Your blog is your best marketing tool, and a first impression goes a long way so make it count! In addition to posting regularly and publishing high quality content, it is important to incorporate the following tips to make your blog stand out, grab and keep the attention of your readers, and allow them to quickly and easily find what they want and share or "pin" it.
1. Blog Design: Keep it simple! If your site is too busy with animation, such as blinking, sliding, or rotating graphics, then you lose the reader. Flashing graphics distract readers, and they cannot focus on what you are trying to "say" because they are too overwhelmed by what they "see." Instead, you want a blog that is clean and professional looking, soothing on the eyes (which is why many incorporate blues and greens into their design), and has a nice overall flow.
2. Blog Layout: In deciding what goes where on your blog, keep the most important information at the top of the blog, or "before the fold," which is what your readers see without having to scroll down. Promote your hottest items or a new e-book, as well as your blog and newsletter subscription widgets and social networking "follow me" icons. Since you can only feature a certain amount of items at the top, it’s also a great idea to include a navigation bar. It’s a great tool to help your readers find what they need without having to search.
3. Contact Information: This is very critical piece of information that many forget about — your followers need to be able to contact you! Be sure to include your contact information in the sidebar, in the footer, or on a separate page. It’s an element you must build into your site! Also include your picture. Readers feel better connected if they can put a face with the author.
4. Post Layout: We’ve discussed how important it is to have certain elements in your blog’s design and layout; however it is equally important to carefully plan the layout of your blog posts. You want to create structure and focus using headings and small paragraphs, complement your writing with images and/or video, and use lists (bulleted or numbered) to draw your readers to key points in the message you are trying to convey. Create a balanced post with a visual hierarchy versus a post that is simply long with never-ending paragraphs of unbroken text. Without structure, your readers are lost and therefore unlikely to return.
5. Auto-Post to Social Networking Sites: Set up a system for your blog posts to automatically publish to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. This saves you a lot of time and effort and allows you to reach more people. There are numerous ways to accomplish this, but two popular Facebook tools are NetworkedBlogs and RSS Graffiti. You should also look into a great social media management tool called HootSuite.
6. Page Speed: You need to make sure that your site loads rather quickly, within three seconds (that’s about how long people will wait now-a-days). Pingdom is a great site to help identify what is slowing down your load time. You may also want to consider creating a custom landing page, which would offer the fastest load time. A custom landing page can target your visitor’s attention, deliver a specific message, offer something of value, and still provide quick access to your regular blog.
7. Signatures: Make sure you use a signature at the bottom of each post. It is yet another way people can reach you quickly and without having to look for your contact information. Include your name, email and website address, for example. Some include a picture of themselves and a mini-bio (if you have many authors of your blog).
8. Proofreading: Publish your best work! That means it should be something of value that is free of spelling and grammatical errors. All the platforms have a spell checker — use it!
9. Imagery: Images work and are a must! Pictures or graphics complement the textual content of your blog and provide visual balance. You can create and edit your own using programs like GIMP or PicMonkey, or you can purchase images from sites like Fotolia.com, iStockPhoto.com, and Shutterstock.com.
10. Pin It: If you’re not already using Pinterest, you should! It’s a social bookmarking site that allows others to share "pictures" they love (called pinning). Products, events, family — you name it, and someone has a board for it! Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social networking sites, third behind Facebook and Twitter. Make sure you have a way for visitors to "pin" your images.
Bonus: Want to learn how to start a successful blog? Enroll in the New York Institute of Art and Design's Professional Blogging Course today!