Monday, October 19, 2009

"Grading" your author's web site?

By Kathryn Lilley

My latest book, Makeovers Can Be Murder, has entered its early trials--a 12-week, Darwinian period during which the books are cast upon the shelves of bookstores across the country. Newly published books are typically given 12 weeks--3 months--to live or die. If they "live," this means that all the books sell out, and then customers order more. If the books "die," well...we call that Remaindered Hell. Remaindered books are sent back to the publisher, where they languish in warehouses, or are simply destroyed.

During this 12-week period, most authors make frantic efforts to promote their books--a process that typically includes sprucing up their author's web sites.

For most of the year, I tend to ignore my web site,; I lag behind in making updates (except for the Twitter app that automatically displays updates). Recently I noticed that I'd even let my newsletter account expire. (This may be due to the fact that, because I don't like getting newsletters, I assume
other people don't like getting them--even the ones who sign up for my newsletter. Or it might be just laziness on my part--I hate writing 'em).

But from time to time I make solemn vows to improve the site. Recently I ran my URL through Website Grader, an
SEO service that grades web sites according to various criteria, including meta data, inbound links, and a bunch of other things that I barely understand. It also compares a given site to similar sites. My web site had a score of 47. Now, when I went to school, a 47 was a big, fat "F". The site also had a Google page rank of 3. That's probably not good either, although I have no idea what is considered a "good" Google page rank.

The Website Grader issued a report that suggested various ways that I can improve my statistics: Adding a page title,
metadata, and listing the site on web directories, among others. I've since heard that those suggestions for revisions are based on "old" technology, and no longer valid. But honestly, I have no idea. I'll take a stab at making the improvements, just to feel like I've done something useful.

As an author, how much attention do you pay to your web site? Do you let it languish like an unwanted stepchild, or do you nurture yours? If you've done a major overhaul, have you been pleased with the result?


  1. Thanks for trying out Website Grader (I'm the developer).

    I'm currently working on a new (free) tool designed specifically for authors.

    Take a sneak peek here:

  2. Interesting tool for rating websites, Kathryn. I ran the grader on my site and came up with a 64. I guess that's OK. Google page rank was a 4. There's always room for improvement, that's for sure.

  3. Kathryn, thanks for pointing out the website grader (and thanks to Dharmesh for developing it).

    Like you, I've been a little complacent about updating my site. Although I've still got a ways to go before my release in April, I'm thinking about sprucing my website up a bit now, rather than wait until I'm super-busy.

    On the other hand, maybe I'll just go the easy route and change the color scheme.

  4. Dharmesh, glad to see you at TKZ today! I love the idea of the Book Grader--I went over to your alpha site and signed up. Let me know if you would like author feedback during your development. One thing that would be great to be able to track, in addition to Amazon sales, is bookstore sales and other online venue sales, and to have a charting app for tracking sales and trends over time. Another app that would be great would be importing stuff like Blogpulse data--to see how many times your name or book gets mentioned, where, etc. This is all probably like asking for Rome to be built in a day, lol!
    Joe, 64 is a heck of a lot better than 47! Alan, I'm like you--a color change constitutes a major change in my book. Start talking about meta tags, on the other hand, and all I hear is "blah, blah, blah."

  5. Ran my commercial site through and came up a Google '3' and a grade of 51. The higher the Google number is, the better.

    I also ran the website of my main competitor and nemesis (yes, I have a nemesis . . .) and her Google was a paltry 1 with a slightly higher grade which I believe is based on incoming links. Fun stuff and something to work on.

    However, on the subject of author websites!!!


    Rant Alert!

    This comes from a reader.

    Day before yesterday, I stumbled on a new release at my local library and found it was the second book from the writer. I liked the premise, so I dug up a copy of book one and devoured it in two evenings (losing some sleep in the process). Couldn't wait to go back for book number two.

    Went to author's website to hopefully send a fangirl letter to author telling her how much I loved book #1.

    Said author, at least as evidenced by her website, is a freaking headcase, space cadet who I wouldn't cross the street to hear do a reading. Her website is big, glossy, slick, obviously professionally done and shows her (in my opinion) in a horrendously childish light. It evidently works, she is headed to the 'big time', but I am totally disllusioned that a grown woman would portray herself that way on a public website.

    I was going to recommend to you all that you consider her as a guest blogger (she is a thriller writer).

    NO MORE!

    I will read her other two books, the premise is delicious and well executed. But, I will borrow them from the library, not buy them. I'm just going to enjoy them and pretend I don't know anything about the writer.

    Whoa! Rant over!

    Just a thought on how a website can also be used for evil!


  6. I ran it and I got a 67!

    YES! A D+! I'm not grounded!

    Runing the grader though I see that things I remember not doing while developing the site initially have an impact, at least on this grading.

    I am going to make a few of the elementary changes recommended on the grader and see what happens. I will let you know if it makes a difference.

  7. I got a 76% and a couple of recommendations I can quickly implement to raise the score. A very useful tool, thank you!

    I recently gave my site a full rework as I shop my latest project to agents, but I think this shows that a bit of attention every once in a while is a good thing. Sites can quickly become outdated, and a bit of multimedia isn't hard to add. Now if I can just get myself to blog more frequently.

  8. Kathryne, the Kill Zone Blog rated an 86. Very cool.

  9. OK, as promised I applied some of the recommended changes to my website and here is what happened., which is just a cover page to slow spammers down went from 67 to 79 by adding a couple of items like html headings, meta tags and page descriptions.

    my actual site, the drupal hosted page went up to 87 by doing those same things and adding a Digg icon to the page. A little bit of foot work for a couple of hours and voila...I have a bigger number., only if that would translate into a ludicrous-sized book/movie contract.

  10. I looked at their sample report. Looks like I need to do some studying before I use it, learn what the words might mean.

  11. Terri, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one with a "nemesis," lol. Basil, good going with the score improvement.