Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 30, 2014

7 Tips for Keeping Your Author Website Fresh

Sierra Godfrey

Plastic Food Containers Like TupperwareIt would be nice if we all had a virtual set of Tupperware that allowed us to take out nice fresh pieces of our websites or blogs when things get stale. Let’s face it—even if your website or blog is professionally designed or a straight-off-the-shelf template, and whether you’re promoting a book or just building an audience or community, we all have the same problem after a while.

Websites get stale.

For as long as I’ve been involved with designing or creating websites, it’s always come as an unpleasant surprise to clients that they actually have to put some work into running a site after it’s designed. The web moves fast and you need to adapt to keep your site interesting and visitors coming back. If you’re promoting books, then you need to count your website as an important part of your overall publicity—whether or not you can see the results of people visiting.

Here are seven tips for keeping it real:

1. Make sure your site is up to date with your work. There’s nothing worse than a website that looks like a ghost town. You know, tumble weeds flitting by on your About page. A blog with broken, swinging saloon doors that hasn’t been updated in two years. A cobwebby book page that still says “Stay tuned for the new release, coming October 2009!” Go through and clean it up, sweep away the dust, and get the most current book information on your site, front and center. If you aren’t yet published and aren’t promoting a book, keep your blog front and center.

2. Consider removing features that force you to update too often. Examples include a “What’s new” section that almost every new visitor to your site will click. If your latest news has been “Welcome to my site, I just updated my site from Geocities!” for six years, then it’s a no-go.

3. Look at other author sites. What are other authors doing? How are they presenting their news? How active do their sites look? Are people adding excerpts, recipes, and character sheets with their books? How about digital autograph tools? Playlists?

4. If you do decide to redesign, beware of current fads. It’s tempting to look “techy” with a parallax style website. Parallax is a wide-screen format with vertical scrolling, and it’s the current trend with high tech companies. Parallax can be great for mobile users with websites that tell a story but in most cases, author sites don’t tell stories, you sell them. I hate to see people using parallax because it looks cool in lieu of actual content. By the way, if your reading audience is a bunch of teenage girls, then you might consider updating your site to be more mobile-friendly. There are several ways to do this that are beyond this post, but you can definitely Google that.


A parallax example

5. Update your look to your latest book. It’s great to have a site that looks just like your book cover, like using a background that matches the cover. I’ve worked with several authors on their websites who wanted sites to match the tone of their first release. Inevitably, they write more books! I’m thrilled for them, but then their site needs updating. I always advise sticking with a neutral theme that matches your personality and preferred writing genre. That way you don’t get stuck with the look of your first book.

6. Check your site stats. You should have a basic site statistics tool installed. Google Analytics works with pretty much everything including WordPress, and I also like the Jetpack site stats tool for WordPress because it’s easy to use. If people are visiting one section of your site in particular, consider expanding that section to offer more. Rewrite the content, add more pictures. And then consider combining the unused section of your site or deleting it altogether.

7. Finally, kill your darlings. Oh sure, we know this one as it applies to writing, right? But if you’re dead set against changing your menu graphics because you like the way they are, but they no longer serve the right purpose (reminder: that purpose is to get people to read your site content!), then change it! I recently spoke to a friend who knew her links were confusing but she liked how they looked. If she wanted to move forward with the site update, she would have to let go of her darlings.

What about you? What ways have you found to keep your site fresh? Is this is something you’ve heard about before, but haven’t addressed? I’d love to see your websites—put them in with your comment!

About Sierra

Sierra writes fiction that features strong heroines who grow from the challenges they face (and there’s usually a guy involved; you know how that is) A graphic designer by day, she lives in the foggy wastelands of the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and a grateful quarterly contributor to the Writers in the Storm. Her non-fiction essays have been featured on Maria Shriver’s Shriver Report and Architects of Change website, and in the anthology, Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God: 73 Women on Life’s Transitions.

You can find more of her sass at www.sierragodfrey.com and she’s pretty mouthy on Twitter (@sierragodfrey), too. Come talk to her, she loves it.




37 comments on “7 Tips for Keeping Your Author Website Fresh”

  1. I love your posts, Sierra - we authors know how to write books, but need help with this stuff! Great reminders...how often do you recommend updating at least the splash page, to keep it fresh?

    1. Great question Laura. I think a good rule of thumb is: when you're sick of it.

  2. Its always the little things, the small changes we make that impact the most. Sometimes finding the time is not so easy! Thanks for the tips.

  3. I understand how tempting it is to create a site and then turn away to focus on all the other things we have to do as authors. But you've made great points on the necessity of maintaining a fresh website. Thanks for the great info!

  4. I just recently blogged about this similar topic on Pizzos3.com titled Blog Baby: Flawed and All. I'm not at the website level yet (I don't think) but even with all your great advice and others that are writing on similar topics, maintaining the site really is a learning curve that is differentiated for everyone. Its not always an easy transition between crafting the writing and running the business of writing.
    I will however keep all of your tips in mind as my blog baby continues to grow

    1. That's exactly right-- the learning curve can be steep. We're writers, after all! I think this post is really about content, but it can be about design, too.

  5. This may have been my favorite line of this whole post: "I just updated my site from Geocities!" 😀
    Webpage/site development is one of my hobbies and this is all great advice. ie: We need to visit and update our sites on a regular basis. Outdated info drives me crazy. I think an author's time is better spent keeping that website fresh over staying active on Twitter, to be honest (and certainly better than any self-promo on Twitter).

    1. It's very difficult to separate yourself from owner of a blog or website and reader of it. You have to look at your site objectively. If you can't do it, ask someone to sit down and go through your site while you watch. Don't direct them, don't answer questions, just observe what they do. If they click on something you didn't expect or have trouble with something, there's your big insight right there!

  6. Wonderful post, Sierra. I do not yet have a reason for a writer's web page ... aspiring writers want to know ... but I do run two on-line shops. One is for collectibles and the second for crafts. The second shop needs constant tweaking and revising because it showcases what I made, not merely vintage items I have found. Different strokes, different marketing.

    Your post is true for my craft shop because it highlights what I create. I want to make it pleasant and easy for people to buy my work ... I have learned about photography, daily stats, customer service, presentation. In fact, everything you speak to here can apply to any web page where we want to make a good first (and second) impression. Thanks for keeping us updated on marketing tools. I remember the lessons for my future author page 🙂

    1. Glad it helped! It's never too early to start on an author page, or just an "I'm writing and here I am" page. Sometimes we forget that there are people out there, fellow writers, who want to cheer you on.

  7. Thanks for the great advice. I'm in the process of studying other writers' sites and deciding on a look that I want mine to have- this article came at the perfect time!

  8. You're so right, Sierra. I thought once I had my website I was "done." Of course, I thought once I had my yard landscaped I wouldn't have to buy any new plants!

    1. That's perfect, Fae! All the weeding that goes into it after it's "done" ... oy!!

  9. Great tips, Sierra. I just updated my author bio, which was left from a website I used to write for, and also discovered that the tab with all the links to articles at said website were broken - the site doesn't exist anymore! I've got a book coming out this weekend and all I could do was make all those links private so they don't clutter up my blog (they'll eventually be incorporated into new blog posts). But with a new book, I need to look at how to showcase that at the front - just not right now!

  10. I'm overdue on setting up a website but that "Branding" thing is weighing me down. I've published historicals and will publish more but I'm also stretching out with Futuristic. Not an easy mix.

    1. In that case Sharla I think just something that is uniquely you. Think of it this way: all those different genres came out of a single head -- yours.

  11. Great post, Sierra, thanks! I've gone through so many web redos during my time in corporate communications but it's so much different when that site is "you." Need to give my site the hairy eyeball ... we could both use a go spa day. 🙂

  12. Some excellent tips here, Sierra. I'll be taking care of a couple of them on my site, today. Thanks!

  13. Great post, Sierra. Updating your website regularly also helps it place higher in the searches. Search spiders love and favor active sites.

  14. Great tips! My poor website has been badly neglected, so I need to show it some love soon. Will keep this list handy when I do!

  15. Yikes. Love the advice. I recently received my first renewal from the hosting group that designed/set it up. Gads. A whole year has passed and I've done very little updating. Needed that kick in my behind. deeannagalbraith.com

    1. Thanks for linking your site DeeAnna. Get that blog updated! That was the first thing I looked at 🙂

  16. I'm still a babe-in-the-woods with my site, still learning, but it's great fun to tweak things to try and improve. - so all tips are appreciated! I neglect it for weeks on end when I'm writing, then suffer guilt pangs, but it is always such a kick when you check stats to see how many visitors have dropped in. Have to confess my favourite part is seeing what countries the visitors are in 🙂

  17. Great post on websites! I need a website for my upcoming memoir, but I am not sure if I should pay someone to create one for me or do it myself on WordPress. I would love to share this post with my readers. Do you mind if I share this post on my blog?

  18. I took a web design course last semester and I fully intended to update my website with current content over the summer, but it's a ghost town over there for sure. I hate writing code and my blog isn't linked to my GoDaddy site. I want to keep the domain name, but I'm not sure if I really need it. My blog seems to draw the most interest.

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