9 Author Website Mistakes That Are Costing You Fans
Creating your website gets easier and easier but even with awesome tools and resources, that doesn't mean it won't have mistakes which will lose you potential readers. Make sure you are preventing these blunders!
Creating a website is quite easy and designing it gets simplier and simplier. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that your website will help you bring in book sales and loyal readers. Sadly, mistakes still can plague your site and readers have very short attention spans online, tons of other entertainment options so they don’t have time for boring, clunky and slow websites. Even small errors that cause inconveniences are an issue (because the ‘Back’ button on readers browser is always there). You are losing book sales and possible loyal readers if you have any of the following mistakes in your author website:
If your homepage features a ton of things and sections then you might be confusing the heck out of your readers, which makes them leave your website fast. Too many things happening at once creates the Paradox of Choice – weirdly, the more options you give someone the more confused they might get and not choose anything at all (which results in lost email subscribers for example). So while you might want to put as much info into one page, often it’s best not to overload it.
If you look at Google’s homepage, you know exactly what it is for and what to do. Google has tens of other products and services but they don’t advertise them all on homepage and don’t even show them unless you click on the tiny little menu in the right corner of website.
The best guideline to use on your website is to have one main thing per page ( it’s also called ‘Call to Action’). So in real life, your pages should have only one thing that is most important and then others have to be way smaller and non-distracting. Often, this means an email subscriber form on top of the homepage and then short intro text below it with some tertiary stuff following after that. It gives information and options to readers but without distracting them and clearly featuring the main thing.
If your website is too slow to load up (under 2 seconds is best, 2-3s is OK) it will not only make the reader click away from it without waiting for it to load but it will also lose rankings on Google. So even if you write great, interesting blog posts, your content won’t show up as high on Google as it can because Big G penalises slow websites (it’s one of the ranking factors for SEO)
Ways to increase the speed of your website load times:
Optimise images of the website – images are ‘heavy’ and take longest to load up. Optimising them with a tool like www.tinyjpg.com cuts their size 30-80% so that really helps
Install a Caching plugin like WP Rocket (learn more about caching at https://winningwp.com/what-is-website-caching-and-why-is-it-so-important/ ). You really don’t need to know how it works technically more than that and don’t need to do any coding or anything special to make it work. It is usually just installing a plugin and choosing few settings.
Delete unused plugins
Check if your hosting is good, it may be the issue – sometimes the cheap hosting company stuffs so many websites into one physical server that they start to load up slow. Each individual site might be not too big but with many sites and too many requests and visitors coming to server at one time, the server might be getting overloaded.
Not Mobile Responsive
Having a website that does not work on mobile phones is a detriment. Not only because it loses readers who are visiting your website from their phones (due to inconvenient design) but Google also counts how much time reader spends on the website, how fast he leaves it etc and that impacts the SEO rankings as well. Google officially claim that they do not penalise non-mobile responsive sites but even if they don’t directly do it, the fact that readers bounce out of your website fast and never come back is a factor which indirectly impacts them. Not to mention that these more and more people browse internet primarily from mobile devices so non-responsive design could be alienating more than half your visitors.
No Exclusive content
If your website has no exclusive content (book pages only have the same description from Amazon, about page is written in 3rd person like some dead-boring, faceless public company) then you’re losing interested readers. Not necessarily people who don’t know you yet and might convert into readers but those who already have read something of yours and are looking to see what else you have.
There are things you do for people who don’t know you yet (like freebie book giveaway on your site in exchange for email address) and there are things you do to convert someone from a one-time reader into a real fan.
This doesn’t mean you should be blogging constantly too. By exclusive content, I mean interesting things about a book you wrote on its book page. Not just same ol’ description… why not add sections on how you came up with the idea? Short descriptions of characters and why they are clashing, or what bad events are coming (non-spoilery of course). Think of it as making a book trailer but with text and pictures. Think of it as making each book page a ‘Visual Blurb’ for the book (that includes story matching visuals, not just text).
If you want to go fancy you can even record a short audio about it and have that on your page. A little audio intro. It can be easily done with an app like Anchor (click a button and record on your smartphone, then save the audio file, no fancy equipment).
No Email List
This will probably offend some authors but not having an email list equals not being an independent author. Why? Because self-publishing is great but if you’re not publishing ‘wide’ and don’t have an email list then you are 100% dependent on Amazon and it’s book marketing. Which means you might be independent from a traditional publisher but you’re 100% dependent on a platform from Amazon. And that is not safe, not ideal.
Email list is the main thing that you can control and own. It’s a direct way to reach your fans and send them to buy your book from any distributor you want, whether it’s Amazon or Kobo or iBooks etc. That is power and security! That is independence! And that is leverage you can use if you want to get a deal with a publisher (the bigger email list the less you ‘need’ them so the better deal terms you can negotiate for your deal).
This is an obvious one but if your website is ugly, has jarring colors, bad structure, too much information and is inconvenient to browse people will not read it and drop off almost straight away. Those who came from your book will give it some time because they like you, but those who come from Google without knowing you will drop straight away.
You don’t need to blog full-on but the website has to show some signs of progress. Even if it’s just word counter on one of the pages showing your progress in writing the next book.
It would be better if you blog once a month too with updates on your behind-the-scenes stuff (which can be used as newsletter content too) but at least some progress shows you’re a serious author.
Plus, Google likes a website that is updated and get fresh content. That helps rankings, at least indirectly.
Boring About page/copy
It’s crazy to me when I read 3rd-person writing about themselves in 3rd person. It’s either inauthentic or arrogant (and neither is good for turning readers into fans).
3rd-person writing is so boring and dry too. Yuck!
So work on your About page more than to just ‘have something on it’. It really is lazy. You are a storyteller, so tell YOUR story (in short and nice manner). You are building a personal brand so people can find things to relate with you not only from reading your books but also as a person. And that is also a great help for building a loyal base of fans. It is fun to get emails from people who care about you and your writing.
GDPR Compliance issues
To learn more about GDPR, here are 99 common questions about it answered (from MailerLite): https://www.mailerlite.com/blog/99-gdpr-questions-people-are-asking-about-email-marketing
I hope this was a useful article and it will help you fix these mistakes (or not make them as you’re getting your new website). There is nothing wrong with making mistakes if you didn’t know them, but keeping them is bad. Now that you’re aware of them, it should help you have a better website.
If you found it helpful, please share this with your author friends so more and more authors get more effective author websites too!