How to Turn Your Website Visitors into Repeat Book Readers
The average consumer isn’t likely to buy something that appears confusing or unfamiliar to them. Yet, if you visit the website of most book publishers, they seem to think people have no fear of the unknown. For instance, the typical website homepage throughout the publishing industry represents an online display of books pleading to be purchased. But this begs the question, why would someone make a purchase when they’re unfamiliar with those titles?
If you review the traffic statistics for most websites on the Internet, you will see that the majority of visitors are new to that site. In most cases, first-time visitors comprise 60 to 75% of the total online audience every month. In contrast, returning visitors only make up around 25 to 40% of a website’s total traffic. If you’re skeptical about these numbers, look at your own website data or setup a free Google Analytics account.
Does it matter if the majority of website visitors are first-timers? Absolutely! In order for a website to be effective, it must be optimized to engage new people. First-time visitors think and act differently from repeat visitors:
- New visitors are more skeptical and wary of blatant sales pitches.
- New visitors can be confused by industry jargon or insider language.
- New visitors think, “What’s in it for me?” rather than “What do you want me to buy?”
The problem is that many publisher websites are geared towards repeat visitors and resemble carnival salesmen hawking their wares. Take a moment to go online and view for yourself. You’ll see incessant offers to buy books splashed all over the home page with these typical categories:
- New Releases
- Coming Soon
- Our Authors
- Join Our Newsletter
- Buy our books…just please buy our books!!
Put yourself in the position of a first-time visitor and consider if this approach is appealing. Would you buy a book that you know little about from a publisher that you care little about? Probably not, which is why many publisher websites aren’t very effective.
To clarify, I’m not saying that publishers should avoid promoting books on their websites. The purpose of a website is to help generate sales. But, before you can sell somebody something, especially new visitors, you must address their self-interests first. New visitors want to know:
- Why should I care about your books?
- Who are you and how can you inspire, entertain, or educate me?
- Since I’m unfamiliar with your books, can I get free samples that go beyond the predictable first chapter?
What does this approach look like online? It means addressing the skepticism that 60% to 70% of your website visitors feel every day. They are new to you, so they don’t want to be bombarded with purchase requests. They’d rather be bombarded with free samples, bonus material, and examples of content they can enjoy. They are first-timers. They aren’t going to buy immediately. Build the relationship and the book sales will come.
Try a different approach. Go 50/50 and use half of your website’s home page to pitch new books and bestsellers. But, create a proper balance by loading up the other half of your homepage with lots of free samples. In addition, add a new page to your website that houses all of your free content in one place. You may find this “freebies” page becomes the most popular part of your site.
Most importantly, go beyond offering the typical first chapter, because most first chapters are inadequate by themselves to convince new readers to purchase a book. Instead, offer excerpts from the middle of books where the best material resides. For instance, consider how Hollywood creates TV commercials that display the best parts from their movies. (By the way, those movies come from your books.) Use the same technique and give away the best parts of your books.
Giving away free content does not cannibalize sales. Free content develops interest and creates sales. You are literally causing consumers to think, “If I enjoyed reading this free content, imagine how much more I’ll enjoy reading the whole thing.”
Should you only use free content as bait for people to join your email newsletter? Yes and no. Yes, use some content as magnets to entice subscribers to join your email newsletter. But don’t put everything behind the email signup wall. Be generous and provide several samples that new visitors can download without giving up their contact information. If the samples are good, people will eventually join your email newsletter of their own desire.
Every day, the vast majority of people who visit your website are brand new and unfamiliar with your books. Don’t miss the opportunity to connect with first-timers by overloading them with requests to purchase your books. Instead, overload new visitors with attractive samples and free content. Doing so will help turn more new visitors into repeat visitors that publishers covet.
Related story: How Publishers Can Cure “Ugly Sample Syndrome”