By Penny C. Sansevieri, Adjunct Instructor NYU & CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.
For most of us, building a website is the single biggest and most significant thing we can do for our business, brand, product, or book. Yet I’m amazed at how often folks will jump into this work with little or no knowledge of what it takes to build a website that is mediocre at best. Let’s look at some components and must-haves to create that perfect site.
Homepage: The homepage is the single most important page on your site and it must deliver on one promise, and just one. People came to your site for a specific reason, right? One of the biggest lessons of website design is that you are creating a site for your consumers’ reasons, not yours. If your homepage is packed with stuff other than your promise, visitors won’t stay on your site.
What do you want the website to do and why? When designers ask, “What do you want your website to do" most people will say “sell something” but the problem is before you get to the sell, the site must first do something else. When we were building our site, my web person asked me this same question. Then, much to my dismay, she asked me to go deeper. “No,” she said, “before you get to a sale it must do something else first.” That made sense. We’re not going to buy from someone we don’t trust, right? So, I wanted the website to speak to credibility. That, then, is reflected on every page. You will likely have different reasons, but whatever that reason is, remember that no one starts with the end result in mind, there is always a piece before that. That’s what your website should do. Once you determine that, make sure that each page on your site reflects what you want your website to do.
Who is your market? This is always a loaded question and often a tricky one to answer, but if you don’t know this with all certainty, I don’t recommend that you start building your website. And much like the prior bullet, it’s more than just knowing the basics: female, ages 35-55. In order to create a site that will truly sell or do what you need it to, you must know more. Years ago I created something called the “Reader Profile,” it was designed for authors to help them profile a reader for their book. The form asked questions like: Where does your reader live? What other books are they reading? What’s their age? Do they watch TV? Listen to radio? Read magazines/newspapers? And if yes to any of these, which and how often? These questions will really help you to go deeper into your site and really create an experience that is keenly focused on your end user.
Think Billboards: Years ago, I wrote that websites are like billboards, they must deliver on a single promise very quickly. When you see billboards (the ones that are done right) they deliver quickly through words and images and you know exactly what they are offering. Think of your website as a billboard, with people racing past it at high speeds because that’s what the online experience is like. You have less than a second to get someone’s attention: be clear, crisp and concise. Think billboard.
Things no website should be without: While every website is different, there are elements that I feel are important to have on any website. Consider the following:
- Strong call to action: You must tell your visitors what you want them to do, otherwise they will leave without taking action and that won’t serve you well at all.
- Contact points: Make it easy for someone to contact you, either through a phone number, contact form, direct email, or a combination of these three.
- Secure shopping: In an age of identity theft and online scams, I can’t emphasize enough that you must have a secure shopping cart. How do you get this? Tell your website developer that you want this, though most will insist on it.
- Testimonials: People like what other people like so be sure to add testimonials, reviews, and endorsements to your website.
- Signup: Most visitors won’t make a decision to buy the first time they land on your site; in fact, the number is frighteningly small. Getting folks to sign up for your blog, newsletter, or announcement list is a way to stay on their radar screen (permission marketing) and getting them back to your site again and again. By doing this, you’ll deliver the sale.
- Easy share: There are a lot of articles on having sharing features on a website and blog so I won’t belabor this. Suffice it to say that you want to be sure that your site is sharable on any and all relevant social media sites.
- Blog: In an age of almost monthly Google algorithm changes a blog is no longer an option if you’re trying to get some visibility for your site. It’s a must and you’ll want to update it at a minimum of twice a week.
Bad book covers: I work in publishing and as anyone in this industry knows, you can bury a good book in a lousy cover. The same can be said for your website. Consumers won’t take the time to try and figure out bad navigation or lukewarm website copy, not to mention a poor design, they’ll just leave and likely their next stop will be your competitor.
You get what you pay for: I love free, I mean don’t we all? But free has a price, especially when it comes to website design. Free websites are limited, won’t let you do ecommerce and most will never get you any search engine ranking. Forget free, in the long run it could cost you in lost revenue and business opportunities.
Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Follow on Twitter @Bookgal.
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