On Monday, May 9, Jordan McCollum talked about the Seven Things an Author’s Website Must BE. Jordan chose three websites from Monday’s commenters, and today she returns with critiques of those websites.
Lucie J. Charles, luciejcharles.com
Hi, Lucie! Thanks for commenting. Your website design and layout are professional and consistent and your website works—well done! It looks like you’re in the “get ready” or “get set” phase of your career, as I call it—getting ready to pursue publication.
I like that the colors of your header integrate with the colors you use throughout your pages! From your design, I get a romance and mystery kind of vibe. Your tag line, “Tantalizing Secrets. Enticing Psychics. Murder Happens.”, conveys a paranormal and mystery tone. Is that what you’re going for?
You do have a lot of elements going into your header: I see the red silk/smoke, clouds (esp on the left hand side), stripes (on the right hand side), a fountain pen with ink, and the text. I’m not a designer, so I can’t speak to whether that’s too much or just right, so I’ll leave that to your comfort level.
Just as an FYI, the book with heart-shaped pages graphic appears on all pages with the text “Home” on it.
Content & Navigation
Obviously you know you need to have something on your main page! Usually this is a good place to briefly introduce yourself and the types of books you write, as well as any recurring character types, cultures or themes in your books.
You get two big checkmarks for having a Bio page and a Contact page. For your bio page, you might consider roman instead of Italic type. For your contact page, a contact form is great. Think about also listing an email address (written out as “myemail at myserver dot com”) for website visitors who want to contact you that way.
I’m also happy to see that you have a “Books” page. I’m not sure what the limitations of your site building software are, but it would be my preference to either have only the Books page in the side navigation (omitting the Trilogy and Series pages) OR making the Trilogy and Series pages “sub” pages under the Books page (indenting them in the left-hand navigation), making it clear that those fall under your Books page.
Also on the Books page itself, I’d strongly recommend telling more about your books there so that we want to click the “Learn more” links. The descriptions you have on those pages after I click the link are great—but the title alone isn’t enough to make me want to click. Maybe you could have a high-level blurb about the trilogy or series as a whole to entice your readers. I’m excited to see that you do have an excerpt from your work available on your site—just make sure it’s easy to find if you want people to be able to find it!
A News page might also be good (or at least you might want to add one when you have something great to announce—contest wins, representation, publication, conference, classes, etc.).
Now is the perfect time to begin building connections with other writers and publishing professionals. Make sure you show your website visitors how they can connect with you with more than just a web from—be it Facebook, Twitter, or a blog, find a way to allow your site visitors to interact with you.
Search Engine Presence
The good news: your site is ranked #1 on Google and Yahoo/Bing (they share search results) for [Lucie J. Charles]. I searched using the term [Lucie Charles] to see how your site ranked. There’s another blogging Lucie Charles, but it looks like she might not be active anymore (her last Tweet is dated Jan 13, and the site linked to in her profile is defunct). On Google, your site ranked #1 for [Lucie Charles], and on Yahoo/Bing, your site ranked #6. That does mean people searching for you will have to scroll down to find your site. To improve your ranking, recruit links to your site, with your name as the anchor text of the link (especially without the J, if you want to improve your ranking for [Lucie Charles]). You might try writing guest articles for a friend’s blog, or getting on your friends’ blog roll.
Note that at the top of every page of your site is this text, black on the dark gray background:
SELECT * FROM ayselcontent where newsitem = 1 and archive = 0 ORDER BY whatsnewdate desc
You might want to see if you can remove that line of text. It’s barely noticeable, but if you do see it, it looks like a broken piece of code :\ .
Bing/Yahoo actually lists that as the “snippet” from your site below your title:
Google’s snippet isn’t much more enticing:
If you have access to the code of your site, you can help to control these snippet using a tag like this, placed between the <head> and </head> elements of your site:
<meta name=”description” content=”Lucie J. Charles is the author of YA paranormal romantic suspense. Tantalizing secrets. Enticing psychics. Murder happens.”>
(You can customize the content of the “meta description” to suit your site as you see fit.)
Thanks again for participating, Lucie! I hope this helps you build your site and your online presence!
Linda McMaken, lindamcmaken.weebly.com and makenwords.blogspot.com
Hi, Linda! Congratulations on your forthcoming book! That puts you in the “1-2-3″ phase of your career—getting ready for the marketing push with your release.
Now, you know I’m going to say something about trying to get LindaMcMaken.com. I really think you should. It’ll be easier for visitors to remember than .weebly.com. Maybe Weebly has a service where you can use a “real” domain with their site? (Blogger has the option to do this, which they call “Custom domains”—and now that they have Pages, you can make your blog look like a real website!)
Your site and your blog are both lovely! I get a natural, outdoorsy feeling from them. However, I don’t get the “Western,” “sporting” or “active” vibe I anticipate with cowboys and rodeos. For your new book, especially if you’re planning to write Western romance for a while, think about how you can incorporate more Western elements into the design of your site. (Again, I’m not a designer, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was the green elements in your design undercutting the Western feel.)
You could also incorporate a “romance” feel into your site to help visitors know what to expect from your writing. I’m seeing the same gorgeous flower in the foreground with a sunset silhouetting a couple in the background of that image. You could incorporate more Western elements, too—I’m sure I don’t have to list them for you! You might consider putting your name on that header image instead of above it—it takes up a lot of room when they’re done separately—room that could be going to letting your visitors see your book cover, when it comes out.
Content & Navigation
Since you have a book coming out, it might be wise to consider changing the name of the page “Articles and Stuff” to “Books.” Then you have a place to put more information about your book—the blurb, the cover, the exact release date, possibly an excerpt (if your publisher is okay with it), and the “fun” stuff: pictures of your characters (as you envisioned them), deleted scenes, etc. You even have a good start on fun stuff with your Cowboys, Horses and Rodeos page, and you can build on that.
Another suggestion might be to break your contact form onto a separate Contact page in addition to appearing on the About page, since not everyone will think to look at the About page if they want to contact you.
Networking & Promotion
I like that you already have a blog, a great place to make announcements. (A “News” section of your site could be handy for that, too.)
Your blog and your website should work in tandem for your networking and promotion (unless, of course, you’d rather keep your blog a more personal kind of thing). I’d recommend looking at a dozen or more writers’ blogs to think about what style and type of content you’d like to have, then be sure to post on a regular schedule. Be sure to comment on and Follow the blogs you like.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it can be confusing for a reader to click on a tab of your website and be taken to a site that looks very different. “Am I in the right place?” they wonder. If you can, align the layout and the design of your blog and your site as much as possible.
I see that you’ve been interviewing some of your publisher’s other authors. That’s a good way to make connections—and when you post the interview, the interviewees will probably link back to your blog. (With that in mind, when you get the cover art for your book, be sure to post it in your sidebar, and add a purchase link to your blog and your site as soon as it’s ready for pre-order!)
Search Engine Presence
Your blog comes up #1 on a search for your name in Google, and your website is #6. On Bing/Yahoo, your blog is the #2 result (after your LinkedIn profile), and your website doesn’t appear in the top ten. The description of your site in Google’s “snippet” isn’t bad, but you could customize it a bit more if you can access the code of your site to add a
If you want your blog to be on top, that’s fine, but I’d really like to see these in a #1-#2 sweep. I see you have a number of articles published; if any of them are online, ask if they’ll link your name to your site. When you do an interview or a guest post, ask if they’ll link to your site and blog, and use your name as the link anchor text. Also, your publisher’s profile of you ranks well in both searches. They currently link to your blog—see if they could also link to your website (again, using your name). Your site ranking for your name is a bare minimum.
You might also want to rank for the title of your book. If you create a Books page, you can easily ask interviewers and reviewers to link to that page using the book title as the text of the link. [Baer Truth] doesn’t look like a very competitive keyword search, so I’ll bet you could get a link pretty easily.
Good luck with your book, your blog and your website! Thanks again for participating!
Mary Jo Burke, maryjoburke.com
Hi, Mary Jo! I see you hired a professional for your website design. Jeannie’s fantastic, and I’m a huge fan of WordPress, the software your site is built on. And congratulations on your book! This puts you in the “Go!” phase of your career—time to use your website for marketing your book out there.
You site definitely says romance (Jeannie knows what she’s doing!). It’s especially great if you’re planning to work in multiple subgenres—but if paranormal is your main focus, you might see about adding more/darker draping on your header.
Aside from that, your site is beautiful!
Content & Navigation
Your top navigation is easy to understand and use. I know exactly where to look to find what I need! And you’ve got some really good content here, especially the awesome reviews! Those can really help potential buyers make a decision, so it’s good to have.
But we also want to keep in mind that some of your website visitors may be people who’ve read your book and loved it. (Hooray!) What can we do for them? This is where the “fun” comes in. Do you have deleted scenes from your novel you could post? Any pictures of the visual inspiration for your characters? Any fun stories about the process of writing your novel, or where you got your idea? You could put these in the Books page, or another page, perhaps called “Extras.”
Your home page might work for this, but I’d also like to see a section of the site for good news—like maybe the sale of a sequel .
Networking & Promotion
Your book has been out for over a year, so I’m hoping you have a good network established already, with friends, other writers and fans. Have you created a Facebook fan page for you or the book? Have you been using Twitter? Do you have a blog? (If not, and you’re interested in blogging, your website is actually based on blogging software and you can easily add a blog to your site itself.) Are you on GoodReads or another review site? These are all ways you can connect with readers and potential readers—and if you’re doing them, be sure your website visitors know about it!
I’m really happy to see the “Buy now” link on your Books page below your book’s description. You could definitely use more of those—consider changing the link below the book cover from “The Wild Rose Press” to “Buy Now from Wild Rose Press” or something along those lines.
You might also think about adding a second link there—one that leads directly to the excerpt, to help your website visitors find it more easily. It’s in the middle of your Books page. If you can edit the code of that page, you can fix it so a link can take your visitors right to that part of the page. In the HTML of the page, find the beginning of the excerpt (the word “Excerpt”) and add this code on that line:
Then, the link directly to the excerpt would be: http://maryjoburke.com/books/#excerpt
Search Engine Presence
Your website is #2 on Google and Bing/Yahoo for [Mary Jo Burke]. From the looks of the other results, you don’t have a whole lot of competition trying to rank well for the keyword, so with a little work, you could probably be #1, and other good places (like your Facebook/Twitter/GoodReads, or the page for your book on your publisher’s site) could rank well, too.
One of the best ways to increase rankings is to get links to your site (or another site you’re trying to get in the search engine results), especially using your desired search term (in this case, your name) as the text of the link. A few good ways to do this include author interviews on friends’ and fans’ blogs, contests where participants are required to blog about the contest or otherwise link to you, and, of course, having unique and noteworthy content on your site.
With a little work, you should be able to rank even better for your name.
Your book title is another keyword you might want to try to rank for. A search for [All Hours Trading] brings up your book at #2 and another review at #10 on Google. On Bing/Yahoo, the results are even better: #1-3 and #5-7 are all either links to purchase or reviews about your book. Great job!
Thanks for participating, Mary Jo! Hope this helps!
Thanks to everyone who commented! I was really impressed by so many of your sites. I wish I had time to review them all!
How does your website shape up, based on the points Jordan covered? A huge thanks to those of you who volunteered to have your websites critiqued!
Be sure to join us tomorrow, Friday, May 13, when Julia Coblentz of PubIt!, Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform, explains how to get your book on the Nook – and more.
Jordan McCollum is an award-winning aspiring author, but she’s also a mother, wife, knitter, baker, and blogger—and busy! She formerly worked in search engine marketing and was editor of Marketing Pilgrim, an Internet marketing news blog, until last year. She currently blogs about crafts, motherhood and writing craft, and she writes romantic suspense and thrillers. If she ever says anything about starting another blog, slap her. Seriously.
- Seven Things An Author’s Website Must BE
- The Submission Process: One Author’s Perspective
- How to publish your book through PubIt!—and market it, too!
- Romance University in 2011
- Category Romance: Ask the Authors, Day 1