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Building a successful blog requires writing and creating as many killer blog posts as you can. My own personal goal is to write a killer post every single time. What is the point, otherwise? The way I look at it, my vid central review is precious. As a blogger and small business owner, I will always have too much to do and not enough time to possibly get it all done.
I am not going to waste my time writing content that is just okay. I am better off spending that time promoting the awesome, compelling, killer posts I’ve already written—in other words, promoting my pillar content. Pillar content, for those of you who don’t know, consists of those blog posts that draw traffic.
These posts provide the structure to your blog, and they become the posts that people remember, the ones that get lots of comments, pins, Facebook shares, or that are easily optimized for great search-engine traffic. Generally, the more pillar content you create on your site, the more successful you’ll be. On my own site I’ve written lots and lots ofpillar-content posts, and I continue to create several more each month. Ifyou go to vid central review, you will see a series of images on my sidebar labeled “Popular Posts.” Those are some examples of pillar content.
It used to be that many blogs were more like online diaries than websites. Posts were published chronologically, with the newest post at the top. Once a post was bumped off the front page, it was likely to be relegated to the depths of the “archives,” never to be seen or heard from again. Back in the day, a few smart bloggers (and a few lucky ones too) realized that individual blog posts could be optimized for great search-engine results, and they benefited from continued traffic on older posts for popular search terms.
The vast majority of bloggers, however, seem to be either confused or overwhelmed by exactly how to optimize a post for great search-engine results (we will talk more about that later too!), thus often unknowingly limiting their traffic to their most current posts. While search-engine optimization (SEO) is still very relevant, Pinterest has completely leveled the playing field and it is now a whole new ballgame.
Again, we will talk a lot more about Pinterest in chapter 5, but for now just know that pillar content is important because THAT is the stuffthat goes viral. Are you following me? The train ofthought is pretty simple, really We live in a visual world that is only becoming more visual by the day. When it comes to web and graphic design, quite frankly, most people’s expectations are pretty darn high and getting higher all the time.
Websites and blogs aren’t the “new vid central review” anymore, which means there are too many well-designed, beautiful blogs out there for a poorly designed, amateurish-looking blog to ever do well. Here is the brutal truth: you can write the best, most interesting, most compelling articles in the whole world, but if the package doesn’t sell it, you are doomed.
If your site design is garish or obviously looks like you did it yourself, or if your graphics are ugly, your navigation frustrating, or your images are poor quality, most people will turn away before they even give you a chance. I’ve learned this lesson firsthand on my own site. My previous site design was very pretty, at least to me, but it was busy! It had four main colors, flowers in the header, stripes in the background, a navigation bar that didn’t make any sense, and, to top it off, a long footer with a serious case ofTMI (too much information).
The problem wasn’t really that it was ugly, or even that it wasn’t a professional design. It just was way too much, particularly because I had begun writing a lot more about cleaning and organizing and simplifying, since that has been a major theme in my life. The busy design didn’t fit the content, and the blog was floundering. I actually couldn’t see the problem for myself.
One morning I stumbled across a nasty comment that someone had written about my site design on a post of mine they had shared on Facebook. The comment said something like, “Why is this lady talking about organizing? Her site is the ugliest, most cluttered website I’ve ever seen!” Ouch. I’m sure she hadn’t intended for me to read that particular comment, but her brutal honesty was definitely a rude awakening.
It made me realize just how important it was to have a blog design that didn’t just reflect my own personal tastes, but that presented my content in the best possible light. After several months oflicking my wounds and pondering the situation, I finally decided that she might be at least partially right. I contacted my blog designer (Heather Moritz of Moritz Blog Design), and together we came up with a design that was simple, organized, and easy to navigate, with fewer colors and more white space. My traffic started climbing almost overnight, not just a little bit, but dramatically.
I started getting a lot more traffic to older posts because with the new navigation, people could actually find what they were looking for, and all the fantastic pillar content that I had worked so hard to create was finally being read and pinned and shared. Presentation is everything. If you’ve been blogging for a while and already have a blog design in place, this is the time to take a step back and look at it with a critic’s eyes.
Even if you spent money on a professional design, even if you just got it all set up, be brutally, painfully honest. Ask yourselfthe following questions: • Is some aspect of your design holding you back? Is it too cluttered, too garish, or too confusing? • Does your navigation make perfect sense? Can your readers find what they are looking for? • Does your design tell newcomers, at first glance, what your blog is about? Would they be able to tell in thirty seconds the main types of posts at your site, and would they know how to find them? • Are your graphics crisp and clean? Do they use appealing, high-quality images? • Are your fonts easy to read? • Is there a clear call to action? Do your readers know what you want them to do or where you want them to go? Try to look at your site with the eyes of a stranger, and if you can’t, ask a trusted friend or colleague to give an honest assessment.
You might be surprised at what they see. Another great way to get an unbiased opinion is to use Peek2, a free user-testing service. Just go to the site, enter your URL and email address, and they will send you a fiveminute video ofsomeone using your blog for the first time. While improving your user experience is an ongoing challenge, for now, let’s talk about some ofthe most important elements ofa good blog presentation.
Keep It Organized Remember back in chapter 1 when you determined exactly what you planned to write about, and you developed your main site theme, your subtopics, and your subcategories? This is where you use them. Your website’s navigation should make it easy to find the things you write about in a way that makes sense to even the most casual and inexperienced blog reader.
Ifit doesn’t, change it. For the record, creating cohesive navigation that ensures a great experience for the reader does NOT magically happen on its own. Additionally, unless you are paying a whole lot of money for your design, your blog designer will not be creating your navigation either, nor should they be. Here’s why: no one knows your content like you. Take the time to create categories, and to fit those categories into subtopics.
Make sure every post is categorized, and then eliminate categories that don’t fit. Once everything is categorized the way it should be, make sure your navigation bar is clear, concise, and easy to—you guessed it—navigate. Next, take the time to make sure your very best content is highlighted in a way that stands out to people, and make it available to them in as many ways as you can.
Did you write a killer series or e-book? Make a button for your sidebar that highlights it AND make it a category in your navigation bar. Do you have a few awesome posts that readers love? Make a popular post page AND add a “most popular posts” section to your sidebar. Above all, make sure it makes sense. Ask a few honest friends or family members— preferably ones that don’t spend much time on your site—to critique your navigation.
Could they find what they were looking for? What were they drawn to? What turned them off? Then, once you’ve gotten an honest look at what is wrong, fix the problems! Keep Your Design Clean and Simple I suppose this is a matter of personal preference, but I firmly believe that the best blog designs are also the simplest. Your design should include the bare minimum of what people need to be able to find, and nothing else.
Yes, of course you want your blog design to reflect your personality, but it should do so in an understated way. The most important thing to remember is that an amazing design won’t keep people if the content stinks, but a bad or overly busy design will turn people away, even ifthe content is amazing. Your design should be the tasteful wrapping that makes people want to see what’s inside.
You’ll notice that none of these blogs look anything alike, nor are any of them “blah.” Clean and simple means they can let the content show through. Between advertising, social media buttons, subscription boxes, and blog posts, every single site is full of information overload. Do your readers a favor and keep it simple.
Rock Your Images I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have amazing pinnable photos enhancing every single blog post. We live in a very visual world, and Pinterest has only made it more so. If you are not willing to do what it takes to ensure that the images on your site pop, you might as well quit right now. It is that important.
Of course not everyone agrees with me on this point and some people may even be quick to point out a number of very popular websites that don’t have great images or even any images at all. However, I would dare to bet that most—if not all—of the sites in question became popular in the early days of blogging, way before the advent of Pinterest, when the blogging culture was much different than it is now. They now have the luxury ofalready being successful to ensure that their loyal readers will continue reading.
My main contention is that the current culture has changed significantly. There are now thousands upon thousands of blogs out there to compete with, and more being created every day. Just like a beautiful design won’t save your blog but a bad design will sink it, beautiful images will enhance and help you promote the amazing content that is already there, while poor-quality pictures will mean no one even takes the time to look.
Of course, depending on the subject matter of your blog, you don’t necessarily have to take your own photographs. There are plenty of stock photo services available that can provide gorgeous, compelling imagery for your blog. The downside is that most ofthese services charge for their photos, which can get expensive quickly.
In addition to the photos I take myself, I frequently use stock images from stock photo sites such as iStockphoto.com and 123rf.com. iStock generally has a better selection, but their prices have gone up significantly in the past few years. That said, ifyou are a DIY or food blogger, or even ifyou do an occasional DIY project or recipe on your blog, you will be well served to learn as much as you can about photography, staging, and photo editing
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