You blog for business – I get it. You spend hours creating high-quality content on your blog because you want to stand out from the crowd and catch the attention of your ideal reader. You understand people hardly buy information products or coaching on the first encounter and that you need to slowly make this newly acquired audience like and trust you. Your main focus is on content marketing, and for that you need them to hand over their contact details – their email address.
And so if you want them to opt in, you want to make sure that you deliver a killer first impression on your blog visitors. Why? It’s pretty simple: First impression matters.
We all judge a book by its cover, a restaurant by the number of people sitting inside and a movie by the queue forming outside it. And the same thing happens to your potential readers when they go shopping in the world of blogs.
Their time is precious so while they look at many, they can’t read through them all. What makes them stop in their blogathon is when a blog looks so enticing on its first look, i just grabs their attention and refuses to let go. They just have to find out who the blogger is and what are they writing about. They decide to stay longer.
All this takes a few seconds, first few seconds for any blogger to create a really good first impression on potential readers. You can either wow someone by creating a good first impression or you risk losing them – fast.
The easiest way to make a great first impression is through design. And in this blog post I am going to give you 9 tweaks you can use to elevate your first impression.
#1 Pick the right theme
When somebody finds a blog, what’s the first thing they notice? The design.
Is it professional or amateurish? Are the images of high quality or are they images taken from the web? Do you have bright flashing ads or sliding galleries? Is everything pink and mauve or maroon and black?
People have their own reasons for admiring a blog design; it’s a matter of personal taste really but you need to make sure that you are sending the right message. Does it look fun or serious or quirky or something else? Is the focus of the blog on the content or on selling some product or service? Is it a how-to blog? Is it a photo blog?
Think carefully about these before choosing a theme and designing the look of your blog.
You don’t have to hire a designer to make it look good if you don’t have the budget. You can easily buy a custom theme and make it look professional instantly. There are many places to buy these themes from such as Studiopress, Woo, Elegant and if you want to customize yourself then look into options such as Headway Themes (drag and drop).
A blog looks professional when there is consistency across all elements. Nothing looks out of place and there are no glaring errors to spot. And when you look professional, you create confidence and trust in your brand. People start to develop a soft corner for you. They are already on your side.
#2 Highlight the most important info
When somebody visits a blog for the first time, they have a few questions on their mind they need answered ASAP.
- Who is the blogger?
- What is this blog about?
- How does it help me?
- Where are some of your most popular posts?
- Where can I subscribe?
Your job is to answer as many of these questions within a few seconds. And the easiest way to do this is to simplify your navigation.
Use your blog title to answer why this blog is relevant to them. Always go for a clear title rather than a clever one. If you happen to have something that is more creative, don’t fret. Pair it with a tag line that explains things a bit more clearly. Add a mini author bio on the top of your sidebar and introduce yourself.
Add links to your most popular blog posts on the sidebar and title it as ‘reader favourites’, ‘most popular’ or ‘top posts this month’. Go back to your blog and see if you can locate all of this information quickly and easily. These should be visible on the first look.
#3 Design for humans
Know the difference between good design and a bad one. You don’t just want a pretty website, you want a design that converts. A good design is not what looks good only, but what works. It’s not about form only. It’s about paying attention to form and function, both.
Anything that is clickable should look different. If it is a button, a banner or a link, people should be able to see that they can click on it. There should be a clear element of contrast and anything with a call to action must stand out on the page.
People should be able to use your blog with ease. At any time, people should know where they are, and how to navigate to your home page or any other page. Make sure your navigation is consistent.
Make your blog screen friendly. Fonts should be easy to read. They shouldn’t be too small. Don’t use big blocks of text, break into smaller chunks. Use headlines, sub-headings, bulleted lists and bold to highlight important elements.
#4 Have lots of white space
Is your blog clean or cluttered?
If there is too much information, it might overwhelm people even before they have actually started reading something. Too many visual design elements confuse people; they don’t know where to begin. Their eye won’t know where to settle and can’t focus on the important stuff – your posts. Get rid of the clutter. It makes the experience very unpleasant to start off with.
The number one culprit is your sidebar. Most people keep adding stuff to their sidebar thinking it makes them look legit. Unfortunately, it just overwhelms people with too much information.
Every sidebar needs a few things:
- An opt-in box
- A mini author bio
- Link to your best blog posts
- Link to your resources
Everything else is a distraction. Especially a search box, archives section, list of categories, tag clouds, other blogs you follow, your latest tweets, ads that don’t bring in significant money … you get the idea.
Some conversion experts will tell you not to include your social media profiles links on the sidebar as your aim should be to keep the visitors on your blog for as long as possible. However, I’ll leave this one up to you. Exercise you judgement when it comes to adding external links to your sidebar.
#5 Limit Your Copy
When you go to a blog, do you read every single word, or every paragraph on each page? No. Neither does your ideal reader.
Gone are the days of the websites that were filled with tons of words. We live in a world where we are being constantly bombarded from messages from every direction. Nobody has free till to kill. Nobody wants to read huge blocks on text on their screen, unless it is a book or magazine they just paid for.
Now is the time to choose. Get to the heart of the matter. What do you want to say? Say it quickly. Be concise – be succinct. Don’t use huge paragraphs of information and copy on your website/blog. It is just a big waste of real estate.
Less is more and when you reduce the amount of required reading on your website, you will see an increase in people signing up to your list. Try it.
#6 Place your opt-in forms in strategic places
On a blog, the most important call to action is to join the list. Create an irresistible freebie offer for your opt-in and then bring attention to it. You want to place your opt-in form in a couple of places.
Above the fold: Above the fold means the part of your website people see first, without having to scroll down. The aim is to grab their attention immediately.
Some excellent ways to do this are:
- Place a feature box just under your header. You will have to ask somebody to do this for you as it is quite technical, unless you are a tech expert yourself.
- Place a sign up form on top of your sidebar.
- Install a hello bar, which displays a thin horizontal bar across the top of your website. Just Google it, and you’ll find the information to do this.
- After each blog post: You can use a plug-in to do this such as Magic Action Box, which has a free version. Or, you can manually add a link to your squeeze page but it is a tedious process.
On your about page: Your “about page” is one the most frequently visited pages of your website. New visitors want to know about you. If they are truly interested in you and your message, they are bound to read your about me. Take this opportunity and ask them to sign up. Place an opt-in form there.
#7 Make your content look good
Content should be organized intuitively. Anticipate your reader needs. When they come to your blog for the first time, what would they be looking for?
Create a separate tab on your navigation and title it ‘New here? Start here’ or something like that. Guide your visitors on how they can explore your content. When you help them discover your content, they want to sign up because they don’t want to miss a single update.
Don’t use cheesy stock images on your blog. Look for sites that provides real life photography, however, put some effort into it and source images that haven’t been used to death already. Use infographics and other visuals. Use headings and sub-headings to make it easy to read.
Link to evergreen content. Some people will find your blog through search by discovering great evergreen content that is still useful. Create resources tab on your sidebar so people can find more related content easily.
# 8 Pay attention to your branding and colours
Make sure your design connects with emotions.
Think about it for a second. When you visit a fitness website, you feel a bit differently as to when you visit a website that sells life insurance. How about clicking to a blog that talks about spirituality and another one that talks about perfume? All of these websites aim to arouse a specific emotion in you.
When people visit your website, how to you want them to feel? Do you want them to feel excited like they can do anything or whimsical? Do you want them to have profound insights or feel as if they need to do something to feel safe and secure?
Learn more about colour psychology. Using pink will convey a different message, mood and user experience than orange, green, blue or black. If you are ultimately selling golf training, does it make sense to use pink? On the other hand, if you are writing about self-improvement, which colour would appeal to your target audience?
Consider your logo, and choose your brand colours and typography accordingly.
#9 Optimise For Mobile
The increasing popularity of mobile devices means that your blog needs to have a design that is mobile responsive. It needs to conform to the tiny screen sizes your idea reader is using to access the interwebs. If you don’t pay attention to the fact that more and more people are using their smart phones to access internet, you are shooting yourself in the foot.
When you optimise for mobile, you provide a consistent experience for every visitor no matter which device they are on – be it a smart phone, tablet, laptop or a desktop. Otherwise you make visiting your site a frustrating and cumbersome experience.
Think about it, who wants to visit a site on their phone and zoom in and scroll all the time. It is very hard to navigate through websites or blogs that aren’t mobile friendly. Surely, there are better things to do?
Lastly, remember this: Design is a subjective thing. Your aesthetics or layout preferences alone won’t make or break your blog. However, keeping in mind the dos and don’ts of design that converts will go a long way in increasing your opt-in conversions.
Which of the above blog design tweaks will you implement today?