Whether you’re a brand new author or you’ve been around awhile, it can be a challenge to know what should go on the front door page of your website. When we talk about the front door page, we’re talking about the very first page your visitor lands on when they reach your website.
When readers reach your website, what do they see?
Okay, the question started haunting me in the last week. I had visited an author’s website, I’m a really big fan of the author, and when I got there, the entire front page was… well, it wasn’t what you would expect to see. There were no books, no calls to action, no covers or images. Immediately, I thought I was in the wrong place so I go to the top of the page and click on the logo because in doing so, I knew I’d be taken to the main page of a site.
It took me back to the same page. The next time I went to the menu and tried to use it to take me to the homepage. It was on the third try that I figured out the page I was on was the homepage. I had to figure out from there where to find what I was looking for.
Now there wasn’t anything wrong with what was there. Not at all. But, as a reader, particularly if I hadn’t been a fan of theirs, honestly, there’s every chance I would have gotten frustrated and left. I did find what I was looking for but it took me about three times as long as it could have because of the confusion.
Why is the Content on the Homepage So Important?
Studies show that once you land on a website, it and its content have 15 seconds to grab your attention. That’s it. Fifteen seconds isn’t a long time but keep in mind that society today has given all of us ADD. We want what we want now and we don’t want to scroll or click a dozen times to get it.
We also don’t want to wait for the site to load. Most internet users today expect a website to load in 2 to 3 seconds. If it doesn’t, the visitor is as likely to go look for a competitor site as they are to stick it out on your website even if you write the world’s best romance novels or horror tales. It’s also a big deal from an SEO standpoint, especially following Google’s “Speed Update” that took place not long ago. Now that Google has made it clear that speed is a part of their ranking algorithm, everyone needs to ensure the speed of their website. Period.
So let’s say you survive the speed test. Then what? Then your homepage must be your best shot at wowing that visitor. It’s your one chance, your pitch, and we writers are supposed to be good at those. We need a pitch online for our potential readers that is every bit as good as what we likely have laid out to present to an agent or publisher. Your website, if done right, is your sales representative 24/7 and that can be very useful.
4 Things an Author Should Have on Their Homepage
Whether you write mysteries or romance novels, it must be clear exactly who you are and exactly what you write on your homepage.
Paige’s site is a good example of an author site that clearly defines the author. The header banner shows us the author, her tagline lets us know she’s a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author. Just below that, you see a flashing banner that rotates two phrases:
In about ten seconds, I’ve arrived at the website and I have a pretty good idea I’ll find some romances with adventure in them and that’s correct. Women’s fiction, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. With a carousel of her book covers next, showing me books about SEALS, some paranormal titles, and other intriguing titles. Excellent, I know what I’ll find here.
2. Latest Books
On Paige’s homepage, there’s her latest book and her next forthcoming book with calls-to-action, either to order today or pre-order today. At the bottom of the front page, there’s an offer of a free book if you sign up for her newsletter. That’s a pretty good deal and a call-to-action as well.
If you’re an unpublished or a newly published author, you might not have anything to use for this. Yet. If you don’t have social proof, it’s okay so long as once you have that available, it goes on your website immediately and it’s updated often whenever you have new releases or forthcoming releases. Bonus points if you can integrate your latest books onto your website without making the reader have to scroll to see them.
If you write in several genres, it can be a bit tricky to try and convey all of that in a simple, straightforward way on your homepage and within your site’s design. Remember to focus on your priority. You may write romantic suspense and mystery but may prefer to be known more for romantic suspense. In that example, you’d likely want to focus more on that.
3. Ways to Connect
More often than not, most visitors won’t click past your homepage. They will leave from that page and go to another site and if you don’t believe me and have a stats program, check your stats and bounce rate. That means if there are ways the reader can connect with you on social media platforms or through a newsletter subscription, they must be on your homepage.
If you’re active on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, make sure those icons linked to your profile are easy to find on your homepage. Most put these in the header or footer of their website, and that’s fine so long as they are easy to see. Don’t link to a social media platform that you barely use or don’t really use.
If you have a newsletter, make sure the sign-up is on the front page and easy to see. Don’t offer a newsletter sign-up that you don’t intend to send. Don’t use generic language either. Tell them, briefly, what they can expect in your newsletter and how it’s different from what they’ve seen before.
Make sure that it’s clear how they can unsubscribe from your newsletter. Per the EU’s GDPR which took effect May 2018, how you handle, store and use the data from your website visitors must be handled carefully and in accordance with the law. (More on this later…)
Privacy policies are legally required on all websites and no, it’s not something you’ll get to eventually. That must be on your website when it launches. If your website doesn’t have one, have a correct one drawn up and add it to your website immediately. It should be a page on your website, not the homepage, and a link to it easy to spot. It can be handled via a popup on your website as well but it must be there.
Privacy policies tell visitors to your site what information the website collects, how it is stored, and how it is used. Many think that because they don’t like in the European Union that GDPR doesn’t apply to them. The truth is, GDPR applies to any website that a citizen of the EU could possibly visit, so that’s pretty much every website.
What Doesn’t Go On Your Homepage?
Romance novelists in the past commonly used nice welcome statements on the homepage of their website or warnings that the visitor was about to view content unsuitable for those below a certain age. Often there were no book covers or anything else, just this type of message.
Today, we can’t afford to place welcome messages that mean little. The reader is visiting your site looking for a type of romance story that you write. Remember what we said earlier? She lands on your homepage and if she doesn’t find what she’s looking for without scrolling or clicking, there’s a stronger chance she will leave for another website than she will stay. You can’t afford to waste real estate on this sort of messaging.
Anything Not Listed Above
If there’s something else you have in mind to place on your homepage that’s not listed about, stop and think. Is it absolutely necessary? If it’s not, it doesn’t need to be there. Is it specifically what that reader is looking for? If the answer is no, put it elsewhere on your website.
Now, polish that first website page like you would a submission for an agent or publisher. Make it shine, make it appealing and easy to navigate.