There are over 440 million blogs on Tumblr, Squarespace, and WordPress collectively. Each month, WordPress users publish 76.3 million posts and more than 409 million people view 22.3 billion blog pages. (MediaKix)
And, all you want is to increase your bite-size piece of the blogging pie, right?
Join the club. 😉
Maybe this will make you feel better. I started blogging in 2004 as a senior contributor to MarketingProfs, which launched in 2000. This was way before the other marketing-related blogs we see today.
When I wrote my first post, I had NO idea what blogging was about. I somehow knew then that I had to learn it quickly or get left behind. So, I contributed regularly, improving along the way.
When most of my MarketingProfs colleagues started their own blogs, I resisted, thinking that I could manage without one. Big mistake! I didn't start my own until December 19, 2009. With just 141 words, my first post was entitled, "I Have My Own Blog – Finally."
Does this history make me a blogging maven? Well, yes and no. It means that I have a lot of experience in it, but am always learning something new. Technology and people's tastes are constantly changing, and with that, we must adapt.
With nimbleness in mind, here are seven current blogging design practices that may help you attract more readers:
1. Focus on clean responsive design.
If your blog is cluttered and disorganized, littered with ads and irrelevant content, who's going to stick around? Ensure that the layout and design is clean and usable on any sized device (i.e. responsive).
- Use whitespace to break up the page.
- Amply space images and content to make it easier to navigate.
- Make content the center of attention. After all, that's why people visit your blog. Ensure your words make up about three-quarters of the screen space.
- Minimalist design is quite popular now, but it's not for everyone. The blog below is an extreme example.
2. Maintain consistency with your main website and other digital real estate.
Design is an important component of brand consistency. If you're using different colors, typography, and “look” with each piece of digital real estate, you're confusing your readers and web visitors.
I'm using my blog and company website below as examples of consistency. Even though they are two different properties, they are complementary.
3. Choose your typography and font colors wisely.
One of my pet peeves is blog content with font styles and colors that make it impossible to read without eye strain or frustration. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 253 million people live with vision impairment: 36 million are blind and 217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment.
In addition, 81% of all people who are blind or have moderate to severe vision impairment are aged 50 years and above. So, if you target those who are 50+, it's a good idea to make reading easier for them.
- Use web safe font styles.
- Generally, sans-serif fonts are easier to read screen-based body content. (These don't have extending features called "serifs" at the end of strokes.)
- Don't use too many font styles. One allocated for body content and another for headlines work best. Remember, people may read your content on devices of all sizes, including small mobile phone screens. (Check your Google Analytics account to find out which types of screens and devices your blog visitors are using.)
- It's better to use larger font sizes than small ones.
- Stay away from using all upper case letters LIKE THIS!
- Avoid font colors that are too light for a white or light background. Light gray may be popular with some web designers, but is difficult to read on screen.
4. Make your headings and subheadings stand out.
Because online reading is more difficult than reading print, avoid long paragraphs and use headings and subheadings to break up your content. This is where you can be creative, using your second typography (font style) and brand colors. Just don't overdo it.
This example below doesn't use colored headlines, but they stand out regardless because of their size.
5. Keep your background simple.
If you plan to use a textured or patterned background, ensure it does't detract from the main event - your written content. Use a white or light background for your text boxes so they're easier to read.
See how the subtly patterned background below blends in with the color theme.
(If you don't see the pattern, click the image to take you to this blog page.)
I'm not fond of this background below. Even though the purple pattern may be a lighter version of the menu bar color, it isn't doing anything for me.
6. Use quality images.
Articles with images get 94% more total views than articles without images. (Jeff Bullas) That's an impressive statistic!
Every blog post should have a featured image that visually represents the post. When you share the post link in social media, that's the image that will appear.
If your post is long, you can use additional images in the content as explainers or for interest. Screenshots work well for online examples, as well as good quality photos or illustrations.
Ensure that image sizes are a good fit for the allocated space. Remember that when you reduce the original image size, you lose resolution. To avoid images from taking too long to load, use 72, 96, or 150 dpi (dots per inch). I also recommend that you compress all your images first before uploading them, or alternatively, use image optimization plugins.
One word of caution. Lousy images look unprofessional. Ensure yours add value to your blog.
7. Simplify sidebars.
Whether you monetize your blog or not, sidebars give you complementary promotion space. But, don't go overboard. Here are some sidebar options:
- Headshot and/or short bio
- Blog subscription widget
- Social media links
- Recommended posts
- Free lead generation offers
- Link to your main website
- Search box
- Blog archives widget
- Credentials or professional memberships
Many professional bloggers and marketers claim that sidebars are a distraction that people ignore. I suggest that you use common sense.
- Ensure that sidebar elements help achieve your business goals.
- De-clutter widgets.
- Analyze widget clickthroughs and get rid of underperforming ones.
- Change things up periodically to avoid looking stale.
Here's a good example from the Content Marketing Institute. Notice the How-To Guides that offer readers additional valuable content.
HERE'S A QUICK RECAP: