Six Things to Check on Your Website

As authors, our websites are our home base, the destination all of our online activity points to. We need to make sure our sites are up at all times and working correctly. When there is a problem, we limit our ability to connect with others about our writing.

Six Things to Check on Your WebsiteHere are six things to check:

  1. That it is running: A down site helps no one. Make sure it is working.
  2. That all links work: Broken links are a disservice to our audience and cause Google to devalue our site. Regularly search for and fix broken links
  3. That there are no spam comments: Quickly remove spam. Spam in the comment section clutters the site and reflects badly on its owner.
  4. That there is no malware: Malware that infiltrates a site can potentially infect computers that visit it. No one wants to cause problems on other people’s computers.
  5. That it properly displays on mobile devices: More people access websites from smartphones and mobile devices than from computers. To display properly on smaller screen, use a “responsive” theme. If your site is not responsive, view it on a mobile device to see how it looks.
  6. That all forms work: Periodically test forms to make sure they work. A broken form is a missed opportunity.

The good news is that the first four of these items can be automated. That leaves only two items needing direct attention – and only one when using a mobile responsive theme.

What else do you check? What software, apps, or plugins do you recommend? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Three Reasons to Comment on Blog Posts – and One Reason Not To

Three Reasons to Comment on Blog Posts – and One Reason Not ToThere are several blogs I follow; I read them whenever I can. Sometimes I just read, and other times I read and comment. Only a small percent of blog readers take time to comment. The reasons are many: too busy, a lack of confidence, not knowing what to say, fear, and so forth. There are, however, some reasons why we should comment. Here are three:

1) To Interact With Others: The biggest reason to comment is to connect with other likeminded readers. Some do more than just comment on the post, they also comment on other comments. Just remember to keep things positive and civil. Don’t say something online you wouldn’t say in person to your closest friends.

2) To Connect With the Author: As we read blogs, we get to know the author, but the author doesn’t know us at all, though most want to. Adding relevant comments, with appropriate self-disclosure allows the author (and other readers) to get to know us. And don’t we all want to be known?

3) A Link to Our Site: Though it’s secondary, most commenting programs allow us to include a link to our website when we comment. This is good for search engine optimization (SEO), and it provides a means for others to learn more about us if they wish.

4) Not to Promote Our Book: Commenting on blogs is not the place to promote ourselves or our books. Comments are for dialogue not marketing. Avoid the temptation.

What reasons would you add to the list? If you don’t normally comment, why not try it today? I’d love to connect with you. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Is Your Website Responsive?

With more and more people viewing websites from mobile devices, it’s critical that our sites work well with smaller screens, that they are “responsive.” In simple terms, a responsive website is one that automatically resizes to fit the viewing area of the appliance accessing it.

In the past this meant making a separate version of each page for mobile screens, be it a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, and so forth. Now many website themes have this functionality built into them. If a theme isn’t “responsive,” then don’t use it.

Having a responsive website, one that is mobile friendly, is important for two reasons. First, we are near a point where the majority of sites are accessed not by a computer but by a portable device. Not having a responsive site hampers half our readers from having a usable experience.

The other key reason is that Google is reportedly rewarding responsive sites by placing them higher in search engine results. This means they are effectively penalizing sites that do not play well with mobile devices.

Although you could test your site with every size and type of mobile appliance to see if it is responsive, Google has provided an online tool to check for us. Just enter your web address (URL) and click “analyze.” It takes less than a minute.

If it says “mobile-friendly,” then you are all set. If it reports your site is “not mobile-friendly,” then find a responsive theme or hire a website developer to correct the problem.

Whether we are selling books or promoting something else, our websites are there for people to use. We don’t want to eliminate half the population because our site doesn’t work well with mobile devices.

Three More Tips for Your Book-Promoting Platform

In using your website as the foundation of your book-selling, platform-building initiative, there are several key points to follow. The first three are to make it mobile responsive, remove clutter, and delete slow plugins. That is, to pursue a minimalist design; less is more.

Here are three more website tips:

  • Fix Broken Links: Broken links – be it internal links to other pages on your site or external links to other websites – are disrespectful to visitors. At the very least, broken links will frustrate them and at the worst, cause them to leave. Search engines also don’t like broken links. If they find broken links on your site, they will lower your ranking and thereby suggest your site to fewer people. Fortunately there are programs that can search for and notify you of broken links so you can fix them.
  • Implement SEO Best Practices: Books have been written detailing search engine optimization (SEO), so a brief blog post won’t cover everything. But the basics are to use alt tags on your graphics, appropriately include your targeted keywords in your content, consider both people and search engines when writing your titles, and include a good description and relevant keywords. Whatever you do, don’t try to game the system, because you will eventually be caught and penalized.
  • Keep Your Site Up-To-Date and Regularly Add New Content: Regular visitors (your biggest supporters) and search engines both like to see new content on your site. Keep them happy with regular posts. Also, be sure to remove outdated information so you don’t frustrate visitors.

That’s it for now. Next week, we’ll talk about the importance of capturing email addresses.

Less is More in Website Design

In my post The First Step in Building Your Platform I laid out a number of recommendations for a website, as the foundation for a book-promoting platform. The first three were to make our sites responsive to mobile devices, remove the clutter, and delete slow plugins. In short, embrace the concept that less is more.

Minimalist designs are in; including every possible item on one page is out.

As more and more people access websites from smartphones, we want to make it easy for them to find what they want, access it quickly, and not introduce needless delays. By showing them less, we give them more.

A few years ago, I hired a website designer to provide a fresh and up-to-date look for my author website. Although pleased with the results, even from the beginning it felt a bit cluttered. Last month, I unveiled a new look for this site, embracing the less is more mantra. As a bonus, I retained all key information and simplified the navigation. Although I’ll never proclaim it as finished, I like what I see.

What do you think about my new website?

The First Step in Building Your Platform

After you write and publish your book, the next step is to promote it. This requires a platform.

However, don’t build your platform around a social media site. You can’t control that. Overnight they could change the rules, limit your reach, make you pay to be seen, or even summarily turn off your account. Then, you’ve lost the platform you worked hard to build.

Instead, make your website the home base for your platform, a website you control and own. Then use social media as a tool to point people to your site.

So, the first step in building your platform is to have a website – or fix your existing one. Do this before you spend another moment on social media or even think about growing your platform or reach.

On your website:

  • Make your site responsive to mobile devices.
  • Remove the clutter.
  • Delete slow plugins.
  • Fix all broken links.
  • Implement SEO best practices.
  • Keep your site up-to-date and regularly add new content.
  • Capture visitor email addresses.
  • Link to your social media sites and other online content – and link them back.
  • Integrate your blog with your site, and make it your primary means to interact with followers.

Once you complete these steps, then, and only then, should you work to build out your platform.

Welcome to the New Peter DeHaan Publishing Website

Website Moves and Unveils New Look and Enhanced Functionality

Peter DeHaan Publishing IncMattawan, Michigan – Welcome to the new home of Peter DeHaan Publishing. It has a fresh look and is powered by the leading WordPress blogging software.

The new From the Publisher’s Desk is also improved:

  • A new format will make reading easier.
  • Readers can post comments with one-click simplicity, with no more Captcha codes to read and enter.
  • Subscribers will enjoy a more robust delivery of posts.
  • New features will be added in the future.

Plus the complete archive of past posts has been moved as well.

Don’t miss a single post; subscribe today or use the RSS newsfeed.

Look for new posts each Wednesday at the new From the Publisher’s Desk.

[Posted by Peter DeHaan, president of Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]

Earn More Money on Google Ads

Most of my websites contain Google ads. My main goal in doing so was to generate a bit of additional revenue to cover my direct costs to host the sites and my time to add content and maintain them. For the most part, these goals are met, albeit often only paying me minimum wage for my time.

A couple of months ago, Google announced it changed its search algorithms to give greater credence to “real” content publishers — like me — and less attention to those who merely throw questionable or valueless text online in order to get clicks.

I didn’t give this much thought until I received my most recent revenue check from Goggle. It took a 50% jump! (I’ve since heard that some of the biggest offenders saw a 90% drop!)

This is both exciting and affirming. Goggle implicitly sees value in the content on my sites and is rewarding me for it.

Even so, revenue from Google will never be significant to solely cover the creation and maintenance of informational websites, but it is a nice bonus. I am acutely aware that just as they tweaked their search algorithms to my benefit, they could later do the same to my detriment.

I’m thankful for Google but not depending on them.