4 Surprising Conclusions About Author Websites

A few weeks ago, in preparation for a meeting with one of my biggest authors, I visited his website. I was reminded again how many authors think that by just hanging a website in cyberspace they are somehow building their brand. As it turns out, not so much.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/JohnnyLye, Image #524580

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/JohnnyLye

The site looked great. Nice graphics. Cool use of flash. Lots of razzle-dazzle. So I decided to run his site through WebsiteGrader.com. This simple tool is like a CAT-scan for websites. I was surprised at the poor results.

Based on this, I decided to do a little research. I next ran our top twelve bestselling authors through the same exercise. I won’t reveal the names of the authors for fear of embarrassing them, but I will tell you that Dave Ramsey scored the highest. He clearly knows what he is doing on the Web.

As you look at the results in the chart below, keep in mind:

  • Overall Web Grade is the WebsiteGrader.com grade. It is based on a complex set of criteria, including the items below.
  • Google Page Rank shows Google’s relative rank on a 1–10 scale. The higher the number the better.
  • Alexa Traffic Rank shows your absolute traffic ranking against all other websites in the world. It’s similar to the Nielsen Ratings. The lower the number, the better. For example, Dave’s rank—18,977—means his site is in the top 20,000 sites in the world. Since there are tens of millions, this is impressive.
  • Technorati Blog Rank shows absolute traffic ranking against all other blog sites in the world. If the blog is not registered with Technorati, then it is not ranked. (If you’re a blogger, this is why you should register your blog with Technorati.)

Here are the results:

Web Presence of Thomas Nelson’s Top Authors
Author Overall Web Grade Google Page Rank Alexa Traffic Rank Technorati Blog Rank
Dave Ramsey 99.9 6 18,977 1,218
Author 2 99.3 6 110,308 726,714
Author 3 93.0 5 52,288 N/A
Author 4 92.0 5 393,576 20,212
Author 5 91.0 5 427,192 N/A
Author 6 89.0 4 613,492 N/A
Author 7 86.0 4 674,324 213,437
Author 8 86.0 4 257,410 N/A
Author 9 82.0 4 402,066 N/A
Author 10 81.0 5 545,916 N/A
Author 11 79.0 4 548,447 N/A
Author 12 35.0 3 3,738,452 N/A

Here are my conclusions:

  1. Having a really slick, graphically-clever website does not necessarily correlate with more traffic. In fact, the ones that made use of the latest flash and embedded video technologies scored at the low-end of the traffic scale.
  2. Having a large media platform does not necessarily correlate with more traffic. Yes, Dave Ramsey has a huge media platform on both TV and radio. However, one of the authors with the biggest media platforms was dead last. Interestingly, if I were on the list, my site has the fourth largest traffic, and I have no media platform at all.
  3. Having a large organization behind you does not necessarily correlate with more traffic. Some authors with large organizations were near the top; some near the bottom.
  4. Having a young and hip image does does not necessarily correlate with more traffic. In fact, there seems to be an inverse correlation. Maybe the older authors work harder at it. Perhaps the younger authors think that being cool is enough. Regardless, most of the ones I assumed would be web-savvy are not—at least in terms of generating meaningful traffic.

The good news is that it is not that difficult for authors to build a powerful, online presence. Nor does it cost much. Tomorrow, I plan to post on “Seven Ways to Build Your Author Brand Online.” Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you want to get the most value out of this exercise, run your own site or blog through WebsiteGrader.com. This will give you a good snapshot of where you are now.

Question: How did your site score? For the sake of transparency, I’ll go first (scroll down)
Want to launch your own blog or upgrade to self-hosted WordPress? Watch my free, twenty-minute screencast. I show you exactly how to do it. You don’t need any technical knowledge. Click here to get started.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://www.teawithtiffany.blogspot.com Tiffany Stuart

    I loved this tool. Thank you for offering readers with valuable resources. I’m looking forward to working on this.

    These are my blog numbers.

    Website grade 63
    Google Page Rank 3
    Traffic Rank 11,356,793
    Blog Rank 1,220,093

    Actually it got me so excited to make changes that I lost my blogger template in the process of making changes and upgrading my software. After 3 plus years, it’s gone. Luckily, I saved it in a Word doc. But the coding will not work now. Sad and frustrated. Not techy.

    My professional website is dead. Not effective. I don’t use it like I should. It’s hard when I try to learn on my own. It’d be nice to get a class in html or something. Or marketing. Going solo is not working.

  • http://www.teawithtiffany.blogspot.com/ Tiffany Stuart

    I loved this tool. Thank you for offering readers with valuable resources. I'm looking forward to working on this.

    These are my blog numbers.

    Website grade 63
    Google Page Rank 3
    Traffic Rank 11,356,793
    Blog Rank 1,220,093

    Actually it got me so excited to make changes that I lost my blogger template in the process of making changes and upgrading my software. After 3 plus years, it's gone. Luckily, I saved it in a Word doc. But the coding will not work now. Sad and frustrated. Not techy.

    My professional website is dead. Not effective. I don't use it like I should. It's hard when I try to learn on my own. It'd be nice to get a class in html or something. Or marketing. Going solo is not working.

  • http://www.generatornetwork.com Mike Rapp, Generator LLC

    Mike,

    My old friend and cohort, Dennis Disney, has worked with me for the last two years to build a cheaper, better and more effective way to create artist and author web sites. Without going into much detail for obvious reasons, I had seen proposals from the big name in that business and was absolutely dumbstruck at the amount of cash they demanded to build and host a web site. I though it would be expensive, but I had no idea what expensive was. I felt strongly that I had the expertise, experience and connections to build an alternative.

    We partnered with a web development company to create a custom content management system that makes it easy to build and manage totally custom web sites. (www.generatornetwork.com/cms) This is, with all due respect, not WordPress or Typepad; This is the Full Monty: email list signup, ecommerce, photo galleries, videos, search engine optimization (on steriods), scalable drag-and-drop site maps, and much more.

    And, we can do it — and have done it — for about half of what “the other guys” are doing it for. Check out http://www.martymagehee.com and http://www.waynewatson.com. We’re also launching a new site for Place of Hope Ministries, and awesome substance abuse ministry here in Nashville.

    The thing that I am very concerned about, though, is the chasm of knowledge that exists between authors/artists and what is really happening out there on the web. In a real literal sense, they are almost all clueless, and the ones who are the most dangerous are often the ones who think they aren’t clueless. No doubt you understand what I am saying.

    That chasm, ultimately, boils down to two things: money and time. Put simply, they all want to make money, but none of them want to spend money or time to make it happen. They expect you guys to foot the bill and “manage things” day to day. Most of them complain about “having” to post to their blog on a regular basis, let alone contribute new content.

    And those days are quickly melting into the past. The day is now here where if they are not personally, actively creating new content, they won’t HAVE any content.

    Authors who care about their brand image really have little choice but to invest in the web. And they have to do it yesterday. The web, like it or not, is the single most powerful way that their customers are connecting to their content — and if they aren’t the prime mover of their brand image, then their career is literally at the whim of the invisible web.

    Mike, the main thing you can do to help folks like us is to help us, help you. Everyone right now is scared and nervous. Lord knows I am: I just had a client for whom I’d spent four months working on a new site walk out the door the day before launch. We lost well into five figures in one meeting.

    If Thomas Nelson does want to support their authors, and I know you guys do, then you must get proactive in pushing them — yes, requiring them — to work with people like us. We can help them make things happen, but they have to take the step and commit to the future, and not simply wait for it to arrive at their doorstep.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @Mike: I totally agree with you. I had one author ask me, “Who do you use to write your blog?” I was totally taken back by the question. He obviously doesn’t get it. The amazing thing is that he is himself a writer!

    There is no substitute for authors getting personally involved. The ones that do it will survive and prosper. Those that don’t will be swept out to sea.

  • http://www.generatornetwork.com/ Mike Rapp, Generator

    Mike,

    My old friend and cohort, Dennis Disney, has worked with me for the last two years to build a cheaper, better and more effective way to create artist and author web sites. Without going into much detail for obvious reasons, I had seen proposals from the big name in that business and was absolutely dumbstruck at the amount of cash they demanded to build and host a web site. I though it would be expensive, but I had no idea what expensive was. I felt strongly that I had the expertise, experience and connections to build an alternative.

    We partnered with a web development company to create a custom content management system that makes it easy to build and manage totally custom web sites. (www.generatornetwork.com/cms) This is, with all due respect, not WordPress or Typepad; This is the Full Monty: email list signup, ecommerce, photo galleries, videos, search engine optimization (on steriods), scalable drag-and-drop site maps, and much more.

    And, we can do it — and have done it — for about half of what "the other guys" are doing it for. Check out http://www.martymagehee.com and http://www.waynewatson.com. We're also launching a new site for Place of Hope Ministries, and awesome substance abuse ministry here in Nashville.

    The thing that I am very concerned about, though, is the chasm of knowledge that exists between authors/artists and what is really happening out there on the web. In a real literal sense, they are almost all clueless, and the ones who are the most dangerous are often the ones who think they aren't clueless. No doubt you understand what I am saying.

    That chasm, ultimately, boils down to two things: money and time. Put simply, they all want to make money, but none of them want to spend money or time to make it happen. They expect you guys to foot the bill and "manage things" day to day. Most of them complain about "having" to post to their blog on a regular basis, let alone contribute new content.

    And those days are quickly melting into the past. The day is now here where if they are not personally, actively creating new content, they won't HAVE any content.

    Authors who care about their brand image really have little choice but to invest in the web. And they have to do it yesterday. The web, like it or not, is the single most powerful way that their customers are connecting to their content — and if they aren't the prime mover of their brand image, then their career is literally at the whim of the invisible web.

    Mike, the main thing you can do to help folks like us is to help us, help you. Everyone right now is scared and nervous. Lord knows I am: I just had a client for whom I'd spent four months working on a new site walk out the door the day before launch. We lost well into five figures in one meeting.

    If Thomas Nelson does want to support their authors, and I know you guys do, then you must get proactive in pushing them — yes, requiring them — to work with people like us. We can help them make things happen, but they have to take the step and commit to the future, and not simply wait for it to arrive at their doorstep.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @Mike: I totally agree with you. I had one author ask me, “Who do you use to write your blog?” I was totally taken back by the question. He obviously doesn’t get it. The amazing thing is that he is himself a writer!

    There is no substitute for authors getting personally involved. The ones that do it will survive and prosper. Those that don’t will be swept out to sea.

  • http://www.generatornetwork.com Mike Rapp, Generator LLC

    The question I get all the time, though, is how do you generate community? There are very proven ways to get things moving – message boards, proactive email, web-only content. Some people just do it intuitively, as you have done here with your blog.

    Ironically, though, authors often seem to be the worst at connecting with and listening to even their hardest core fans. Why is that? I have some ideas. But none of them probably explain it entirely.

    For authors looking for a way to transition to “the new world,” the web doesn’t have to be scary or even uber-expensive. But you can’t sit on the sidelines and wait for an advance check. You have to step forward, ask questions, and commit to the future.

    Tim Corbin, the baseball coach at Vanderbilt, is a close friend of mine. He told me once that the good hitters anticipate that the next pitch will be a strike, and they get their bat in motion before the ball is thrown. Then, they choose to NOT swing. That, to me, was the single best analogy for authors and the web. Move the bat, PLAN to get a hit, and decide to not swing.

    If you are sitting with the bat on your shoulder, you’re never going to get the bat around fast enough to hit anything.

  • http://www.generatornetwork.com/ Mike Rapp, Generator

    The question I get all the time, though, is how do you generate community? There are very proven ways to get things moving – message boards, proactive email, web-only content. Some people just do it intuitively, as you have done here with your blog.

    Ironically, though, authors often seem to be the worst at connecting with and listening to even their hardest core fans. Why is that? I have some ideas. But none of them probably explain it entirely.

    For authors looking for a way to transition to "the new world," the web doesn't have to be scary or even uber-expensive. But you can't sit on the sidelines and wait for an advance check. You have to step forward, ask questions, and commit to the future.

    Tim Corbin, the baseball coach at Vanderbilt, is a close friend of mine. He told me once that the good hitters anticipate that the next pitch will be a strike, and they get their bat in motion before the ball is thrown. Then, they choose to NOT swing. That, to me, was the single best analogy for authors and the web. Move the bat, PLAN to get a hit, and decide to not swing.

    If you are sitting with the bat on your shoulder, you're never going to get the bat around fast enough to hit anything.

  • http://owlhaven.net/ Mary Ostyn

    My website got an 89, with a Google pagerank of 4, an Alexa ranking in the top 4.48%, and a Technorati ranking in the top 0.03%.
    very interesting tool– thanks for sharing!

    Mary Ostyn
    author
    A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family

  • http://owlhaven.net Mary Ostyn

    My website got an 89, with a Google pagerank of 4, an Alexa ranking in the top 4.48%, and a Technorati ranking in the top 0.03%.
    very interesting tool– thanks for sharing!

    Mary Ostyn
    author
    A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family

  • http://artistvault.net/ Melomann

    Wanna to gift you some mp3 dance pop mp3 songs from my own archive. Enjoy! P.S. Wish you all happy easter! :)

  • http://artistvault.net Melomann

    Wanna to gift you some mp3 dance pop mp3 songs from my own archive. Enjoy! P.S. Wish you all happy easter! :)

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  • http://twitter.com/ucffool @ucffool

    Site: http://www.phpreferencebook.com
    Grade: 95.4
    PageRank: 3
    Alexa: 877,119
    Technorati: 1,633,786

  • http://twitter.com/ucffool @ucffool

    Site: http://www.phpreferencebook.com
    Grade: 95.4
    PageRank: 3
    Alexa: 877,119
    Technorati: 1,633,786

  • http://tsuzanneeller.com/ Suzanne Eller

    My grade was a 93, and I loved that it offered tips on how to improve that ranking. Thank you for such a great tool!

  • http://tsuzanneeller.com/ Suzanne Eller

    My grade was a 93, and I loved that it offered tips on how to improve that ranking. Thank you for such a great tool!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JeffHolton Jeffrey Holton

    Point #1 is in complete support for why I despise MySpace.

    A screen full of busy, splashy, gimmicky Flash graphics just overruns my processor, drives up the heat on the bottom of the case, and is generally the precise opposite of the Green principles we're supposedly trying to develop and maintain. I am sorry to report that I have a MySpace account (mostly out of perceived necessity for keeping contact with a few folks), but I will not be at all upset if they decide one day to go belly up.

    For what it's worth, I find your design here remarkably visually attractive and processor friendly. It's a good paradigm for others to use.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JeffHolton Jeffrey Holton

    Point #1 is in complete support for why I despise MySpace.

    A screen full of busy, splashy, gimmicky Flash graphics just overruns my processor, drives up the heat on the bottom of the case, and is generally the precise opposite of the Green principles we're supposedly trying to develop and maintain. I am sorry to report that I have a MySpace account (mostly out of perceived necessity for keeping contact with a few folks), but I will not be at all upset if they decide one day to go belly up.

    For what it's worth, I find your design here remarkably visually attractive and processor friendly. It's a good paradigm for others to use.

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  • http://catalystspace.com Jesse Phillips

    Thank you for these stats! Very interesting! I think it would also be interesting to compare book sales w/ the ranking above. Does stronger web presence correlate w/ greater book sales or "success" as an author? Perhaps the authors w/ a weaker web presence are very successful, and so they're not concerned w/ web presence? (or they're successful enough for themselves?)

  • http://twitter.com/Brandywinebooks @Brandywinebooks

    My site earned a 95, and I'm sure we have many ways to improve. Our blog grade was 68 though, and since Brandywinebooks.net is a blog, that's probably the better score. I should work on that.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/WindmillDuke WindmillDuke

    AHHHhhhh. Thanks so much, Michael. The comment about "young and hip," I mean. Come to think of it, I don't have the other three illusions to a fast track to authors' success. I'll turn 70 in a month and am finally getting my passion in to a book, the working title of which, Generational Fathering, goes way out from "hip"–and fast.!____Side note: I've been touched by and prayed over your Tweets of compassion for your brother-in-law.

  • http://www.meusfilmes.com Cinéfilo

    website grader is a rather useful site. I've been using it for some time now, at http://www.meusfilmes.com with some success.

    Bear in mind that a small website MAY get a lot less visitors than a large one and STILL have a greater websitegrader score because what this site mainly measures is the POTENTIAL for visibility in search engines. A larger website may indeed get a lot more visitors, but be built in such a way that crawlers will have a hard time indexing it.

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  • http://everydayemstips.com Greg Friese

    I look for authors, generally paramedics, nurses, or doctors, to interview on the Medical Author Chat podcast. I can easily find the author’s book on Amazon. Finding a web page or Facebook page is challenging. Finding an email address to invite the author on the change is nearly impossible.

  • Patrick

    Michael,
    Thanks for the post – VERY HELPFUL!!!!
    Patrick

  • Anonymous

    I scored a 93! That seems pretty good. Thanks for sharing that site. A pretty interesting report.

  • Anonymous

    I’d better get busy!

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Just saw you mention this post on facebook. Great use of other social sites to get people here to read your blog. Even further, great post.

    I search around your blog more than I’d admit, am glad to find this. Thanks for sharing. CURIOUS about the author you mention though.  :)

    Blessings

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Oh! Looked up your stats from when you first posted this.
    They were as follows:
    ========================
    Overall Web Grade: 99.3
    Google Page Rank: 4
    Alexa
    Traffic Rank: 184,648
    Technorati Blog Rank: 13,031
    ========================

    What are they today?
    Have you run the stats currently?

  • Cameron

    Reminds me of a tee shirt my son saw… something along the lines of;  “this shirt has been read by more people than your blog”  

  • http://twitter.com/AdamsOrganizing Elise Adams

    Great tool, Michael.  Thanks for re posting this article via Twitter/FB today because I’d forgotten about this tool and they’ve updated it since the last time I used them.  AND my scores are nearly double what they were when I first checked them over 6 months ago…

    Today my overall score is 95
    Alexa is 436k (started at 3 mill)

    I’m not seeing the Google Page rank, although it does list 440 pages are indexed by the search engines.

    Again–thanks for sharing this…it’s a great tool!

  • Tim

    Awesome post! Thanks for the grader link. I ran it and www.irrefutablesuccess.com scored 82! Your influence has played a major role in that score. Thanks you! Now I want to learn more and do more to get it higher. Thanks again Michael!

    • Tim

      OOPS! Meant Thank you! – not - Thanks you!

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Love your blog, Tim. I don’t know why I wasn’t subscribed, but I have remedied that!

  • Tim

    Awesome post! Thanks for the grader link. I ran it and http://www.irrefutablesuccess.com scored 82! Your influence has played a major role in that score. Thanks Michael! I will be working on getting it higher.  

  • Maureen Noel

    Agreed! There are so many terrible author sites out there, it’s a wonder these authors sell books. I was one of the fortunate ones for my novel Nightworld. http://maureennoel.com. Just as authors need editors to whittle down their books, it’d be a good idea to take an editor to their websites as well.

  • http://twitter.com/RichTatum Rich Tatum

    Nice repost, but you might want to update it with a note that Technorati no longer tracks the blogosphere like it used to, sadly.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Rich,
      I have noticed that too. Do you use any other sites to help you track like Alexa or others? There are a bunch out there that cost $ too, which I am not a fan of. ha.

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  • http://www.pauljolicoeur.com/ Paul Jolicoeur

    Thanks for the resources Michael. I scored 70. I guess I have some things to work on! The site said to add pages and get more inbound traffic. Since I just started 2 months ago, I would think some of this will take time.

  • Spaceobservingninny

    Most of these grading tools are rubbish, as they simply fail to detect 90% of the true  factors they claim to search for. don’t use their favourite toys? you lose ranking. Sorry, but the cool kids are boring and the internet is far more complicated and human driven than these marketing morons will ever understand.

  • Alyssaavant

    It said the Websitegrader was in beta and I had to sign up and was over 3000 in queue. 

  • http://www.josh-bennett.com/ Josh

    I have worked on Authors websites and they just do not understand anything about the web. All they know is that they need a website. This is helpful information!

    Thanks!

  • Roger Harned

    I’m just trying to figure out the what next steps before launching mine. I really need some tech-savvy help with WordPress & getting the right look for my content. Need to figure out how to do a RogerHarned@my web address, too. Next step suggestions appreciated.
    (unrelated: any idea why all of these comments read: ’5 years ago’ ? no one’s perfect.)

  • Dan Erickson

    Wow, my site does three times better than author twelve and I’m just an everyday, self-published author, poet, and singer-songwriter. http://www.danerickson.nett

  • Amy Pederson

    Thanks for sharing this post, Michael. I just ran my blog, Divine In The Daily, through WebsiteGrader.com for the first time. Looks like I got a score of 84, which I was happy with considering the scores you reported. Have written this down for future reference, will work on some things and monitor over time. Appreciate your insights!