3 Ways to Improve Your Author Website Today

Improve Your Author Website

To maximize the effectiveness of your author website, it’s necessary to study the data behind how people find your website, navigate it, and use it. This is typically done via Google Analytics, a free tool available to anyone with a Google account. On the day you install it, you’ll immediately start collecting data on your website traffic and visitors; while you won’t be able to see into the site’s past, you’ll start collecting and storing analytics data indefinitely.

Note: WordPress.com users cannot implement Google Analytics, and may find it difficult to get the level of data they need via WordPress’s own analytics.

1. Analyze your “calls to action” on your static pages or post pages—or most popular pages. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the appearance of your homepage, the front door to your website. In Google Analytics, take a look at your Site Content Overview: your homepage may represent only 25-30% of new visits. The long tail of visits may be spread over dozens or hundreds of pages, especially if you have a blog.

For instance, on this website (which is very blog-centric), the homepage represents only 5% of my total pageviews. Most people visit a blog post and only a blog post. That means the page design template of my blog post page is critical.

So make a list of the most popular pages on your website (by using Google Analytic’s site content overview), and imagine you’re a new visitor to those pages. Then ask the following questions.

  • If the goal of your website is to introduce people to your books, is it easy to see what your latest book is from your most popular pages?
  • If you want people to subscribe to your blog, is it easy to immediately find the subscribe buttons or links from anywhere on your site (especially on the top half)?
  • If you want people to sign up for your e-mail newsletter, is that prominent on your most popular pages?
  • If you want people to find you on social media, are those links immediately available?

Whatever No. 1 goal (or call to action) you have for new visitors, make sure it’s clear regardless of what page they first land on; don’t expect people to visit more than 1 or 2 pages of your website.

Bonus tip: Study the well-worn paths on your site. When people visit your homepage, what’s the No. 1 page they are most likely to visit next? Go to Visitors Flow in Google Analytics. This exercise should tell you a lot about what your readers are interested in and how they perceive your website.

2. Start tracking the most popular outbound links.

It’s exceptionally instructive to understand how and when people leave your site. Google Analytics will give you data on exit pages for visitors (go to Site Content > Exit Pages), but it won’t automatically tell you if and when people actually click on a link to exit (e.g., a link to Amazon to buy your book).

Mint analytics

Screenshot from my Mint analytics

To do that, you have to help make it happen in 1 of 2 ways.

When I discovered that my No. 1 most popular outbound link was to an article I wrote on nonfiction book proposals at another site, I immediately wrote a new post on the topic and replaced the link, to retain visitors longer at my site.

Knowing what people click on gives you in-depth insight into what interests your readers and at what points they’re inclined to make a purchase (e.g., clicking on a discount code link to make a purchase at a retailer).

3. Install an SEO plug-in (if using a WordPress-based site), such as Yoast.

If you’ve heard about the importance of SEO, but don’t know anything about it, that’s OK, especially if you’re on a WordPress-based site. First, WordPress is very SEO friendly right out of the box, so it doesn’t take much work on your part to do good by the search engines.

But also WordPress users have access to plug-ins that help you do your absolute best on SEO. I recommend installing this one from Yoast. (It’s the one that I use.) It will not only help you understand SEO principles as you put together pages and blog posts, but it will give you additional functionality and fine-tuned control, such as being able to craft specific excerpts that are used in social-media shares and search engine display. (See screenshot below.)

Wordpress Yoast plug-in

I’d love to hear about any secrets you’ve learned that have meaningfully improved your author website. Please share in the comments!


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Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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32 Comments on "3 Ways to Improve Your Author Website Today"

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Esther Aspling

Thank you for the tips! I just install Google Analytics last week on my blogger site, but am SLOWLY making the switch to a self-hosted WP site and really needed the tips for that.

http://forthisisthetime.blogspot.com

Brandon Shire

If you start adding all these plugins, you’re likely to slow the site down, which as far as Google is concerned, is just as important as SEO. (Not to mention your average visitor who will click away in about 2 seconds if the site loads slow.) Would suggest Cloudflare for added speed and security.

SM Dougan

A lot of people us WordPress – frankly it is too slow for my tastes. I have found Jigsy.com and use that for my website. It loads incredibly fast and is super easy to use, plus it has all the plugins I need. It also has methods in place to play around with the your meta data and seo stuff – critical to any website.

Patricia A. McGoldrick
Patricia A. McGoldrick

Thanks for the tips, Jane!

Lee J Tyler

Thanks for the Mint heads-up. I’ve signed up for Clicky, which has a plug-in for WordPress, and it tracks movement within a page. I will compare both. I have already signed up for a free webinar (w/out a recording) for mkting/promo but would have loved to sign up for your class. Shared this and thanks again for all of your help.

Heather C Button

Yoast would be great, but apparently it’s only for self-hosted WordPressers. Too bad…

cjdeboer

Thanks for the tips, Jane. SEO is the stuff that tends to slip through a writer’s fingers so it’s good to have the reminder. I use Google Analytics mainly to track how many visitors I’m receiving but I’ve never actually changed anything on my site based on the information I find there. I’ll take a closer look at exit pages now.
I just downloaded the SCRIBE plugin by Copyblogger – I have a lot to learn about it but it seems great for SEO.

gingermoran

Thanks, Jane, for this great info. I’m slowly incorporating tips to improve my website and find your columns and webinars consistenly clear and helpful.

Candy Gourlay

What a fantastic list of tips – I’ve been neglecting my website while working on my next novel and now that I’ve finished realized how much work to do. You’ve made me a to-do list! Thank you.

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Richard Gilbert
This is superb. Thanks, Jane. I have a simple question. For five years I have kept an active blog on storytelling, which has become popular and is followed by about 200 subscribers and visited by many more (my record is 1,200 hits on one post). It is a WordPress-hosted blog and I would like to self host but would like to import my blog content and keep some of the features I love in my template (such as quote blocks). How do I find people who specialize in WordPress conversions and retaining features a blogger has gotten used to and… Read more »
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Dante Explorer

Fantastic article. I had put so much energy into my book, that I let the webpage slide (apparently I’m not alone). Your page is a wonderful resource!

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Doobie

Great stuff Jane,
I just started working on my book website. I wonder if you would recommend other authors’ websites as example of well designed.
Thanks,

SK Figler
Jane, I bookmarked this post and have just now (3 months later) gotten to it. Excellent info to enlarge my understanding of how to make good use of the e-world. Usually what I do when faced with trying to comprehend this new world is leap back into my latest fiction project. (Four finished novels and one-and-a-half books worth of short stories) It’s time in my writing “career” to put it out there or it will never get out. (My wife says she won’t do it when I’m gone; “i’ve made my bed and can go lie in it.”) I have… Read more »
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