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Blogging Commandment 7 – Thou Shalt Look Great

I’m recapping the 10 Blogging Commandment for a Successful Year.  We’ve discussed, (#8) asking for action, using SEO (#9) to get more traffic, and remembering that your blog is a just another (powerful) tool in your marketing toolbox (#10).

Today we tackle  sensitive and uncomfortable #7 – Thou Shalt Look Great.

Let me be blunt – There’s no excuse for an ugly blog.

There are absolutely gorgeous templates available that can turn any blog into a runway model.  On average these templates will cost you $80 – $150.  This cost isn’t deal-breaker.  The cost of having a unprofessional, 1st grade art project as a blog design is much greater.

7  Signs of an Ugly Blog

Wondering if your blog is really that bad?  Here are some clues to look for:

  1. High Bounce Rates:  Bounce rate measures how many people leave your blog without clicking another link.  Most blogs have fairly high bounce rates (80%+) since many readers only stop by to read one blog post.  Another reason, however, is a coyote-ugly blog that scares readers and convinces them to take their attention else where.
  2. Low Time on Page: Google Analytics also offers the metric – “Time on Page” which  shows how long a reader spends with a single post.  if you find people leaving your page within a few seconds then it’s a good chance that you’ve distracted them with poor design or worse made it difficult to read your post.
  3. Nonexistent Sharing:  Is your Twitter feed a ghost town?  Can’t seem to get people to share posts that seem to like?  Have you ever set-up a blind date?  Would you set your best friend up with someone who has a face for radio?  I hate to admit it but I hesitate to retweet posts on ugly blogs.
  4. Scarce Clicks: Google Analytics has a fascinating feature called In-Page Analytics. This report overlays your blog page with color-coded areas that reflect how many people have clicked on certain elements (eg. links, photos, navigation, etc.) This report pretty quickly shows if your ugly bog is confusing the heck out of readers.  Look for  a high concentration of clicks on your “Home” page.  These people are trying to find their way back to a page that might help them make sense of the blog.
  5. Rainbow Technicolor Dream Blog:  A poorly designed blog is usually a buffet of bad design choices.  Multiple colored fonts, buttons, and graphic elements spot the blog in all the wrong places.  Inconsistent font sizes and photo placement also mar the face of the blog.  In the end, the blog looks like an experiment rather than a consistent publishing platform.
  6. Guest Post Snubs:  The first thing I do when I get a guest post request is check out the blogger’s work.  An ungly blog shuts down the blogger’s chances almost immediately.  My logic is simple, I don’t trust blogger’s who can’t spend the time to set up a decent looking blog.  I suspect that their lack of attention will extend to their guest posts.
  7. You Hate It.  Deep down you know something is “off” about your blog.  You know it’s ugly but don’t want to take the time to fix it.  Hopefully this post convinces you to fix your blog quickly.

If You Have An Ugly Blog…

First, don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish.

You need to make an investment in your businesses marketing tools, your blog included.  Trying to shop for the lowest bidder to cobble together an “acceptable and cheap” blog will lead to poor results.  Essentially you are putting lipstick on a pig and hoping to win the beauty pageant.  It won’t work.

Next…get serious and go shopping for a new look.  I recommend:

1. Studiopress:  Studiopress has a full portfolio of professional and attractive theme designs. I find that Studiopress designs appeal to professional services firms, information marketers, and businesses who want a traditional homepage look and blog functionality.

2. Elegant Themes:  The team at Elegant Themes have assembled an impressive list of eye-popping themes geared for creative types that want to a blog that reflects the refined aesthetic sense.

3. WooThemes: Versatile themes that have an eCommerce bent.  WooThemes also has a great lineup of free plugins that really make their themes sing.

Any theme from these options will put your blog on the right path.

Next… take care of the big stuff

  • Get a professional logo or header graphic that accurately represents your businesses brand.  I recently used 99Designs for my new PS Mastermind Logo, it cost about $300 and I received over 60 great designs to choose from.  I could have tried to get fancy with Powerpoint graphics but the result would have been disappointing.
  • Set-up your theme:  Every theme has its own quirks, challenges, and benefits.  If you aren’t comfortable with graphic design, PHP, HTML, or CSS then decide to get good or hire someone else to get you started.  You’ll just be flushing your money down the toilet if you insist on cobbling your professional theme together.
  • Configure Opt-in Forms, Product Images, and Promotional Buttons:  Successful blogs always get one thing right – their email sign-up and opt-in forms look sensational.  Take a page from their playbook and craft opt-in forms that are easy to read, understand, and use.
  • Focus on the Content:  Configure your headlines, blog post fonts, margins, and photo layouts to give the best possible presentation of your post content.  Watch out for small headline fonts and posts that are difficult to read (i.e. purple lettering on black backgrounds).
  • Introduce Yourself:  Get a headshot from a professional photographer.  Cartoons, avatars, or hiding are a poor substitute for a great photo of you smiling at the camera.  Readers want to connect with you, make it easy by placing your photo and short bio in your sidebar and more information and a bigger photo on your About page.

Now is As Good A Time As Any

Do what it takes now to make sure your blog is selling rather than unselling your business.  You’ll be happy when you can focus on building your business rather than making excuses for your blog.

What can I help you with?  Talk to me in the comments.

About Stan

Stan Smith is the CEO of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

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