If you're a writer these days, you need a website. Simple as that.
Your writer's website is a vital tool for your career. It's the best place for readers or clients to find you and your work. It's also a great place to stay in touch with all of them. If you've already built your site, you probably already know all that.
Here's the question: Is your site as good as it could be? If you want to improve your website, here are some tips that can make it happen.
Tip 1: Reduce Clutter
Remember Myspace? I do. When I first started my page, I packed it with absolutely everything I could. I changed the background colors, added movie quotes, posted pictures of my dog, even set "Who Are You?" to play when you entered the page. It was all too much! The page barely loaded when you entered it.
Some author websites remind me of that Myspace page. If your page is cluttered with your Twitter feed, your current Goodreads books, your bio, your book trailer, your 10 affiliate ads, and more, the result is overwhelming. Your visitors are very likely to leave (if they even bothered waiting for the thing to load).
Now that's not to say that all the above are meaningless. They can be beneficial, but you need to prioritize. Reduce clutter wherever possible on your web page. Ask yourself, "Does this item need to be here?" If it could go elsewhere (or be removed completely), act accordingly.
Tip 2: Consider SEO
Most websites are discovered through web searches, usually via Google. Therefore, SEO, or search engine optimization, is critical to your success. Make sure to include words in your website that you want to rank for.
Time was, if you wanted to rank for a keyword, all you needed to do was use that keyword over and over on your site. Don't do that! It's called keyword stuffing, and it's no longer effective for SEO.
Let's say you want to rank for the term "independent romance writer." You should definitely have that term on your homepage and other pages. However, you should also guest post on sites with high domain authority, because Google will see the link back to you and recognize both as valuable sites. Regular blogging is another way to keep your own site's authority high.
Finally, be sure to match search intent with useful information. For your romance novels, for instance, you might use the term "great summer read" on your book's web page because searchers will likely use that term to find books like yours.
Tip 3: Think Mobile
Many people these days are browsing websites with phones. Keep this in mind when designing and updating your site.
For example, pop-up windows are becoming less and less relevant as people move to mobile. That's because they don't always appear on (or even work on) phones. Keep this in mind.
Also, careful what you put in your sidebar, because it might be completely removed from a mobile browser. For example, one of the key functions of my website (and most author websites) is generating email signups. I have a signup form on the sidebar of every page. That’s great... but not so great for mobile visitors. Therefore, I’ve added it to the bottom banner of each page as well. Anyone scrolling on any device should see it!
Tip 4: Less is More
The fewer options users have on a webpage the more likely they are to take the actions you want. For example, consider the top menu options on ProWritingAid’s home page:
Notice how we’ve only got four options? That’s so you’re not overwhelmed when you enter the page. These are just the essentials.
Consider this on your author website. Ask yourself: What is the purpose of this site? What do I want visitors to do?
For a little extra help, here are the key ingredients to make a good site:
Where users land when they find you online. Here you include the basics: a brief bio, a few publications, perhaps your headshot. Keep it simple—more info to come on other pages.
Remember, clean copy, clear messaging, and strong verbs are essential on your homepage. Use ProWritingAid to improve your writing throughout your website.
Every writer should have a blog! We’ve got tons of posts on blogging itself. But, for this page, just update it as often as you can with new content. Google (and your readers) will thank you for it!
Have any books? About to have some? Put past and future books on this page. Show off the hard work you’ve done as a writer!
I’ve based my book page structure on what I’ve seen other writers do. I think it works nicely. Basically, start with a tab on your main navigation labeled “Books.” When visitors click that button, your books page will appear in a running list of all your published works.
Next, create a web page for each individual book. Once you have a few in your catalog, there will likely be too many to fit on your main nav. So have them appear as drop down options when users hover over the “Books” tab. (Details vary depending whether you’re using WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, or another platform, but they all do it.)
Fill those individual book landing pages with your blurb, some positive reviews, and links to buy.
Finally, we need a place for fans to contact us. Most web design programs come with a contact form you can include on your page. Simply create a page, input the form, then set your alerts.
Social Media Links
You already knew that one. But don't forget!
Tip 5: Blog, and Blog Often
We're big believers in blogging here at ProWritingAid. If you don't believe us, just take a look through our archives. They're packed!
Why do we spend so much time, effort, and yes, money, on blog posts? For the same reasons you should do the same!
For starters, search engines favor websites with dynamic content. A website with the same stale content is like a restaurant that never changes its menu. Google notices that. If you constantly update your site with new blog posts, your site will rank better and better in search.
Furthermore, new blog posts give people new reasons to continue returning to your site. If you don't blog, they'll visit your site once and see all they need to see in that one visit. If you blog often, fans will flock to your page to see each new post. The more people on your website, the more likely you are to sell books.
Finally, for writers like you, blog posts are essentially free writing samples. The more great content you write, the more you'll establish yourself as a great writer with your current (or potential) readers.
Summing It Up
If you reduce clutter, consider SEO and mobile, remember that less is more, and blog often, you'll find more visitors on your site. Try out these tips and see for yourself!