by Karin Bilich
It’s the most important page on an author’s website. It’s where someone is most likely to land and then – in only three seconds – decide if they’re going to click around the site or leave. It’s your homepage.
That’s right … you have only three seconds to convince someone to stay. If they do stay, they may become a fan for life. If they don’t stay? Well, that’s one less person who may read your book and tell their friends about it. Those friends will tell their friends and so on.
Yup. That’s an important three seconds. And an important homepage.
Here are five of the most common mistakes that are made on author website homepages…
1. Too design-heavy. Look, I like an attractive website as much as the next guy. But people generally aren’t sold on a book because the website is attractive. The worst example of a site being too design-heavy is one that has a Flash intro. You most definitely do not want to make someone wait through an introduction before they can actually see your content. Think about it … Is that how you want them spending those precious three seconds? Waiting?
2. Too boring. No website should start with the words “Welcome to my website” (or even worse “web page”). When I recommend that clients write a “welcome” message for their homepage, I’m talking about something along the lines of: “Are you looking for the best _____ book you’ve ever read? You’ve come to the right place! Click around and you’ll _____, ______ and ____.” Much more interesting, right?
3. Not doing enough teasing. I like to think of an author website homepage as a tantalizing table of contents for the website. It should offer teasers on all of the content on the site, like the book excerpts, book secrets, author blog, etc… Too many authors use their homepages to serve as the place where they do one thing: for example, describe their book in full. If you use all your homepage real estate for one purpose, then you’re not taking advantage of the teaser that the page should be.
4. Too bloggish. This is a very common mistake. An author website and a blog are NOT the same thing. Now, I’m always a fan of a blog on an author website, but using the website’s homepage as the blog page is a huge mistake. There are two reasons why: 1) People arriving on the homepage may feel like they’re joining mid-conversation. That’s not very welcoming; and 2) Your most recent blog entry probably isn’t the most captivating content on the site. So, given the fact that you only have three seconds to capture someone’s attention, is a description of your most recent book signing really what you want them to see upon arrival?
5. No calls to action! You want people to actually do something on your website. Maybe you want them to buy the book. Maybe you’re hoping that they’ll give you their email address for future communications. Maybe you’d like them to share the site via Facebook. Whatever you want your visitors to do, encourage them to do it (and make it as easy as possible for them to take action). For example, don’t just tell people what the book is about, give them the links to read reviews, read excerpts, and (of course), buy the book.
Whether you already have an author website, or are considering building one, make sure you avoid these common mistakes. And, as always, feel free to contact an Infinity Publishing Author Advocate for a free consultation!
Karin has been working in web development, strategy, and copywriting since 1998. She entered the world of book publishing in 2003 when she became the Webmaster for PublishersWeekly.com, LibraryJournal.com, and SchoolLibraryJournal.com. It was there that she gained a unique perspective on book publishing, book sales, book reviews, and more. In 2005, Karin became a full-time freelancer to meet the needs of authors like you and, shortly after, created SmartAuthorSites.com. She's since worked with over 150 authors on developing websites and marketing books online, and she prides herself on personalizing each site for a specific author's needs.
Article image courtesty of LegendsWeb.
Director, Author Services, LinDee Rochelle, February 10, 2011:
It’s been said before, but after researching a couple of topics this week and visiting many, many websites, I’ll say it again: please, please, along with your book – edit your website – most especially the home page, if nothing else.
Websites are now the business card of choice. Isn’t it true that when you hand out a business card in a social networking event, the first thing one looks for on the card is your website address? Of course, as an Infinity author, even if you have not yet taken the plunge into your own website, you have your book’s pages in our bookstore, Buy Books on the Web (www.bbotw.com).
However, in order to market your book effectively, we also recommend establishing your own website, with related products and articles, to increase your reader awareness. (Of course, a link to your page on bbotw.com is where you receive the highest royalty amount on sales.)
Creating, designing, implementing a website is work—no doubt about it. And by the time it’s “up” you may have trudged your way through more than one designer and a couple of hosting companies, or have gone completely bald tearing your hair out in the DIY route. It’s possible that in the process you lose sight of the real reason for the website—your 21st century business card. That it can also market your book, and enhance your authorship is a plus.
Typos and common grammar errors can slip in, even if you paid a professional to create the website content and design. We use technology, but we are human. Mistakes will be made. But that does not mean you should leave them there indefinitely for all the world to see.
Some of the most sophisticated websites flaunt errors. Can you spot the real life website "oops"?
1-"Concession stands with food and berages are available."
2-"A short synapses about xxxxxx xxxxxxxx (identity protected), his accomplishments, and his life :"
3-"This page confirms the number and type of tickets you have selected. This page confirms the number and type of tickets you have selected."
4-"You loose clients because you forget to contact them for 6 months."
5-"Issues some to a head, making it possible to clear the slate and start over."
6-"The xxxxxxxx (protected identity) was created as a service to help find a community they can where participate, make friends and make a contibution." (Huh? Ouch!)
So … did you recognize all of the errors? A couple easy-to-miss reminders: #1, misspelled "beverages"—left out the "v"; #2, "synopsis" is not spelled with an "a" or “e” and there’s an extra space at the end of the line; #3, repeat that please (sentence duplicated); #4, common mistake substituting "loose" for "lose"; #5, well, "some" is spelled right, it's just supposed to be "come"; #6, someone got ahead of themselves and really didn't proof this sentence at all, don't you think? Scrambled word order and misspelled “contribution.”
And by the way, these examples were all taken from sites that want to sell us something. Of course, I’m a little hypercritical; however, if you think about it—and many customers do, even if subconsciously—a company or author with careless errors on their home page is perceived as careless in their book, product, or service quality, as well. Although one, even two, errors in an innocuous area of text may be acceptable, perfection is required in the focal text.
Recommendation: If time allows, take a breather of a couple of days just prior to “going live” with your site—don’t look at it even once—when you come back to it, you will be able to inspect it with a fresh eye and attention to detail. And if your site has been up for a while, perhaps it’s time to give it another in-depth review—can it use an update? (Home page updates are recommended every six to eight weeks, in order to freshen the SEO factors.)
A site free of errors is most critical for authors. Your website reflects your writing ability, whether you wrote the copy or not. It’s your name on the site and on the book you’re trying to market to your website viewers. Spotting typos and grammar goofs on your website will lead them to believe your book is pockmarked with them too.
And if you discover any errors in this blog, John Harnish wrote it! Haha. Just kidding—tell me! I deserve your jibes for it. But remember, you only get that one, all-important opportunity to make a great first impression.
Website blunders can happen to the best. But while you go on about your business unaware that goofs like this somehow escaped your intense scrutiny, they’re being spotted every day / hour / minute by your readers, clients, peers, business associates, and (gasp!) competitors, who snicker behind their monitor screens.
Strive for perfection … or at least the perception of it.
Ciao for now … LinDee