Building Flawless Author Foundations
It’s no secret that in order to gain visibility and reach your marketing goals, you must build and grow an author platform. The moving parts that make up this platform can vary from author to author. What remains the same for every author is the foundation. Like any building project, in order to have a powerful platform, you need a solid foundation. Today, we begin a blog series outlining each part of the platform. To start, you need an author website.
Why do you need a website?
Everything you do begins with or points to your author website. These activities are your inbound and outbound marketing efforts. The website is arguably your greatest tool in gaining visibility because of its role in SEO (search engine optimization).
The self-published author doesn’t typically need to hire an SEO specialist to gain a working knowledge of SEO to benefit your platform at the start. There’s quite a bit you can do to yourself. First, you should have a basic understanding of SEO.
In simple terms, Google sends crawlers across the Internet looking for content. They then bunch similar content together for searches, like mentions of your name. Then they rank that content based on the number of and quality of mentions. If you were to Google yourself, you’ll see the most significant and specific terms related to you are at the top. Ideally, you want at least the entire first page of a search to be all about you – your website; profiles on Amazon, GoodReads, and BookBub; your social media platforms; and mentions of you in videos, at events, or on other websites. Those search terms can grow stale and your ranking can drop in a Google search if similar content, let’s say mentions of authors in your genre or similar names and book titles, or if you don’t have new content for Google to find.
Using keywords related to your books within the content of your website is another way to improve your SEO. This can be a little more completed as you get into heading tags, keywords, long tail keywords, backlinks, etc. To begin optimizing your website for keywords, there are great plugins you can use, both free and paid, that will help monitor your website and rate your content.
Website content basics
Like every tool in your toolbox, you can begin with basics and grow your website as your needs and platform grows. Here are the basics that should be included in every author website:
- Homepage – This page should clearly show who you are and what you do. Be sure that your book is “above the fold”, an old newspaper term that for websites means above that initial scroll. You should see the cover image of your book as soon as your homepages loads. Your header and footer should be static with links to your social media pages and navigation to the rest of your website. It’s a great idea to include the opt-in on your home page or header/footer as well.
- Opt-in – Your second most important asset in your platform is going to be your contact list. Creating a significant opt-in that allows people to give you their first name and email address in exchange for a free chapter download, is a great way to build your email list. I recommend using the free version of MailerLite to set up the opt-in form and automation to deliver your freebie.
- The Book – You should have a page that includes a summary of the book, with book cover images, and link to buy the book.
- About me – This page should include your headshot and bio.
- Contact me – This should be a form that allows readers and the media to reach you. This is also a place to list your social media links.
Keeping it fresh
Consistently updating your website, social media platforms, and appearances helps to keep you at the top of those Google searches. Your website can potentially carry the most weight in your platform. The simplest way to consistently keep the content fresh on your website is to publish weekly or biweekly blog posts.
We review blogging techniques in my coaching program since it can be a complicated topic. I know, you’re thinking… you want me to write more? Yes. It’s a great place to connect with your readers. You can write short stories, share content cut from your books, write about character development, your dog, your cat, your lunch… Content depends on your genre, personality, and much more.
When someone leaves your website, Google refers to this as a bounce rate. That rate is calculated for each page of your website based on the amount of time spent on that page. Google assumes if someone leaves quickly, the site isn’t trustworthy. The longer someone lingers, the safer Google rates that page. Having content that requires reading (a blog post), listening (an embedded podcast appearance), or watching (a video) means the bounce rate is lower and therefore, the page is deemed more trustworthy. Stringing together multiple pages like this creates a more trustworthy website. A more trustworthy website results in a higher Google search ranking. This improves your site’s overall SEO.
For an author, embedding a book trailer is a simple way to improve a website’s bounce rate. A short, engaging video causes a visitor to stop, watch, and listen a little longer, thereby reducing your bounce rate and increasing that page’s trust for Google. This results in a higher page ranking within a Google search.
You want to have a high-quality book trailer. A bad trailer will result in someone not watching it, which is as bad for your bounce rate as not having a video at all. I suggest you hire a professional to create your trailer. I partner with a professional to provide book trailer services for authors. There are three levels of trailers listed on my website with links to multiple examples of each.
What’s in a name?
Your domain or website address is the primary search term associated with your website. I suggest you purchase a domain in your name. Many authors use the name of their publishing company or book title. These are less effective for a few reasons. First, your readers aren’t familiar with your publishing company. When they search for you, they’re going to search for your name or the title of your book. I don’t suggest you use the book title either. If you’ve written one book, it’s very likely you’ll write another. In fact, I’ve known several authors who’ve not only written multiple books but changed up genres or added additional series. If your book is mentioned on your website, readers will find it when they search for it. What remains constant, regardless of your writing is you.
If you’ve already purchased a domain in your book title or publishing house name, do not despair. You can always purchase another domain for just a few dollars and redirect the other domains to your primary domain – your name.
You don’t have to do this alone.
I maintained my own website, by myself, for years. It’s a chore. My website was hacked, most of my content removed. My website was attacked by foreign hackers, many times. And my website crashed. A lot. I basically know enough about building websites to make me dangerous. Last year, I finally gave creative and technical control over to a website professional and highly suggest you do the same. It’s an investment in your author business you won’t regret. To learn more, you can visit the author website page on my website for great templates designed specifically for the unique needs of authors. If you’d like to learn more, use the form on the page to set up a time to discuss your vision for your website and options we have available to you.
As always, if you have questions, or are feeling stuck in your author marketing and need some help to get unstuck, schedule a free 30-minute consultation. Here’s the link. Comments and questions below are also always welcome.
Fortunately I have been at this a while. Webpages are crucial and have evolved quite a bit since I first stumbled onto the author scene.