Over the last year or so I’ve been offering bloggers free blog critique. It’s something I do purely to give back to the blogging community and since I started offering this service I have critiqued well over two hundred blogs. It’s something I enjoy and something that has always been really well received and appreciated.
From doing the critiques I have realised that there are many simple ways that you can make your blog more appealing to either readers or brands – or both, depending on what your aim for your blog is. But most people would like their blogs to be easy to read but also enjoyable to read. They’d like them to look nice and for people to want to read them – and for brands to want to work with them.
So here are a few ways that I think you can make your blog more appealing – whatever your reason for writing:
The most important space on any blog is the space ‘above the fold’ – the first screen people land on when they first visit your site. Make that space count! It should draw a reader into your blog and make them want to read more – make them want to scroll down, click or just start reading.
Most people who read blogs like to know who they’re talking to. Make sure you have a photo somewhere – in your header or at the top of your sidebar to give people a friendly welcome. A mini bio in the sidebar is great for new readers to find out quickly who you are and what your blog is about. Consider linking this to your About page to keep them reading.
Make sure your blog posts are easy to read – use a standard font rather than anything too swirly, stick to dark text on a light background – preferably black text and white background. Write in clear paragraphs and break up the text with images. Centralised text is quite hard to read but some people love to write that way – like with most things it really is down to personal preference.
Make sure your sidebar is well laid out and clutter-free. A search bar as high as possible is great for people looking to see if your blog is relevant to them or to a specific campaign. Make sure you have social media buttons for every network that you’re on. Subscribe options should be clearly visible – I’d suggest email and Bloglovin as the two main subscription options. Then anything else in your sidebar should either be navigational, mutually beneficial or shouting about an achievement. Keep it down to awards badges, ambassador logos, advertising or menu/category buttons. If you have a badge on there and you don’t get anything in return – press delete!
As people naturally read from left to right a righthand side bar is preferable as it doesn’t break up your flow when reading. I find that a left hand sidebar gets in the way when reading posts as I always look at it first when reading down to a new line.
Make sure you have visible share buttons, typically at the end of posts and ensure that they are linked to your social networks – it’s nice to be automatically tagged when someone tweets your post.
An About page is really important. It’s the first place a lot of brands/PRs will look to find out about you and your blog and it’s also somewhere regular readers will look to find out more about the people behind the blog. Use this space to talk about you and your family, your interests, your blog and what people will find on the blog and make sure at the end you invite people to contact you – and link to a contact or work with me page.
A Contact page is often the first thing people will look for if they want to contact you. They might look here if they’re looking to work with you too. Make sure you have a contact page and either combine it with a work page or have a separate ‘work with me’ style page. Use this to showcase your work, ways that brands can work with you, any freelance work options that you offer and anything else that fits in a work scenario. Think of it as a bit of a blog CV – you can add brands you’ve worked with, examples of previous work and any awards that you’ve won related to your work. Again, if this is seperate from your contact page link to that and/or add your email address.
Wherever you have your email on your blog – make sure you make this a link so that people don’t have to copy and paste and can just click to email. Anyone reading your blog will love it if you save them time wherever you can.
An ‘As Featured In’ page is great for showcasing where else you have appeared online and off. It adds to your online portfolio and also gives a shout out to other bloggers and brands that you have collaborated with, sharing the love a little.
Make sure your menu bar isn’t too cluttered. The most prominent menu on your blog should be for the things you really want people to see, read and click on – like an About and Contact page. If you want to showcase the topics you write about you can utilise a secondary menu – if your blog theme allows – or put them in your blog sidebar.
If you want people to comment – make it as easy as possible! Services like Disqus and Google Comments mean people have to already be registered to a network and to link that to the comment system to be able to comment or need to register to comment. Have a name/URL option to make sure anyone can comment fairly easily and with as little information as possible.
Make sure each post has at least one photo and make your photos as big as your theme will allow. Landscape photos flow better in blog posts – but two portrait ones side by side work well too. Make them so they’re as wide as your page – as long as they are still in focus and really show them off. There’s nothing worse than beautiful photos that you have to click on and open in a new window to see them clearly.
And that’s pretty much it. Create quality content that is easy to read, easy to share and easy to engage with. Make it simple for people to contact you, have all the most important information where it can easily be found and just keep writing! I hope this helps and I’ll be back with more blog tips soon.