Looking for tips on author website design? I have resources available to help you choose your site infrastructure, hosting, page design, SEO, WordPress plugins, and more.
Your author website doesn’t have to be complicated in design. In fact, the easier it is to view and understand, the better. But you are going to want to make sure it’s organized and well-thought out from a sitemap perspective. This is often a forgotten step in the process of ensuring high-quality SEO (search engine optimization).
One of the things I used to do (before I quit working for deadbeat, cheap-budget, or boundary-inept authors) was convert sites from SquareSpace or Wix to WordPress self-hosted platforms. The reason this is important is because you want to own your own website, and have full control over it. With apps and platforms like SquareSpace, ShowIt, and Wix, you do NOT have full control.
You’re going to want to be able to install plugins, customize features, use tools for reporting, and frankly, you want to be able to access your root folders and files. You just can’t do that with some of these builders.
From experience, I will tell you flat out – authors eventually figure this out and venture into WordPress self-hosted after a period of time. They usually do this after realizing just how limited they are with their existing webpage builders. And, this usually happens after they’ve paid for a year or so and invested a ton of extra money into these things just to make them work. Something to think about when choosing your infrastructure!
Website Design Infrastructure
Think about the pillar content you want to talk about or feature on your website. This may be your books, of course, but what other content is applicable to your author platform? Romance? Mystery? Drama? These are all things you’re probably blogging about, right? Sure.
So think of your author website as a giant tree. That giant tree is likely to have two or three main branches that shoot upwards from your tree trunk. These are going to represent your primary talking points. Second chance romance, non-fiction topics, true crimes, etc., whatever your genre typically discusses or writes about.
Then, from those main branches, you’re going to have a lot of smaller branches, which could be to individual books, affiliate links, other author blogs, Facebook groups, and other content that branches off your pillar content. Your pillar content, the content that holds and supports the main aspect of your website, has to be strong, long, deep, and keyword-rich content. It can’t be a page of 300 or so words, otherwise your text-to-HTML ratio will be low, and Google doesn’t like low-ranking text-to-HTML ratios. I have found that I need to write over 1300 words per blog post in order to get above a 10% text-to-HTML ratio, but I know that depends on each author’s website structure and base code.
So be sure to give your pillar content pages, aka, your primary landing pages, the most effort and your best content. Then, lay out your content on how you want it to appear on your navigation menu. This is how Google will crawl your site and find offshoots of smaller branches from your pillar content. Be sure to submit your sitemap (I use XML Sitemaps and Yoast SEO Premium) to Google Search Console once you’ve established your navigation menu.
I have been with GoDaddy since 2007 for each and every website I’ve maintained. I know there are certainly cheaper options and you might be on a budget. But let me say, I’ve seen the backend of a lot of those cheaper, knock-off hosting services and they don’t even hold a candle to GoDaddy.
I have the GoDaddy Expand business hosting plan, due to the amount of traffic to my blog, the membership plan I maintain for my customers, and the amount of hard drive storage I require. That runs $99/month. There are much cheaper options, of course. What you need may depend on how much you intend to use your site, how much traffic you’re driving to it (resource demand could be low or high), and the amount of resources you’ll need to store. I should mention my husband and I are upgrading into a dedicated server in the summer of 2021 (should be fun!).
When we first started blogging with GoDaddy, we were on a hosting plan with a monthly rate of $14.99/month for their Deluxe hosting. We’ve just simply outgrown that plan ten times over, so that’s why our hosting cost is higher. We’re also full-time bloggers, too, so that makes a difference.
Author Website Design – Landing Pages
Let’s say you have a WordPress theme, and you like it ok, but you’re not exactly thrilled about how all the pages lay out, and you wish you had more power over how they appear on the screen. Happy news there – there’s a plugin called Elementor, and you can drag and drop elements you want to feature on the page into the area quickly and easily. You’ll have full control over fonts, colors, text, image areas, whether or not they rotate or not, animation, fade in / out, etc. Full control over your author website design experience and how your readers get acquainted with you and your books.
I create Elementor landing pages for bloggers, writers, and entrepreneurs. So if you want something better than what you have, be sure to check out the shop and learn more about how a new landing page layout can help you sell more books.
SEO for Authors
SEO for authors can be a tricky little thing. Many are eager to use all the keywords related to their book on every single page of their website. This is known as both keyword stuffing and keyword cannibalization. Both are detrimental to your overall author website design and performance.
Google and other search engines want you to focus on one primary keyword per page, and then sprinkle in other related keywords in your text paragraphs, headings two and headings three, four, five, etc. Your author website SEO needs to be a balance of title, headings, and paragraphs, all mentioning your primary keywords.
Think of your blog posts and pages like a giant topic outline. You’ll want to use those keywords responsibly throughout that outline and offer alternative phrases as well. Just be sure to write how you speak, so that you don’t sound like a keyword-generating robot.
I recommend SEMRush to audit your website and check your author website SEO and overall site health. SEO for authors doesn’t have to be complicated; it’s actually pretty easy! Just take the time to learn more about keywords and keyword phrase usage and you’ll be all set to blog away.
There are several WordPress plugins I use to run my site, and a few that I’ll recommend here for authors.
- WooPayments for WooCommerce. With this plugin, you can sell digital versions of your books directly from your website. The terms are good, the deposits are consistent, and it’s a no-hassle approach.
- Yoast SEO Premium. Be sure to get the premium version of Yoast SEO. You’ll be able to add additional keywords to get ranked for by Google and other search engines.
- Elementor. This is what makes a bulk of my website gorgeous and custom-made, just for me. I highly recommend upgrading to Elementor Pro.
- Analytify. This plugin helps you see all of your Google Analytics from a nicely-constructed dashboard. I have the pro version, and highly recommend it.
- WP-Optimize. This is another plugin that I recommend upgrading to Pro on. My site speed was able to get faster, which Google obviously loves.
For a WordPress theme, I recommend HelloYouDesigns by Jennifer. From there you can use Elementor to further take Jennifer’s amazing themes further. Her themes are easy to install, use, and customize. I have bought and used themes requested by former clients, and none of them compare to the quality of HelloYouDesigns. Her themes are Genesis-based WordPress child themes.
Word of caution with any Divi themes if you’re considering making a purchase elsewhere: don’t. Divi puts a ton of shortcode on your posts and pages, which means that if you ever change themes to a non-Divi theme, you’re going to somewhat ‘break’ your website. You’ll have a bunch of code junk everywhere.
I experienced this same thing with another theme designer, only with a non-Divi theme, who is based in Spain (will not name and shame them here). So be sure to pick a theme that is reputable and recommended by other graphic designers.
I only recommend Jennifer’s themes with HelloYouDesigns. She has amazing customer service, fantastic products that are well thought-out, and I have been a repeat customer of hers since 2017. I refuse to use or support any other theme designer – that’s how good hers are!
There are several ways to make your website gorgeous, memorable, and branded. But it does require proper setup, thought, and consideration. Be sure to think things through first before diving into the latest and greatest app or webpage builder!