I’m pretty sure I’ve said all those things here on this blog, in fact.
But there’s something else that’s important – and that’s your blog design.
It’s doesn’t matter how awesome your content is if people take one look at your blog and say “Huh?” –
People aren’t going to stick around if they can’t figure out your navigation, or if they have trouble finding your content in a patchwork quilt of ads.
But with the right blog design, your blog will have a flow that invites people in and helps them find their way around. And as they find their way around, your brilliant design will lead them to click on and do the things that you want – like sign up for your list, or click on an ad. Here are a few tweaks you can make to your blog layout that aren’t just good for your readers, they’re good for your business.
Keep It Simple
One of the first choices you make when choosing your blog theme is one sidebar or two. As someone who has used both, I think that having two distracts from your content.
There’s this tendency that a lot of us have (and I’m definitely guilty!) of wanting to fill every available spot with something, and so we put in ads and banners down the whole sidebar. While I’ve done this myself, I really don’t think it’s the best option for blog design, and I’ll give you a couple of reasons why.
1 – Information overload. When it comes to ads, less is more. There’s been plenty of testing done that proves that the fewer ads on your blog, the more clicks you actually get. When you give people too many options, they end up not doing anything.
2 – You may think it improves the odds of making money, but it really just looks kind of spammy. It could actually be running visitors off.
I loaded this blog up with stuff when I first started, just to have something there – then I got
busy lazy and never got around to fixing it – it’s the old “Doctor, heal thyself!” syndrome! I do have plans for fixing everything though!
Design your blog with these things in mind, and you’ll achieve a much better balance between a site that provides excellent content and a blog that makes money.
If It’s Important, Make Sure They See It
What’s your #1 goal on your blog? An ad click? An email opt-in? Whatever it is, it needs to be obvious and it needs to be on every page. This is pretty easy with a blog, since you can use your header and sidebar widget areas to make sure that it’s shown.
If you want to build your email list, make sure there’s at least one opt-in form on every single page. And experiment – find out where it works best. You may get most signups from a welcome bar at the top of the page – or it might come from a pop-up form. But you don’t know until you test. And if people don’t click on the the things you need them to click on, your monetization isn’t going to work.
Keep It Above The Fold
If you aren’t familiar with the phrase “above the fold”, it’s an old journalism/newspaper term – your lead stories should go on the upper half of the newspaper, so when it’s folded, everyone can still see them.
The same thinking applies to the internet and your blog design. Any element that you want to be sure your readers see should be “above the fold” – in this case, in the part that shows before they have to start scrolling down.
Get the Best Results From Ads
If you’re one of the many bloggers who monetize by using ads like Google Adsense, there are several things you can do to maximize your return with them. Keep in mind though, that you must never ask your readers to click, and it must be clear that they are ads; in other words, no sneaky placement on your navigation bar that makes them look like they’re part of your blog menu. That said, these tips should get you more clicks:
– Use an ad color scheme that helps them blend more naturally with your site
– Place ads at the top of your post
– Use the large square ad size.
– Use a WordPress plugin that allows you to insert ads into a variety of locations.
And as mentioned before – test, test, test! If an ad isn’t performing well, try it in another location. Find out what works best on your blog so you maximize your earnings.
Make Sure You Have the Basics Covered
One of the great things about WordPress is your ability to use themes to customize your layout. There are a few basic features you should look for in a theme:
– A top menu/navigation bar that lets readers easily explore your blog
– A search form. It should be up by the navigation bar or near the top of your sidebar.
– Clearly delineated sections – it should be obvious where the content is.
– An easy to find link back to the home page on every single page – usually, you’ll find that in the navigation, too.
These elements are so standard, that people know to use them and look for them intuitively. Not having them can make it harder than it should be for visitors to navigate your blog. What happens? They click off and find a site that’s easier to use.
One of my “side jobs” is website testing – I try sites out to see how they look from a user point of view. What’s most important to me, as a user, is how easy the site is to navigate and how easy it is to find what I’m looking for. Because of that experience, I get how frustrating it can be for a blog visitor to have trouble finding their way around your site.
Fortunately, many – if not most – WordPress themes have these different features built right in; or you can have your web designer add them in for you. If you’re looking for a good theme, there are lots of options out there. Here are some of my favorite places to look –
So how does your page stack up? Are your readers able to find their way around or are they leaving you with a blog that doesn’t pay for itself?