The following is a guest post by Nick Thacker of LiveHacked.
My day job involves working with churches and pastors on setting up their websites to attract visitors to their Sunday services.
It’s certainly a rewarding job, on good days, but one that also comes with its frustrations as well. Namely, I deal with a lot of people who just don’t understand the benefits—the necessity—of having a great looking, fully functioning website.
Their belief seems to be taken straight from the “Field of Dreams” doctrine—“If you build it, they will come.”
No, they won’t.
If you build it, actually, you and your grandpa (if he has Internet on the fishing boat) are the only people who will visit.
The scores of people out there who could actually benefit and learn from what you have to say, and could potentially love what your site has to offer, aren’t going to be “just stopping by” for no reason.
Visitors to your website are won, by strategic and tactical planning, designed to not only put your website’s best foot forward but to also reach them where they already are in your target market.
The “reaching people where they are” equation
The “magical equation” for using an author website to draw visitors and gain attention is simple:
Medium x Draw = Reach
You already know the first half of the equation:
If your potential fans (readers) are interacting and engaging with each other on Twitter (medium), be there.
If they’re on Goodreads, Facebook, etc., be there as well.
The second half of the equation is a bit trickier: just because you’re connecting and interacting with these people on their network, you need to make sure you’re actually drawing them in to your message.
The draw half of the equation involves promoting your own work, of course, but in an indirect way:
Draw them in by promoting their work.
The sweetest sound to anyone is his or her own name. Somewhere high on the list as well are their tweets, Facebook statuses, and blog posts. Start connecting with these people, and start sharing their content. I use the “80/20” rule: 80% of the time, share the work of other people; the other 20% of the time, share your own.
By following this principle, you’ll be able to draw people in to your profiles and accounts. They’ll want to follow someone who so selflessly shares their work and content, and eventually they’ll start sharing your content as well.
How this relates to your website
Again, forget about the concept of “if you build it, they will come.” People won’t just peruse on by your site unless they have a reason to. It doesn’t matter how well-designed it is, or if it has the best widgets and content on the web—you need to ask people for the close.
The close, in “sales speak,” is simply asking them to do what you want them to do. When it comes to your website, you need to ask them to visit. You already have the right equation; now all you need to do is start interjecting your ask into your 20% self-promotion efforts.
Blogging is no different, especially blogs set up to drive traffic to your books and other products. You need to have the self-confidence to ask people to visit your site—by offering them something of value in return.
Part of having a great author website set up for your visitors includes having these elements:
- A clear, concise, “what you’re all about” section. Some people do this in the blog’s header; others use a special “Start Here” or “About” page.
- A call-to-action. Do you want us to buy your latest book, or download your short story? Or just read through your latest posts? Make it abundantly clear and simple to do so.
- A newsletter signup form. So many author websites are lacking this fundamental feature, it’s almost sad. I suspect the problem is really just not knowing what to do with a newsletter, but either way—start collecting each and every email address you possibly can, and figure out the rest as you go.
- A simple, easy-to-use navigation. If I can’t figure out where to find your About page, RSS feed, or figure out what you like to write about, I’m not going to visit your site again. Simple categorical navigation in the sidebar is good; a “top posts” or “popular articles” section is even better.
- A contact form. Once you start earning visitors to your site, you’re going to start getting requests and “fan mail”—if you’re even reachable. For an up-and-coming author in the Information Age, you need to be reachable easily and readily.
There are many more things your site could have that make it easier for your visitors to get the most out of your blog, but if you start with this list the rest will come in time.
Start using the “magical equation” for winning people to your website, and then offer them something enticing enough or awesome enough that they’ll be insane not to stick around and wait for more!
Building an author website or blog is a misnomer in my opinion; you are constantly building your platform—with or without a website. Once you set up that shiny new template on your WordPress blog, though, you’re just getting started. It may look great and function properly, but if no one’s visiting, it really won’t matter how great it looks! Actually, if you’d like some peer review, leave a comment on this post and let’s discuss your own author site.
These are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned by doing things the hard way for so long—I’ve been through so many different designs, topics, and niches I can’t even count them all—and I finally starting doing one thing differently:
I started asking myself the “right questions.”
The right questions led me down the road of getting my target market honed and focused, and it led me to a site design and layout that’s easily navigable and simple to understand. My content is better because of it, and I’m starting to really see some results.
Further, I’m able to help many more people than I ever have been before—just by asking the right questions.
You already know the answers—there’s no shortage of “right answers” out there on the Web; it’s the right questions you’re probably looking for. For that reason, I recently finished a book called Building A Blog for Readers: 101 Questions to Ask Before Launching Your Empire.
The questions you’ll find inside are directly related to writers, authors, and creators trying to build their platform online, and they’re meant to challenge and inspire you to focus your offering into a very specific plan of action. You can grab a digital copy immediately on Amazon, but also check out the free cheat sheet I created here!
Nick Thacker is a writer, blogger, and author, who writes at LiveHacked.com. He recently finished his book, Building A Blog for Readers: 101 Questions to Ask Before Launching Your Empire. Sign up for the LiveHacked.com newsletter here.