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A Painless Guide to Professional Author Website Design

author website designHow do you market yourself as an author?

Before you start worrying about building a readership or designing a killer book cover, there’s one thing that will make a HUGE impact on everything else you do, subsequently.

Of course, I’m talking about building your own professional author website design.

While it’s great to have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn account, having your own website conveys a far superior degree of professionalism. It’s a place where you can promote your work and share your writing. It’s your home base that connects all of your other online assets.

Unfortunately, creating your own personal author website design can be intimidating. This is especially true if your knowledge of coding and web design is somewhere around the zero mark.

Fear not!

This post is called “A Painless Guide to Professional Author Website Design” and not “A Painful Guide to Professional Author Website Design” for good reason.

In order to proceed, you won’t need any coding knowledge. That’s the beauty of building websites in this day and age. If anything here does get a little too technical though, please let me know by asking for clarification in the comments.

We’ll get into the “author website design” portion in a minute. First, let’s talk about the “why.”

Why a Website?

Having your own website as an author is the first sign that you are taking yourself seriously. Your website is a home base where you can direct anyone interested in connecting with you, or learning more about your books. It’s also where you can freely promote yourself and what you do, without worrying about infringing on a platform’s advertising policies.

A professional website is your virtual online portfolio and business card, all-in-one.

Even as a traditionally published author, a publisher will only go so far to help you with your marketing. As a self-published author, you’re 100% responsible for everything, unless, of course, you have the money to hire other people to help you.

Even if that’s the case, the costs of hiring a professional website designer can easily land in the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

I’m going to tell you how you can do it for (almost) free. Let me lay out the costs:

  • Website hosting and a domain name through Bluehost – $50.00 for one year.
  • A professional WordPress theme called Avada – $59.00 one time (optional, but recommended).

That’s it.

You can skip the professional WordPress theme and use one of the countless free ones out there. However, I’m recommending Avada – it’s one of the most powerful and easiest to use themes you can find. It’s what I used to build this site.

Also, yes – I’m telling you to build a website with WordPress – not Blogger. I see countless Blogger author websites, and while they’re easy and free to build, they don’t scream “professional.” In fact, Blogger websites have tons of restrictions in terms of both efficiency and design.

But wait – its gets worse. Want to know what I mean?

Google has the rights and authority to shut down and your blogger website and delete all your content at any time with no warning. Think I’m making this up? I’m not. This is exactly what happened to author, Dennis Cooper, as Google deleted his 14 year old blog, even erasing his unfinished book in the process.

With your own WordPress hosted website you will own everything. No one can delete your content but you.

How to Build Your Author Website

The first step in building your author website design is to pay for web hosting. There are many web hosting companies out there but the one I am recommending is Bluehost. They have fantastic customer service, great website speeds and honestly do care about their customers. Writing a Book Café is hosted through them and I have had an excellent experience.

To make your life easier, here’s a video I made of exactly how you can register your Bluehost WordPress website, purchase your professional Avada theme, and install both of them. I recorded the process I went through when I created this website so you can see exactly how it’s done.

By the way, just in case you thought you need a lot of coding knowledge to design a website like this – you don’t. My knowledge of coding is pretty much restricted to what I learned in grade 10 grade Java class.

Err, actually, I think I forgot everything.

But seriously, you really don’t need to know how to code for the purposes of author website design. Knowing a little bit of HTML will help if you want to use slightly more advanced techniques like page jumps, but you can get away with most web design these days by dropping and dragging. In fact – that’s what Avada is built around – dropping and dragging.

If my instructional video has left you with any questions whatsoever on getting started with Bluehost and Avada, please leave a comment down below and I will do my best to help you out.

Setting Up Your Website

After you’ve purchased your domain hosting and set everything up, this next video will guide you through the process of navigating WordPress.

To summarize from the video, here are the areas you need to pay attention to when you first start your WordPress website:

  • Create a new “Home Page” and “Blog Page.”
  • Go to Settings –> Reading –> Select “Static Home Page” from the menu, unless you want your home page to be your most recent blog entries, in which case just leave it alone.
  • Go to Plugins and install and activate “Yoast SEO.”
  • Go to Appearance –> Widgets to customize what shows up in the sidebars and footer of your website.
  • Go to Appearance –> Menus to customize your top menu and other side menus
  • Go to Media to add images
  • Go to Posts –> New Post to write blog entries

Those are the basics for navigating your WordPress back-end.

SEO 101

I’ve suggested that you get the Yoast SEO plugin for your WordPress website but I haven’t actually explained what it does, nor what SEO is.

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” In plain English, this refers to where you show up on Google and other search engines when people are looking for a website like yours. Good SEO means you’ll show up higher in the search results. Bad SEO means you’ll show up lower. If you’re not on the first page, you may as well not be showing up at all.

For example, I’ve named this website “Writing a Book Café.” I want to show up in the #1 spot on Google when people search for “writing a book” (a generic search term). I also want to show up in the #1 spot when people type “writing a book cafe,” but, in this case, they’re already looking for me. Someone typing “writing a book” doesn’t necessarily know this website exists – they just want advice on writing a book. If they see this site and click on it, I have a chance to help them do that.

To a point, you can control your SEO and this is what the Yoast SEO plugin helps you do. It lets you take control of your “on-site SEO,” the things you have total control over. The other side of the coin is “off-site SEO,” which is more complicated and not something we’re going to talk about today. If we did, I would have to call this The Painful Guide to Professional Author Website Design after all.

Let’s pretend you’re going to write a new blog post about essential fantasy elements. You want people on Google to find your post when they type “essential fantasy elements.” Here is how you can help increase your odds of being found.

  1. Make sure your blog post title has “essential fantasy elements” in its title.
  2. Make sure your page URL has “essential-fantasy-elements” in it.
  3. Make sure your meta description has “essential fantasy elements” in it.
  4. Make sure your page’s H1 tag has “essential fantasy elements” in it.
  5. Make sure have used the phrase “essential fantasy elements” 5-10 times within the blog post itself (your keyword density).

Those are the most important parts – Yoast SEO will help you do all of this. Here’s where you look.

seo

You don’t actually need Yoast SEO for this first part. You can edit your H1 tag and URL with WordPress on its own.

yoast

That’s all we’ll cover for on-site SEO. Doing these simple tasks lets Google know what search phrase you want to be found for.

By now you have received enough information to help get you started with your website. You’ve learned how to host, design and get yourself found on Google.

Has anything been left unclear or too vague? Do you have any additional questions? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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By | 2017-05-18T18:30:24+00:00 August 2nd, 2016|Marketing|0 Comments

About the Author:

Author of ELEMENTALISTS: THE FIRES OF CANICUS. Owner of WritingABookCafe.com. Helping writers succeed from planning, to publishing and beyond.