17 Smart Strategies For Effective Blog Design – Part 2
As promised, here is the continuation of our previous post on 17 Smart Strategies for Effective Blog Design.
But first, a quick recap of the 8 strategies we discussed in Part 1:
1. Start with the homepage
2. Come up with your brand style guide
3. Reduce clutter and use a lot of white space on your site
4. Make your blog design mobile responsive
5. Make your site easy to navigate
6. Eliminate dead ends on your site
7. Take every opportunity to personalize all aspects of your site
8. Make sure you nail the ‘About Us’ page
And now, without further ado, here are the rest of them:
9. Optimize CTAs on every page of your site
Getting people to your site is only half the battle. Once there, you have to find a way of persuading them to take some action or other.
But what exactly is it that you want them to do? Every page on your website should have a very clear goal (at least to you…) as to what you want visitors who come to that particular page to do.
That’s what a CTA (call to action) is.
It’s you encouraging readers to take action on something that is specific to whatever content is on that page.
Some more commonly used CTAs include:
- Sign up forms for email list subscriptions
- Downloads for resources like ebooks, cheat sheets, templates, and so on
- Getting social shares
- Offers of products or services
- Links to affiliate products or services
- Encouraging your readers to comment on posts
- Linking to other posts internally
- Linking externally to valuable resources and partner pages
- Getting responses to market research, like online surveys and so on.
So now that you have a few examples of the types of CTAs that you can use, the next question becomes where you should use them on your site.
Here are some ideas:
- At the end of your posts – You can actually set it up so that each person sees a different CTA depending on where they are in the customer journey (kinda awesome, right?)
- In-text CTAs – Another thing you can do is to link some specific words or phrases to landing pages on a different part of your site. You could even include a banner ad within the paragraphs of your posts.
- CTAs for social sharing – You can use services like ‘Click to Tweet’ or include ‘Connect on Social’ buttons in the sidebar. To make it even easier, you could try using plugins that make social sharing easy such as SumoMe.
- Top bar, Pop-up, or slide-in CTAs – These are designed to help you increase your conversion rates on your site. Services like SumoMe allow you to include these CTAs on your site in a way that isn’t spammy or pushy.
- Right sidebar – In a later section we’re going to discuss what exactly you should include in your sidebar, but it is a great place for various CTA links or buttons.
- Top banner – Yet another great spot to put high-converting CTAs is in a banner below your main site navigation menu but above your text.
10. Add social proof everywhere you can
A survey from the Search Engine Journal shows that most customers are more likely to buy from a website that has product reviews and ratings. This means that you may have the best product or service in the market, but people will find it hard to believe it if it’s just you saying it!
But what type of social proof will help you to make your design more effective?
Examples of social proof to use on your site:
- Customer stories and testimonials – Use these on the home page, ‘About Us’ page, sales pages, and even in your sidebar.
- Product Ratings and Reviews – Do you see how clever Amazon was in their use of this tactic?
- Media Logos – Use these to show off all the places your brand has been featured. Quick tip: Become a guest blogger for credible brands in your niche to boost your own authority.
- Social connections and subscriber counts – Use them to reinforce your credibility as an authority or thought leader.
- Social media shares and comment counts on posts – People sometimes use these to determine if a post is worth reading because (in their minds) if others have read it, commented on it or shared it, then it must be great…
11. Vary the media you use
Video is great and most people absolutely love engaging with it. It allows your visitors to consume a lot of information very quickly and it personalizes the entire website experience. But, it’s important not to overdo it. If you use too much video or other media on your site, it could result in a huge loss of impact.
What you want to do instead is to pick out the most essential pages on your site and include a few simple, but highly engaging videos to accompany the copy on those pages.
These are mostly sales pages, ‘About Us’ pages, or the home page.
Just remember that if you use YouTube as your video host, you are going to have to put up with snippets at the end which take people to external content after they have finished watching your video.
12. On the main blog page use snippets
Some sites use this page as the home page, but no matter where you use it, it’s vital to show previews of your posts instead of the entire post. These previews are called snippets. The reason for this is that it reduces duplicate content on your site which could result in you incurring penalties from Google’s search algorithm.
You see, if you show a stream of the whole post on the main blog page and then link to the post, this could be seen as duplicate content. Another reason to use snippets instead of entire blog posts is that it reduces bounce rates.
If new visitors land on your main blog page, they get to scan all the posts you have there. This means that they don’t have to click on to another page on your website. But, if you display snippets, it entices them to click on a post which reduces your bounce rates for that page.
And since bounce rates are one of the factors that search engines take into account when ranking your pages, this is something that you absolutely must do.
13. Make it easy for your readers to comment
When people comment on your blog, it’s a sign of audience engagement.
But there are some things you should take into consideration when designing the comments section of your blog:
- Make it easy for your readers to comment in a minute or so
- Give readers the option of including a link back to their site
- Include comment counts on the blog snippets so people know how much engagement each post got
- Monitor comments on your blog to ensure that spam and pingbacks aren’t taking up space. You can use Akismet for this. It’s a WordPress Plugin which helps to reduce comments spam.
- A great commenting system to use is Discus. It’s easy and quick to register, and it’s visually appealing to your audience. It also connects to social networks and it’s integrated across a lot of popular blogs.
14. Encourage readers to share socially on every page
When it comes to promoting any content on your blog and building a community, social media is one of the best ways of doing that. Make it super easy for readers to share the posts on your blog.
Some things that you can do, from a design perspective, are:
- Use plugins to place social sharing buttons on each page. Floating buttons which move as the reader scrolls down the page are the best.
- Include Click to Tweet boxes in your posts. There are some easy to use WordPress plugins that you can use to do this.
- Show your Facebook or Twitter feed in the sidebar of each page.
- Include ‘Connect on Social’ links where you deem relevant such as the header, footer, and the sidebar.
15. Choose an easy-to-read blog design layout
If you want people to be able to read the content on your blog, then it’s important that you optimize the blog design and font for readability.
Some simple tactics that you can use to increase your blog’s readability are as follows:
- Use a font that makes it easy for readers to consume your content. According to surveys, 12-point is the best size.
- Use subheadings and bullet points to break up your posts and make it easy for readers to scan the copy quickly so they can consume key points.
- Your headlines should be much larger than the rest of the text. For example, you could use a font between 17 – 25 point.
- Use dark text on a light background. This increases your readers’ ability to comprehend what your content is actually about.
16. Include a sidebar on the right side of your blog
This space on your blog offers a great opportunity for displaying some vital information for your visitors without taking anything away from the main content of your actual blog post.
The sidebar must be situated on the right side of the blog, and not on the left, for the simple reason that this helps to prevent confusion on the readers’ part as to what they should be focusing on as a priority.
But what should be included in your blog’s sidebar?
Your most important CTAs – this area of your site has one of the highest conversion rates and should be used for the most important calls to action such as links to download free resources, social media follow buttons, email list sign-up forms, or links to your other valuable content.
You can also use this space for the most popular posts in your blog, as well as the categories.
Once a reader is already consuming your content, the sidebar is a good opportunity to help them discover more interesting content on your site.
You can easily do this by displaying ‘Categories’ or ‘Recent Posts’.
Including your social media feed from Twitter, Facebook, or other sites in the sidebar lets your readers know the type of content that you’re sharing in real time. This helps you grow your social media following.
Social proof is something else you should include in your blog’s right sidebar. If you have those client testimonials and media logos that we talked about earlier, this is a great place to display them. They will be visible on every blog page and they will boost your credibility.
You can make this even more effective by combining the testimonial with a CTA.
17. Every post should have a header image
Include header images with every post as an extension of your web design and brand style. The look and feel of your blog is important, and blogs with header images attract more people because they look, well, better.
Depending on the type of site that you run, it’s a great idea to replicate header images at the top of your posts as well as on the main blog page, right next to your preview snippet.
The header image plays a huge part in your readers’ experience on your blog and it also adds to the way your brand is perceived.
In light of this, you want to create consistency when it comes to the type of images that you use on your blog. If possible, try to create images that are unique to your brand. Use services like Canva to create images with text in them. The text can be your blog title or it can even be a catchy quote. All this helps to differentiate you and make your style unique.
There isn’t a ‘perfect’ blog design, but there are some principles (like the ones outlined in this article) that can help you to make the best choices about the online representation of your brand.
My blog is not perfect, but I am always willing to learn from other successful marketers and improve over time. That’s all it takes to achieve success in internet marketing, and I hope you will start on your own journey of improvement.
What are you committed to changing on your blog right now to make it better?
Feel free to post your comment below. An email address is required but it will not be shared with anyone, put on any list, or used for any kind of marketing, just to alert you if there are any replies. Thanks and happy hunting!
Updated: Originally published July 25th 2018