Building a Successful Blog – Part 8 – Critical Components (Part 1)

What critical components must your blog have to ensure it performs at its maximum potential? We are coming close to the end of “The Right Foundation to Build Upon” section of our series, Building a Successful Blog. This part of the series is where I want to focus some of our attention on just a few of the design elements of your blog.

These are some of the critical components I feel they are a must for building a successful blog. Most, if not all of them come from my own experiences over the last 4 years. And some are those components which I received from my followers on twitter when I ask them the same question. I know you are asking yourself, “why are we talking about this here?” One, because I want to. And two, before you even start the design process, you have to know what you need in your design. Knowing this will make the initial design process run smoother. And you and your design firm will appreciate the fact you thought about these items now and not in the middle of the process.

If there are questions you have to keep in mind when you are considering what your blog is going to look like and how it is going to function they would be:

 

  •  How will it affect your readers’ experience?
  •  Can your readers find what they are looking for?
  •  Will your readers find it easy to participate in the conversation you are promoting on your blog?
  •  If your readers want to reach you, can they?
  •  If they want to subscribe, can they and is it easy to find?
  •  Are you giving them what they want?

Critical Components

1. Search Option

One of your goals as a blogger is to keep your readers on your blog. You want them looking at and reading as much of your content as you can get them to read. And if they can’t find it, they are going to go look for it somewhere else. To help your readers find what they need, provide a search box somewhere towards the top of your blog. Most if not all of the blogging platforms have a way to add this to your blog if you are a do-it-yourself type of person. Make sure you include it. If you are working with a design firm and if they are any good at all, they will include this for you without you having to ask.

2. Contact Information

Even if you don’t provide them with a physical address or a phone number, you have to have some way for your readers to contact you. I do this in a number of ways. There are times when I might include my email address in a post so our readers can contact me about a particular post if they want. The main component we use to provide our contact information is our Contact Page.

On my Contact Page I provide my physical address, the social media/networking services I use and there is also a contact form. The contact form comes to my email when it is filled out by a visitor. If you are a business or a professional service firm, how can your readers contact you? Make sure you provide them with as many ways as you can. One of your goals as a business or firm is to capture possible leads. Give yourself a way to do this.

3. Call to Action

Working right along with the “Contact Information” discussed in #2, you need what is called a Call to Action. Again, if you are a business or a service firm, isn’t one of your goals in your marketing program to capture leads? A call to action will help you do this.

You want to provoke your readers to contact you, get prices, sign up or buy from you. A call to action could be an opt-in for a free ezine or newsletter you are providing to your readers. Or it could be as simple as a quick form for them to request information about a new product you just introduced. The ways you can use a “call to action” are really never ending.

In addition, if done right, you are building a list of individuals who have opted-in to receive information from you. Take advantage of this tool to further your marketing efforts.

4. Subscription Options

This is another one of those components which should be towards the top of your blog and easy to find. Make it clear and easy for your readers to either subscribe via RSS or Email. Why both? Because there are still some who don’t know about RSS, let alone understand it. Everyone knows what email is. We provide both options on all the blogs we design for our clients. And I don’t care which one our readers use. The key here is to make sure it is very visible and easy to subscribe to. And don’t put a whole list of those subscription option buttons on your blog. First of all, they are tacky and you don’t need them. If you will just use the universal button and burn your feed through one of the feed services, they will get the option they want.

One thing we also do is provide a link to a short video explaining what RSS is. Even with so many people reading blogs, the use of and understanding of RSS is still not what it should be. Which is why you should include something explaining what RSS is and how they might use it.

5. Categories (Your blog’s Index)

The categories which you must have on your blog are your blog’s index. This section in your sidebar should be towards the top so it is easy to find. And you should try to limit your categories to no more than 20. (Yes, I know we have too many on Blog For Profit). Each blog post should have a category assigned to it. (One category is best. If you must assign additional “tags” to your post, then use Tags and not multiple categories). This in turn will enable your readers to find those topics by using the categories as someone would use an index or even a table of content. Also, when someone is looking for information on a blog, they are most likely going to use the categories just like an index. They will use categories before they will use an archive calendar. Which is why I am not a big fan of archive calendars on a blog. I think they are a waste of space.

Some bloggers have their categories in their footer or at the bottom of the page. This is fine if your blog is well established and you have 1000’s of subscribers. However, for a newer blog, put them in the sidebar so they can be easily found. Using categories is another way we can keep our readers on our blogs longer. They may not only read the original post which brought them there. They may also hunt around for other post on that topic or a different one by using your categories as an index to find those other post.

6. Services or Products Page

Even though we discussed a Service Page in a previous post. I feel it is worth mentioning a second time here. I feel a service or product page is that important and it is a critical component of your blog. Make it clear and easy for your readers to figure out what you do or sell. This is your opportunity to tell your audience what you have to offer them. Granted, you will be putting up blog post throughout the week. And some of them will most likely discuss your services or products. However, those blog post are not “static” pages. They move down the page until some point in time they disappear off the front page. Your service or product page is one of those critical components which is also a “static” page.

Make it easy to find. Put it in your tab navigation and/or in the sidebar. This could be your company or firm’s brochure. Don’t force your readers to play a guessing game trying to figure out what you do. And if you are going to use a “Page” for this, put your contact information there and a contact form too. Keep your goals in mind as to why you are blogging. I will almost bet you, it is to build a relationship with these readers and hopefully to have them contact you to buy your product or service. Give them what they need to know about what you do or sell.

7. Relevant Content

This is a no brainer in my opinion. If you aren’t providing your visitors with relevant, up-to-date content, why would they ever become regular readers. They won’t. Your visitors are going to go somewhere else to find the answer to their questions or a solution to their problems.The key is this. If you don’t have good, up-to-date, relevant content, all of these other components we are discussing here and in the next post will not matter at all. Your visitors will not come back and your blog will certainly fail.