I came across these guidelines for a writer’s website recently and saved them to consider/implement later. I’m re-posting them, with modifications and comments, in case you find them useful.
1. Don’t put everything on the front page. The landing page should have a welcoming message and a lot of white space. Don’t use any graphics except the cover of your book so people know they’re in the right place.
I agree. Cluttered opening pages make me click away faster than anything. Opening pages that have nothing a big text block or picture that you click on to enter the site are annoying too.
2. Make a separate page for each thing you have to offer. For example, your book may have a companion CD, foldout map, reviews, or other related items, but each page should deal with only one aspect of what you have to offer. Use keywords, labels, and meta tags that are relevant to the items and text on that page.
I think this advice applies more to nonfiction. Each novel should have it’s own page, but you might as well put some good reviews on the page with the book. Excerpts, on the other hand, should have their own page.
3. Be specific about what you offer. Tell how your particular product, book, or service helps the user. Tell what’s in it for them, how it benefits them, or makes their life better/easier. Extend an invitation to take action and provide an easy way to buy your book.
Yes and no. Specific information is good, but with fiction, the benefits are obvious. Novels are meant to entertain, and the hard sell is rarely effective. “Buy” buttons are essential though.
4. Cross promote all your pages to drive traffic deep into your site. Not all your pages have to be listed in your navigation tabs. Some may be back pages that are reached by clicking on cross promotion links. Make sure the text you use as the link or anchor text contains keywords.
Basically sound advice. Using keywords in your text on every page is important to drive traffic, but how many times can you say “mystery/suspense” or “novelist” without irritating readers?
5. Be smart about how you promote. Make sure your off-site marketing includes links go directly to the page where the reader may find more about that particular item. Don’t make your visitor search for what they are trying to find.
Very sound advice. I hate it when a post mentions a contest or excerpt and links to the home page where I have to click and search until I find the thing I’m interested in. You can’t force people to look at all your pages.
I would add:
6. Update your site with new information regularly. A blog is ideal, but adding events and photos will keep it fresh too.