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How to Look Like A Pro Even if You’re A Newer Blogger
Looks certainly aren't everything (or even most of the picture!) when you are growing a blog, but it wouldn't be completely honest not to acknowledge that looks matter. And even more than that, functionality matters.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned about blogging as a business is that you are really in the business of building relationships.
Those relationships can be with your readers, and they can also be with other bloggers and professionals in your industry. And of course, part of building relationships is your presentation.
Your content certainly matters a whole lot, your ethics and integrity matter even more, and I think it's safe to say that how you present yourself in your business to the world matters to an extent as well.
We are all a little bit guilty of judging books by their covers, so it's important to make the most of this natural human tendency and give your blog a leg up!
So if you are a newer (or even intermediate) blogger and you're wondering how you can help your business look professional from the get-go, these tips will get you off on the right foot.
1. Get your web design right.
Your web design matters.
Ten years ago, content was the only thing that mattered and you could get away with a shoddy website that was a little more difficult to follow. Those days are over, and readers' attention spans are shorter than ever.
If your blog is cluttered, hard to navigate, or simply just annoying to be on (yep, I'm going to say it!) people are going to leave. FAST.
So what does a good blog design look like?
Trust me, it doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, it shouldn't be. You don't need to hire a professional web designer or try to mimic a leading website in your industry.
Really, you simply need to follow some good standard web design practices.
Only Use Fonts That Are Really Easy to Read
The first one is to make sure that your blog looks clean and easy to read. I know it's so tempting to use beautiful fonts and whimsical cursive scripts to convey your brand, but this isn't good from a reader's perspective.
I can't tell you the number of times I've gone to a blog and found text that is too small, too thin, or too scripty to read. I know it looks pretty, but just don't do it.
People are not going to stick around on your page squinting as they try to read your content. They're just going to go somewhere else.
Have A Clean and Simple Blog Design
The second thing to check is that your navigation is simple and clean. Keep the number of links in your horizontal navigation menu to a realistic number. I wouldn't recommend more than eight or so.
Thanks to research on human psychology, we know that humans are actually LESS pleased the more options they are offered.
Think about a restaurant you might check out on a date night with your husband. Would you prefer a menu that has 10 or 12 meal options, or one of those menus that is six folding pages long with dozens upon dozens of entrees, appetizers, and desserts?
If you're like most people, the second option is totally overwhelming, and you never feel like you picked the best possible meal. On the other hand, when you only have a select few to choose from, it's easy to feel like you made the best choice.
The same goes for the menu on your website! Don't overwhelm your readers with a gazillion links. Place your most important links on there, and leave it at that.
Choose A Minimalist Blog Theme
The third thing to look for is a clear and concise blog theme that feels minimalist and easy to navigate.
There are thousands of blog themes out there, and to be honest, most of them aren't very good. They're often designed by amateurs, or they don't come with support, or they run super slowly and will give you a terrible site speed.
I definitely recommend using a theme that looks super clean, incorporates a lot of white space, and simply feels natural when you are clicking around.
If you aren't sure if a theme is a good one, ask a friend to review it for you and let you know how easy it is to use. (It should go without saying, but don't pick the sparkly friend who loves everything you do no matter what. Pick the mildly judgy friend who will tell you when something sucks 😉)
I've used Thrive Themes to design my blog, and I get compliments on it frequently from my readers.
Not only does the design look great, but the theme is also super easy to use with all drag and drop elements. Considering that I'm not a very techie person, this is a huge win for me.
2. Include a photo of you on your homepage.
This may or may not be "fair", but one of the most immediate signs to me that someone is an amateur blogger is that they don't have a header photo of themselves on their homepage.
99% of blogs don't have a header image of the person running it, and I get why. It can certainly be a little intimidating to put yourself front and center in a big way right on your homepage.
But you know what? It also makes you stand out.
It's simply too easy to write a blog these days and not use your real name and a picture of you front and center.
If you're going to go that route, I have bad news for you. It's going to be really, really tough to get your readers to connect with you that way!
People want to see pictures, videos, and live streams of you. They want to know who you are and what you care about and how you can help them. Blog text just doesn't cut it on its own anymore.
That being said, getting a good header image doesn't have to be hard! The cool thing is that these days, nearly all of the cameras on our phones are good enough to get this shot.
It doesn't need to be complicated. Put on a decent outfit, curl your hair, and find a neutral background. Outdoor backgrounds work especially well because they have a lot of texture and look very "real".
Another great background for your header image is the environment related to what you blog about. If you are a crafter, a photo of you sitting in your crafting room would be perfect. Do you blog about gardening? Get a nice shot of you working in your garden!
3. Make it clear on the homepage who you are helping and how.
After the header image, the next thing I look for when I visit someone's blog is a quick snapshot of who they are, who they help, and how they help them. You would be shocked how many bloggers forget to put this information front and center!
Don't make people guess. They aren't going to. I've put this information directly on top of my header image, as well as followed it up with a blurb right below that image. It talks about what I believe in, who I help, and what readers can learn from me.
This is so important to include on your blog, because so many blogs out there just write about whatever they feel like at the time. They don't really have an audience, they aren't really solving a specific problem for a specific set of people, and that's a big pitfall in blogging businesses.
This exercise will help you get super clear on your business's mission, and it will also help readers figure out if they've found the right place for them or not.
4. Have an about page and contact page.
Let's talk some more blog maintenance.
You need to have an about page and a contact page! Believe it or not, people actually do want to read your about page! They want to know who you are and what you're all about.
Here’s a simple about me page template you can copy and paste.
In fact, my about page routinely ranks in the top 20 pages on my site, according to Google Analytics. This goes back to the idea that people are looking for connection more than ever.
Make sure to include pictures of yourself, give a brief blurb about who you are and how you got to where you are now, and then make the rest of the page about them.
- How can you help the reader who has just come to your about page?
- What are your best resources?
- What products do you offer?
- How can they get in touch with you?
A contact page is another boring but super important piece to looking like a pro blogger even if you aren't quite there yet. And on the plus side, this one is super easy to set up.
There are plenty of plugins out there that you can use to create your contact form that redirects to your email address.
5. Don't overdo it on pop ups or ads.
Lastly, and probably one of the most important points, is to not bog down your website with pop-ups and ads. Use them tastefully!
The other day I was looking for a banana bread recipe, and of course I found it on Pinterest. I clicked over to the site, and within seconds TWO video ads popped up, and email opt-in form popped up, and then another text based ad popped up.
I'm pretty sure I clicked the back button so fast I got a little bit of whiplash.
If you want to get any engagement on your blog ever, don't do this! Not only do excessive ads slow down your site and make it impossible to scroll through your content, they also just look cheap and amateur.
(Yep, I know that's controversial. I'm not a huge fan of ads on blogs.)
This doesn't mean that there isn't a time and place for having ads on some types of blogs with certain business models, but the point here is to keep them minimalist and tasteful.
The same goes for your email pop-ups. I like to set mine to appear 20 to 25 seconds after someone arrives on the page. This gives them some time to actually read my content and find out if it will be helpful for them before asking something of them.
And you know what?
I get a much better email opt-in rate using this method than having pop-ups that go off immediately. I've tried both, and the difference is remarkable.
The issue is that having a pop-up appear right as someone gets to your page is simply asking too much too soon. It's too forward.
Imagine if you were walking through a park one day and all of a sudden a guy came up to you and asked for a date.
No prior contact or conversation, no hello, just an out-of-the-blue ask. You'd probably feel a little shocked and decline him pretty quick, right?
Because it's too soon. He hasn't introduced himself yet, he hasn't given you any reason to think that he's a good guy worth seeing, and now all the sudden he's asking for something personal.
This is just like your pop-up box when people haven't gotten a chance to get to know you a little first. They need the chance to read your content for a little bit, see that your information is useful, and establish that first bit of trust that indicates they might like to hear more from you.
How to (Finally!) Start Making Money From Your Blog
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