Friday, April 25, 2014

Does Your Website Suck?

Is your website ready for business? When I ask this question at speaking events, there are usually only a few hands that go up. Most people aren’t really sure whether their website is working or not. The main goal of your site is to sell your book or product, and no matter what you're selling, there are some key elements every website must have. This checklist will help you determine if your website is working as well as it should:

1. Proofread your copy: Every single page must be carefully edited. There's no quicker way to lose a sale than to present readers with typos and other needless gaffes. Your website is your 24/7 sales and marketing tool and you want to create a stellar first impression.

2. Check your traffic: You can see who visits your site, where they come from, and much more. Google Analytics is free and easy to use. You want to review the reports regularly so you understand who visits your site, how they find you, and what they do once they're on your site. Then you'll learn what works (and what doesn't).

3. Be media ready: Every website should have a media room with downloadable materials ready to go. This includes a photo, bio, book synopsis and book cover. Offer the downloads in small files, people will appreciate that. In addition, your media room can have a Q&A, book reviews, book group questions, events calendar, and more. Make your media room the one stop source for easy to obtain information.

4. Keep the copy simple: People don't sit down to read web pages. They scan, so a home page of 200 to 250 words is ideal. Your site needs to be easy to scan and it has to have a call to action - what is it you want readers to do? Buy your book? Download a report? Whatever it is, you want your site to direct visitors to a specific action.

5. Have a web store: While it's a good idea to have your products available at a number of e-tailers, you should have a spot on your site dedicated to sales - even if you direct people to or another site for the actual purchase. Make it easy for visitors to your site to buy from you, otherwise, you'll lose the sale.

6. Invest in professional design: You don't have to break the bank, but definitely consider hiring a professional to design your website. Designers understand layout, color, calls to action, and web surfing habits better than anyone. A good designer will not only produce a nice-looking site, but one that's focused, with a clear call to action that will turn your site's surfers into buyers.

7. Blog and other contact points: Having a blog ensures you have regularly updated content on your site, as well as a page on your blog where visitors can participate. If you're using social media, make it easy for visitors to your site to click through and follow you wherever you are: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.

8. Freshen up your content: This works well if you have a blog. Try to update it once or twice a week. The updates are a big plus for Google, which will reward your site with a higher search ranking if it has fresh content. That ranking will help with search because you’ll be listed before your competition. And that’s what you want – for people to be able to find you (instead of someone else) when they’re searching books in your genre or for authorities in your area of expertise.

9. Add social widgets: All of the major social media sites have widgets you can add to your site. This makes it easy for others to share content, whether it's your latest blog post, book synopsis, or events calendar. When you make it easy to share content you’ll get results.

10. Build a mailing list: Email marketing is a valuable tool, and you can use your website to build that list. Offer something your readers want, such as a free download of a report, or a sample chapter of your book. Those email addresses will come in handy when your next book or new product comes out!

11. Contact information: Make sure your site offers a way for people to get in touch with you. Don't make visitors hunt for that phone number, email, or contact form - they won't. They'll just leave your site and they won't come back.

12. Go Mobile: With Mobile such a huge part of our world, your site should be mobile-ready. Many sites like WordPress have simple plug-ins, also check out Dudamobile, which has a free platform to help you turn your desktop site into something that’s mobile friendly.

Your website is critical to the success of your business, book, or product. Invest the time and money to get the best, most professional site possible. When you take the time to do it right, you’ll have a website that’s a valuable marketing and sales machine.

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

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