that happens a few times they’ll notice, “Gee, this blog really has a lot of great stuff!”)
4. Be responsive
Responsive design means it changes according to the device – so it will display differently on smart phones, tablets and laptops.
Over 40% of internet usage is now on smart phones. Big, old fashioned author websites will rarely be easy to use on smartphones or tablets.
Get a responsive WordPress theme or make sure your website looks good on smartphones and is easy to navigate.
5. Show up
Your website is not a place you need to send people to, hoping they buy the book. It’s a place you want people to discover.
For that to happen, your site needs to show up in search results for keywords related to your niche, genre or topic.
You need to know what your target readers are looking for, what they are interested in, what entertains them, what they like – and you need to give it to them. THEN you need to make sure they find it, by improving your site speed, SEO, and backlinking (getting a lot of links from other sites, and from social media).
Writing a lot of great content is the way to do this, but even so it’s often worth paying someone to help you out – submitting your site to all the search engines, writing guest posts on popular blogs, making sure you are using the right amount of keywords in the right places.
I just hired someone to improve my SEO for $400, because I know showing up higher in Google will double my traffic, and boost my income significantly. And very few authors are doing it at all, which makes it not too difficult to outrank everyone else.
6. Make people like and trust you
People have to like you and trust you before they buy from you. Sure your writing is important, but unless your homepage immediately puts your writing in front of them with no preamble, they need to care enough to start reading.
To make people like you, show close up, professional photographs of your smiling face.
“Talking head” videos where you just look into the camera and talk also work wonders.
They immediately let people feel a bond with you. Don’t hide your face or use a blurred or scratched out author photo. (A lot of author photos try to be cool and brooding… but I strongly recommend smiling).
For trust, you can add blurbs, testimonials or reviews, or logos from other big sites that they already know (a lot of bloggers will guest post for big sites like Forbes or Huffington Post, just so they can write “as seen in” and display those more famous logos). You can also include seals or awards, or other things.
However – don’t overlook the importance of clean, organized, professional web design (a basic WordPress template is good enough – often miles better than homemade, from scratch efforts). Amateur, confusing websites with lots of bold colors and fonts and images all jumbled together will turn people off before they’ve gotten a chance to get to know you.
What else do you think an author website needs to do?
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.
I’m definitely thinking about hiring someone to do SEO next year after my redesign. If you have companies/people you can recommend, I’d love to hear them!