#BlogTip: An Author Website Checklist

In the search for potential editing clients, I visit a lot of websites. That effort has culminated as an author website checklist. It never ceases to amaze me how many authors don’t provide a way to get in touch, whether via a contact form or an email address. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. In this day and age, an appealing and user-friendly website is a must. As an author, you might not be a tech guru, but that’s not an excuse for a lackluster website. I am by no means an expert in web design, but the information provided here can serve to light a fire toward whipping your website into shape.

 

An Author Website Checklist

This post serves as an author website checklist with helpful links added where appropriate. The five main categories progress from the macro to the micro level to reflect how users typically engage with content. This is not a how-to list. Rather, this list can help pinpoint areas you may need to improve on your author website, whether by learning how to do it yourself or by hiring a webmaster to do it for you. Many pressing issues can be alleviated by starting with a professionally designed theme. Word Bank has used the Nexus theme from Elegant Themes for a couple of years now, and I have been pleased.

 

Visual Presentation

At first glance, the visual appeal of the blog appears to complement its intended message. A new visitor can quickly surmise the site’s main focus. This author website checklist for visual presentation includes:

 

First Impression: How inviting does the site appear? Does it seem too bland or too busy? Does the design fit the your primary genre?

Dates: Is the content consistently dated or undated? Formatted for target country?

Mobile-Friendly: Is the site optimized for viewing on SmartPhone and tablets?

Pop-Ups: If an automatic opt-in box comes up, how distracting is it? Does it appear right away? In what location?

Colors: Are the colors used purposely? Do they complement each other or seem jarring?

Blog Name: What is the blog’s name? Is it different from the URL? Does it feature the author’s name?

Tagline: Does the tagline sufficiently hint at the purpose of the blog and its niche? Is the author’s genre alluded to?

Logo: How memorable is the site’s logo image? Does it have one?

Font Size and Type: Is the typeface large enough and dark enough to easily read? In general, black text on a light background is best for readability.

Theme Width: Is the main post area fairly wide, or is it too narrow?

Background: If an image, is it distracting in any way? Is it solid or transparent?

Landing Page: Does the choice of a dynamic or a static landing page seem appropriate? Is the author’s book(s) featured in a prominent spot?

Sidebar Widgets: Purposeful or distracting? Does the size seem right?

Ads and Affiliate Links: If present, are they relevant? Easy to read? Placed logically?

 

Organization and Ease of Navigation

The content is laid out in a logical way that anticipates the user’s needs. If appropriate, information can be accessed from more than one location. This author website checklist for organization and ease of navigation includes:

 

Overall: Does the organization fit reader expectations? Does the content fit the structure? Could plug-ins, widgets, and images be bogging your site down?

Menus: Readable, clickable, brief text? Appropriate location? Top? Bottom? Sidebar?

Most Recent Post: Is it featured so the reader can easily identify it? If not, could readers get discouraged by trying to locate it from various categories?

Pages: Does each have a clear purpose and complete info? Could any be condensed? As an author website, there should be a page for books, about, contact, and appearances and publications.

Excerpts: Do posts on the main page appear by excerpt only with a “read more” link? Otherwise, a new reader has to scroll through too much information in order to quickly surmise the site.

Follow Buttons: Are social media buttons displayed? Do they open in a new window?

Search Box: Present an accessible? Do searches go quickly or does the site slow down?

Sign-Up Forms: Are email subscription forms in place and in easy to see locations?

Contact Form: Is the form present in the sidebar or a separate page? Does it work?

Sharing Buttons: Is it easy to share the page? Does the author’s Twitter handle show when the user opts to tweet the post or page?

Commenting Ease: How user-friendly is the comment process? Does the user have to sign up for a commenting services, or can comments be made in a commenting section native to the website in question?

Subscribe to Comments: Can commenters receive email notifications to follow the discussion? Is a box automatically checked to subscribe to new blogs posts? Please be aware it’s better practice to let potential new readers check that box rather than setting it to be pre-checked.

Permalink Structure: URLs structured as pretty permalinks? No strange symbols, etc?

 

Image of match igniting.

 

Purpose and Ideas

The content ties in with the blogger’s business or personal goals. In what ways does the blog’s purpose promote the blogger or the work of others and why? This author website checklist for purpose and ideas includes:

 

The Big Question: So what? Why should the reader care? What’s in it for them? Is it clear what value the website offers its readers? Nonfiction authors can provide helpful info. Fiction authors might consider a podcast.

Call to Action: What is it? Is it clear? How well is it perceived? Does it encourage readers to download the author’s book?

Concept: What overlying idea ties all of the content together?

Niche: Does the blog fall under a clearly defined niche? If not, how well do the topics fit? Are the posts more informative, entertaining, or for author updates. If they are informative in a how-to writing tip sense, is that fitting of trying to gain new readers for you books?

Authority: Has the blogger sufficiently established their expertise?

Products: Is it clear what the blog is trying to sell or offer? Are buy links to the author’s books provided, whether available for purchase via the website or from an outside distributor such as Amazon?

Categories: Are primary categories visible and kept to a minimum?

Incentive: What, if anything, does a subscriber receive for signing up? How does the sign-up incentive aim to gain new readers of the author’s book?

Keywords: Does the blog’s tagline contain searchable keywords related to the content?

 

Blog Posts

The degree to which the posts are informative and engaging. The writing fits its intended purpose. Topics don’t meander and show a degree of polish and organization. This author website checklist for blog posts includes:

 

Schedule: Do the posts appear at a regularly scheduled day and time? If the schedule is haphazard, are readers devoted enough to continue falling the blog in times of silence?

Informative Titles: Is the title SEO friendly as well as enticing in a clickable way?

White Space: Appropriate use of headers, bullet points, and screen-friendly paragraphs?

Post Tags: Does each post contain related tags Does the theme make them visible?

SEO Friendly: Keyword/phrase in the title, headings, body, pictures, and meta description?

Links: Set to open in a new window? Are links being made to internal and external content?

Images: Do they complement the text or distract?

Copyright: Personal images watermarked? Borrowed photos credited and copyright free?

Other Media: Quality of podcasts and videos? Consider volume, pacing, editing, etc.

Voice: How authentic is the blogger’s voice? Are they relatable?

Word Choice: Does the level of diction fit the intended purpose?

Sentence Structure: Are the sentences varied? Does the writing flow?

Conventions: How prevalent are errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation?

Discussion: Are comments encouraged by asking readers for their thoughts? Does the author pose specific questions or general ones?

 

Behind the Scenes

Writing good content in the 21st century goes much deeper than what readers see on the screen. Is the blogger going all they can to make their content accessible? This author website checklist for behind the scenes includes:

 

PageSpeed Insights: Does the site seem to take awhile for everything to load when you visit?

Optimized Images: User-friendly size within the post and when clicked on?

Broken Links: Does Broken Link Checker find a few or a lot of dead links?

RSS Feed: Is the feed valid? Is the available feed the main feed and not for comments?

Downtime: Is the site down or is it just you?

Excerpted Content: Does only a snippet appear in RSS readers and post emails? This is important as you want readers to have to click through to read the full post on your website rather than within an RSS reader such as feedly or within the body of the email sent.

Page Rank: What is the website’s Google rank? What could be done to raise that if need be?

Alexa Score: This site has changed over the years, but website ranking can still be accessed by scrolling to the bottom of the main page.

Spam: Are any spam comments getting through? Are any spammy in disguise or generic?

Security: Malware? Other threats present? Blacklist status? Other helpful sites to check the health of a website include StatsCrop.com: Exlpore a site’s history and monitor its performance. YSlow: What grade does your web performance get? As well as Fruition: Google Penalty Checker Tool

Analytics: Do you use any form of analytics to track your site’s performance?

Mailing Lists: How is the mailing list managed? Access to user reports? Who are your most engaged readers?

 

 

What would you add to this author website checklist? Do you manage your own site or hire help when needed?

 

 

Image Credit: Ignite the Moment

 

Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2017.

Author: Jeri Walker

Need help writing that book blurb, bio, or newsletter? Give your book the attention it deserves. Book your copy edit, manuscript critique, or proofread today. Make every word count.

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30 Comments

  1. There are a dizzying array of things one needs to do for a website to promote, produce and check written works be it books, blog postd or articles for one individual. It’s a wonder anything else gets done. For me, the key is to getting it all done is to prioritize ones effort and get help where it’s the most practical.

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    • Susan, practicality is definitely key. Your site is a good example of a lot of hard work both on your behalf and on the behalf of your webmaster.

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  2. Lots of good advice. One thing that I would emphasize is to have some content that shows the site is current and regularly updated. I manage the content for a site for a small charity. We don’t generate that much content so I use a Twitter feed to show we have a pulse (critical when you’re asking for money. The other thing you mentioned that I think is really important is pop-ups. I hate them and if they get in the way of what I wNt to read I’ll often just click off.

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    • Ken, good point about utilizing the likes of Twitter to show the charity site you manage does generate new content, even if it’s not a lot of new content. I’m gradually weaning down how many posts I do here as projects keep coming in. As time allows, I tinker with the formatting of past posts and share them on social media as time allows.

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  3. Wonderful way of saying everything through questions! An author website is more focused but at the same time harping on the same themes could be boring. Pop-ups and advertisements are very distracting and I always leave the website, which insists on signing up! Imagine the frustration that as soon as you land on a website, it tries to trap you when you haven’t even read a word!!
    I could never understand the Alexa and technical stuff though! 🙂

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    • Balroop, I feel the same as you about pop-ups. I’ve used one on my site for awhile now, but it’s in the bottom corner and doesn’t come up until the user has scrolled down most of the page. The ones that are full-screen and come up first thing are by far the worst. I know I often click away from sites like that.

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  4. Excellent post dear Jeri….You provided a very thorough list and I know I´ll have to keep in mind some points here…
    I am seriously thinking of a logo, mind you… Also the regular schedule!: I do not post too much. but if the frequency is once per month then I´ll have to stick to it: it is true that when there are longer gaps of silence, you could already have lost a bunch readers once you are back. Also: if you are diving off for a while, You absolutely need to tell your readers you are taking a break, as I see it.
    If we don´t want to reply we´d better close comments. Besides leaving comments in moderation is quite odd. I think it twice before leaving comments in blogs that leave me hanging on. And if I am left in moderation for a few days, I won´t comment again, or I will hardly do.
    The Pop up, if it exists, needs to be somthing subtle: at the end it stands for an invitation to sign up… No more. I like that yours is placed in the right side, so literally it does not pop up! 😉
    I have noticed that adding YouTube videos can bring problems in the long term as videos are often deletedby the uploader or due to copy right infringements. So when I add a video, I try to do it only as a supplementary source which provides further information and not “new one”, i.e things not included in the post.
    There are many things to keep in mind!… Keeping a blog tidy and more or less updated is a “must”. Your post is very helpful and appreciated in that sense!.
    Best wishes. 😀

    Post a Reply
    • Aqui, I would love to see what type of logo you come up with! You may post about once a month now, but your posts are quite in-depth and informative. As for YouTube videos, I get what you’re saying. The same goes for general links. I try to run a broken link check a couple of times a year, but it’s definitely hard to stay on top of things when it comes to website maintenance.

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  5. Excellent list and I will definitely share this in my author group over at Google+. My hot button is the social share buttons, and not just for authors. One of the Facebook groups I belong to has one day of the week where everyone posts their latest blog post and while it’s not mandatory the idea is to share the post in social media. About a third of the blogs either have no social share buttons or limit sharing options to a tiny twitter and or facebook button. I’m going to bookmark this point to share over there next week and see if anyone takes the hint!

    Post a Reply
    • Marty, it’s incredible what doesn’t get included on many websites. I’m always one to compare any type of work to what else is out there, so that led to me really getting into website design. One would think a lot of it is obvious, but there is such a learning curve involved. Not only do we worry about great content, we then have to worry about ensuring that content gets spread.

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  6. This is an extensive list. The key is to make as easy as possible for your followers and readers. Millions (perhaps billions) of blogs exist. People will quickly lose interest if your site is not easy to navigate or worse takes an age to load up.

    I did not carry out thorough research when I sought my first blog host. After joining, my website was inaccessible 50% of the time. The IT team were not on the ball. I cannot praise WordPress enough.

    Post a Reply
    • Phoenicia, one thing I need to work on with my site is page loading time. I know the gist of what needs to be done to fix it, and it’s outside my level of knowledge for being able to quickly and efficiently fix myself. So for now that’s an issue I’ll keep on the backburner, but hopefully address in the near future.

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  7. Great list. I’m going to share it with the woman helping me with my site’s technical issues–the lack of speed is a big issue for speed queen me!

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    • Rose Mary, loading speed is so important and an issue I wish I knew how to fully fix. I cringe every time I submit my URL to Google’s page speed test.

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  8. Thank you, Jeri for this detailed list. I need to fix some things on my site accordingly 🙂 I can maintain my site myself but only to a point. I require a pro for certain things, In fact I am going to hire a pro to update the version of my theme but I’m also considering updating the whole aesthetic of my site which may mean choosing a whole new theme. Call to action and follow buttons are important. I loathe a pop up of any kind though. I visit many modern themed websites that seem to hide their follow buttons. They’re nowhere in sight which is a shame because the blogger, author is missing a potential customer. I often like to follow authors or bloggers on other platforms to get to know them a little better before purchasing their work. If those buttons aren’t visible, I may not find them again. As you say, there’s a lot of noise out there and it’s easy to lose or forget a website after one visit.

    Alexa ranking and such I really have zero understanding of. That’s something I can perhaps get my web pro to help me with. Thanks again for such a marvelous post and helpful tips. This one is bookmarked for me to review again.

    Post a Reply
    • Lisa, some theme switches require less tweaking than others. I love the theme I’ve been using the past couple of years, but it did require a lot of time to tweak old posts and pages to look good. Analytics still boggle my mind quite a bit too. I know just enough to worry more than I should about the health of my website 😉

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  9. That is quite a list you presented to me. I am overwhelmed, yet somehow happy to have such a thorough resource to refer back to. As usual, you have helped me clarify what I need to work on in the coming days. Thank you.

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  10. Excellent advice Jeri, I agree with all the points above, since that’s what I share with my Clients as well 🙂
    Especially when it comes to ‘Behind the Scenes’
    Thanks for sharing dear!

    Post a Reply
  11. Hi Jeri; I appreciate your desire to help people get more results out of the time and effort they put into their blogs. But, I wonder if this would have been more helpful if you had set it up as a series with more treatment of each sub section and each item within those sections. Juts thinking out loud. There is a lot here and that can often be difficult for readers especially new bloggers. Keep the great work coming, Max

    Post a Reply
    • Max, that may be but I am not a social media specialist. This is merely a checklist for those who are interested in a broad overview.

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  12. This is a wonderful list. I will definitely incorporate it into my SEO process.
    It is very important to engage with your audience, and your list provides a very useful way of being consistent in doing this.

    Post a Reply
    • William, it’s important to note too that awareness of many of the items in this list can take a fair amount of time to become aware of and understand. Blogging is about so much more than just publishing posts, and it can be exhausting at times, but it’s also addictive 😉

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  13. This is a great checklist! I think anyone could benefit from going through it, no matter how long you’ve had a blog or website. I can see a few areas that I haven’t even thought about before. Thanks for putting this in such a concise and readable format. I’ll be referring back to this one…

    Post a Reply
    • Meredith, I agree. No matter how long someone has been working on a blog or website, it’s always a good idea to stay on top of things.

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  14. I can’t even read this whole post right now. It hurts my head. Or rather, thinking about my web site and how it only meets some of the criteria hurts my head. I’ma just going to ignore it for now. 😉

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