The Declining Web Traffic Conundrum

Have the number of people visiting your website declined this year?

I have noticed a downward trend in the number of organic site visitors for  ChristianPublishers.net, ChristianAward.com, BookCrash.com, and this website since the beginning of 2019. I have also heard from others that they are experiencing the same thing.

Website Traffic Decreasing

This decrease in site traffic has me perplexed. No significant changes were made with the websites, so the downward shift in numbers has been rather disconcerting.

At first, I wondered whether Alexa and smart speakers were part of the problem. Households using smart speakers are increasing and expected to reach 55% of U.S. households by 2022. Smart speakers only give one answer for search questions, so it is easy to not be featured for a question asked of a smart speaker. Yet this did not seem like the right answer since smart speakers have not replaced the use of search engines. Google is still ranked the number one website worldwide.

Then, someone suggested that it might be that Google was ranking websites with links to YouTube videos higher than other websites. Since Google owns YouTube and makes money from the site, that made some sense. However, I was not sure that this was the answer either.

Recently, I ran across an article by Social Media Examiner. In this article, they report that they have also been experiencing a decrease in website traffic. After some research, they discovered that this decline is directly linked to Google and changes Google is making.

The article asserts that, historically, Google has been in the business of providing people millions of answers to any one question. Smart speakers are changing this. Smart speakers—think Alexa—are giving ONE answer to a question. Google is following suit. Social Media Examiner states:

“Google is no longer in the business of delivering up lots of answers. Instead, it’s in the business of delivering a single answer—without the need to click.”

Bingo. This rang true. I believe that this is why website traffic has been declining this year. Google search is changing. It is becoming harder for any website to be “discovered” in a Google search.

Google Search

If it is becoming harder to get website traffic from search engines, how can you compensate? What can you do to still have people discover you and your books? I suggest that a shift needs to be made in focus. Instead of concentrating on trying to get more website traffic from search engines, focus on what you have.

1.  Increase Your Website Conversion Rate

Conversion means that you convince a website visitor to take an action on your website. This action might be to buy your book or sign up for your email news or tips. The average conversion for an e-commerce site in the United States is 2.63%. This means that out of 100 visitors, an average site will have less than three people take an action.

Website traffic is great, but it does not mean much unless you get people to commit. Focus your time and attention on making your website draw visitors in so that they sign up for your email news or tips. Offer freebies—think tip sheet, recipe, or novella— or host a giveaway to encourage people to sign up to receive ongoing helpful information and insights from you. Increase your conversion rate your audience will still grow.

2.  Nurture Your Fans

Your email list provides you the opportunity to consistently remind your target audience that you and your books exist. You can nurture this group of interested people and turn them into fans and super fan. Fans and super fans believe in you. They will tell others about you, helping you enlarge your audience without having to rely on traffic from Google search.

I would love to hear from you. Have you been experiencing a decline in organic website traffic this year?

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We All Need a Little Encouragement

I was having one of those days. You know the type of day I am talking about. A day when you feel discouraged and entertain the idea of throwing in the towel.

Everyone has these days. Days when we feel ineffectual, like what we do does not matter. We feel that no one cares about our writing or efforts; that we are not making a difference.

You are doing an outstanding job.

I was having one of those days, well, maybe a week of those days, when I received the following note:

“By the way, of all of the publishing and writing organizations I belong to, CIPA consistently has the most usable information of any of them. You are doing an outstanding job!”

Wow! That little note made my day. It gave me the boost I needed to keep going.

God knew what I needed. He knows what you need also. If you are discouraged, I want you to know that your writing and publishing does make a difference. The written word has the power to shape our lives by touching our emotions and expanding our knowledge.

The message God has given you to write and publish is needed by someone. People are hungry for truth.

According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) in their recent StatShot report:

  1. Sales of religious books have grown year over year for the past five years. Religious presses’ revenue grew 14.7 percent in 2018 with 75.7 percent of that revenue coming from print formats.
  2. Non-fiction books experienced the largest percentage revenue growth for publishers over the past five years. Adult non-fiction unit sales grew 20.9% from 2014 through 2018. Unit sales for Children’s and Young Adult non-fiction grew 17.8% over the same five-year period.

It can get easy to get discouraged as an author. Marketing a book is hard work. It is increasingly difficult to make any book stand out. Each book is competing with millions of other books available for sale, while other media is claiming more and more of people’s time.

Christian Indie Publishing Association

Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) exists to help indie authors and small publishers have access to the information and tools you need for publishing and marketing the Christian books God has called you to produce. Take advantage of our Summer Membership special—$120 dues for membership through December 2020—and join today to receive encouragement, information, and money-saving benefits.

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How to Sell More Books

Super Mario Maker 2, a Nintendo video game, released this summer. The game allows players to create game levels and post them online for other players to play. The game allows for creativity as well as game play.

How to Sell More Books

My son is a huge fan of this game. He played the first version and downloaded the second version as soon as it became available. He loves to create levels and post them for other gamers to play. The other day, my son was over-the-Moon happy. Of the thousands of levels that players create, Nintendo featured one of the levels my son created in a video showcasing exceptional player-created levels.

In talking with my son, he told me that he had studied the formulas the makers of the video game used to create levels within the game. He then used those same formulas to create his levels. It was successful.

Yet, it was not just following a formula that got my son’s game level noticed. Rather, it was a combination of strategies that came together. My son followed a formula to create better game levels, but he also showcased these levels on his YouTube Channel that is dedicated to Nintendo games. So, it was a combination of skill, marketing, and plan old luck (or providence).

Authors also love formulas. Just give us the formula for writing a best-selling book, and we will write it. Just give us the formula for marketing to sell thousands of books, and we will do it.

Every time I turn around, someone is peddling a course with a formula for authors on how to sell thousands of books or create a bestseller. Some of the courses I have seen are:

  • How to Sell a Thousand Books in Three Months
  • Launch a Bestseller
  • 3 Steps to a Bestselling Author Platform
  • Nonfiction Writers: Create Six Figure Classes (how to build an online class business)

Authors jump on these classes and pay anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars to learn how they can sell thousands of copies of their book.

I wish it were that simple: Get the formula, follow it, and sell thousands of books. Sadly, it’s not that easy.

There is no proven formula for creating a best-selling book

There is no proven formula for creating a best-selling book.

If there were:

  1. Every book published would become a bestseller.
  2. Someone would patent the formula and use it to create best-selling books, making themselves a lot of money.

Often the people selling these online courses on how to sell thousands of books are authors who have written and published a book that sold well. They then think that they know the “formula” to do this and decide to teach others how to do the same thing.

JA Konrath, a best-selling author, raises a good question about these authors. He asks, “If you know how to write a bestseller, why aren’t you writing bestseller after bestseller? Why are you writing How-To books (or courses)?”

The bottom line is that there is no formula. What works for one type of book may not work for another type of book. Additionally, selling a general-market book is vastly different from selling a Christian book to a niche market. Selling a self-help book is vastly different from selling a Bible study book or a memoir.

So, how do you sell more books?

First, you have to write a compelling book. Second, you have to publish it with a professional-looking cover and interior layout design.

Then, you have to market the book. This is the tricky part. No single marketing technique is a surefire way to sell your book. Instead, you must use a variety of techniques that can include:

  • A launch team
  • Book reviews
  • Media exposure
  • Developing an audience
  • Connecting with influencers
  • Advertising

Just like my son’s game level, any book that sells well is due to a combination of factors including sometimes just being in the right place at the right time.

Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books

If you need marketing ideas for your Christian book, I encourage you to read my award-winning book Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books. As one reader said:

“Wow, this book provides so many marketing ideas that it would take years to implement them all. As I am reading, I am making a list of all the tasks I need to perform to improve my book sales.” —Susan

Remember, there is no marketing formula that guarantees success. You have to use a variety of marketing strategies to sell more books.

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Is Your Author Website Scaring People Away?

Caution! Slippery When Wet!

The sign, often used in public places, warns people to take care. The floor is wet, therefore slippery, increasing the risk of falling. This warning sign catches people’s attention and helps prevent accidents.

Is your website scaring people away?

The internet also has warning signs. As fraud increases, the internet community has bumped up their concerns about safety. As a result, internet browsers now warn people whether a website is safe or not.

If a website is safe and secure (featuring an https:// in the URL), the browser shows a lock:

secure website

If a website is not secure (featuring an http:// in the URL), the internet browser will show some type of warning:

not secure website

website not secure warning

These signs tell a visitor to your website whether your website is a safe and secure place. Savvy internet users recognize these signs. If your website does not sport an https:// and the browser features a warning sign, potential customers visiting your book or author website may be scared away.

Recently a Member of Christian Indie Publishing Association sent in an announcement about a new book for the Association’s newsletter. When checking the URL for the newsletter, I noticed that his website appeared as “not secure” in my browser. I sent this member the following note:

By the way, you should update your website from http:// to https://. Just ask your hosting service for an SSL Certificate. Many now provide them for free. Google’s SEO is now paying attention to https and you will rank higher if you have it.

The Member sent back this response:

Thank you for the SSL tip. I was able to set up my website for free with a certificate from my hosting service (I just always assumed that they would charge me extra for it).

His response surprised me. Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) has been encouraging all our Members to update to https:// with an SSL Certificate for the past year. The Association neglected to tell our Members that many hosting services provide this for free. In reality, the benefit of having an https:// outweighs any small cost some hosting companies may charge.

So, I am passing this information on to you so that you can make sure your website is:

  1. Not scaring away visitors by being unsecure, and
  2. Ranking higher in search engine results because it is secure.

If your website still sports an http:// in the URL and shows up as not secure in a browser, check with your web hosting company. You can get an SSL Certificate for little or no cost.

Your website sends a message to the world. Make sure your website says you are professional and can be trusted.

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Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels.

Can This One Little Word Help You Sell More Books?

Every marketer must overcome obstacles to making a sale. People don’t readily part with their money unless they are convinced to do so. In his book, How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman’s states that 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious.

95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious.

Other research has shown that people make purchases on their emotions even though they think they are making a logical choice. Humans are driven by feelings. In order to get people to engage with you and your book, you must appeal to their emotions.

If you are only marketing the attributes of your book, your sales results may end up being lackluster. If, instead, you combine the attributes of your book with appealing to a reader’s emotions, you can have greater success with your book sales.

One way to appeal to people’s emotions is to give them a reason to act. In 1978, three Professors of Psychology at Harvard, published a research study about the power of the word “because“.

The professors had research participants request to break in on a line of people waiting to use a busy copy machine on a college campus. The researchers had the people use three different, carefully worded requests to break in line:

  • Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?”
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

Interestingly, the first phrase achieved 60% compliance with the request. The second and third phrases achieved 93% and 94% compliance. The researchers concluded that using the word “because” and giving a reason resulted in significantly more compliance.

Gregory Ciotti of copyblogger says that certain words hold more sway over our decision-making process than others. “Because” appears to be one of those words. Other words that have power in helping people make a decision to purchase are:

  • You
  • Free
  • Instantly
  • New

If you want to improve your book sales and persuade people to buy your book, try using the word “because”. In other words, give them a compelling reason to part with their money in exchange for a copy of your book.

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Photo courtesy of aykapog.