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The key to the success of your blog is quality content. Your blog should be something that your visitors will enjoy reading, and look forward to coming back again and again. It can be because your blog is entertaining, funny, useful or highly informational. It is very important that your blog offer value to your visitors.
The quality of your content will compel your readers to talk about your blog, refer it to their friends, colleagues, family members and others. Search engines also love quality content, and it can help your blog build trust, reputation, greater conversions and incoming natural links – all leading to more traffic.
But the quality of your blog’s content can be easily lost to the readers if you don’t present your content well. Your blog’s layout and design plays a big role in engaging your visitors and getting more traffic.
Whether you are just planning to create a blog, or thinking of redesigning your blog, here are some things to consider making your blog more engaging to your visitors:
1. Decide on the content of your blog. When thinking of the design of your blog, the first step is to think what kind of content you will have in your blog. Here are important questions to consider:
- Will you just do the normal stream-of-consciousness posts for your blog? Even so, is there a way to organize them better rather than just chronological postings?
- Will your blog be covering several topics? What is the extent of coverage will you give each topic?
- How important are images to your blogs? Will you use thumbnails to highlight the posts?
- Are you inclined to feature some posts or pages?
- Will you do a series of posts?
- Will you have videos?
- Will you use advertising on the blog? If so, what ad formats will you use? How many ad blocks will you need on a page?
- What tools do you want to use to allow users to actively engage with your content?
2. Select the layout that could showcase your content. Once you have laid out what types of content you will have, then selecting the right layout will be easier.
Choose the best layout that you think you’d like to use for your blog that will effectively showcase your content. The common layout options for blogs, which you can further customize with some programming knowhow (or hire someone to tweak it for you), are as follows:
3. Choose a blog design that will effectively highlight your content. Blogs are typically arranged in reversed chronological order, that is, the newest (latest or most recent) post right at the top and followed by older post. However, this default blog setup limits the way you can highlight, organize or even showcase specific content. Plus, you may have excellent yet older blog posts that will effectively be buried and harder for your audiences to find because the default setup is unable to show older content.
Think of how you want to present your information. Then choose a blog design that will most effectively showcase your content. There are a wide variety of themes (or pre-made blog templates) available for common blog platforms such as WordPress or Blogger. Some of these themes are available for free, while many are paid premium themes. Choose the theme that can highlight key features and content that is central to your blog and which will hook readers into what the blog is about (thereby increasing page views). There are WordPress and Blogger themes out there that offer better presentation of data that you can check out.
Remember though: you can always tweak the themes you use and customize it for the design you have in mind for your blog. If you are not adept in programming, be prepared to hire someone to customize your blog according to your specifications.
4. Use the sidebar to highlight other content and encourage more pageviews. Sidebars have become an important part of a blog’s design.
You can use it to showcase additional content of the blog, including recent posts, most popular posts, and tag clouds. You can also use the sidebar to list resources that visitors may find interesting, such as Youtube videos related to your blog and your blogroll or list of links. You can also use it to provide other ways visitors can engage more with your blog, such as receiving email updates and social media widgets. If you are monetizing your blog through advertising, the sidebar is a good spot to put ads. Pay careful attention to the area above the fold, as those usually attract more eyeballs.
Here are examples of how top blogs use their sidebar include:
- Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com = ads and invitation to advertise on the side; list of most popular posts including thumbnails, and other featured content
- Mashable http://www.mashable.com = email subscription of updates, links to the site’s social media presence (e.g. Digg, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), top posts and various advertising
- Gizmondo http://www.gizmond.com = lists tags of the topics found in the article and related posts.
5. Consider including featured posts on the homepage. A featured post – whether just a single post or a rotating gallery of several featured posts – allows you to highlight posts for your readers. It can be your biggest story of the day or week, the best posts in your blog, or your newest post. Typically, compelling photos typically accompanies featured posts, so consider investing in stock photography or taking your own photographs.
Another way is to add rotating gallery of your featured posts. Having a content slideshow allows you to feature important posts that would have been pushed back by newer posts. It can also be an effective way to presenting the viewer with additional content that they can visit by clicking on the slide or text currently visible in the presentation window. Using the slider to feature other content is an excellent way to entice your blog visitors to go deeper into our blog. You can even use it to recycle older content that would otherwise be lying dormant in your blog archives.
If you are using WordPress, many themes offer gallery feature. There are also a number of plugins that will provide you with the functionality of rotating galleries. Note though that content slider scripts will require you to make changes to the code in order to configure and customize the slideshow to your needs.
6. Use photos to make your posts more interesting. Images take your blog to the next level. Your blog posts become more interesting, with the photos adding color and interest to your blog.
You can use photos in your featured posts. You can also highlight your content by using thumbnails of the photos you use. Huffington Post, for example, effectively uses thumbnails to showcase their other content, both in a rotating gallery below the menu navigation as well as in the sidebar. As a result, Huffington Post’s pageviews per user is at 3.2, per Alexa.com. It is much easier to be drawn in to the other content at Huffington Post, and the numbers show that visitors are reading more content in their site.