Your Author Website: The Sidebar
Can new visitors to your website tell within a few seconds what it’s all about? If not, and if you can’t attract their attention immediately, they’re bound to be gone in a quick click.
What if visitors don’t land on the home page? If they follow a link to a blog post you promoted on social media, are you giving them them reasons to stay on your site for awhile?
Use your site’s sidebar as a place for key content that will help visitors learn about you and encourage them to take important actions easily.
- Short bio. If you check your stats, you will probably see that your “About” page is the most visited page on your site. People want to know who you are. In the sidebar, give them a brief intro along with your photo and a link to your full info.
- Mailing list signup. Email is still the most effective way to reach your fans and potential bookbuyers. Social media sites are in control of how you’re being seen by your followers, and they’re looking out for their own interests, not yours. Facebook is clearly reducing the number of posts that are seen in an effort to encourage marketers to buy promoted posts (ads). Don’t rely solely on social media to communicate with your audience. It’s crucial that you build and mail to your own contact list.
- Your book cover. Include the image along with a great book review snippet or two and a buy and/or a more information link that leads them to another page with full information deeper in your site. Your books are the reason you’ve created the site, right? Don’t hide your goodies.
Put your social media follow buttons at the bottom of your sidebar. It is more important to build your contact list, sell your books, and have visitors learn about you, than it is to increase the number of social media followers.
And here are some items that probably shouldn’t appear on in your sidebar. When is the last time you clicked on a blogroll, recent post or recent comments listings, a tag cloud, or calendar archive of posts on someone’s site? I thought so. It’s not likely that many people will click on yours, either. Often they appear in the default version of a site’s template, and people don’t think to remove them.
Keep your website’s sidebar lean. Don’t clutter it with boring text lists. The more choices you offer for links to click on, the less likely visitors will take any action at all. Feature what’s most important for your visitors to know and what’s most important for them to act upon.
And please, let there be white space.
Mary Ann de Stefano is the editor of The Florida Writer, the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association. She is also a writer, editor, and organizer of writing workshops with 30+ years experience in publishing and writing consulting. Besides working one-on-one with writers who are developing books, she designs author websites and advises on e-marketing. Mary Ann does business at MAD about Words, named as a play on her initials and love for writing.