Author Website Checklist

5 October 2017

From Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader:

No two author websites look the same, but they all share a few common characteristics. Generally, author websites have to fill four needs.

I would describe author sites as a type of business websites (you do want visitors to buy your books, after all). As such, an author site needs to tell visitors:

  • what an author has written,
  • who the author is,
  • how to contact the author, and
  • what the author is writing next.

Before you launch your author site, here’s a quick checklist to make sure you have all the parts you need.

  1. Author bio – Have you posted a bio on your site, and does it include a photo?
  2. Books – Have you set up a listing page for each of your books? With cover images? And do you have a directory page for your books? What about a series summary?
  3. Mailing list – Do you have a sign up form for your mailing list? Do you offer a freebie to anyone who signs up?

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG says the rest of Nate’s suggestions for an author’s website are well worth applying if you don’t include those features on your website.

One item he mentioned – search engine optimization (SEO) – woke PG’s little gray cells from their morning somnolence.

PG has been using Google since the site first opened. He remembers when it looked like this:

PG continues to use Google, almost daily, to find all manner of important and inconsequential information.

Not long after Google began to overtake Yahoo (remember them?) as the go-to place to find things on the internet, people started trying to show up higher in Google’s search results and SEO was born. PG was having fun with Google SEO 15 years ago when he was running marketing and sales for a start-up tech company.

However, re: SEO, PG doesn’t remember the last time he searched for a book using Google. His first, second and third impulse in such situations is to use Amazon to find books. For PG, the Zon is a much richer and more informative place to locate reading material plus there’s not a lot of extraneous information when he’s in the books section.

PG decided to find out a little about Amazon SEO and discovered, yes, it’s a thing.

Amazon has a page talking about how sellers (not just indie authors) can optimize their listings for searching and browsing. KDP listings are somewhat different than Amazon’s general product listings. However, here are a few things they mention:

Search is the primary way that customers use to locate products on Amazon. Customers search by entering keywords, which are matched against the information (title, description, etc.) you provide for a product. Factors such as degree of text match, price, availability, selection, and sales history help determine where your product appears in a customer’s search results. By providing relevant and complete information for your product, you can increase your product’s visibility and sales.

. . . .

Information provided in the product description and bullet points is searchable by customers. The product description and bullet points help customers learn key details about your product. These sections should include product-related information in a clear and concise manner. Amazon will remove your page/listings with long product descriptions.

. . . .

Amazon provides sellers with an opportunity to add hidden keywords for a product. These keywords should only include generic words that enhance the discoverability of your product. For example, if you are selling headphones, your hidden keywords may contain synonyms such as “earphones” and “earbuds.” Hidden keywords are not required fields.

Here are some best practices for providing hidden keywords:

  • Don’t include product identifiers such as brand names, product names, compatible product names, ASINs, UPC codes, etc.
  • Don’t provide inaccurate, misleading, or irrelevant information such as the wrong product category, the wrong gender, out-of-context words, etc.
  • Don’t provide excessively long content. Respect the limits that are set for different fields.
  • When entering several words as a search term, put them in the most logical order. A customer is more likely to search for big stuffed teddy bears than for teddy stuffed bears.
  • Use a single space to separate keywords. No commas, semicolons, carets are required.
  • Don’t include statements that are only temporarily true, e.g., “new,” “on sale,” “available now.”
  • Don’t include subjective claims such as amazing, good quality. etc., as most customers don’t use subjective terms in their queries.
  • Don’t include common misspellings of the product name. Amazon’s search engine compensates for common customer misspellings and also offers corrective suggestions.
  • Don’t provide variants of spacing, punctuation, capitalization, and pluralization (“80GB” and “80 GB,” “computer” and “computers,” etc.). Our search engine automatically includes different case forms, word forms, and spelling variants for searching.
  • Don’t include terms that are abusive or offensive in nature.
  • Abbreviations, alternate names, topic (for books, etc.), and key character (for books, movies, etc.) could be included as keywords.

Link to the rest at  Optimizing Listings for Search and Browse.

If you search for Amazon SEO on Amazon, you’ll find books on the subject.

PG would be interested in hearing about/receiving links for authors who have tried SEO techniques for their book listings on Amazon.


Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Amazon, PG's Thoughts (such as they are)

13 Comments to “Author Website Checklist”

  1. Google is great! So is Wikipedia, just so long as you understand the site doesn’t have the last word on anything.

  2. > mailing list

    So someone found your web site, and you’re now trying to herd them somewhere else. And don’t forget to chivvy them to monitor your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and any other “social media” you’ve subscribed to, because readers *love* to chase you across the internet; it’s not like they have anything else to do.

    For even more fun, make occasional comments like “I already dealt with that on my closed Facebook group.” (or closed mailing list) Readers love feeling left out.

    Readers also lovehearing about your religion, politics, and nationalism. The nuttier you get, the better your feedback. In just a few months you can create an echo chamber by running off any readers with sense and everyone left high-fives everything you say. It’s pure win!

    • How are you using “mailing list” in this scenario? I understood that term to refer to newsletters that let readers know when a new book out, or a sale on existing books. I often don’t open those; the key is that by seeing the subject line I’m reminded that the authors exist and I should check their website/Amazon for new books. I’d also accept them letting us know if they’re going to a con or a running a contest, that sort of thing.

      I’ve never seen mailing lists used for socializing. I hope that’s not a new thing. It’s a trend that doesn’t need to happen. I’m already ignoring their Twitter and Facebook accounts, which is as much for their sake as it is for mine 🙂

  3. Yes on bio, no on photo (because of a stalker and Day Job). No on other social media. Yes, there are pages with links to my books. Yes with occasional updates.

    I realize that a blog is not the same as a business web-site. I do not have a separate business web-site.

    • My websites have a blog as starting page, but also many static pages for my books and such. WordPress makes that really easy, and I would assume other CMSs do the same.

      So your blog might be easy to expand into a business website.

  4. Google search is a magnitude better than Amazon’s. Google has been dealing with page designers gaming the search engine for far longer than Amazon, and actually has developed effective countermeasures.

    Amazon search seems to accept their seller’s page designs at face value, and yields lots of crazy results (more apparent in general merchandise than books). I often start a product search via Google because it shows much more relevant pages on Amazon than Amazon’s search does.

    Most of my book searches are via Google or Goodreads, as I am looking more to evaluate a specific book than to just find something to buy in a genre.

    I was surprised to see the ! at the end of the early Google logo; don’t remember that. I don’t think I used Yahoo much for searching before Google; my go-to was Alta Vista.

    • I often start a product search via Google because it shows much more relevant pages on Amazon than Amazon’s search does.

      Yes, I do this also. I know that the item I need is on Amazon, but a Google search will turn it up reliably (on Amazon), while an Amazon search will not.

      • +1

      • Agreed. For a long time, Amazon’s searches have appeared to be highly influenced by a pay-for-play factor. I’m not only speaking about the clearly sponsored ads but something subtler where you don’t know that the result is coming up not because it’s relevant to your search terms, but because of some other influence. I assume that’s because the vendor/publisher/manufacturer has some private deal with Amazon to make this occur.

        Or should I be wearing a tin foil hat?

  5. Speaking of google logos, I think the original “Backrub” logo was awesome:

  6. I used to have a website. I don’t bother anymore. People are most likely to discover my books on Amazon, so I periodicaly update my author’s page there and that suffices. A website is a redundancy for me.

  7. Great link, PG. Thanks. I didn’t actually know Amazon included SEO. :/

  8. My understanding was that Amazon doesn’t search book blurbs (maybe for other products?), so doing SEO in them was pretty useless. In titles though? Yeah. That’s why so many people stuff those titles so full.

    I won’t put a photo in the author bio, either. Just don’t like having pics of me out there all that much. People will either read my stuff, or they won’t, and I don’t think knowing what my mug looks like will make any difference.

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