As a web designer, I am often approached and asked to give advice about website design. Then I am asked to rebuild their website and am given a number of ideas of how they want their site to look. Usually I’m given a list of example websites that the potential client wants their website to emulate. Admittedly, some of these examples start off looking great! However, when you get into the meat of the website, I’m left wondering, what is it about this example that this client likes?
You would be amazed with some of the examples I receive. It astounds me that these sites weren’t really thought through. Many people design their websites as if they are dressing a store window where people will walk by and browse their products.
Here are some mistakes that I often see as I review Author websites.
Where’s the Focus?
One of the first mistakes I find on a website is loss of focus. The author’s focus is on the design, or look and feel, over content of their site. Too often, I find that authors believe that by putting a website up with beautiful window dressings, that they are building a brand for themselves. This is NOT to say that design is unimportant. The look and feel of your website has its place, but it should not be your primary focus.
Before you chose an example website for your design ideas, surf over to WebsiteGrader.com and grade that website. Also, where does that site rank with Alexa Traffic Rank? How’s its page rank with Google? What about its Blog Rank on Technorati? I’m betting the scores are fairly low.
You see, making your site really slick, with bells, whistles, flash, etc. doesn’t necessarily mean it’s getting the traffic it needs. Most Flash sites that I’ve found, even using the newest flash technologies, still scored low for traffic.
Having a great window dressing isn’t what draws the traffic. Your content is what draws the traffic to your website. Having a pleasing window dressing and an easy to read site keeps your traffic.
What Is Your Content?
So now we have decided that content comes first. When I visit an author’s website, I’m not looking to buy the author. Oh, I am interested in the author. I do want to know what drove the author to write what they wrote about. So, there is a place for author content… but when I go to an author website, I’m looking for their product.
For instance, I’ve read the book, “The XYZ to Widgets” and I liked it. So, I search the web for the author of this book because I want to know what else this author has to offer that might augment their book. Perhaps this author has another book that offers more to this subject, or a blog that would offer more advice that I can subscribe to. Maybe I can find a newsletter that tells me when that person’s next book will become available.
Do you see where I’m going with all this? Your authorship IS your business. Keep business on your website. Keep your readers coming back for more.
Poor Search Engine Optimization
One of the first things I do when I am asked to review a website is to look at the web pages meta tags. The meta tags contain data about the HTML document that you are reading. It is seen by search engines and is used to title, describe, and verify your pages. There is still a lot of controversy on the web as to the usefulness of keywords, but I still believe that the keywords are an important part of each page. If your web pages do not have meta tags (metadata) in the source code, you could be losing a lot of search engine traffic. If your web pages do not have keywords that match the content of your page, you are losing page rank. If you do not have a description or a title of each page, you lose ranking as well.
Another thing I look for are links. I look for links that go to other websites as well as links that take me to other pages on their website. Too many or too few will hurt your page ranking. More times than not, people are afraid to link to other sites that may have good resources. The thinking behind it is that, ‘If I link to another website, I lose readers.’ This isn’t necessarily true if you know how to set up the link. Search engines look for links to other sites. They take into consideration the cross referencing. The algorithms used check to see if the site you’re linking to applies to the content of your page. If you set up a link to pop up a new tab or page, you don’t lose your reader. If you tag the link with a rel=”nofollow”, then search engine bots will stay on your page and complete indexing your site. Good bots and spiders will obey and not follow the link.
Free Doesn’t Make It Better
Be careful with who or how your build your website. Accepting a friend’s or relative’s offer to build your website isn’t always the best way to go. This is your livelihood on the line! I know, your friend or relative is all excited about your new book and really wants to ‘help’ by building a website for you. Or perhaps, they want to save you a buck by offering it for free. Something you need to know about free or discounted services… they are usually placed as a low priority. Even if the site is set up rather quickly, maintenance is definitely low on the priority list. This will quickly become a problem for you because it directly affects your livelihood.
I’ll Build It Myself
Well, what about building your own website? Let me ask you this… Are you a web designer? No? Okay, do you at least know how to build a website? Maybe… Well, do you have the time to build a website? If so, shouldn’t that time be best used researching material for your next book? I’m all for Do-It-Yourself, that’s how I began with my business. However, I’ve found it’s best using your strengths for what you’re best at. Web design isn’t just putting a page on the web saying that you’ve got a book. So, if you answered no to any of my questions, then consider hiring a company to build your web presence.
There are different things to consider for your website. For instance, do you want hands-on access to your pages? I’ve been building websites for many years now. For the most part, the one thing many of my clients have thought about is the opportunity to get in there and edit their own pages once I’ve built their site. There are times when I am not readily available and they need something fixed, changes or added quickly. Having the freedom to get into their own site and making that change means all-the-world to them. My recommendation is a content management system (CMS) for building and maintaining your website. You will find that WordPress has grown up to become one of the most used CMS programs for building blogs AND websites. There are thousands of themes to choose from. If you find a web designer that builds WordPress sites, you’ll find that can customize a theme for you.
WordPress is already Search Engine Optimized (SEO), looks professional, and can be easily updated by you if you want to do your own updates. Plus, as a writer/author it has a blog built into it so it’s ready to go! There are thousands upon thousands of plugins that allows you to add to your site.
Tell Me What You Think
I would love to hear your comments. Do you agree with me? If you have a website, are you happy with it? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments below.
Do you need a website? Do you want a new website? Let me help!