Features To Include When Creating A Blog Site
It doesn't take long to set up and start writing a blog. But if you want to take blogging to the next level and be a pro-blogger there are a few things you need to do.
To start with, your blog has to look and behave like a professional. If it looks like a 13 year-old wannabe pop-star made it your readers won't take it, or you, seriously.
So here's a list of my top twelve features that are a must for every blog to attract and keep readers. They make your blog more user-friendly and attractive and thankfully are easy to include too!
1. Blog Search
I can't tell you how infuriating it is to find yet another blog that has no way to search posts!
Put yourself in your reader's shoes. They happened across one of your posts through a search engine and like what they read. They want to read more and wonder what you've written about a specific topic, but alas there is now way to search the blog. So you are left to trawl through tags and archives...very off putting and time-consuming and so you move to the next website.
2. Contact Page
Set up a page (or even a small widget in your sidebar if you prefer), that let's readers contact you.
This makes you more approachable and 'real' to your readers. It also allows people to share with you things they might not think are suitable for the comments section. It might be a question, suggestion, problem or offer that requires more discretion. For example, if a professional blog would like to ask you to write for them, do you think they want to talk terms and numbers in public?
It's easy to add a contact form to your page, using free services such as Kontactr.
3. Social Follow Buttons
You want your readers to follow you on whatever social sites you hang out on, so they can be kept up-to-do date and notified of your latest blog posts.
The most ideal place to put your icons are in the top right of the site or sidebar so they are seen easily...the more followers online, the more traffic you get!
You can get icons that compliment your blog theme and help strengthen your overall brand.
4. Share Buttons
So a reader has found your latest post (or even an older one) and really enjoyed it, or has something to say about it. They will no doubt have like-minded friends online who they think would also be interested in the article.
Add buttons at the bottom of your posts (I say at the bottom as they are more likely to want to share after having read the whole thing) so each reader can easily share your post with their friends on various sites and through email. There are lots of plugins and built in gadgets for most blogging platforms to do this easily.
A favicon is a 'favourites icon', so the image that appears in your favourites list and in the URL bar.
These are a great idea to strengthen your brand and help readers remember and recognise you quickly. Thankfully Blogger has made it very easy to upload your own favicon to your blog.
6. Blog Menu
So you have your contact page and readers are able to travel about your blog using the search box, that's great!
But how do they get back to your home page to see your latest posts? On most blogs you can click the logo/blog title but not everyone knows this.
Add a menu that is easy to see and use. This is particularly important if you also have more pages that aren't posts or want to link to other areas such as your online shop. Ideally your menu will be horizontal and just below the header. Vertical menus in the sidebar can get lost and most blogs have enough going on in the sidebar without adding to it.
7. About Page
Your blog posts will be constantly moving as you write more of them, so even if you write a first post introducing yourself and telling readers about the blog, chances are they wont see it.
Give your readers a chance to quickly and easily get to know who you are and why you're writing with an 'About' page. Someone may have just read one of your posts and would like to know more about you and your niche. Make sure it's linked in your menu, so it's easy to find.
An About page will help readers to get to know you and make you more 'real'. Try to include a photo of yourself and briefly talk about who you are and the goal of your blog.
8. Email Subscription Box
Whether you use a newsletter subscription service or want to deliver your latest posts straight to your reader's email inbox using Feedburner, you need a way for every reader to become a follower.
Avoid simple rss follow boxes, as most people will follow but then forget about you. You need something that allows you to remind them you're there.
9. Clear Blog Layout
This isn't so much a feature, more of a design element, but nonetheless it is still extremely important.
An overly cluttered and busy blog is off-putting and confusing. The most important thing to keep in mind is keep it simple. An easy to use and clean blog will make readers comfortable and will avoid frustrating them. Preferably have one sidebar (maximum two), with well spaced widgets.
10. Related Posts
You want to encourage readers to stay as long as possible to get to know you and build a relationship with them. A fantastic way to do this is to show them what else you have written at the end of each post. It's kind of like when Amazon recommends items to you based on what you have bought before (dangerous for a bookworm such as myself!), you're saying to your readers 'Hey if you like this, you'll probably like these other posts'.
How To Add Related Posts To Blogger
The simplest way to include related posts, is with the LinkWithin widget. This free widget has the advantage of also including thumbnails of the related posts images which draw the eye to them.
11. Popular Posts
Most blog platforms have a Popular Posts widget built in, just like a search box widget, so it is easy to add to your sidebar.
Popular Posts are a good way to not only show readers what else you have written, but they build an element of trust with your audience. People are more likely to follow you and take action (such as purchasing your products) if they believe others already like and trust you.
12. Grab Button
Grab Buttons are very popular in the blogosphere. They are simply an advert for your blog that others can 'grab' the code for to place on their own site.
A wonderful way of free marketing, you are providing a simple and quick way for other bloggers to support you. People are more likely to take action if a lot of the legwork has been done for them. It also shows readers of possibilities they might not have thought of before.