what-do-my-analytics-really-mean

What Do My Analytics Really Mean?

what do my analytics really meanYou’re an author. You have a website. And (if you’ve been properly advised) you have Google Analytics that allow you to regularly review your site traffic. But like many authors, you may be asking: “What do my analytics really mean?”

After all, when you log into Google Analytics, you’re likely to see a slew of numbers and terms you don’t know. And many authors are not exactly “numbers people” who naturally understand what all the tables, charts and digits represent. That’s okay.

Here are 10 specific things to look at in your Google Analytics, what they really mean, and what you should do as a result.

  1. Users (under “audience”): This is a pretty basic stat. It’s how many people visited your site in the time period you’re reviewing. “Users” is also subdivided into two segments: new visitors and returning visitors. So if 100 people visit your site in a given month, and half of them come twice, then you’d have 150 users, 100 new visitors and 50 returning visitors. Obviously, one of your primary goals in driving traffic to the site is to increase the number of users. Depending on your personal goals (selling books, building a fanbase, etc…) you may weigh new visitors more heavily than returning visitors, or vice versa.
  2. Pageviews (under “audience”): This is a pretty simple stat. It’s how many pages on your site were visited during that time period. So if you’re 150 visitors each visited an average of 2 pages each time they came, you’d have 300 pageviews. Again, the higher the better!
  3. Bounce rate (under “audience”): A “bounce” is considered a visit to your site in which only one page was viewed. So if someone came to your homepage, looked briefly at it and then decided, “nah, I was really looking for something else,” that would be considered a bounce. And your bounce rate is shown in percentages, so if, of your 150 visitors, 100 of them only looked at one page, your bounce rate would be 66%. As scary as this number may be, it’s actually not unprecedented. According to an article on GoRocketFuel.com, “As a rule of thumb, a bounce rate in the range of 26 to 40 percent is excellent. 41 to 55 percent is roughly average. 56 to 70 percent is higher than average, but may not be cause for alarm depending on the website. Anything over 70 percent is disappointing for everything outside of blogs, news, events, etc.”
  4. Mobile (under “audience”): Do you know what kind of device people are using to view your site? It’s important that you do. This stat will show you what percentage of your users are on desktop vs. mobile. If a large percentage is mobile, you will want to make sure that your site is mobile friendly.
  5. Geo (under “audience”): This cool feature will tell you which countries your visitors are coming from. Depending on the type of book you’ve written and where it’s available, this could be some very valuable information.
  6. Acquisition: This is a very, very important stat. It tells you where your visitors are coming from. And it’s broken down into three buckets: “organic” (which means people searching on Google/Yahoo/Bing and then clicking on a link to your site from search results; “referral,” which refers to links to your site from other sites (like Facebook, for example); and “direct” (which means people physically typing in the URL based on having read it or heard it somewhere).  There are marketing efforts that can be put in place to increase all three of these, like advanced search engine optimization for organic, outreach to other sites/bloggers for referral, and making sure to include your site URL on your book jacket (direct). This stat is how you will know which of your efforts are effective.
  7. Site content (under “behavior”): This tells you which pages on your site people actually visited. It will break down for you all the pages that were visited, how many people visited each one, and how much time they spent on each page. If you look at very little else in your analytics report, this one is super important, because it gives you an idea of where on your site people are going and how long they’re staying there.
  8. Landing pages (also under “behavior”): A landing page refers to the page that someone entered your site through. And while authors commonly assume that most people come into the site through the homepage (and often they do), you may look at these stats and be surprised to learn that a large percentage of users are coming in through a blog post or your author bio. This information is important because it allows you to recreate the user experience, arriving with a fresh eye on something other than your homepage. What do they see there? Are there links to other parts of the site? An easy way to see/buy your book? You may consider adjusting what’s on these pages if you discover that a large percentage of users are entering through them.
  9. Users flow (under audience): This is a super cool feature of Google Analytics. It allows you to physically view the flow that users went through on your site. This visual demonstration allows you to see the pages people entered your site through, and then where most of them went from there. For those of you who prefer to see your stats visually, this may really open your eyes about where people are on your site.
  10. Exit pages (under “behavior”): So a landing page is where people came into your site. An exit page is where people left. If you look at the user flow and exit pages and notice that it’s, for example, the “buy the book” page that is your biggest exit page, then it’s time for you to pay some extra attention to what’s on that page. What is it that is boring or frustrating users enough that it’s making them leave? Take a look at your largest exit page and try testing a change or two to it. Try changing the copy that’s on that page, or add a photo to make it more engaging. Most importantly, make sure there are links on the page that allow people to keep reading if they’re interested. Play around with it and see if you can identify one or two small changes that might lower your exit rate on this page.

Whew! Now, all of this isn’t to say that Google Analytics will ever be easy or come naturally to authors. But hopefully, you will now know what to look at and what it means. And if you have questions, feel free to contact us for additional help!

book website 2017

5 Things You’ll Want to Add to Your Book Website by 2017

book website 2017We’re only halfway through 2016. And yet, everyone’s eyes are on the future already. Based on all the conversations going on in the publishing and marketing worlds, here are five things that I hear each book website should have in the new year…

Book Website Technology Musts for 2017

  1. Podcasts. Content is still king. But audio content is … well, whatever is higher than king. Authors should consider repurposing some of their blog content or book content in the form of podcasts, or podcasting interviews/conversations with other authors or experts. Podcast listening grew 23% between 2015 and 2016. There’s reason to think it will grow even more in the coming year.
  2. Livestreaming. I’ve written many posts about the hows and whys of using video on your website. But suffice to say, if you’re not using it by the end of 2016, you’ll be missing out on a lot of site traffic — both to your site and your videos on YouTube, as YouTube is now the second biggest search engine (behind Google). But the latest trend goes beyond that … it’s about livestreaming video. According to Dave Kerpen of Likeable Local via HuffPost, “Apps such as Periscope, Meerkat and Blab will grow in popularity and create opportunities for marketers to cut through the ever-cluttered landscape.” Think about livestreaming your videos from conferences, book signings and more.
  3. Instant articles from Facebook. According to socialmediaweek.com, this relatively new feature allows you to immediately post any new content on your site — like blog entries — directly to Facebook. “Essentially, the company’s content management system interfaces directly with Facebook and can seamlessly publish new content as it is ready for release.” It’s currently only available to big publishers (like NY Times, etc…), but predictions are that anyone will be able to use it by the end of 2016. So next time you post a blog entry about, say, your commentary on last week’s Brexit vote and how it ties into your book, that would immediately appear on Facebook and be visible to all.
  4. An omni-channel experience. It’s quite a buzz word, right? Well, what it refers to is creating an experience for your readers on various channels at various stages of their journey. An example provided by conversionadvantage.com is one that Disney used:
    • Users book a trip online and then use the My Disney Experience tool to help them plan the whole trip from booking hotels, obtaining passes etc.
    • Once they arrive at the park, the app helps users locate attractions and waiting times.
    • But the experience gets better with their Magic Band which acts as a hotel room key, photo storage device for any pictures, and a food ordering tool.

    Think about how you can provide something similar for your users. Maybe their experience starts with them viewing your website. Then they buy the hard copy and read the book. Maybe you want to offer them an app that they can use while reading the book to track their growth/learnings/progress. Then maybe they can come back to the website and join an online community to share their thoughts. Think about all the different ways your book can touch a reader, and how you can offer, as they call it, an omni-channel experience.

  5. Personalized emails. I’ve been saying forever that it’s important for authors to collect email addresses. And that hasn’t changed. But it’s what you do with those email addresses that is changing. Instead of just putting everyone’s name on one big email list and sending out emails en masse, today’s emails are becoming more and more personalized. First, it’s helpful to actually use a person’s name in the email to make it clear that it’s customized for them. Also, ask users when they sign up what they’re looking to receive. Do they want news updates? Do they want to be pinged every time you post a new blog entry? Are they just looking for a monthly recap? Give them options and then bucket your lists so that people are receiving exactly what they’re looking for. Also make sure to collect users’ geographic information so that you can update the appropriate people if, say, you’re doing a radio interview in Philadelphia tomorrow. By collecting a user’s name, location and interests (in addition to their email address), you can ensure that their email experience is a satisfying one.

What other book website trends are you predicting for 2017? Share them with us.

seo blog search

Authors: SEO Blog Posts in 3 Easy Steps

I’ve written many, many times about why authors should be blogging. One of the main reasons? Search engine optimization.

Let me explain. Authors — especially nonfiction authors — should be regularly posting blog entries. Each one of those entries should be optimized for the proper search term — something that a reader interested in your subject matter might actually be searching for on Google. For example, if you write a book about how to lose weight, you would also want to write various blog posts on the topic. By optimizing those posts for the right keywords, you can attract the audience of people searching for terms like, “How can I lose 5 pounds?” and drive them to your author website. Then you can promote the book while they’re there and expose potential readers to your title.

But how do you actually SEO blog posts to make sure that you show up high on those search results? How do you make sure to optimize your blog posts for the right keywords? Here are three easy steps.

3 Steps to SEO Blog Posts

Step 1: Install the right plug-in.

In WordPress, my preferred plug-in is called Yoast SEO. But if you’re using a different platform, I’m sure there’s another one you can use. This will provide you with the information you need in order to ensure that you’re doing SEO the right way (see step 3).

Step 2: Find the right keywords. For a fee, I can do advanced keyword research for my clients. I then provide them with a long list of specific keywords to target on their site. But there’s an easier way to do this if you don’t want to make that kind of investment. You can simply start typing a search term into the Google search bar to get a good keyword idea. See the photo below to see what I mean.

seo blog search

 

 

 

 

 

In this instance, if you’re writing a blog post with tips about losing weight, you can start typing in your guess for a search term and Google will literally tell you exactly what people are searching for. Pick one of those keywords (one you haven’t used before) and decide that you’re going to optimize your blog post for that one specifically.

Step 3: Work the keywords into the right places.

There are certain staples to properly optimizing a blog post for a specific keyword. Those include having the keyword (exactly) appear:

  • In the title
  • In the URL
  • As an “alt” tag on an image in the post
  • In the first paragraph of the post
  • In the metadescription
  • In subheads throughout the piece

The nice thing about a plug-in like Yoast is that it consistently reminds you of these things. If you do it right, then all the circles are green. If you forget something, it always reminds you. See below.

seo blog yoast

Simply perform steps 2 and 3 each and every time you post a blog entry, and you should start noticing your traffic (and conversation in your blog) increasing.

Photo credit: Skley via ChairsHunt / CC BY-ND

E-mail Tips for Authors: Building and Using Your E-mail Lists

Photo credit: Skley via ChairsHunt / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: Skley via ChairsHunt / CC BY-ND

Some people think email is soooo 2000s. After all, isn’t everyone communicating via Facetime, Snapchat, Twitter and such… now?

Not necessarily! Email can still be extremely useful as an author marketing tool. Here are some basic e-mail tips for authors … from collecting email addresses to using your lists wisely.

Step by Step E-mail Tips for Authors

Step 1: Set up an email collection system
In order to start collecting emails on your author website, you need to have a place to store them. There are a few basic systems that you can choose to use.

The first is a simple WordPress plug-in (assuming your site is built on WordPress). One basic one is just called “Newsletter.” This is a free system that stores any email addresses that people enter on your site, and offers some bells and whistles, too, like newsletter creation, the ability for users to unsubscribe automatically (a legal requirement) and more.

Other people opt to go with something a bit more complicated, like MailChimp. This service is also free up to a certain point (once your email list gets to about 2,000, there can be a charge involved). It offers a bit more flexibility in terms of newsletter design, analytics and more.

Then there’s a more advanced service, like Constant Contact. There’s a monthly fee associated with this one, but it has more bells and whistles.

All of these types of services are incredibly easy to set up and give you a simple code to put on your site. Which one you choose should depend on how much time, energy and money you want to invest in this project. But the concept of all of them are relatively similar: Any email address entered through the site is automatically stored in the system, and that list can easily be accessed any time.

Step 2: Plan your communications with subscribers
Just collecting email addresses isn’t enough. You actually need to … you know …. use them. And this plan should be mapped out before you start collecting addresses, because (as you will see in step 3), you need to tell people what to expect before they sign up.

Start by planning how frequently you’re going to send to that list. Will it be a monthly newsletter? Will you just send everyone a quick notification every time you post a new blog entry? Or will it be a news-based notification — like if you’re doing a radio show tomorrow?

Once you’ve figured out the strategy you want to use, then make sure you have everything you need in place — like a newsletter template, a blog feed etc… — to make this actually doable.

Step 3: Start collecting emails!
So now that you CAN collect email addresses, how do you actually convince people to start giving you their email? It’s not as easy as you may think.

I’ve written extensively about this in the past, like in this post: 4 Ways to Improve and Increase Your Email Sign-Ups. So I’ll keep this one short.

But here’s the gist of it: People need a reason to sign up. They’re not going to give out their email for no reason. So offer an incentive, like a free download. And make sure you spell out what they should expect to receive and when if they give you their email address.

Finally, it’s important that you tell anyone and everyone that you will not sell or share their email. That assurance of security is essential.

Step 4: Think outside the box about utilizing your list
In this super-helpful recent article on PW by Jane Friedman, she outlines many of her recommendations for using email lists creatively. Here are some highlights.

  • Review your list and determine if anyone on it might benefit from an individualized email instead of a mass email. For example, if someone is an influencer (like a blogger who reviews books), this is someone that you might want to pull out of the larger list. You can then reach out individually to each of these influencers with a more customized message. This will increase the likelihood of making the most of that relationship.
  •  Your email list can be an essential tool in your book release strategy. For example, if you send out a newsletter pre-launch, you can include key details about where the book is available. You might also want to consider offering bonuses for people who buy the book on a particular day (like the day of launch). This can help you sell a lot of books at once, and might allow you to make it on one of Amazon’s top seller lists.
  • Consider collecting additional information from users, and then segmenting your email lists. Asking for more than just an email can be risky (the more you ask for, the more people will bail out). But if you want to be bold, consider collecting additional information, like where someone lives or how many of your books they’ve already read. This will allow you to segment your list and do what’s called “targeted newsletter sends” — dividing your list based on the specific message. In other words, you could notify only people in the midwest if you were doing a local book signing. Or allow you to send separate newsletters to people who are already your superfans vs. the newbies.

As Jane says at the end of her article, “That’s the point at which email marketing becomes among the most valuable and profitable marketing tools, where you can tie specific sales goals to each email you send out.”

I couldn’t agree more.

author website questions

10 Things About Author Websites That Might Surprise You

author website questionsOver the last decade, we have built websites for hundreds and hundreds of authors. And since we do this for a living, we tend to know the ins and outs of author websites like the back of our hands. But, surprisingly, there are some basic facts that I’ve found that many of the authors we work with don’t know or don’t understand.

With that in mind, here are 10 things that might surprise you about building and maintaining an author website.

1. Building your site doesn’t pay for hosting your site. I can’t tell you how many clients I have worked with who think that once they pay to get a site built, that their site can then live on indefinitely without paying an additional penny. That’s not how it works. I like to explain that a site hosting fee is like paying rent for your space on the internet. Think of it like a store: you pay a large one-time fee to get the store launched, but you still have to pay rent each month for your store space. Hosting is similar.

2. Domains are separate from hosting. Along those lines, there’s often a lot of confusion about paying for hosting vs. paying for your domain. So let me clear that up here. Think of your domain as the name of the store you want to open. You need to first decide on and purchase your domain. The fee for that is nominal — only about $15 per year. You then own that. And YOU need to own it — not whomever is building or hosting your site. You can then build a site and point that domain name over to it. To continue with the analogy, that’s like putting your store name on the awning in front of the space you’re renting. For as long as you’re going to be in that space, you will keep the domain pointing there. But if you ever decide to have another site built or have your site hosted elsewhere (i.e. move your store to a larger location), you can simply then re-point the domain to the new server. But the two are distinctly different.

3. Email boxes can fill up. Yup, it can happen. Over the course of five years or so, you might accrue 50,000 emails. Each and every one of those is taking up space on your server. Eventually, your server will tell you that it can’t house any more email, and the address will stop working. Be proactive about this and clean out your email box every once in a while.

4. Google Analytics is a free service. So many people ask me about if/how they can get a website traffic report. If anyone wants to charge you for a report like this, they’re hosing you. That’s because Google Analytics offers free website traffic reports to anyone who wants them. You can sign up easily with any email address associated with Google. You can then get an account number, which you simply have to put in the right place on your site. Then, voila! You can log back in to your Google Analytics account any time to view your traffic numbers.

5. Today’s sites are built off templates with modules. This is sort of a long and complicated point, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Today’s websites are built off templates. Each of those has a pretty structured layout. And each page follows the same layout. What this means is that it’s super important you choose the right template. A design firm like Smart Author Sites can help you adjust that template somewhat — to insert your own color scheme, logo, widgets, photos, etc… but the structure is pre-built. This means that you can’t have each page look different, and you can’t simply “move,” say, the social networking icons from the bottom to the top of the page. So choose your theme wisely.

6. Sites and themes need to be updated. The internet is ever changing. And there are people out there getting into and hacking sites each and every minute. As a result, the good guys have to keep trying to stay on top of things, and continually update security settings. So if you have a WordPress site, it’s essential that you log in at least once a week and run any updates that they recommend. If you have a site hosted through us, we will do that for you. But either way, it’s essential for your site security that it be done.

7. People don’t always enter a site through the homepage. I have this conversation at least once a week. Clients want to, say, feature their book on their homepage … and nowhere else on the site. This comes from a natural assumption that visitors always come into a site through a homepage. This is especially common among authors, who tend to think of sites linearly — like a book. That’s not the way people use the web, though. In this particular example, let’s say someone does a Google search for the author’s name and comes into the site through the author bio page. They may never have seen that homepage. And let’s say they’re then looking to learn more about the book. They go to the site navigation … there’s no “book” tab. Would they know to go to the homepage to find the book details? Not likely. So it’s important to remember that the homepage is like a teaser — not a replacement  — the other sections of the site.

8. Site design affects load time. I’ve worked with many authors that want the most beautiful site in the world. They want rich photos, illustrations and detailed design. Can it be done? Sure. But is there a cost? Yes. It’s load time. The more images there are on a page, the longer that page is going to take to load. And longer load times cost you site traffic — both in terms of frustrated users who can’t get the page to load and the search engines who punish you for having a site with long load times. So it’s important to find the balance in your site design between functionality and appearance.

9. Site content is distinct from site design. When you look at a page of an author website, you see many things: a header, a logo, a navigation, and maybe a photo and a lot of text. But for developers, that one page can be divided into two very distinct areas: the design and the content. In other words, the site design is the more complicated, code-based section of the page. It’s also the stuff that stays consistent throughout the site. For example, every page will have your logo, your name and your navigation. It’s the text and photos that differ from page to page that qualifies as your site content. That’s the stuff that’s super easy to swap in and out — either from page to page or from day to day. This may not make a lot of sense or have a lot of meaning to you, but it’s huge to us. Because your site design is a whole lot more complicated — and difficult to make alterations to — than the words on your bio page, for example.

10. Yes, it’s easy to link out. This question has probably surprised me more than any other. I’ve talked to so many authors who have asked me if they can have links from their author websites to buy their books on Amazon, B&N, etc… Yes. Absolutely. Linking out to a bookselling site is one of the easiest things you can possibly do. It’s a no-brainer.

Do you have additional questions like these? Anything you want clarification on? Post them below!

should i be blogging or using social

Should I Be Blogging, Posting on Social, Or Both?

should i be blogging or using socialAuthors have limited time on their hands. In today’s busy world, who doesn’t?

So I frequently have authors who are wondering where they should invest what little marketing time they have.

If you’ve ever asked the question, “Should I be blogging or investing my time in building a following on social?” we finally have some answers.

Thanks to our friends at Contently, who recently published Does Your Content Need a Permanent Home? we have some important questions you can ask yourself when making this decision…. I’ve taken their recommended questions and customized them for authors…

Questions to Ask Yourself: Should I Be Blogging, Posting on Social, Or Both?

1. Who’s your target readership?
Who will be reading your book, anyway? Is it 50-year-old businessmen? Fifteen-year-old girls? If you’re primarily looking to reach an older, more academically-minded audience, a blog is probably a good place to dedicate your time and effort. That will allow you to drive them to your site, where you can offer additional materials and really sell your brand. If your audience skews younger, you’re probably better off offering snack-size bits — in either text or video format — that they can enjoy for a quick moment, and then go on with their day.

2. How important is ownership to you?
Do you know what the biggest difference between a blog and a social presence is? Well, it’s that you actually own your blog, and you have no ownership of anything on social. Not only does that mean that a social networking platform can take down anything you post if they’re so inclined, it also means that if they shut down their site, everything you’ve written there can disappear completely. And here’s another downside of lack of ownership when you post on social … you don’t really own the list of followers you acquire through social. So you may have 50,000 people following you on Twitter, but if Twitter were to cease to exist, that list would vanish completely. And if Twitter became less popular and people stopped paying attention to it? You would have no way to reach out to those followers again, short of getting them all to follow you on a new platform. Collect the same list of followers on your own site, for example, and you can collect contact info, etc… That is then yours, and you can use it for ever and ever. So if owning your material and your contact list is important to you, then blogging makes the most sense. If not, social will do just fine.

3. Do you regularly post about time-sensitive things?
Unless your blog grows to the point where it’s rivaling CNN, your blog posts are never going to be showing up at the top of a Google search result on the same day that you post it. Your social posts, on the other hand, very well might. So here’s a scenario: Let’s say you write a book about global warming. And then there’s a tropical storm, which you attribute to global warming, about to hit the US. You want to write about that, right? If you do it in blog format, it may get read … but certainly not when the search term “Tropical Storm Alberto” is trending on Google. If you post in social, with the proper hashtag, you have a much better chance of jumping on that opportunity.

4. What’s your primary online goal?
I frequently ask authors what their primary goal out of their website is. It usually falls into one of two categories: getting his/her name out there and building a following, or selling books. If your goal is the former — building your name — then social may be a good place for you to focus your efforts. By building followers on Facebook/Twitter, you are getting your name and your posts in front of a large number of people. They will regularly see you in their feed, and they will get to know your name, your face and your brand. Mission accomplished. If, on the other hand, you want to focus more on selling books, a blog may serve you better. People are far less likely to go out of their way to buy your book off of a series of cute social posts. In order to take the plunge and actually make a purchase, it usually requires something a bit stronger: an impressive blog post on an impressive website that nicely ties your book in to your overall message.

5. Is your website mobile-friendly?
While this isn’t directly related to the social vs. blog question, it is something to keep in mind. I wrote a post just a few weeks ago about the damage that can be done to your site if it’s not mobile-friendly. If that’s the case, and your site is less than optimal for the mobile audience, then it’s probably not worth your time to invest heavily in a blog on that site. Unless you plan to redesign in the near future, focus on social.

6. Do you write fiction or nonfiction?
This is another common conversation I have with authors. The truth is that marketing a fiction book is very, very different from marketing a nonfiction book. That ties back to two big reasons.

  • People read fiction books for pleasure, and nonfiction books for learnings.
  • People usually get fiction books recommended to them by friends/colleagues, while they very well may find out about a nonfiction book through browsing sites on topics that they find especially interesting.

Both of these scenarios spell out the following equation:
fiction books > nonfiction books on social
nonfiction books > fiction books on blogging

Now, you may have answered these six questions and still felt unsatisfied. After all, you might have answered three questions in one direction and three in the other. In short, we haven’t answered the question yet: “Should I be blogging?”

And that’s not for us to answer. That’s for you to ponder and figure out. Hopefully this post is a good first step in helping you do that.

mobile-friendly-author-website

Do You Have a Mobile Friendly Author Website?

mobile-friendly-author-websiteWhat makes a site mobile friendly? And what’s the problem if yours isn’t? How do you even know if your author website is mobile friendly? Today, we break down these questions and help you better understand the hows and whys of a mobile friendly author website.

What Does Mobile-Friendly Mean?

As its name implies, a mobile friendly website is one that is easy to use on the small screen of a mobile device. This can also be referred to as a website using responsive web design. In other words, a website that is only designed for a full-size desktop screen may be difficult to use on a smartphone. It may involve scrolling left/right to view the full page, or zooming in to read words. A mobile friendly site, which is built using responsive design software, is actually able to detect the size of the screen that you are viewing it on and adjust how the site appears accordingly so that it becomes more vertical than horizontal, compresses the navigation, and more.

How Do You Know If You Have a Mobile Friendly Author Website?

If your site was built in the last year or so, it’s very likely mobile friendly. But if it’s older than that, it could be hit or miss. Start by taking a look at your site on multiple devices. Visit it on a smartphone, a tablet and more. Does the design change based on the size of the device? Is it easy to use on a small screen? You should know pretty quickly.

How Does Not Having a Mobile-Friendly Author Website Cost You?

There are two big problems with having an author website today that’s not mobile friendly. One is fairly obvious. The other is not.

First, the obvious reason … you’re going to lose visitors. About 50% of web browsing in 2016 is done on mobile devices. That means that half the people who visit your website are likely to have a difficult or unsatisfying experience. Maybe they have to scroll to the right to view the full page. Maybe they have trouble using the navigation that was built for a desktop. Maybe they have to zoom in to read words. Not only is your site going to be difficult for them, but it’s also likely to appear out of date … after all, just about every site designed today is mobile-friendly. That’s not a good impression to leave with potential readers.

And now for the lesser-known problem with a site that’s not mobile friendly … Google is going to punish you for it. Google is well aware that larger percentages of people than ever are using mobile devices to browse the web. And what’s most important to Google? It’s that their users have a satisfying experience on whatever sites Google sends them to. So it’s in Google’s best interest to ensure that the sites they recommend are mobile-friendly.

As such, Google put together a page about the hows and whys of mobile-friendly sites. It even includes a test you can take to determine if your site meets Google’s mobile-friendly criteria. And if your site doesn’t pass their test for being mobile friendly? Well, then you very well may see a drop in your search engine rankings. In other words, Google will likely demote you on search result pages, below other sites that are mobile friendly. This can have a significant impact on your website traffic.

How Can You Make Your Site Mobile Friendly?

So now that you understand why it’s important to have a mobile friendly author website, how do you go about getting one? There are various ways you can do that — at varying costs, of course — but nearly all of them involve a redesign of the site. You can’t take the currently site that you have and simply make it mobile-friendly. It will need to be rebuilt from scratch with a code that is mobile-responsive.

There are free options, of course. WordPress offers a variety of templates that are mobile-friendly, and you can simply select one, migrate your content over, and get your new site up and running from there. If you’re willing to invest a little more, though, you can work with a design and development firm like Smart Author Sites to recreate the things you love about your current site in a mobile-friendly version. Plus, we offer expert advice on setting goals for your site, driving visitors there, and more.

Either way, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you may be unknowingly costing yourself a lot of site traffic and a lot of readers. That’s a mistake most authors don’t want to make.

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6 Steps to Building an Author Website

building-an-author-websiteThis seems like such a simple concept for a blog post. After all, I’ve been blogging about everything having to do with building an author website for more than five years now. It’s kind of shocking that I have never simply laid out all the steps to getting there, since I’ve covered such minutia surrounding it — everything from metadata to content partnerships, YouTube strategies and more.

Well, now it’s time. In the theme of simplicity, here are the steps to building an author website — from the day you decide to do it through the exciting site launch.

1. Purchase your domain name. 

Yes, you need to do this yourself. If you work with us, we are happy to walk you through it. We can also consult with you on the best domain name choices available. Here are some guidelines I’ve covered in previous posts.

2. Build your site map and strategy. 

I’m a little biased here, because this is where my heart lies. I work closely with each and every client to clearly map out a site map and site strategy. This includes deciding on your key actions (getting people to buy the book? encouraging newsletter sign-ups?), as well as what information should be front and center on your homepage, and what other content you want to include (book discussion guides? youtube videos? press kit?). It’s not always easy to figure out how to organize all of that content so that it’s easily found by readers, publishers and press. This is a key part of the process of building an author website, and I think it’s crucial that this step come before the design begins.

3. Kick off the design process. 

Now it’s time to design the site around that structure. When we are working with clients, this is when we start talking about the nitty gritty in site design — from layout preferences to color, fonts, photography and more. And if you’re working with a designer like us, it’s always helpful if you come prepared with a few other sites you’d like to model yours after — whether they belong to authors or anyone else. But even if you’re designing your own site off a template, this is where you make important decisions about how your site appears. It’s super important that it look professional and maintain the feel of your book cover and your genre.

4. Populate the pages with content. 

So the site has been designed. And you absolutely love it. Now it’s time to fill in the blanks. In other words, you now have a canvas to work with and it’s time to start doing what you are best at — writing. Create your tantalizing book blurb for the homepage. Craft the author bio. Start blogging. We provide clients with WordPress training at the beginning of this phase so that they can really feel like they own the site from this point forward, and can be comfortable adding or changing content — both before and after launch.

5. Get all your ducks in a row.

Now your site is populated. But do you have the link to buy the book working yet? How about your Facebook and Twitter accounts? Are they synched up with the site? Have you tested your contact form to make sure the email is coming through? Consider this your final dress rehearsal. Walk through each and every page on the site, click on every single link, and make sure it’s all functioning exactly as you want it to. Then…

6. Launch and promote! 

That’s right. This is when it all becomes very real. When we are working with clients, this is the final send-off. We then move the site from our private domain (where it wasn’t available to the public) to the final domain name the client has purchased. Finally, we submit the site to all the search engines (so that it can start appearing when people search for the author name, book title, and any other keyword we’ve optimized for) and also direct the client to start promoting it through social channels, email, etc…

Voila! That’s really it. Six simple steps. In reality, one or more of these may be a little more complicated than they sound, but I hope that breaking them down into buckets may help simplify the process — whether you’re working with us, another firm, or going it on your own. Here’s to building a great author website!

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5 Common Author Blog SEO Mistakes

author-blog-seoI just got off the phone with a marketing consultant who helps self-published authors promote themselves. We spent a long time talking about author blog SEO … and I was really surprised just how little even professionals understand about the dos and don’ts of search engine optimization.

With that in mind, here are five common mistakes I see/hear about from authors…

1. Optimizing for too many keywords.

How many keywords was your most recent blog post optimized for? Five? Ten? The truth is, each post should have one primary keyword. The days of entering 10 keywords in the traditional meta keyword field and thinking that your post is optimized are long gone. Nowadays, it takes far more work than that to get your post to show up on a search result page. Pick your primary keyword and then optimize your entire post for it. Speaking of which…

2. Not using headlines, URLs, images or h2/h3 tags.

Yup, these are the places that really matter. The primary keyword you select should be worked into your blog headline, your URL, your intro paragraph and in h2/h3 tags (subheads). See how the words “author blog SEO” appear in all those places here? This post is properly optimized. Unless you work your keyword into each one of those places, you’re not doing your post justice.

2. Optimizing for keywords that are too general.

Let’s say you wrote a book about the history of baseball. Common sense would say that your blog post should be optimized for the keyword term “baseball,” right? Wrong. There are probably hundreds of thousands of blog posts out there optimized for the word “baseball,” and the chances that you could compete with them is minimal. After all, ESPN has kind of mastered this stuff. So you need to get more specific in your keyword choices. For example, “Babe Ruth,” “1919 World Series” and “the origin of baseball” are keywords that are far more attainable. It’s a much better use of your time to focus on those. So how do you find those keywords?

3. Not doing author blog SEO keyword research.

I’m a big fan of the Google keyword tool to analyze keywords; it tells you how many people are searching for each one, and how much competition there is. But even if you don’t have this service, you can simply go to Google and start typing keywords into the search box. See how Google is actually finishing your search for you? Take a look at the keywords Google is filling in. This is a good starting point for determining what people are actually searching for. Identify those keywords first, and then optimize your post accordingly.

5. Reusing the same keyword in multiple posts.

Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? In terms of keywords, yes. If you already have a blog post optimized for, say, “the best author blogs,” and then you create a second blog post with the same keyword, what’s the result? Well, according to the experts, it in no way makes your site any more of a destination for that search term. Instead, it basically just sets you up to compete with yourself. It’s recommended that you have one destination (or in this case, blog post) for each specific keyword, and that you’re better off optimizing future posts for a variation of that keyword.

Now, SEO is an ever-changing field. What I’m telling you today may or may not still be applicable five years from now. But these are some good guidelines to start following to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck in terms of SEO for your blog. If you’re looking for more advice on building your author website, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

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Good Marketing. Poor Author Website Design. Does It Matter?

beverly-ovalle-author-website-designI stumbled across an article today from a local newspaper published in Wisconsin. It’s a personal profile on a local author, Beverly Ovalle.

If you’re interested in reading the full story, you can find it here. But, in short, it talks about how she became an author, the books that she’s written that are selling well on Amazon, and the various marketing efforts she’s using to promote her books, including Facebook and Twitter. She also joined the Romance Writers of America and the Wisconsin Writers Association and ROMVETS, a group of women veterans who write romances. She even entered one of her books in a contest (which it didn’t win).

There’s nothing about her story that’s shocking or exceptional. She’s an average person who tried her hand at writing, invested some time and energy in promoting her books and did pretty well.

Just the fact that I found this article means that she was able to pitch her story to the local paper and get it picked up. This is some great publicity for her! So she’s really doing something right.

But as I dug into her efforts, one thing caught my eye … and not in a good way: her website.

What’s Wrong With Her Author Website Design?

When I clicked through to her site, my first reaction was that it looked … well … amateurish. Here it is. Take a look for yourself: www.beverlyovalle.com.

It’s not awful, but it didn’t exactly blow my socks off either. My first guess was that she had designed it herself. And as I scrolled to the bottom, I found that I was pretty much correct. Right where the credit to the design team usually goes, it says it was “proudly created with Wix.com.”

For those of you who don’t know, Wix is a free website design service. It allows you to pick a website template and then customize it to your needs. The templates themselves aren’t bad. The problem is usually the customization.

In this particular case, Beverly decided that she was going to make the website look exciting and splashy. She wanted to add boxes that feature news, have words/image moving around, etc… None of these are bad things in and of themselves. It’s just that when the things that you’re adding are self-made — not made by a professional designer — they can fall flat. That was my reaction when I saw Beverly’s site.

When you work with a professional design team, (like us — the perfect time for a plug) you get a full package of design services. We start by helping you choose a template, and then we work with you to customize it to your needs. If you want splashy, you’ll get splashy. And you’ll get it with the professionalism of a true designer. You’ll also get lots of expert advice on what works and what doesn’t for other authors. We’re not afraid to push back on an idea if we think it won’t convey what you want it to convey. That’s the personalized service you get with a professional author website design firm, and not with a free service like Wix.

So here’s my question for you …

Does It Really Matter?

Clearly, Beverly is doing a lot of things right. She’s selling copies of her book. She’s active on social media. She got the local paper to cover her story. So her website is less than ideal in terms of its design and functionality. Does that matter? Is that hindering her success?

Ultimately, that’s for each and every author to decide for him or herself. Some might argue that getting a professionally designed website is a waste of money. I can’t argue that’s wrong. But I can tell you this. If I looked at Beverly’s site and thought it was missing something, then what reaction would agents have when they take a look? What about publishers? How about readers? You know what they say about first impressions.

What do you think? Is having a professionally designed author website important? Share your thoughts below!