Your 10 Point Website Check Up
by Penny Sansevieri
So you have a website, congratulations! Now let's make sure it's doing what it is supposed to be doing for you. Read: selling your book or product. While websites will differ in color, layout, and target audience, there are a few things that need to remain consistent. Let's take a look at them.
1. Editing: Your website needs to be edited. There is no discussion on this topic at all. And don't self-edit. Hire someone to go through your site page by page and make sure you don't have any typos. Finding mistakes on your site is like finding typos on a resume. Doesn't bode too well, does it?
2. Website Statistics: do you know your site stats? Did you even know you can get them? Site statistics are part of every website design. If you don't have access to them make sure you get this. A good site stat service is Google Analytics, pretty comprehensive actually and easy to integrate into your site. You should know your traffic patterns and learn to read these reports (it's a lot easier than it sounds). This way you'll know what your site is doing and what it isn't.
3. Media Room: even if you have never had any TV or radio appearances, you should have a media room. The media room is a great place to list all of your accomplishments as it relates to the book. Also, a good place to put your bio, picture (both of you and the book cover), as well as media Q&A, and a host of other items (I'll cover the art and science of a good media room in an upcoming piece).
4. Website Copy: Your website isn't a magazine, people don't read, they scan. Make sure your site isn't so crammed with text that it's not scannable. Ideally your home page should have no more than 200 to 250 words. Also, make sure you have a clear call to action. You want your visitors to do something on your site, yes? Make sure they know what that is, clearly and precisely.
5. Store: Yes, you should have a place for people to buy on your site, even if it means sending them off to Amazon.com or somewhere else to make their purchase. One key factor though: don't make them hunt for it. Shorten the staircase. In other words, make it easy to find your stuff and then give them the quickest route to get there.
6. Design: I have two major rules in life: you should never cut your own hair or design your own website. Period. End of story. Why? Because much like editing our own books, we're just too darned close to our message to be able to do it justice. Also, most of us are writers, not designers. Hire someone, invest the money, you'll be glad you did. When you're designing, also remember that your homepage should only do one thing. Your website can sell a lot of things, including any consulting or speaking services you offer, but your home page should be focused in on one major item. Surfers spend an average of 1/50th of a second on a website, if they have to stop and try and figure out what your site is about they will leave. I call it surf shock or analysis paralysis. Don't make them guess what your site is about, or you will lose them.
7. Social content: make sure that you have something "social" on your site, whether it's a blog, forum or even your very own social networking page. The easiest and best of these is a blog, in my opinion.
8. Update often: search engines like sites that have a lot of fresh content, this will really help you with ranking in major search engines like Google. If you have a blog, you should plan to update it twice weekly at least.
9. Share and share alike: make sure that your content is easy to share. If you don't have sharing widgets on your site (Upload to Facebook, Tweet This!, Digg, Delicious, etc.) then get your designer to add it to the site asap. Most blogging software comes with this all ready to go.
10. Placement and remarketing: first off, make sure that you understand how people surf, meaning where their eye goes to when they land on a website. The first place is the upper left hand quadrant of a site, that's where your primary message should be. Then the eye goes to the center of your site. These two primary places are significant in conversion. You should have a clear message, and a clear call to action (whatever that action is). I also recommend funneling your visitors into a mailing list. You can do this via a sign-up on your home page and then an ethical bribe to encourage them to sign up. What's an ethical bribe? It's something you give them (of value) to get something - you might give them an ebook, a checklist or a special report. Just make sure it's something your readers want.
Bonus tip: Understanding Anchor Text
If you ask any Search Engine Marketing Expert they will tell you the importance of anchor text. So what is this exactly? It's the hyperlinked text that you click on to follow a link. Most people overlook this text, using words like "click here" or other nebulous terms. If used correctly, anchor text can really help with your site ranking. It's not that difficult to implement really, you just need to understand a few basic concepts.
First, anchor text should be descriptive. It should describe the link you're sending people to using keywords that reflect the page you're recommending.
Second, if you know the high-traffic keywords for your market you can use those as well to describe the link (but only if the keywords relate to the page you're sending visitors to).
Third, knowing where to use anchor text is almost as important as the text itself. All external links should be anchor text, but often web designers forget internal links (i.e. links leading to pages within your site) although they are equally as important. Your home page is also critical for anchor text links. If you have a blog (and you should) make sure that any article, website or blog you reference has anchor text in the hyperlink.
Creating these hyperlinks is easy, especially if you're using them in a blog. Most blog software has some very simple one-click anchor text creation widgets.
So take some time and go through your site, make sure that anything you have hyperlinked is anchor text. Stay away from nebulous terms like "click here" or "follow this link" because you won't get picked up by search engines that way. Make sure the text is focused and specific. How long can anchor text be? It doesn't have to be long, but if need be, it can be multiple words. Keep in mind that as long as the words are relevant to your topic, the anchor text verbiage is all that matters.
Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com
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Author, Ghostwriter, Freelance Writer, Editor
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Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing