When I grew tired of the antics of my second author website developer, I asked experts in my field for their suggestions. After interviewing a number of website developers across the country, I finally settled on Paula Gregorowicz.
I’ve never looked back. I’ve worked with Paula for six years and I’m never leaving her.
I refer all of my clients to Paula, and they are as thrilled as I am with her work. Last week I interviewed Paula. If you’re looking for a website developer, I encourage you to contact her about your author website.
Tell us about your experience as a website expert.
I have built websites since (almost) the beginning of websites themselves. For instance, I have built Intranets for large corporations from the ground up giving them their first taste of the power of the internal web long before the internet was a common thing in our daily lives.
In my work with public facing internet sites, I have been working with WordPress since the first generation of its release.
What all this means for the people I work with is that I have a holistic view of how websites work and what is going on behind the scenes.
It is like the inner workings of your car engine. You likely do not know how it all works (nor should you frankly) but any mechanic will tell you it matters! Otherwise, you may find yourself on the side of the road with an inoperable car. The same holds true for your website.
The good news for my clients is while I understand the tech, I am not your typical techie.
I have a deep business background. I also still work as a business coach and consultant within the scope of my own business.
This makes me a rare breed who can walk between the worlds of business and tech. I integrate them for you in a way that makes sense for your unique situation and speak to you in plain English.
What should the homepage of an author website look like? Talk about the difference in genre and how that affects branding. What should readers see first on that homepage?
Your homepage is very important as the front door to your online home. It is also worth noting that not all visitors will arrive at your “online home” through the front door.
Just like you do not always use the front door of your home – sometimes you might come through the garage or porch door or even a side window (ok, that might be unique to a more mysterious genre!). The same holds true for your website visitor.
The biggest difference in branding by genre is fiction vs. non-fiction. With non-fiction, You are the brand. Nonfiction authors are typically subject matter experts (or investigative journalists) who are also authors.
With fiction, your books, characters, and style of writing are the brand with you being a secondary part of that brand. The more successful your work, the greater you become part of the brand.
In all cases, the homepage has to offer the visitor a compelling first impression. You have 3-5 seconds to capture your readers’ attention and keep them on the site. This means you must have:
- Imagery that captures the eye
- A clear brand promise (yes even for fiction)
- Clean, clear, simple navigation
- Strong call-to-action (to build your audience by signing up for your email list)
Author Website Bio
Tell us what the optimal author bio should include? Should it have personal information? Should it be fun to read? Should the author include statements about their authority/influence/experience. And what needs to be included to satisfy a reader’s desire to learn more about the personal side of an author.
An author bio will engage readers to know, like, and trust you as an author/expert. Every author has a different level of comfort with how much personal information to release to the public. That said, people like to read because of the power of story.
Your story as a human being and author matters. It creates a personal resonance with readers. We all like to feel like we can connect with others and are not alone in the world. Your bio is a way to create that bridge.
In addition, your bio should include a portion that talks about your professional experience, authority, awards, and more. This is important to lend credibility to your work as well as attract potential exposure from media and other outlets. (Check out Frances’s bio page.)
How do you work at branding authors? And why is branding important. So many authors hate to think of themselves as a brand. Why do they need to change their mindset?
I help authors bring their brand to life on their website (with a little mindset boost thrown in to help them get comfortable with being a brand!). Authors, like many creatives hate to think of themselves as a brand. However, if you want to make a career out of your work your mindset must change.
There are many talented writers in the world. If creating your work and sharing it with a few friends is enough to satisfy your desires, that is noble work in and of itself. In that case you do not need to worry about branding. Otherwise, you do.
I will note that the mindset shift comes easiest when you look at how you can create your brand authentically. Branding yes, icky no.
To Blog or Not to Blog
Why is blogging important?
Blogging is a great way for you to accomplish a few important things with your site:
- Establish a regular, ongoing connection with your readers by providing valuable content.
- Use this content to build your site authority.
- Expand your audience by sharing this content in different ways and in different places.
- Improve your SEO.
It is not 2005 anymore… quality beats quantity. Consistency is far more important than any schedule some “expert” says you “must follow.”
A lot of authors start off with something like Wix or Weebly. Why is it important to have a WordPress website?
Free and low cost means you get what you pay for.
A poor technical foundation puts your brand in an unfavorable light. The flexibility and ease these sites promise (which is an illusion and disservice at best) means it is not going to work optimally for you. It will not display properly on all devices (what they call mobile responsiveness). It does not have proper schema markup which means it will hurt your SEO and behave unpredictably in some browsers and devices.
Performance is poor because there is a ton of sloppy “under the hood” code to make this “easy” platform generate its illusions of wonder. It can be hard or impossible to integrate the best email marketing and platform building tools with your site. The list goes on….
Here is the real gotcha though: You may think you are using the platform “just to get started” and that you will migrate to something better in the future.
Start with a WordPress Website
“Someday – When I have a bigger budget! When I have a bigger following!”
This is a bad strategic move.
What I know from experience is that moving off these platforms means you will lose everything you have built to date. If you have been adding pages to your site or blogging, you can kiss that content and SEO goodbye. You cannot migrate from these free platforms.
Yes, if you search the web you will find there are purportedly “migration tools” but I can tell you from using these hands-on several times in the last year to rescue authors from their karmically challenged Wix and Weebly sites that they do not work.
Start with a strong foundation (platform and expert support) and build from there. You will be thankful you did.
Must-Have Pages on an Author Website
What are the basic, necessary pages for an author website and what should those website pages include?
In addition to the Home, About, and Blog which we already discussed above, your site should have at a minimum:
Include over images of your book(s), short blurbs, words of praise, video trailers, and a buy them. Start with what you have and build from there. Consider using an excerpt or teaser as well.
People need a way to contact you. A contact page, contact form, and other ways to connect with you are necessary features.
Do you think a press page is important? Tell us why or why not.
It depends. A press and media page serves two purposes:
· An easy landing place for media, press, event organizers to get the things they need from you to promote you (high-resolution photos, speaker sheets, etc.).
- A way to highlight your appearances, credibility, and create “social proof.”
- If you are starting out, you may or may not have the need for a dedicated page (yet). A well-built site will make it easy for you to add one when the time is right.
- What should a website accomplish?
- Establish your brand on online real estate you own (own your domain name and choose a platform you control).
- Engage existing and potential readers – help them get to know you and your work.
- Build your platform, audience, and email marketing list.
- Integrate seamlessly with your other online and offline platform building efforts (social media, traditional media, etc.).
Social Media & an Author Website
How does social media tie into an author’s brand and an author’s effort to “sell more books?”
Think of your website and social media as having a hub and spoke relationship like a wheel. Your website should always be built on digital real estate you own and control. It is the hub. Your other efforts – of which social media is an important one – are the spokes.
Use social media to get your brand out to a broader audience and drive traffic to your website. If you have the right call to action on your website, you build your email list and sell more books.
What about SEO? What are some tactics that authors can use to increase their website’s SEO without hiring of an SEO expert?
Organic SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. There are two components to SEO – the technical side and the content/linking side (both internal to your site and external).
Get the technical side correct by choosing a solid platform like WordPress and have it configured correctly. Same advice for using Yoast SEO (the premier SEO plugin) – hire a website expert to configure it. Proper configuration is key.
Content Is Still King
Create good content. Period. There is no “SEO hack” that can fix half-baked content. Blogging is a good way to do this.
Then, take time with each piece of content you create to address key SEO components of each post/page (title, headings, meta description, linking, and alt tags).
Think of SEO as a slow, meticulous building process. Start with a strong foundation and make it part of everything you do or add to your site going forward.
About Paula Gregorowicz: The Paula G Company LLC helps business owners and authors streamline and simplify their business. Through coaching, process automation, and website development she helps them grow in a relaxed and expansive way. Check out her website.
About Frances Caballo: A social media expert for authors (something I never dreamed of becoming), I build author platforms to enhance book sales. I also use my industry connections to promote authors and their books. What else can I do for you? I’m a writer so I provide content writing and email marketing services, and if all you need is some personalized training, I can do that as well. Let’s chat! And don’t forget to download my free Twitter ebook.