2011 Writing Resolutions – Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Author Website

“That’s a great website!” Not exactly the best four words a writer can hear. “Here’s your book deal,” “Random House wants you,” “Please meet Mr. Patterson,” are all four word phrases that rank much higher in the writer’s scale of awesome-ness. (I’m a huge James Patterson fan and would love to sit and chat with him about the craft and, more importantly, the promotion of writing.) But having a website that people like spending time on, can interact with, and, most importantly, FIND, is key to turning yourself into a Brand (see yesterday’s post on Branding), building your author platform, and selling books. We all need to improve our websites. No matter if your website has won the Al Gore “I Invented the Internet so I Deem This Website Perfect” Award, your website needs to be updated constantly to remain something that provides fresh content and keeps people coming back. Therefore, as we continue the 2011 writing resolutions, I give you the Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Author Website: (By the way, these go in order from easiest to most difficult in terms of time and money.) 

5. Tag Your Site Properly. Let’s say little Tommy wants to get his parents a book as a last minute Christmas gift. He has no idea what authors his parents like, but he knows they like suspense thrillers. He whips out his iPhone, taps the Google app and says, “Thriller author” into the voice search. Ideally, we’d like our name to pop up first. But how to make sure that happens? By tagging our site with the right keywords. On my home page, my tags are “thriller, author, suspense, Mark Fadden, The Brink, writer, fiction, book.” My home page gets around 300 hits a week. Not bad, but when someone types in “thriller author” my website isn’t in the Google Top 10 results. I need to do better in 2011.

4. Have relevant content. It’s all about search engine optimization these days. What is SEO? Wikipedia defines it as, “is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.” I attended several talks this past year on SEO at my local community college and, as I understand it, the more often there is mention of the search term on your site, the more likely it will be toward the top of an organic search results page. Why? Because the search engines basically count how many times they see it on your page or site. Oh, and they also take into account how “fresh” your site is, so update often. Let’s take the “thriller author” term as an example. If that’s a key search term for you, then the words “thriller author” needs to be all over your site.  

3. Balance the words and pics. Back to the advice I got from an SEO presentation – your site should be pleasant to look at. As writers, we like words. But, we also need to have pictures and videos on the site. When was the last time you spent any time on a site that looked like a page from the dictionary? Sorry, your grandfather’s dictionary. No one has an actual dictionary in their house any longer.

2. Keep up to date on the latest SEO tips and tricks – Designing websites for SEO is always changing. As the technology gets better, so do the applications, tools, and techniques used to support that new technology. I get email updates from Search Engine Land. If you want to know about what’s going on in the world of SEO, this site has it.  

1. Hire a website designer. We’ve got to realize our limits. Chances are you have a day job, maybe a couple kids, and want to have some alone time every once in a while where you can spend some “me” time trying to finally get the blasted ship in the bottle! If you’ve got the scratch and you know a good designer, you may want to have some outside help in creating/updating your website to make it better and be SEO-ready. Just a tip here, make sure your designer builds it so you can update it whenever you like with your content and not screw up the entire design or break into some NSA computer by accident and launch missles at Russia. That would be a bad thing.

***REMINDER – ‘Beyond the Book’ will go dark from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day. We’ll be back in 2011 with fresh ideas for all of us to be better ‘authorpreneurs’ in the new year. Happy Holidays to all!

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 My latest novel, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210485/?cds2Pid=24451

2011 Writing Resolutions Continued: Becoming a Brand

Wouldn’t you love to be the Lysol of the publishing world? Think of it…a person wanting a thriller goes into a book store. They find their helpful book store associate and instead of asking, “where’s the thriller section?” they ask, “where can I find Mark Fadden books?” It’s the same principle as going into your grocery store and trying to find the Lysol rather than the “disinfectant spray.” Why? Good old fashioned branding.

It’s the same thing with Kleenex, Coke, type of beer you like, etc, people are loyal to brands. Why? Because they know what to expect. People keep buying James Patterson novels for two reasons, 1 – he churns them out like they’re magazines, and 2 people know exactly what they’re getting when they buy his books – a fast paced thriller with short chapters and lots of suspense.

One of the bloggers I follow is Kristin Lamb. She covers all the writing bases from writing technique to social media. Her recent post also talked about branding and here’s a brief snippet:

Our blogs and our tags serve to define our brand. The content and tags associated with our name are important. What potential consumers, an agent and an editor see associated with our name is vital in how they mentally define us. Are they going to define us as Quiche Lorraine or Dear God! Who Let the Kids Cook?

As an example, here’s my list of tags:

Kristen Lamb—Kristen Lamb, writer, author, speaker, teacher, social media, publishing, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blog, blogs, blogging, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, branding, marketing.

Notice all the tags were simple. These tags were all nouns that, if typed into a search bar, would serve to help someone else’s little codependent genie find me FIRST. Generally with writers I see one of two errors. Either they don’t use tags (or don’t use enough tags) OR they use tags that are so obscure they are ridiculous.

And yes, notice I put my name in the tags. Why? Because I want to become a brand name. I want that when people think/say, “social media for writers,” Kristen Lamb comes up first.

As people continue to use the Internet to search for All Things Important, we need to continue to work on our SEO (search engine optimization) to become the next great publishing brand. But that is a subject for yet another 2011 Writing Resolutions entry: Making sure our websites are working for us. Hint, Hint – it’s tomorrow’s topic.

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My latest novel, The Brink, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Special Collection for a second time! Check it out at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Brink/Mark-Fadden/e/9781450210485/?cds2Pid=24451

Building your online following – Part 1

One of the blogs I really like is Nathan Bransford’s blog. Although he just changed jobs and is no longer a literary agent, he continues to pump out great content for writers. Case in point – I’ve copied his latest blog below. Building your online following is the whole point for authors engaging in social media. It also fits nicely into this week’s theme – how to incorporate organic searches into your promotional campaign.

If you aren’t following Nathan Bransford and you’re a writer, you need to be. His advice is priceless. It’s just that simple.

Nathan Bransford – Seven Tips on How to Build a Following Online

 

Seven Tips on How to Build a Following Online

Posted: 22 Nov 2010 07:04 AM PST

1. Be consistent. We are all creatures of online habit, and if you are hoping to build traffic and a regular audience, it’s essential to worm your way into people’s routines (much harder than actually getting them to like you!). And in order to do this, it’s important to have a posting frequency that your audience knows and expects. Whether you blog/Tweet/Tumble once a day, five times a day, or once a week (but not less than that), know thy social media schedule and keep it holy.

2. Reach out and comment someone. The best way to build traffic is to be noticed. Pick a few well-trafficked blogs and/or Forums, become a fixture, get to know the regulars, write witty comments, and try to attract people naturally your way. The more you invest in other people, and I mean genuinely invest in them, the more they’ll be willing to return the favor. Better yet, you might even make some wonderful real-life friends.

3. Take the long view. A following is not built overnight. When impatience enters the picture there’s a temptation to be overly controversial, which is a good short-term way of getting traffic, but damaging in the long term. If you make everyone mad people will definitely stop by, but chances are they won’t be back.

4. Find your niche. The Internet abhors a vacuum, and it’s important to think about what unique information or perspective you will provide. Be as unique and interesting as possible, and make yourself stand out from the pack.

5. Short paragraphs. There are few things less inviting than a massive wall of text. Twitter forces you to be brief, but everywhere else make your paragraphs short and punchy.

6. SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Think about your post titles and imagine what someone would Google if they wanted to know about the topic you’re talking about. The more links you receive from other sources the higher your search results, and the more natural traffic you’ll receive.

7. Be selfless. It’s not about you, it’s about your readers and followers. Think about what you are providing them and deliver the goods.

So what does it take for a virtually unknown author to sell books? Get an insider’s look at a book marketing campaign using social media.

July 22, 2010

Day 38 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010, which is my first official month – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

  • FB ad round-up – the numbers look like our 401ks, new book signing ad  
  • Another fantastic literary blog (really, it’s won awards!)

FB ad round-up – the numbers look like our 401ks, new book signing ad

I won’t even bother with a fancy chart this time for the “economics” ad. It’s another goose egg today. I can’t wait to yank it tomorrow.

The other ad’s numbers are also taking a dive. I would use the term “market oversaturation” if I really knew what it meant. But I will guess that my target audience have already seen it, (it has been posted over 250,000 in 3 days to the dame group.) Here’s the ad:

Electrifying new author

Tired of the same plots & the same characters? Read the intro to this award winning thriller and never see the world the same again.

 And here are the numbers as of 10:45pm tonight:

Date Imp. Clicks CTR (%) Avg. CPC ($) Avg. CPM ($) Spent ($)
07/22/2010 14,413 3 0.02 0.62 0.13 1.86
07/21/2010 148,407 16 0.01 0.60 0.06 9.54
07/20/2010 87,886 36 0.04 0.56 0.23 20.00
Lifetime 250,706 55 0.02 0.57 0.13 31.40

36 to 16 to 3 clicks today. I still think the verbiage in the ad works, and I’m still trying to figure out how to make it work in later ads.

I’ve also got a signing in Denton, Texas this Saturday at Hastings from 6-8pm, so if you’re in Denton, swing by and we’ll have a beer before or after. I also have a booth at the North Texas Regional Library System conference that day, so Monday’s post should be filled to the brim with all kinds of interesting tidbits and networking hints that I pick up that day. I’m working on a flyer for conference attendees that I’ll post tomorrow night.

Back to the signing. I did a FB ad for the signing targeted to people who like “reading” within a 10 mile radius of Denton, TX. That’s a whopping 600 people. You might think that’s a small #, but if even 10% of those folks show up, Hastings would be way sold out and I would have to revert to the signed bookplates (large mailing stickers with an open book pic watermark and my website address on it) that I take to signings, just in case the store does run out or if someone that I talk to wants to buy a book, but doesn’t have enough scratch at the time. I sign the bookplate and hand it to them, hoping they will in fact buy the book online later and slap the bookplate inside it.

 Here’s the ad:

Local author book signing

Like thrillers? Need a unique gift? Visit Hastings in Denton this Saturday, July 24, 6-8 pm and get the year’s best thriller signed!

 It links to my appearances & reviews page. $20 daily budget on this bad boy and FB is charging my $.50 per click, so I’ll get about 10 clicks per day out of it. I know you’ll be waiting with baited breath for the results tomorrow night.

 Another fantastic literary blog (really, it’s won several awards!)

 I know last night I talked about researching search engine optimization (SEO), but the clock was against me today. I promise I’ll look at the Inc. magazine SEO article over the weekend and we’ll discuss next week.

In the meantime, I found a new blog that is a tremendous source of info to us writers. It’s by a literary agent, it’s won some industry awards, and it truly rocks. Check it out at http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/07/open-thread.html. I also linked my blog to it, as well as the Pimp My Novel blog, which is where I found a link to Nathan’s blog. So if I did it right, you should see those links in the right hand column on this screen. Just keep scrolling past the sales pitch ads and you’ll see them. 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

 

So what does it take for a virtually unknown author to sell books? Get a front row seat as Mark Fadden blogs about his marketing hits and many misses on the way to sell 5,000 copies of his latest thriller, The Brink, in one year.

July 21, 2010

Day 37 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010, which is my first official month – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

  • FB ad round-up – let’s look at the numbers  
  • More changes to the website and a preview to search engine optimization

 FB ad round-up – let’s look at the numbers

The “economics” ad just a keeps on suckin’. Here’s the FB ad that was targeted at users who like economics:

 Could a novel come true?

A fugitive lawman uncovers the link between a secret society’s plot for financial Armageddon & the FED, based on REAL economic numbers.

 And here are the numbers:

Date Imp. Clicks CTR (%) Avg. CPC ($) Avg. CPM ($) Spent ($)
07/21/2010 1,072 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
07/20/2010 7,011 2 0.03 0.57 0.16 1.14
07/19/2010 684 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Lifetime 8,767 2 0.02 0.57 0.13 1.14

 I think folks from as far away as Russia (oh yes, according to my godaddy.com site analytics, I’m huge there) could probably smell the stench of failure on this ad. But, it’s staying up until the end of the week, because I said I would keep it going that long, and by Neptune’s trident I am a man of my word!

 Fortunately, my other ad is still going strong. Here’s the ad:

 Electrifying new author

Tired of the same plots & the same characters? Read the intro to this award winning thriller and never see the world the same again.

 And here are the numbers as of 10:45pm tonight:

Date Imp. Clicks CTR (%) Avg. CPC ($) Avg. CPM ($) Spent ($)
07/21/2010 133,158 15 0.01 0.59 0.07 8.90
07/20/2010 87,886 36 0.04 0.56 0.23 20.00
Lifetime 221,044 51 0.02 0.57 0.13 28.90

 51 total in two days with 15 new today. The CTR % (click through rate) dropped off, but that’s to be expected since the same group (people who like books) are seeing it over and over (by the way, there are 560,900 people in that group). I asked the question last night how I can leverage the seeming popularity of this ad. I didn’t have a chance to give it much thought today, but it’s still pinging around inside the old melon.

 

More changes to the website and a preview to search engine optimization

I took the opportunity to look at my godaddy.com site analytics last night and saw something interesting. There was a steep drop in the number of visitors over the last few days. It started around the time I changed up the language on the site to reflect more of my personality, which sounded like fantastic advice coming from my social media Moses David Meerman Scott in his book The New Rules of Marketing and PR. So, to make the sight more fun, I sprinkled the site with what I thought were snarky, smart assed, and what I thought were funny comments here and there. But, when people are looking for at a thriller writer, they don’t want Flopso the Clown. Like I said in last night’s post, they are looking to you to solve their problem. They need a good book. They want a thriller to thrill them. They don’t want a thriller writer trying to be funny.

My website is something that I, like many other people that use primarily websites to broadcast their information, continue to struggle with. There are in the neighborhood of 124 million sites on the Internet and literally billions of web pages. We want to stand out and we stand out by providing great content. But how?

I was thumbing through the July/Aug issue of Inc. magazine today and it was like the editors were reading my mind. There in front of me was a whole pull-out section on website search engine optimization, or “SEO.” How to get your website seen! Drive more traffic to your site! Fantastic. I’ll need some time to really dig into it, so that’s hopefully a topic for tomorrow night. Until then… 

 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

The Nightstand Diaries – 1 year, 5,000 books, and an (almost) anything goes approach to marketing a political thriller.

July 13, 2010

Day 29 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010 – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

  • Hello, my name’s Mark, and I’m a FB ad-dict
  • Changes to the website 
  • Double-dip recession – will it make The Brink prophetic?  

Hello, my name’s Mark, and I’m a FB ad-dict

My day started with creating two FB ads. By tonight, I got 6 hits on one (The next James Patterson?) and zero on another. So I took out the dead weight and changed back to my most successful ad so far (Read a thriller anywhere!) and created another one. So, I’ve got three running currently. Here they are:

Chillingly current novel

Preview the year’s most controversial thriller and get a 40% off coupon at your local Borders bookstore good through July 17th.

Read a thriller anywhere!

Get the most controversial thriller of the year delivered to your desktop, laptop or smartphone in seconds for $7.13. eBooks rock!

 The next James Patterson?

“Action & heroism keep readers turning pages.” – ForeWord Review. Uncover the most staggering conspiracy of our time, & get it 28% off.

 The James Patterson ad is targeted at people that like James Patterson, about 360,000 people. The other two are targeted at people who like to read, about 4 million each.

I went on my godaddy.com (my web host company) account and tried to look at the site analytics to see if the facebook people are buying books once they leave my site, but I have yet to find information on that. UUGGHH!  Does anyone know how to get that info?

Anyway, all told, I’m in for about an hour on jacking around with these ads today, which includes creating them as well. Budget is $20/day for each. I promise I’ll let them ride until tomorrow’s post so we can analyze the numbers.

Changes to the website 

I also visited my godaddy.com search engine optimization page last night and today. What a butt whoopin’. 3 hours of slogging through the steps to get the right keywords associated with the site so that search engine “spiders” will recognize them when people search for books. You might say 3 hours seems like a lot for just coming up with keywords, but I’m old and I have to learn what the heck I’m doing before I actually do it.

I also made some changes to the site, mostly the home page to make it more like my personality. I reread some of David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR last night and today and he said that you should put some of ‘you’ into your site. So I did. Check it out and let me know what you think.   

Double-dip recession – will it make The Brink prophetic

Take a look at this recent article from Robert Reich about the probability of a double dip recession. If that happens, it will cause the U.S. government to come to the rescue with more bailouts, and that means more deficit spending and more debt.

Without giving too much away, (I already gave a huge hint as to who’s involved in the conspiracy in the book on the front cover) the double-dip resembles the ‘event’ the bad guys in the book use to begin their plan to take over the world. Funny how life resembles art, right?      

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…