There are over 150 million blogs on the internet today. With this big number, it is obvious you need an outstanding blog if it is to rank high in SERPs (search engine results pages) and if it is to attract targeted traffic. So, what design elements do you need to come up with a great blog?
Here is a simple guide on how to create a blog that stands the test of time.
The design elements detailed here have been used by Seth’s Blog, Mashable, The Next Web, Freelance Switch, TechCrunch, GigaOM, Problogger, The Oatmeal, Copyblogger, and KISSmetrics Blog which are popular, high-conversion rate blogs.
100 Pixel Header and Properly-positioned Logo
The headers on 9 out of these 10 blogs are 100 pixels high or less. They all have logos in the upper-left corner. This logo is hyperlinked to the homepage. To implement a hyperlinked log, use such WordPress themes as WooThemes, Genesis, and Thesis which allow you to upload your logo through the design settings of the theme and it automatically links to your homepage.
Properly-positioned Search Box
A search box is a must if your blog is to have a big impact in your niche. 8 of these blogs have search boxes, with these search boxes being on the right side of the header on 6 of them and 2 having the search bar towards the top of the sidebar. To implement a search box on WP, place the search bar as a widget in the Appearance > Widgets area of the theme and if you do not have a widgetized header, you can use a PHP for the search box and place it within the header PHP of the Theme’s custom PHP file.
Optimized Content Area
Content is king when it comes to blogging (forgive the cliché). Out of the 10 blogs, 8 had their content area on the left of the page while the sidebar was on the right. Some of the design elements you should consider within your blog’s content area include:
- Link to social media profiles –Only one of the 10 blogs does not have links to its social media profiles. The most common of these are Facebook and Twitter, with some having links to YouTube, StumbleUpon, Flickr, LinkedIn, and Tumblr profiles. There are free social media icons on the internet that can help you make your own buttons.
- Social Buttons (Slider) – All the 10 blogs have social sharing buttons with Twitter’s Tweet and Facebook’s Like/Share. Also present in some of the blogs are LinkedIn’s Share button and Google’s +1. Less popular are StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Digg buttons. The social sliders are mostly located on the left side of the content. To implement social buttons, you can hardcode them into your theme (if you know how) or use the Sharebar plugin.
- Related Posts – Out of the 10 blogs, 7 have a related posts area. The area is located at the bottom of every post and is meant to encourage readers to read more of your articles, to spend more time on the site, and to engage more with your blog and/or business. There are plugins available to assist you with this.
- Popular Posts – Some of these blogs have popular posts in the sidebar. This allows readers to read posts that were popular with past readers (such posts are more likely to increase conversion).
- Footer CTA – A footer CTA (Call-To-Action) is a must. Half of these blogs have footer CTAs encouraging readers to purchase or to subscribe. The other 5 blogs have a CTA that simply encourages you to comment, share, or click on an ad. You will need to hook a slab of HTML into the theme at the bottom of the content area (and above the comment area) to achieve this.
- Sidebar Opt-In – Of the 10 blogs, 8 have Opt-In within their sidebars, with 5 of these being at the top. Note that sidebars should be about half the width of the content area and to the right of the page. The most common words on these sidebars are “FREE UPDATES”, “JOIN US”, and “SUBSCRIBE”. Use a form builder that splits HTML and embed the HTML in a text widget at the top of the sidebar to implement this.
- Categories/Other Links – Half the sites have at least one of these features. To implement this feature, use the theme’s widgetized footer (very common today) by using the Text widget to place HTML within the footer.
- Products/Ads – Only 1 of these blogs did not promote its products or ads on the sidebar. Half feature both ads and products. Only TheOatmeal.com does not have this feature, and this is because it features its products on its CTA. To implement this, write up the HTML and place it in an arbitrary text widget. There are also plugins available to make rotating ads on the sidebar.
Engaging Comments Section
You should include a comments section as it allows you to get valuable feedback from your readers. This feedback can help in product development. Note that comments are also seen by search engines as fresh content, meaning they will help in your SEO efforts. You should answer questions asked and apologize whenever there is a genuine complaint. Research has shown that threaded comments increase the number of comments by between 16% and 33%.
Your blog should have a well-edited navigation menu. It could be vertical or horizontal, but you should never cram all the blog categories in it; only important pages. Use submenus when necessary for easy navigation of wide topics.
Your content should be keyword-optimized to increase your blog’s ranking in SERPs. You should also interlink to relevant blogs for SEO and to provide continuity to your blogs. Consider responsive web design, topic tags, and guest blogging for a search engine optimized blog.
You should narrow your niche if you want an effective blog. Write consistently as this will attract search engine bots and return readers. When designing the content column, ensure there is a lot of white space to avoid clutter. The titles should contrast from content, pictures should be displayed along the full length of the content column, and the font should be legible. You should include the post date.