Get Your Blog Ready for 2012 in 13 Steps
When you are used to seeing something on a daily basis, your eyes become so accustomed to the picture that you can hardly see what’s become old and boring. Same is the case with your blog.
How long has it been since you have had another (good) look at it, checking for discrepancies in design, content and layout?
Has it been a while? It is good because now when you do, it will almost seem like laying eyes on it for the first time. You can see it from the eye of a first time visitor and see if it is time to make some changes.
Let’s spruce things a bit – it’s time to give your blog a makeover. Let’s look at it with a critical eye.
1. Clean up your Design
When you open your blog homepage, what kind of first impression does it leave?
Do you get a feeling that it’s a very busy blog, with lots of things going on all at once? Too many ads perhaps? Videos? Sliding bar? Photos?
Do you get an uncluttered feeling so that your eyes are immediately drawn to the content?
Make sure the design conveys what is intended. See that it is professional and not amateurish. This will go a long way in creating trust in your readership.
2. Answer Important Questions Fast
New visitors are a precious and a rare commodity. They come to your blog and they are almost always in a hurry.
In the first five seconds of them landing on your blog, you should quickly answer these questions.
– Who are you
– What is your blog about
– What you offer your reader, preferably something that is unique to your blog
In other words, you need to convince the new people to give your blog a chance, and you have to do it fast.
3. Reassess your Brand
The easiest way to understand your brand is to think about what people say about your blog when you are not there.
You can start with the blog title and tag line. Perhaps your tag line could use another look? It’s really good to be sure that you are doing things right from the ground up.
If you haven’t gotten your own domain name by now, now is the time to rethink that decision. Nothing says more ‘unserious’ than having a wordpress or blogspot extension in your url.
4. Write a Profile of your Ideal Reader
Imagine somebody reading your blog.
– What sort of a person are they?
– How old?
– What might they do for a living?
– Their interests and hobbies?
– What are their problems?
– What keeps them up at night?
– What are they looking for when they come to read your blog?
Keep them in mind when you are writing your posts.
Do a reader survey if you have a large enough audience. Do not assume your ideal reader is you. They might have more varied interests that you.
When you write for a specific type of reader, it helps you to see if your style suits this type of audiences. If you are marketing blog; an inspirational, soothing type of writing style might not be appropriate for your readers. On the other hand, if you are mommy blog, writing in a snarky way might push your readership (mothers) away.
Always present your content in such a manner that is easy to understand and you are not using too much jargon or technical language.
5. Add your Author Bio on the Sidebar
Put up a confident, friendly picture of yourself on the about me page, and on the sidebar as a bonus. You want to present a professional image of yourself that shows you being approachable — a smile works wonders for your image!
6. Update your ‘About me’ Page
Did you think your about me page is about ‘you’ . Hmm, funny, that’s what I thought too, turns out I was wrong, at least in the way I perceived it.
Your about me page is where you tell people how you can help them. Turns out your ‘About me’ page is about your reader.
Some things to keep in mind while writing your ‘About me’ page.
– How you can help them?
– What makes you qualified to do so?
– Why did you start this blog — tell them your story.
Use a clear, friendly, approachable picture of yourself and not a logo. Most people prefer to interact with a person.
7. Have One Clear Call to Action
What do you want your readers to do when they visit your blog? If you want them to subscribe, then ask clearly and without hesitation. Know you are a blog worth subscribing to and people will get the idea.
Offering something free like a report or an ebook is a great way to encourage people to sign up. It is not a bribe, plus if your ebook or blog content was not worth subscribing for, you will be left with many unhappy readers and eventually lot will unsubscribe.
Keep your opt-tin easy and in a place that is easy to spot. Usually, the top of your side bar works well for most people.
8. Display Social Media Buttons
Make your posts easy to share but don’t go overboard with this one.
If you give your readers too many choices, chances are they won’t use any.
Plus, it is good to show some social proof on your blog. Show people that it is a place worth coming to.
9. Show Popular Posts
A lot of new bloggers don’t do this initially simple because it never occurs to them.
Use plug-ins or manual links under a link category.
It helps new visitors to your blog to see your best stuff quickly and decide if they want to stay and explore. Don’t worry if they don’t, they probably don’t fit your ideal reader profile anyway.
10. Rethink your Categories
When you started your blog, you might have a different purpose then. If things have changed a bit, or if you are writing about other things than originally intended, it’s time to shuffle your categories.
Don’t go overboard and list a dozen categories. 5-6 work well, some posts can go in more than one. Keep them simple and use titles that are self explanatory.
11. Look at your Latest Headline
People literally spend hours trying to craft the perfect headline — I actually don’t.
Headlines need to serve 3 purposes
– They clue your reader in about what is coming in the article;
– They make a promise of delivering something that will essentially help your audience out
– They make your reader curious enough to look
I often write a basic headline first, even before I write my post. It is simple, plain and looks like an ordinary sentence. By doing this, the purpose of the post becomes crystal clear in my mind so while I am writing it, I can identify when I am going off on a tangent. I am able to follow my one train of thought and prevent over-thinking leading up to wastage of hours.
It helps give cohesiveness to the posts so all bits and pieces of information in the post are nicely tied to each other.
Later you can tweak and play with your headline to your heart’s content. As long as you can answer this question ‘why should I read this post?’ you are fine.
12. Create Screen Friendly Content
People tend to scan content on the web. The easier it is to read, the more it will be read. Use subheads, bullet points and numbered lists within your body of text.
One sentences and small paragraphs are immensely useful for breaking up large chunks of text. Keep the flow of information going or people will get confused or annoyed and leave your piece.
Give people bite sized, easy digestible content and they will always come back for more.
13. Write for Your Reader
Look at your blog from the eye of a stranger. Who seems to be the most important person on the blog? Is it the author of the blog or is the reader?
Make sure everything you do on your blog has a single purpose — how you can help your readers. Do everything you can to show how important your readers are and be genuine. You will gain much love and respect.
What are you going to change on your blog today?
Marya is a communicator of ideas – writing for bloggers, writers and content creators. Catch more of her posts at Writing Happiness. Grab her FREE 29 page ebook How to Write Blog Content that Works – Get Noticed Online (and elsewhere!). Follow her on twitter @WritingH, she is very friendly.
8 Responses to “Get Your Blog Ready for 2012 in 13 Steps”
Good call on showing popular posts. I think this is tough for new bloggers because page views are so low that it’s difficult to guage which post are really that popular. Would posts that are the most popular with 10 visitors a day still be the most popular with 1000 daily visitors?
Hans Henrik Appel
Well, I was planning to make a total makeover of my site with a fully responsive theme. But for now I think I will make one change before any other.
I have decided to kill all banner ads on the site. The value they give me held up against the added load time and the space and attention they drag from my own content is not worth the effort in my opinion.
Once that is done, I’ll return to working on my new (very cool) theme. 🙂
Marya | Writing Happiness
@John You could also change your popular posts – I know I do. My popular posts were different to what I have up now. There are many plugins for this but you could also do this manually. Thanks for your comment. 🙂
@Hans I applaud your decision, as you can see from my own blog, I really admire clean, minimalistic themes with emphasiz on content. Others might not disagree. If the ads are not worth putting, chuck them out I say. Thank you. 🙂
Marya | Writing Happiness
Sorry, my earlier response was to Bryan …
A nice and clear “To-Do” list! Thank you!
Unfortunately my blog is too new to change it (1 month old) but I will definitely apply your advice next year. For the moment I am trying to change the style of my comments but it is hard for me…I am not a wordpress specialist, not yet!
Thank you anyway 🙂
Marya | Writing Happiness
Hi Lenia, even if you are new, its nice to have some help that steers you in the right direction, right? Thanks for your comment! 🙂
You have provided a good checklist for the coming year. I’m with Bryan on the most popular posts. I’m not sure my blog is ready for that yet, but I also like to have the most recent so that people can see at a glance what they may have missed.
As far as the about page, your comments about it being about the reader/visitor are valid. Just finished a branding challenge where we wrote our story, but it was about us. I’m going to have to rethink that page to make sure people know the blog is not all about me.
Nice post, Marya.
Well they do say that a change is as good as a holiday. With the Holiday season almost upon us, going over our sites and making appropriate edits and polish ups, could make for some noticeable improvements to our sites performance. That would be something nice to aim to achieving for the start of the new year.
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