One of my long time cyberspace pen pals is a Marsha Freedman, an experienced and exceptionally competent book publicist who has work in this field almost as long as I have. She also puts out an informed and informative newsletter for the publishing industry called “The PR Insider”. From time to time she let’s me include her marketing tips and advice in my own newsletter and in the Midwest Book Review archive “Advice for Writers & Publishers”. One of her latest (and best) is the following:
Make Sure Your Website Has the Right Stuff
Most people realize, whether they’re running a business, a professional practice, selling their product or book, or building their brand, they need to have a website.
Having a spot on some other person’s or business’s site, whether it’s a profile on LinkedIn or a book on Amazon, isn’t the same – and it isn’t enough. I tell you this because I talk to a number of people who confuse being on a website with having their own. A good website does so much more than announce your presence:
It can collect the contact information of people who are interested in you, so you can interact with them directly.
It can show, and tell, people what makes you different from your competitors.
It can increase sales by making it convenient for people to buy when they’re ready.
If you’re going to spend money, this is a good place to invest. Your website is that important!
I recommend hiring a professional web developer/designer to do the work for you. Proceed with caution: To avoid a potentially expensive mistake, you must do the kind of research you’d do before making any big purchase. You should also understand the components of a good website so you can evaluate the work of designers you might hire, and so you can talk with your designer about what you want.
Here are some of the components we at EMSI look for:
Your bio. Visitors should be able to quickly spot an “About (your name)” tab, which they can click on to learn who you are. If you’re the head of a company, the bio should be about you, not the company. It should include your credentials, what your purpose is (relevant to your business, profession, product, book, etc.), and what makes you an expert. This should be as concise as possible while also answering all of the questions prospective buyers or clients are likely to ask. Possible details might include college degree or special training, professional or business experience, and military experience. If the relevance isn’t immediately apparent, for instance, you’re a marriage counselor with a degree in math, explain how and why you got where you are. If you’re associated with any immediately recognizable names, whether they’re famous people, major corporations, prestigious schools or other well-known institutions, use them! It will give your visitors something with which they can identify.
A blog, or other valuable content, that is renewed regularly. When people use a search engine such as Google to find information on a particular topic, the search engine will look for the newest, most recently posted material. By regularly publishing new content on your site, you’ll improve the chances that, when someone searches for information on your topic, your site will appear in their search results. Posting new content on a variety of subjects related to your topic also increases the chances your site will show up in different types of searches. Fresh material gives visitors a reason to return to your site!
A mechanism for capturing visitors’ contact information. Attracting visitors to your website is one thing, learning who they are and staying in touch with them in meaningful ways adds tremendous marketing value! Offering a free download of valuable, useful information is one way to do this. Post your offer “above the fold” (i.e. somewhere in the very first screen view of your site) and ask people to sign up for the download by sharing their email address. You might offer email alerts about events, weekly tips, or an automatic sign-up to your blog or newsletter. Contests and other giveaways are other great ways to get visitors to share more about themselves.
If you’re selling something, make sure you have a place for purchase clearly displayed above the fold where visitors will have no trouble finding it. And make buying easy!
One last note, remember that any publicity you get works overtime when you post it on your website. An interview or article in a big media outlet, or an excerpt from an exceptional review, can be proudly displayed on your home page. Share other media placements you’ve gotten on a special “In the News” page that’s easily accessible from your home page.
Of course there is more to building a strong website, but this should get you started.
Your website is your storefront; this is where people will make buying decisions. You go to a great deal of effort to drive them there through publicity and advertising, so it’s no place to cut corners. If the website is done well with a good design and great copy that communicates your message, there’s a stronger likelihood your visitors will become buyers.
The only thing I want to add to Marsha’s invaluable commentary when it comes to constructing an author and/or publisher web site is to please make sure and certain that your web site has all of your contact information — including both a snail-mail and an email address for you.
Executive Editor, LuxeBeatMag
Board Member, Co-Chair Conference & Media Trip Committee, Past President
Member: Society of American Travel Writers (SATW)
Member: Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
Freelance Lifestyle Journalist
Follow me: @maralynhill