How to create a professional blog that attracts and retains visitors.
We talk a lot about the importance of content marketing—and blog content in particular—for building your SEO, improving relationships with clients, and establishing your expertise within an industry. But with so much attention on blog content, it’s important not to neglect another crucial aspect of your blog: its appearance.
An attractive blog design goes a long way toward solidifying your reputation as a trusted source of information. More than that, it helps keep visitors on your site, where they will read more of your content and perhaps even grow into leads.
We’ve put a lot of work into our own blog design, and we’re pretty proud of it. Along the way, we did a lot of research into other blogs to try to find design features we felt aided user experience and resulted in an attractive design. Here are some of our biggest takeaways.
1. Give your featured images some TLC.
Images are a big part of any design, and when it comes to blogs, the image is part of what will convince someone to click on your article and read it. Those images need to look good both on individual blog posts, and on your main blog page where they will be displayed next to other blog images.
Over the years, we’ve put more design effort into those featured images so that they have a more branded appearance, rather than looking like a collection of stock photos. Moreover, we’ve created some custom functionality around how our images are displayed on the blog page and throughout the site to make those content types more flexible. We think this gives readers a more coherent experience as they navigate our site.
2. Call attention to high-value content.
Our blog content is not created equal. Some posts are high-level overviews of general topics, while others are detailed deep-dives into technical subjects. Depending on who we’re writing for and what their interests are, some of that content will be more valuable than others.
We want to draw attention to that content, which is why we created “best of” sections on our blog and push that content to featured positions on our home page. Doing so means our visitors get to see our most valuable posts, rather than whatever was most recently published.
3. Provide structure through curated categories.
It’s common to see many blogs treat categories like blog tags. As a result, their category lists are long and unstructured, and it’s hard to see which categories are most important. Furthermore, these categories are often seemingly random creations, generated by an intern in 2010 who was charged with writing a light-hearted company update post. They created a “random stuff” category, and now it’s on the list, undifferentiated from the category that holds your lead writer’s thoughtful and in-depth series that shares all your hard-won industry expertise.
We know. We’ve been there. By the time we got around to treating our blog like the serious content tool it was, we had to go delete years of “musings” posts that had nothing to do with our current brand. The point is: we deleted them, and then we created newer, tighter category list that brought focus to our blog and helped guide users to the kind of content they actually want to read. We’re happier with it, and, we believe, so are they.
4. Use blog tags to suggest related content.
Blog tags are frequently confused with blog categories, but they’re actually supposed to be far more flexible and granular. As we’ve written before, if categories are your chapter headings, tags are your index. You want to use them more frequently and more topically.
However, you can also use them to suggest posts that are more related to each other than the overarching category. This is another way to guide users toward higher-value content based on their interests.
5. Incorporate visual hierarchy though headers and sub headers.
The big danger with any blog is that the reader will be lost in a sea of text—especially if you’re writing longer articles. That’s why headers and subheaders throughout the post can help users skim content more readily.
Headers also help with SEO by signaling what the content is about, and they make it easier for users who rely on screen readers to navigate your content. As usual, good design leads to good usability!
6. Display publication information such as author and date.
I’m always annoyed when I go to read a blog post and I can’t see who wrote it or when. What if I liked the writing and wanted to read more from that person? Or what if I need to know how recently the post was published to see how relevant it is to current industry practices?
There are good reasons you might leave this information off. For instance, if you can’t stick to a regular publishing schedule, removing the date can keep that from being too obvious. But readers do look for it, and some of them will be frustrated if it isn’t readily available. It’s a small detail, but details matter.
7. Leave plenty of white space so your content can breathe.
Finally, organize the layout of the blog in a way that sets off each post. You put work into that writing, so let it shine. Don’t cram items so closely together that it’s difficult to see what each post is. Remember, you aren’t limited by space the way you are in a print publication, and your readers know how to scroll.
Give your blog the design treatment it deserves.
Your blog is a marketing tool designed to attract visitors to your site. You want them to look at it. In fact, if you use it correctly, it’s possible that more visitors will enter your site through your blog than through your home page.
Give your blog the care and attention worthy of such a high-profile page on your site. It works hard for you. It deserves the special treatment.