This is potentially one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself as a blogger, and yet is where I see pretty much every blogger go wrong. I’ve even had trouble with this myself over the years each time I redesign my blog.
The challenge, when coming up with a blog design, is to ensure your blog conveys a message about why it exists. This message should focus on the reader and why they would want to visit the blog and consume the content there. It’s the purpose, the benefit, the reason why, the what’s in it for me statement that gives your blog meaning to a new visitor.
Over the years I’ve been asked to review blogs, often by members of my coaching programs during live calls. Sometimes the question I’m asked is simply how do I improve my blog?
In almost all cases, when I first go to visit the blog in question, I can’t immediately figure out why the blog exists. What is its purpose?
The challenge with a blog, as compared to say a landing page or sales page which have one objective, to get the opt-in or convert the sale, is that blogs are trying to do multiple things, including -
- You want people to read your content
- AND opt-in to your email list
- AND subscribe to your RSS feed
- AND subscribe to your blog updates via email
- AND to browse your archives
- AND to click your sponsor’s banners
- AND to click through to your product or service sales pages
- And so on and on…
In my opinion, blogs, although they have multiple objectives, each of varying importance, have really only one core objective to aim for –
To be read.
Or in the case of a video blogger or podcaster – to be listened to.
The idea is that your content should be the main focus, because if you can engage your audience, you will have an opportunity to meet your other objectives thanks to the attention you’ve been given. Some of your goals will be met as a byproduct of focusing on creating engagement, for example, people will subscribe to your RSS feed if they like your content – they will go looking for the orange button.
The natural follow on from this idea is to highlight your blog articles as the main first message to present to new visitors to your blog. The problem with this is that your current latest blog headline is usually the content that makes the first impression, and if you’re like me, your blog subjects are diverse, so no one article can accurately sum up what your blog is about, although you can certainly give a general idea.
You may argue that focusing on the email opt-in should be the main objective of a blog, however if that was the case, why wouldn’t you use a landing page instead?
Landing pages earn much higher conversion rates than blogs do for email opt-ins, even if you use a pop-up on your blog, because the focus is clear – give me your email and I’ll give you this in return.
However blogs do so much more than landing pages. Blogs want to get traffic from search engines (landing pages rarely do this well because the content is sales pitch, and very brief). Blogs want to foster an audience long term, attract repeat visitors, demonstrate the expertise of the author, create real relationships over time, as well as all the practical outcomes I mentioned above.
Landing pages, combined with a solid email follow-up sequence, can meet some of these objectives, but the most important one, attracting the traffic in the first place, is not something landing pages do inherently by themselves. You need another traffic source, like affiliates or Pay Per Click to drive the traffic, where blogs can be a traffic driver in and of themselves – and a considerably good one.
In short, blogs are conflicted in terms of goals, but that’s because they can do so much, which is why so many people go wrong when it comes to figuring out how to make the right “first impression” with their blog. It’s not a simple answer.
How To Make A Good First Impression With Your Blog
So what is the key to explain what your blog is about in a matter of seconds?
The answer is to combine what we know about how people interact with websites, with some good old marketing psychology. And of course, to test.
The first thing you should do when you set up a blog is ask a relative or friend who is not savvy to Internet marketing or blogging and have them view your blog. Give them 30 seconds or so, then ask them what your blog is about. If they can’t answer with something close to what impression you want to give, then you need to make changes.
Below are my tips on how to make a good first impression with your blog and make it clear why it exists. Bear in mind that these tips work best in combination, as each element enhances the other elements to deliver a unified message. We are after consistency, not conflict – a harmony of elements.
The challenge is that you simply may not know yet what your blog is trying to do because your strategy is in flux. It’s easy to make this work when you have a clearly defined funnel and positioning strategy, but if you don’t, you’re going to have to be flexible and keep adjusting these things as you change focus.
Here is my advice on how to make a clear statement about what your blog is about –
- By far the most important element for clarifying what your blog is about is to include a description byline, or tag line. So many bloggers make the mistake of not having this, yet it is critical for clarifying your blog’s topic. This is a simple sentence that sits just below your blog title and explains what your blog is about. You might equate this to a USP (a unique selling proposition) if you were to describe your business. It’s like the elevator pitch for your blog, in one sentence.
My current by-line as I type this article is “Down to earth advice and tips for bloggers and Internet marketers“. This sentence sits just below the title/logo of my blog. If your blog doesn’t have something like this I have one piece of advice – add a byline today
- Your blog’s logo or name is absolutely critical, and represents your brand, but because it is short, doesn’t offer enough information about your blog. This is why the byline is important. If you combine a good logo-title with a good byline, then you have a fantastic combination that can both leave a lasting impression and offer a practical explanation about your blog. This is why it is worth taking some time before deciding on what to call your blog.
In my case Entrepreneurs Journey is a very emotive and descriptive title, which to a degree gives some indication about what my blog is about – though it is very fuzzy – it doesn’t really explain what my blog offers to people. The title in this case is a good brand, but requires further specific clarification, which can be achieved with the other elements of my blog.
- I’ll briefly mention the domain name is obviously relevant as well. Your blog title is usually the same as your domain name, so they have the same considerations. The challenge with the domain name and title is to get a combination of good brand, good keywords and good explanation of what your blog is about. You can’t always satisfy all these elements equally, so you have to be flexible with how you go about meeting each objective.
- The title tag (this is the title at the top of the browser bar) is possibly the most important element of your blog, especially when it comes to search engine optimization, but it counts for humans as well, and therein lies your challenge. You need to come up with a solid title for your blog, that presents a clear message about your blog’s subject matter, and also hits the right keywords for search engine queries.
If you’ve set up your blog’s internal structure right, then each page of your blog has a unique title tag (usually the headline of the article itself), and only the homepage has a descriptive sentence the attempts to encompass what your entire blog is about. This is a good place to once again use a sentence to clarify your blog’s purpose, bearing in mind this is also the information search engines will show in their results pages, so it’s even more important.
- Your main call to action, like an opt-in box, or a video play button, or a large graphic, whatever the first element of your blog that grabs the attention of eyeballs, needs to further represent your blog’s purpose.
If you’ve prioritized your blog design elements, after your first article content headline, the next element, or it might even be the first element you focus reader attention on, is some form of call to action, usually with an opt-in box along with it.
For example on my blog, the opt-in for the Blog Profits Blueprint is the main call to action, especially because it has my face in it (the small video box). Faces are usually the first element to grab attention. The opt-in explains what value I offer in exchange for your name and email.
Although this call to action has a specific purpose, it’s also an extension of your overall blog subject matter. If a person landed at my blog and saw nothing else but my opt-in box, they already form a perception of me as a blogging expert. Although this is not the only subject my blog is about, it is the main element in terms of my sales funnel and what my brand has been built on.
Your main call to action says a lot about what your blog is about, even though it’s only in reference, since it has a purpose of its own.
- Your blog content headlines, if you’re following my suggestion to focus on reader engagement, will be in the hottest area of your blog (the left top or center top areas, based on the eye-tracking heatmaps), which means not surprisingly, what you write about tells people what your blog is about.
This part of your blog is the area that changes the most frequently, since each time you publish a new article, a new headline features in the hottest area of your blog. Depending when a person comes to your blog homepage, dictates what message you deliver to them.
This is why it’s important your blog content strategy stays on-topic and consistent. If your subject matter jumps all over the place, you’re sending mixed messages about what you stand for and what your blog is about. Of course if you’re not sure yet, then don’t put too much pressure on yourself either – you are allowed to experiment with content, that’s what is fun about being a creative writing blogger – but try and get yourself to a defined topic area eventually.
The rest of the features of your blog don’t have as much of an impact on your blog’s first impression. If you focus on the list above, you give your audience a clear indication about what you offer them.
Bear in mind at all times focus on benefits for your readers, rather than features of what you are talking about. Emotional benefits always win over feature explanations, which create a lasting impression and a higher level of engagement. Once a reader knows what you offer and feels an emotional desire for it, you have them right where you want them (cue evil laugh).
Blogging On Weekends