Have you ever been irritated by a website? Maybe you were looking for something you couldn’t find and became so irritated with the site that you left. Did you contact the company with tips on how to fix their website? Or did you switch to a competitor?
Did you know that readers may be having that exact same experience when they visit your website?
Readers visit your website searching for something. If they can’t find it, or if your website is hard to use, they probably won’t take time to email you and report their problem. They’ll give up, leave your site, and look for the same information somewhere else. Irritating your website visitors is detrimental to growing your readership.
How can you transform your website from an irritation to a helpful resource?
To create a helpful website, you must get to know your readers and build your website as an act of service to them. A website that meets the needs of your readers will never be annoying.
Here are seven reasons readers get irritated when visiting author websites and how you can make your website helpful rather than annoying.
Irritation #1: They can’t easily buy your latest book.
The primary reason readers visit an author’s website is to buy a book. Most author websites make readers hunt from page to page, looking for a way to buy the book. Buying your book should not require the hero’s journey!
Make sure every book cover is clickable and links to a buy page.
Across the web on every bookselling website, visitors can click a book cover image and be taken to a purchase page. When your book cover image isn’t linked, your web visitor clicks the image, the website disappears, and the image becomes bigger. Imagine a non-techie reader clicking on it over and over and giving up because they think your website is broken.
Link all your book cover images to their corresponding purchase pages on your own website or through an online bookseller.
If you’re indie published, and your book is only for sale on Amazon, link your images straight to the Amazon purchase page.
Include links to multiple bookstores.
Not everyone likes Amazon, and some readers really dislike Amazon.
If your book is available at multiple online stores, link your book covers to a single page where readers can choose to buy your book from the online bookseller they trust.
The free plugin MyBookTable makes it easy to add buttons for multiple online stores. You can create a buy button for any bookstore in the world, and that will thrill your readers. MyBookTable even has a search bar where readers can find your book at indie bookstores in their area.
Give your most recent book prominent placement on your homepage.
Every time you launch a new book, update your home page so that readers see your latest book first. Use a large book cover image and link to a purchase page so readers can easily buy it. If you have a sidebar, make sure it contains a large version of your book cover as well.
Doing it Right:
- David Z Nowell. You can’t miss his book.
Irritation #2: They can’t find the status of your work-in-progress.
Many authors work on more than one project at a time. Readers are curious about your future projects, and when they can’t find information about upcoming books, they get frustrated. Readers want more than just the title and cover. They want to know how the book is coming along.
Keeping your readers appraised of your progress is especially important for unpublished authors. First-time authors often wonder what to put on their websites, and a progress bar is a great option. As you talk to people about your upcoming book and write to your email subscribers about it, they’ll become interested and want updates on your progress.
If they can’t find any information on your website, they’re likely to get irritated and forget about your book.
How to Keep Your Readers in The Loop:
- Write blog posts from time to time, updating your readers on the progress of your book.
- Use a plugin like MyBookProgress to quickly add a progress bar to your website.
Storm Hill Media now owns and maintains the plugin.
Doing it Right:
- Brandon Sanderson does this well. He includes progress bars at the top right corner of his website. He typically gives his brain a break on one book by editing another project. It’s one of his secrets to writing so many books.
Irritation #3: Readers can’t easily contact you.
Readers often visit an author’s website to contact the author. Communicating directly with readers is one of the best ways to get to know them, and when you know them well, you can serve them well. Readers will tell you a lot about themselves if you make yourself available.
What happens when the host or producer of a major TV or radio show wants you to fill in for an opening that just appeared in their schedule? Can they easily and quickly contact you? If a reporter from the New York Times wants a quote from you for her 2:00 story deadline, can she call you?
Savvy authors are easy to contact and hard to interrupt. Click to Tweet
Offer several ways for readers and influencers to reach you, but make it difficult for them to interrupt you.
What contact information should I include?
- Mailing Address: Get a P.O. Box and list it on your website’s contact page. This way, you can receive gifts, books, and letters without giving your home address. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is receiving books and letters from listeners.
- Contact Form: Place a contact form on your website’s contact page. I recommend the paid plugin Gravity Forms or the free plugin Contact Form 7, which is harder to set up. Periodically test your contact form to make sure it’s working.
- Social Media: Place links to your social media profiles on your website’s contact page or in the banner, footer, or sidebar. Social Media is a great way to listen to your readers and learn from them. Even if you’re not active on Twitter, you can still receive tweets.
- Phone Number: Get a Google Voice number and list it on your website’s contact page. GoogleVoice will give a voicemail box without giving people access to your private phone number. When someone calls, GoogleVoice will transcribe that audio into text. At a glance, you’ll be able to tell whether the message is from a scammer or a Washington Post reporter, and you can respond to the messages accordingly. You can receive text messages at that same number or have calls forwarded to your cell phone. You can even set parameters for a window of time (for example, business hours) when GoogleVoice can forward your calls.
How to Make Yourself Hard to Interrupt:
Turn off Social Notifications. Any little red notification circle with a number is an interruption. If you get notified every time someone likes your Facebook post or retweets you, you’ll never get any writing done.
Turn off Email Notifications. If Outlook dings every five minutes, you’ll become frustrated, and your writing will suffer.
Those notifications were not designed to meet your needs. They were designed to meet the company’s goal of getting you back to their websites. Spend five minutes turning off non-essential notifications on your phone or computer and watch your productivity and focus improve.
Doing it Right:
Wanda Brunstetter makes herself easy to reach.
Irritation #4: Readers can’t find your website on Google
I am often shocked at how many authors don’t rank for their own names or book titles on Google. Always assume your readers don’t remember how to spell your name or your website URL. Most of them will search for your website on Google, and the harder it is to find, the more irritated they will be.
What happens when you type the title of your book into Google? Where does your book appear in the search results? If your book doesn’t rank #1, you are irritating your readers.
How to Rank on Google for Your Book Title
The number one reason you don’t rank for your own book title is that you don’t have a webpage devoted to the book. Authors often mention their books in multiple places on their websites, but there’s no specifically designated page. Consequently, Google sends searchers somewhere else, and usually that place is Amazon.
Readers want to find everything related to your book on a single page. They want to find the purchase link, discussion guide, free printables, or the story world maps on one web page. Creating a single page for your book with all those related pieces will increase your chances of raking well on Google.
MyBookTable helps you toward that end. People who use MyBookTable tend to rank first or second in search results for their book title. The plugin creates a solid book page that includes the kind of information Google wants to show people.
How to Rank on Google for Your Author Name
The number one reason an author doesn’t rank for their name is usually that they’ve written the content on their home page in the first person.
Instead of writing, “I am a bestselling author,” you should use your name and write in the third person. You’ll want to write, “John Smith is a bestselling author.” When someone searches for “John Smith” (or your author name), Google can point searchers to your web page.
How to rank higher on Google:
- Create a book page for each of your books. This is critical. If you don’t have a single page focused on a particular book, Google doesn’t know where to send people who search for that book.
- Install MyBookTable. This WordPress plugin specifically helps authors create better book pages on their websites. While that plugin is now maintained by Stormhill Media, it’s still a great tool for improving your rankings.
- Install Yoast SEO. Yoast SEO is a free plugin that will help improve your SEO.
- Learn SEO Basics. If you want more help with SEO, we have over 15 articles and episodes on SEO at AuthorMedia.com.
Doing it Right:
- Randy Ingermanson (Ranks #1 for the phrase “How to Write a Novel”)
Irritation #5: They can’t browse your backlist
If you have been writing for a while, you probably have quite a few books on your backlist. It’s easy to be so focused on your latest and upcoming books that you abandon your backlist. If your backlist books are not selling well, your website may be partly to blame.
How to fix:
- Create a “books” page on your website that lists all your books. Each cover image should link to the book page for each individual book. This will help your SEO (see Irritation #4) and help people browse your backlist.
- Make sure your books are listed in series order. I often visit an author’s website is to see which book is next in the series I am reading. Audiobook listeners don’t see the book’s back matter so they have to research which book comes next in the series.
- Use a free plugin like MyBookTable. It will generate a “books” page and individual book pages for you.
Doing it Right:
Irritation #6: They can’t find an HD image of you, your book, or your map.
This is a pet peeve of mine. I listen to a lot of science fiction and fantasy books on Audible. I get frustrated when I can’t find a high-resolution map of the story world. Often, the only way to get the map is to buy a paper copy of the book, and I prefer audiobooks. Even in a paper book, the map is painfully small. Big stories deserve big maps. The best way to deliver big maps is via the Internet.
For a map to really work, I need to be able to pinch and zoom on my iPhone while I am listening to your book on Audible.
How to fix:
- Place a thumbnail of your map on the webpage for your book. This thumbnail should link to a high-resolution version of your map.
- You will know you are linking to the right place if the URL ends in .jpg or .png
- For bonus points, also include additional maps for cities or other points of interest in your story.
- Write a blog post featuring all the maps from your book.
Doing it Right:
Jill Williamson is a great example of an author who is doing this right. She has a blog post with all the maps from her book, including city maps and even a few floor plans. Many authors make maps for their own use while writing, so why not share them on the website?
Readers are also looking for other images.
When I asked Novel Marketing listeners on AuthorMedia.social what their irritations were, Harley said, “I don’t like it when … they don’t have a photo I can use in a blog post.”
I find that irritating as well. If I want to talk about an author or her book in a presentation, I need a high-resolution image of the author and the book cover. Often, I can only find thumbnails on their website. Have at least one large version of your headshot, book cover, and the map of your story world on your website.
Irritation #7: They find your popups annoying.
Adding a pop-up to your website can be one of the best ways to grow your email list. But popups can also be a good way to annoy your readers.
The problem is not the popup itself. Sometimes readers come to your website specifically to sign up for your email newsletter, and they’re glad to see a popup. Other readers are happy to join your email list via your popup after they’ve read your content and found it helpful or enjoyable.
The popup isn’t the problem. The problem is the timing. A popup that pops immediately is annoying. No one is ready to act that soon. In the same way you’d want someone to know you before you ask them on a date, you need to let readers get to know you before you ask them to join your email list. They won’t sign up until they trust you, and they can’t trust you until they know you.
Popups work, but only if you put them on a timer. I recommend setting the popup to wait 30-45 seconds before it pops. This will reduce reader frustration and might even increase your sign-up rate.
I use and recommend Bloom (Affiliate Link), which is an email opt-in plugin that comes with Divi. With Bloom, you can easily add a timer to any popup. It also allows you to create corner poppers, which are less annoying than center poppers.
Irritation #8: Readers can’t navigate your website because it’s not mobile-friendly.
Not every reader has a computer in front of them, but they all have a smartphone in their pocket. Even if they do have a computer, it may be far away or turned off. Most readers will visit your website on their phones.
Many authors build the computer version of their websites without giving thought to the phone version. This 20th-century thinking is likely to irritate readers. Build a website that looks great and works well on a smartphone.
The Divi theme for WordPress (affiliate link) allows you to instantly preview your website on mobile and easily make changes to the mobile version without having to get into the code. For many authors, the best way to make your website more mobile-friendly is to switch to Divi.
Implementing these changes will transform your website from an irritation to a helpful resource readers will share with their friends. Serve your readers by making their experience on your site enjoyable and easy.
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