Quick … think about your favorite author website. Which image comes to mind? The homepage, of course.
Yes, the homepage of an author website — of any website, really — is the most important area. It’s likely to be the first place that a visitor arrives; within three seconds, that visitor is going to decide whether to stay and click around or leave. That’s right … you have three seconds to grab someone’s attention and potentially turn them into a fan.
If you already have a website, take a look at the homepage. Does it capture people’s attention? Does it encourage them to do anything? If not, you may be losing out.
Here are four common mistakes that are made on author website homepages:
- Too boring: First of all, no website should start with the words “Welcome to my website” (or even worse “web page”). Sometimes I tell authors to write a welcome message on the homepage. That’s often misinterpreted to be something like, “Thanks for coming and I hope you enjoy the book and the website.” Is that tantalizing or enticing? I think not. Instead. an author’s “welcome” message should sound more like, “Are you looking for the best _____ book you’ve ever read? You’ve come to the right place! Click around and you’ll _____, ______ and ____. See, much more interesting, right?
- Not enough variety: In many ways, a homepage is like an “index” of the website. Its purpose should be to offer teasers of all the different features on the site (book excerpts, author blog, etc…). It should not be used in place of one of those pages. Some authors prefer to use the homepage as a page to describe the book. I always counter with, “That’s what an ‘Abut the Book’ page is for. The homepage should be encouraging people to click to the
“About the Book” page (as well as all the others).”
- No call to action: Your homepage should be full of links, links, links. Tell people what they’ll get on a certain page, and offer them easy ways to get there. Don’t just tell people what the book is about, tell them to read reviews, read excerpts, and (of course), buy the book. You want readers to do something on your site, and you need to make it easy for them to do that.
- Too bloggish: I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth stressing again. Don’t confuse an author blog with an author website. A blog should be a portion of an author website, but not the whole thing. Authors who use the homepage as a blog are risking losing visitors for two big reasons: 1) People arriving on the homepage may feel like they’re joining mid-conversation. They’ve missed so much, why jump in now? 2) You’re breaking the three-second rule described above. Remember, you only have three seconds to grab that visitor’s attention. Which do you think is more likely to suck them in: your most recent blog entry or a tantalizing teaser about your book?
Whether you already have an author website, or are considering building one, keep these ideas in mind. And, as always, feel free to contact me for a free consultation!