Building a Better Blog

I've read a lot of blogs. Some of them incredibly memorable, others only just holding my attention in passing. What I find amazing in so many instances is that there are still a lot of bloggers who fail to include some of the most basic (and important) features on their blogs.

The design of your blog or website is still the single best tool you have at your disposal to draw readers in and get them to stay long enough to subscribe. Consider your audience when you design your space. If your blog is going to focus on technical topics, you can't clothe it in pink-bubblegum colors or no one will take you seriously. Likewise, if your blog is about teenage fashion fads, don't design it like a forty-year old's hangout. An eye-catching, or soothing design can buy you valuable seconds to wow your visitors with the first few lines of a post, your bio, or your other sidebar options.

When I visit a blog I also want to know who the owner is. The inclusion of an 'About Me' or bio-box in your sidebar is important for giving your readers a glimpse into who you are and what you have to offer. Include a photo in this gadget/widget and give them something interesting (besides your amazing blog posts of course) that will make them want to come back.

Two other sidebar options that remain woefully underused are the pages or recent posts features. These allow your visitors to navigate your blog easily between the posts and pages you have available. An archive is nice, but recent posts actually lets the reader see your recent titles instantly and choose what they want to read at a glance. Remember, you have 3 seconds to work with here at first and all of these things matter. There is (almost) nothing worse than going to a blog and finding that you cannot navigate away from the first blog post unless you scroll through every post on the page. I leave almost instantly when I see these kinds of omissions – mostly because it tells me that the blogger doesn't care about writing for me.

The most glaring omission to date is still the subscription box or RSS feed buttons. Your main objective in having a blog is to build your audience. You cannot build an audience if you fail to give them the option to subscribe to your blog. You cannot imagine the amazingly beautiful art and writer blogs I've visited where I was desperate to subscribe, and there was not a single way to connect with the author. Nothing, not even a contact form. The only other thing that comes close to this giant-size error is having your subscription options at the very bottom of your sidebar or buried so that your readers have to go on a scavenger hunt to find them between all of the ads and awards.

If you want to succeed at blogging, you need a subscriber base. You need to give your readers the options they need to subscribe and make sure they're at the very top of the sidebar column, preferably on the right where the eye tends to go first.

I can't guarantee that these things will bring you more followers, and there are a few other little gadgets that can help you track your readers and provide more value to them (I'll save those for another article), but I can tell you that without these things you'll be writing for yourself alone.




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