Every blog design is different, but certain elements tend to haunt even the best blogs across every niche. Below are some of the ghostly horrors that always seem to find a way to make blogs less attractive and powerful than they could be.
The content is not center stage
The most important thing on any blog is the actual text content. If content is lacking and is not posted on a regular basis, no one will come back to your blog. If your blog has awesome content, you need to make sure that it gets most of the attention with the blog design you are using.
Some blog designs become too cluttered with other elements and the blog posts end up taking a back seat. Your home page should display at least 5-10 of your most recent blog posts with snippets of each post showing instead of the full blog post. This is really important for blog post SEO as well. It also helps to have a nice image with each post and a “read more” link to get to the rest of the post.
When you visit a blog, the most recent blog posts should stand out right away and the easiest way to do this is to make the blog post column the widest one. Everything else should be secondary to your content.
One of the hardest things to do with a blog is monetize it. In an attempt to make money, some bloggers go a little too far with the ads, most of which end up making no money. Its better to test one type of monetization method at a time so you can see which ones make you the most money without crowding your blog too much with ads.
Most blogs do best with standard size banner ads, especially 125×125 ads set up in rows in the sidebar. Having dedicated spots for you ads will clean up your site and will help potential sponsors clearly understand what’s available.
Keep your ads to a minimum and don’t forget to have an easy to find “advertise” page set up with your traffic stats, rates and a contact method.
You should try and keep your sidebar clean and organized. The most important real estate is at the top or “above the fold”, which means the area you can see on your screen without scrolling. This will vary for all your visitors based on their screen size and resolution, so some testing is a good idea.
Some important elements that you should consider keeping at the top of your sidebar are:
- Links to About and Contact pages
- Blog categories
- Recent posts
- Important ads
These are just a few ideas, but in the end each blog will differ based on your goals. Just remember that your blog should function as a blog and it needs to be easy to navigate or you won’t have any visitors sticking around to subscribe or help you make money from ads.
Widget and plugin overdose
Because blogging has become so popular, many people have developed lots of plugins and widgets to “enhance blogs”. Unfortunately, a majority of these enhancements slow down your blog and distract the reader from your content, ruining your blog design. It may be cool to have your favorite songs playing in a widget in your sidebar, but is that really important to all your readers?
I also see a heavy emphasis on social tools such as embedded Facebook and Twitter timelines, etc. A lot of this can be cleaned up by simply adding a few icons in your sidebar that link to your social sites, instead of giving everyone you use its own widget in the sidebar.
Again, take a hard look at all the widgets and plugins you use and ask yourself “do these really provide a awesome benefit to my site and my readers?” and “can my blog live without this?”.
No informational pages
In a rush to launch blogs, many blog owners neglect setting up informational type pages such as the about and contact pages. The about page is a very important tool for giving you and your blog a “face” and it helps build trust with visitors by making them feel like they know you on a more personal level. Also, if you don’t have a contact page you may be missing out on many opportunities.
Some of which could include networking with other bloggers, getting new sponsors, connecting more with your fans and so on. You never know who is going to contact you and the only way to find out is to have a contact page with at least your email available on it.
The more popular your blog becomes, the more opportunities may present themselves on a daily basis. Your pages should be linked in your main navigation, footer and sitemap.
Excessive outbound links
While it’s awesome to share your favorite links and help other blog owners by giving them links, you need to focus on your own blog design, and keep your outbound links to a minimum. I have seen blogs with many dozens of links, sometimes well over 100 in their sidebar. This totally destroys any value giving someone a link may have and hurts your blog more than it helps.
Cleaning up your links should be a top priority and you can start by getting rid of any broken links or outdated websites. 10-20 outbound links is a reasonable number to try and stick to.
If you want to link to more sites than that, consider creating a links page and removing them from your sidebar or creating blog posts for the resources such as “my top 20 favorite web design blogs”. Your sidebar is very valuable space and should be used only for the most important elements.