Special Deal for SAS Clients: 50% off Advanced SEO

seoThe first quarter of 2015 is coming to an end, and Q2 is just beginning. With that in mind, it’s time to announce our special deal for current clients in the second quarter.

From April 1 to June 30th, any current Smart Author Sites client can take advantage of our advanced SEO (or search engine optimization) service at half the cost!

This $500 value, available now for only $250, gets you the following:

  • Google keyword research to determine the 10-15 top keywords your site should be optimized for
  • Optimization of the site’s homepage for the 3-5 top keywords
  • Optimization of the remainder of the site pages for the remaining 10 keywords
  • Guidance on how to use your blog, YouTube, etc… to further optimize for the appropriate terms
  • Re-submission of your site to the major search engines

You should start to see a difference in your placement for those keywords within weeks of implementing these changes. Reach out through our ticketing system if you’re interested in taking advantage of this special offer.

Thanks as always for your business!

Ask Us Anything About Author Websites!

spring_flowersSpring has spring, and that puts us in a pretty good mood.

With that in mind, we are launching this “Ask us anything!” blog post.

The team here at Smart Author Sites has over three decades of experience working on the web — most of those years specifically building and maintaining author websites. We are strategists, editors, designers, developers, producers, and social media gurus.

If you want to build your own author website, or have one and aren’t sure what to do with it, post your question here and one of our team members will respond. Examples of the types of questions you might want to ask us include:

  • Should I build an author site or a book site?
  • Where should I host my site?
  • How do I buy a domain name?
  • Should I get involved in Facebook, Twitter or both?
  • What do you think of my current site?

Ask your question in the comments box below and we will be happy to provide answers and guidance (assuming it’s within reason).

Fire away!

10 FAQs About Author Blogs

blogBlogging is something that I recommend nearly all authors do. But many of the people I speak with are unsure about how to start blogging, what to blog about, or why blogs may be helpful to them. With that in mind, here are 10 questions I frequently get about author blogs (and my responses, of course).

  1. What’s the benefit of blogging?
    I’ve written more posts about this than I care to remember. A few examples of them include: Why and How Authors Should be Blogging and Why You Need an Author Website and a Blog. But the short answer is that a successful blog is the primary way to drive traffic to your website. Sure, there are people who you will hand a business card out to. There will also be people who wind up on your website because they heard your name or your book title and started browsing. But how will you attract new people? That’s where blogging properly can come it. It can attract people who never knew you existed before, and wouldn’t unless you had started blogging. Your blog entry on a topic of interest to them will show up on their search results. And voila! You’ve found a future reader.
  1. What tools do I need to set up a blog?
    If you don’t have an author website already, you can sign up for a free blog service like WordPress or BlogSpot. But if you do have a site like the ones we build, blogging functionality is built in. It’s free and easy.
  1. How often should I blog?
    That can differ from person to person. I personally like to blog once a week. If you only want to commit to every other week, that’s okay too. Even once a month is okay, although not ideal. What you don’t want is a blog on your site that hasn’t been updated in a few months — or even worse — years. That sends a message to users that you’re not paying attention to your blog … so why should they?
  1. How long should a blog entry be?
    This can also vary from person to person. It can be as short as a few paragraphs (just your musings or sharing an anecdote), or as long as a featured article (1500 words or more). In general, though, I have found 500 words to be about the sweet spot for blog entries.
  1. How do I know what to blog about?
    You need to decide on a theme for your blog. And that can depend on your personality, your goals for the blog, etc… For example, if you are a comedic writer, then you should blog humorously. That will help you build a following of people who really appreciate your sense of humor. If you, on the other hand, write a book about religion, you should blog about religion. In that instance, you can get ideas for individual blog posts from questions that readers pose to you, news on religion, or Google Alerts (one of my favorite ways to be inspired).If you’re a fiction author, figuring out a blog theme is a little more complicated. But basic ideas can inlclude blogging about being a writer, blogging about your characters, or using the blog to offer bonus material that users wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere (book outtakes, for example).
  1. What are blog categories?
    WordPress offers a dandy little feature called blog categories. It allows you to categorize all of your blog entries, so that people who are interested in one specific topic an easily see everything you’ve written on that topic. On the right hand side of this site, for example, you see our blog categories: author marketing tips, a successful author website, author trends, tech advice, etc… Every blog entry that we post goes into one or more of these categories. So someone visiting the site who is only interested in marketing advice, for example, but not information on how to set up a good email client, can view everything categorized as author marketing tips.
  1. How long do blogs live on?
    Blogs live forever (unless you specifically decide to take them down). There is no limit to the number of blog entries you can post, so there’s no good reason to ever delete old ones. You may be surprised to find out that a blog entry you posted two years ago may still be getting a lot of traffic today. If it works, why change it or remove it?
  1. Can I include images in blogs?
    Yes, it’s very easy to scan in a photo and post it as part of a blog entry. If you build your author website through us, we will have a tutorial with you to show you how to do just that.
  1. How do I know if people are reading my blog?
    Every author (and blogger) should sign up for a free account with Google Analytics. By simply installing a plug-in on your blog and entering your Google Analytics ID there, you can then log in any time and see which of your blog entries are being viewed the most. Looking at Google Analytics can be very encouraging for authors like you, because it’s very easy to get discouraged when you notice that hardly anyone is commenting on your blog entries. You may then be very surprised to find out that hundreds of people actually visited and read that blog entry. That’s what you can learn from Google Analytics.
  1. How can I integrate my blog with Facebook and Twitter?
    Blogging and social networking can go hand in hand. Here are a few ways to integrate the two:

    • Make sure that every blog entry you post has a way for people to share it and/or like it via Facebook and Twitter.
    • Promote each of your blog entries via social networking; this can be done by synching up your blog with Facebook and Twitter (so that every blog post automatically turns into a Facebook post and Tweet), or by customizing and posting your message manually for each particular audience.
    • Include Facebook and/or Twitter widgets on your blog, so that people can have multiple ways to follow you.

Do you have additional questions about blogging? Post them below and I’ll be happy to respond!

5 Things You Can Learn in the First 30 Days After Your Author Website Launches

analyticsThere are a lot of things in life that take a pretty long time. Like building a strong relationship. Or making a baby. Or writing a book.

Thankfully, there are other things that you can accomplish in a very short period of time. Learning about your author website and how it’s doing is one of them, thanks to our good friends at Google analytics.

Here are five things that you should be able to know within 30 days of your launch (if you study your reports correctly).

1. Which sections of the site are most popular. Ah …. Google analytics. It is the greatest thing for website owners since sliced bread. It allows you to see a wealth of information — one of the most important being which pages on your site are being viewed most (and least). You should pretty quickly be able to determine the sections of your site that are doing well — as well as the things that people are not looking at. This will help you figure out where to focus your attention going forward. For example, if your blog is doing well, it serves as encouragement to keep blogging. If people love your “book secrets’ page, think of other ways you can offer bonus material to readers.

2. The search terms you should be optimizing for. Google will also be able to tell you the specific keyword that people are searching for when they wind up on your site. This should be a good starting point for you to put together a full search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. For example, I have discovered that the term “author websites” drives a wealth of traffic my way. As such, I make sure that I always blog about author websites, and optimize each post for the term. And no, I’m not using the term here just for that reason. I’m citing an example. So if you find that people are coming to your site through the keyword, let’s just say … “midlife crisis,” then that’s what you should be blogging about, and that’s the term that you should use in all of your page and post titles.

3. How people are finding your site. Where is most of your traffic coming from? Is it people literally typing in the name of your site in their browser? Are they searching for your name on Google? Are they coming in through social sharing, links from other sites, etc…? Your analytics report should be able to tell you where your traffic is coming from. You can then figure out what you should be doing more or less of as a result, and ramp up your marketing efforts accordingly.

4. Which social networks are working for you. Your analytics report will be able to tell you how much traffic you’re getting from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc… Similarly, you can see for yourself just how many followers you’ve built on each of these networks. Within 30 days, you should be able to determine which one — or ones — to continue focusing your attention on in the long-term, and which may not be the best use of your time.

5. What’s NOT working on your author website. Your analytics report not only tells you what you’re doing right. It can also tell you what you’re doing wrong. Study which blog posts are getting little to no traffic. Figure out which pages on your site have the highest bounce rate (i.e. the percentage of people leaving without visiting any other pages) and play detective to try and figure out why these aren’t working. Is the page taking a long time to load? Is the blog post too long? Try and find a pattern in your analytics, take your best guess as to why things aren’t working, and then change them.

Thirty days may not be a very long time. But it’s long enough for you to take these learnings and make your author website even better than it was before.

5 Summertime Goals for Your Author Website

beachMemorial Day has come and gone, and we know what that means … the unofficial start of summer. But while everyone else is thinking about sunscreen, beach towels and barbecues, I’m encouraging you to take this opportunity to set some summer goals for your author website.

Here are five ideas….

1. Set traffic goals. I’m starting with the hardest goal of all. That’s because website traffic notoriously goes down in the summertime. (People have better things to do in beautiful weather than sit in front of a computer all day). But what’s better than a challenge? So if you don’t have one already, set up a Google Analytics account (it’s free) and integrate it into your website. Then you can check your website traffic reports as often as you’d like to find out how many people have visited the site, which pages/posts they visit the most, how long they stayed, etc… Analyze those numbers and make changes to your site accordingly. Then set a traffic goal for yourself. If, for example, you got 100 site visitors in the month of April, aim for 150 per month this summer. It’s a high goal — especially during the summer — but set it, aim for it, and do what you can to get it. After all, more traffic = more book sales!

2. Blog more often. Yup. It’s true. The more you blog, the more traffic you’ll get to your site — not only now, but for months and months to come. That’s because more blog posts will improve your site’s search engine optimization placement and encourage more people to sign up for your RSS feed or email newsletter. Make a promise to yourself that you will blog more this summer — say twice a week instead of once — and then see how your numbers may have improved by the time the summer winds down.

3. Get creative. It’s very easy to fall into a pattern with your website. Maybe you log in once or twice a week to blog. Maybe you post news or links every once in a while. Consider this your opportunity to think outside the box a bit more and add some new life to your author website. For example, think about adding a weekly poll to the site. Or hosting a live chat. Or having a free book giveaway contest. It’s summer, so it’s time to shake things up a bit.

4. Make your book essential summer reading. People may spend less time in front of their computers over the summer, but there is one thing they do a lot more of: read! Take a look at your website right now. Is there anything you’re doing to promote your book as good summer reading material? If it’s beach reading, make sure that you sell it as a must-read for beachgoers. If it’s good school-related summer reading for parents/teachers/kids, note that as well. Figure out how you can make your book a can’t-miss this summer.

5. Promote to new faces. There are probably a lot of people you’re going to see this summer that you don’t see the rest of the year. Maybe they’re parents of other kids at your child’s summer camp. Maybe they’re friends from the beach club. This is your chance to get your book and your website in front of a fresh set of faces. So get those business cards printed. Make sure to mention your book to other parents at camp. See if you can get your book’s poster hung up in the swimming club.

If you need any help accomplishing these goals, you can always reach out to us for a free consultation. But execute these ideas, and you should notice a significant increase in your website’s traffic numbers (and sales numbers) by Labor Day. Happy Summer, everyone!

How Often Should Authors Blog?

This is easily one of the most commonly-asked questions when I’m discussing social media and blogging with a new client. And the answer isn’t as simple as it may seem.

Whether or not you have an author website, this question is pertinent to anyone who has an online presence; so non-authors, feel free to read on!

The case against blogging too often

One common misconception is that you can never really blog “too much,” as more information online is always better, right? This actually isn’t always the case.

Let’s say you have just released your new thriller noir, “The Great Treasure of Niagara Falls.” You put together a great marketing package, have us build a popular author website, and become active on the social networking scene. Blogging comes naturally to you, and you make a vow to write a new entry every single day.

After a couple of months, your book sales are much better than you anticipated, you have quite a few blog followers, and your fans demand a book sequel. Happily, you begin to work on penning the second book in what will be come a series with “The Overworked Janitor of Niagara Falls.” You have promised your fans a hard deadline of the book release date.

However, coming up with a blog entry every single day proves to be a challenge. You didn’t take into consideration how difficult it could be to blog AND write your sequel. Your blog starts to suffer, the timeline of your new book release date gets pushed back and you are now blogging every few days. And then every week… and then once a month.

This starts to look bad to your readers, who are wondering if you are disappearing. They lose interest in your blog, which may reflect badly on your book sales and online image. Your blogging career is going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

To make a long story short, you do not want to bite off more than you can chew when it comes to blogging. If you are an author, keep in mind that blogging is writing — and serious blogging can be just as involved and time-consuming as writing a book. It is easy to get burned out, which can have a negative effect on your online presence, and ultimately your sales.

Building consistency in the blogging world takes a lot of time, so make sure you can actually keep up with the frequency goals you have set for yourself.

The case against not blogging enough

Each time you write a new blog post, you are doing the following:

  • Creating a brand new web page and a new URL for the search engines to discover. This will increase your website traffic for different keywords.
  • Adding to the information on your website, which over time keeps people on the site
  • Building your audience, readership, and fanbase
  • Encouraging discussion in the comments feed below the new entry

If you do not blog very often, you will never be able to generate a long list of subscribers and keep visitors coming back for more. After all, how is it possible to become a loyal reader of a blog that only gets updated every few months? This is like subscribing to the New York Times and having it only show up on holidays. (At least your blog is free.)

One of the worst things you can do is start out blogging fairly consistently and then fade away … and ultimately stop altogether. This makes it look like your website is out of date, the information is not as valid, you are not doing well professionally, the website isn’t being updated, you didn’t pay the internet bill, or any combination of the above.

Also, some writers start out blogging very passionately, and then when they do not gain readers right away, they lose interest. It is important to be patient! It can often take between 50-70 blog posts before you start to build an audience, and it is uncommon to have loyal visitors to a website with fewer than 30 posts.

The key words to blogging are consistency and persistence!

Great! … So how often should I blog?

Now that I’ve given you the negative aspects of both extremes it is time to answer the main question!

In general, it is wise to pick a frequency that you feel you can meet without burning out and make it a goal to stick to it. Anywhere from weekly to a few times a week is usually good. Less than twice a month isn’t really consistent enough, unless you remove the dates from each blog post… but then why blog at all? More than once a day is probably too much, unless you have guest bloggers or have endless energy for blogging.

It is important to keep in mind that blogging can be a fun, informal way to connect with your visitors and keep them engaged. There isn’t an absolute rule as to how often to keep your blog updated, but the advice above should help give you some general guidelines.

Good luck!

10 Ways a Reader Can Find Your Author Website

author_on_computerOkay, so you’ve built an author website. Congratulations! But just because the site is live doesn’t mean that people will find it. Here’s what you need to know about all the ways people can and will find your site, and what you can do to increase the odds of it happening.

1. Search engines. Optimize your site properly and people searching for your name, your book title, or the subject matter of your book will find your website near the top of their search results. This is probably one of the most important efforts you can put in to building your website! A blog can also be a huge tool in terms of boosting your traffic from the search engines.

2. Interviews. Plan to do an interview with your local TV or radio station? How about the newspaper? Always — and I repeat, always — mention your web address. People will undoubtedly go there to learn more about you.

3. Offline materials. Print business cards with your domain name on it. Make mouse pads, pencils, mini-calendars … whatever suits your fancy. But make sure to print your URL in big, bold letters on whatever you have made.

4. Your email signature. Every email you send should include your name, your book title, and your web address at the footer. This doesn’t cost a thing to set up, so it’s a no-brainer.

5. Social sharing. Let’s say you keep a blog on your site (which I highly recommend). Someone will read one of your posts. Someone will like one of your posts. That person may then choose to share your post on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Voila! A whole new audience has been exposed to your site.

6. Word of mouth. Make sure to talk about your writing — and your website — wherever it’s appropriate. Chat with strangers at the airport. Mention it to colleagues at work, or friends at a birthday party. Spread the word!

7. Cross-promotion. Make sure to include links to your author site from your Facebook page, your Google+ account, etc…

8. Cross-linking. Are there other authors whose works you like? Do you know people who write in a similar genre? Reach out to other authors (or organizations, individuals, etc…) and ask if they’d be interested in linking to your site, and vice versa. This is a great way to expose your target audience to your writings.

9. YouTube. Do you have a YouTube account? Have you uploaded any videos about your writings and your books? Make sure your YouTube account provides a nice segue to your author site.

10. Paid online advertising. There are a variety of ways to “advertise” online — from paid banner ads to Google Adwords campaigns to Facebook “boosts.” But before you start shelling out money for these sorts of things, talk to an expert who can guide you towards the efforts that will provide the best bang for your buck.

Can you think of any other ways that someone may find your site? Share them with us!

Author Social Media Tip: Know Your Audience!

social_media_iconsI was on the phone with an author yesterday who asked me a question: “What’s the best social networking site for authors?”

My response? There is none.

Now, that doesn’t mean that social networking doesn’t work for authors. On the contrary, it has become an essential part of an author’s promotional plan. This is especially true for fiction authors, where word of mouth is the most common way that people hear about a new, great book.

What I meant was that there is no one social network that is right for every individual author. Before deciding where to invest his or her time, an author should think long and hard about who the audience is for the book and where that audience tends to spend its time.

Case Study #1
A woman writes a book about the most adorable interior design ideas for a baby’s nursery. The book is chock full of pictures, and obviously speaks to an audience of 20 and 30-somethings (prime childbearing age).

In her case, I would recommend that she dedicate her time to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Facebook and Twitter are important, primarily because of the audience — that’s their preferred methods of communications. Pinterest is also extremely important for this author, as her book is photo-centric, and Pinterest is an amazing place to share photos.

Case Study #2
A man writes a book about saving for retirement. It is geared towards 40- and 50-somethings.

This author should be focusing much his social media efforts on Facebook. After all, his target audience doesn’t dedicate a lot of time to Twitter, and Pinterest isn’t really relevant for this book. Neither is GoodReads, which is much more fiction-oriented. Instead, he should also delve into LinkedIn and Google+, as those are where a professional audience tends to spend more time.

Case Study #3
An up-and-coming author wants to be the next JK Rowling. She writes the first book of a fantasy series targeted to young adults.

Where are today’s youth spending their time? Sure, they’re on Facebook. But so are their parents. They spend more of their time on Twitter, Tumblr, and who knows where else. They may always be a step ahead of us, but it’s this author’s (or her publicist’s) job to pay attention to this young demographic and figure out where they are spending their time. That’s where the marketing efforts should be.

Case Study #4
A novelist writes a suspense-filled mystery and wants to get it in front of his target audience: both men and women who happen to love a good mystery.

Facebook and Twitter would be helpful for this author. But I would recommend that he really delve into GoodReads. The most common reason why a fiction reader buys a book is because it was recommended to them by someone else who has similar taste in books. And unlike other social networking sites, GoodReads gives you the opportunity to get your book in front of an audience of readers who you know already are interested in your genre, and have “friends” whose recommendations they value.

See what I mean? Four authors, four different online strategies for book promotion. Before you put together your social networking plan (and dive into anything and everything that has worked for other authors), stop and take a good hard look at your audience. It may save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

9 Creative Ways for Authors to Help One Another

handshakeThere are thousands — if not millions — of authors out there trying to make a name for themselves. Most of them have very little in terms of publicity agents, marketing experience, etc… So they’re basically fighting an uphill battle.

That’s why so many authors are looking for ways to connect with other authors, and potentially help one another. With that in mind, here are nine creative ways that authors can team up to help promote one another’s books, author websites, etc…

1. Share, share, share. Are other authors posting blog entries? Tweeting? Pass on what you’re reading of theirs to your friends, readers, etc… If they do the same for you, you can increase your reach exponentially.

2. Like one another. Clicking on a Facebook “Like” button is so simple. And yet, doing so really does help to spread the word. So swap “like”s. What’s there to lose?

3. Guest blog post for one another. Do you have a blog? Does your friend, an author, have a blog? Why not write a guest post for his or her site, and vice versa. Not only will this breathe some fresh life into your own blog, but it will get your writing out to a new group of readers.

4. Review one another’s books. Post a review/recommendation of another author’s book on your site. Have him or her do the same for you. If you speak to a similar audience, you’re exposing a whole new crop of readers to a book they may not have heard of otherwise.

5. Interview one another. Use one of your blog posts to interview your author friend about his her book, writing habits, publishing lessons learned, marketing techniques used, etc… Again, it’s a great way to get new faces in front of an existing readership.

6. Offer special deals/giveaways. Why not consider providing a special deal or giveaway to people who came to your site through your friend’s author site or social media page? Any incentive that will get people to buy your book or give you their email address is a good thing.

7. Consider doing group tours. Not actual tours, of course: virtual tours. But by teaming up, you can offer book clubs, libraries, schools, etc… the opportunity to double the attendance by featuring two authors (and triple, if three of you get together).

8. Promote each other through other forms of social media. Do you have a GoodReads account? Make sure to cross-promote there as well. Ditto if you follow people on Twitter, highlight book covers on Pinterest, etc…

9. Create a group blog. This is a little harder to do, but it’s not unheard of. Get a group of authors together and create an author blog site. Agree to each post, say, once a week. The more posts you have, the more you will become a can’t miss destination for other authors. Then, make sure each of your books/websites get fair promotion.

One last caveat … as much as your friend may be your friend, make sure that you’re not wasting your time cross promoting with him or her. In other words, if you have 100,000 followers on your blog and your friend has 5,000, it may not be worth your time for you to “help” one another. Always ask potential authors for information on their following before deciding whether it makes sense to proceed. If the two of you are in the same ballpark, then it’s probably a good arrangement.

Looking for additional advice on selling or marketing your book? Contact us today at Smart Author Sites for a free consultation!

5 Ways to Integrate Social Media Into Your Author Website

You might love social media. You might hate social media. But there’s one thing you can’t deny: it’s practically a necessity in today’s world of author marketing.

So how can you integrate social networking tools into your author website without creating even more work for yourself? Here are some ways to do just that…

icons1. Links to your social networking profiles. This is practically standard nowadays. On just about any author website, you’ll see little buttons that represent Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc… Most people understand exactly what those icons mean and know that if they click on them, they will be taken directly to your profile on the corresponding site.

2. Like buttons. Have you ever seen that little thumbs up sign with the word “like” next to it? That’s a Facebook like button. That allows site visitors to tell all of their Facebook friends that they “like” your website. Plus, Facebook will keep track of how many people have “liked” your site, and even show the faces of those who did. See our example on the left.

3. Blog-post-to-tweets. You’ll be happy to know that there’s a relatively simple way to set things up so that every time you post a blog entry on your site, Twitterfeed automatically takes the first 140 characters and “tweets” it out to your fanbase. That tweet then ends with a link to read the full post on your site. Again, this is a great way to get your message out through multiple channels without having to do any additional work.

4. Share buttons. In today’s social media world, there’s no better way to get more eyeballs on your site than to have readers “share” your articles, blog posts, etc… with their friends. It’s the equivalent of a personal recommendation. Make sure that every piece of content on your site includes share buttons that allow readers to spread the word about your good read through their social networking site of choice. See the example on the right.

widget5. Widgets. I just love Facebook and Twitter widgets on author websites. These little snippets of code that you can embed on your site mean that your latest posts, comments, pictures, etc… on your favorite social networking channel will automatically feed into your website. Put this on your homepage and you’ve got a site that always looks fresh and up to date … without your having to even touch it. See an example on the left.

Remember: every one of your readers has a preferred way of staying on top of what you’re doing. Some prefer to visit the site. Others prefer to follow you on Facebook or receive your Tweets. By seamlessly integrating all of these methods, you’re allowing your readers to follow you in the way that they like best. And that can only be good for you.