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)