Halloween may be over, but the spooky stuff still hangs around in some places. Your author website is your home base, the one spot your fans rely on to get in touch with you and find out about your next book. You want new readers to bookmark your website and check back frequently, not click back three seconds after they see your site. Here are nine things you have to get rid of right away if you've made the mistake of putting them on your site.
- Old information. If you've got a site with pictures from last year's snowstorm and that's missing the last two books you wrote, readers will find it less than useless. If you can't build your site yourself, at least have the builder show you exactly how to update it. Make an appointment with yourself to check your site at least every two weeks just to make some sort of change or tweak.
- 404 pages. Broken links are worse than frustrating; they can cost you money when people back out of your site. Check all the links on every page whenever you look through your site.
- Music. A lot of people listen to music while they check out websites. If you've got an autoplay song on your site, it's going to turn their headphones into a jangled pile of noise. Even worse are sites that hide the "off" button. Resist the urge, no matter how much you like that song. No, not even Christmas carols.
- Me, me, me. Yes, the reason readers follow authors today is to find out about them, to relate with them as human beings. But there's a fine line between talking about writing on the beach on your last vacation and talking about your cat and it's cute antics for five blog posts in a row. You need personal flavor, but it needs to relate to your writing. Or at least to something in your books. If your main character knits, knitting posts aren't out of line. Gardening tips might be.
- Flash. Once the darling of the video world, Flash is now just annoying. It won't work on mobile sites, which are quickly becoming the leading venue for reading websites. It slows down desktop computers, kills your Google rankings and can shut down some older PCs. Just don't.
- Slow loading pages. No, it shouldn't take four seconds for your page to load. Believe it or not, you'll lose a significant number of people in those four seconds. There are things you can do to make your pages load faster. Do some research and take care of the problem.
- Ugly design. If your site hasn't had a redesign in 20 years, it's overdue for an overhaul. Text that spreads from edge to edge, bright clashing colors, moving .gifs and other signs of old-school web design will tell readers you're hopelessly behind the times. There are thousands of free or inexpensive design options for websites today. Study what's successful now, and what doesn't work any more.
- Splash pages. If you've got a page that's designed to do nothing but funnel readers onto another page, you've got an annoying splash page. Only keep this if you want to look like a scam artist or someone who used to sell products on television at 3 in the morning. Treat your first page like the front page of a newspaper. It should have great information, plus it should send readers to pages with more detailed interests.
- A request for private information. Most authors have at least one spot on their site that asks for readers' name and email address. It's a great way to keep in touch and to let readers know about upcoming books. Don't ask for their zip code, phone number or mailing address. And always post your anti-spam policy. Readers want to know you're not going to bombard them with spam on a weekly basis. They just want to know about your books.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!