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8 Strategic Blog Home Pages that Draw Readers Deeper

This guest post is by The Blog Tyrant.

One of the hardest tasks a blogger can face is getting readers to stick around. In actual fact, its one of the most important things you’ll ever learn to do. Why? Because unless those visitors delve deeper into your site you are essentially wasting your time with all that amazing content, social media effort, and SEO work.

Bloggers often forget that we need to use things like design, layout, colors, format, and so on to help visitors delve further in to our sites.

In this post I’m going to show you eight blog home pages that make readers click deeper. Hopefully it will give you some ideas for your own.

8 Home pages that draw readers deeper

I wanted to start off by letting you know that each of these pages was chosen for a different reason. Now, I’m not saying that these are the best blog home pages in the world. What I am saying is that each one does something extremely well that encourages new visitors to become more loyal readers.

1. Mashable

Mashable is one of the world’s biggest blogs and has a massively high page views. The main reason they are able to do this is through social proofed elements of their layout. Let me explain.

Social proof is where you provide some kind of assurance that other people have used your service. Testimonials, for example, are a common form of social proof. These things reduce anxiety in the reader but also serve to encourage a group mentality whereby people want to be involved in what other people are doing. It’s just human nature.

Mashable is all about social media and you see items like the “most shared this week” and the number of Facebook “likes” featuring prominently. The “buzz” this creates gets people to go deeper in to the site—people want to read articles that hundreds of others found interesting.

2. Digital Photography School

Digital Photography School is Old Man Rowse’s biggest blog. It has hundreds of thousands of subscribers and is one of the most heavily community-based blogs you’ll ever read. The activity in the comments and the forums is really quite wonderful.

I remember when Darren first released the new DPS design; I was blown away by how efficient and enticing it was. The old site was a straight up one column blog but this is a multi-level blog that divides the areas up by different sections of interest. Want to read about photography? Just go to that section. Want to read about equipment? Go over there.

This is a fantastic way to ensure photographers find areas of interest at the home page. It gives very little room for people to get bored and move on.

3. Huffington Post

Huffington Post. The blog turned worldwide news source. Sigh. Whatever you might say about the quality of the news that comes out of the site, the layout is extremely captivating. And it’s not because it’s pretty. Here is an example of a site on which the visuals aren’t necessarily pleasing, but they are very effective.

The area of the home page above the fold is dedicated to the most shocking current story as well as a pop up bar that asks you to get involved. It also uses a series of highly placed headers to show you what news is trending at the moment. Again, this is done to capitalize on people’s need to know what other people are interested in.

Scroll further down the home page and you see more engaging items like author profile photos to build loyalty, huge comment counts on featured articles and a mix of featured articles from different topics.

4. Zen Habits

Leo from Zen Habits is one of the nicest guys in the world. A few years ago he gave me some free advertising space and helped me launch a new blog. His new design is totally minimal and fits in extremely well with the branding of the site. Lots of space.

This type of strategy works extremely well for a blog with amazing content. Why? Because it is entirely focused on that content. You read that first amazing article and you feel compelled to delve deeper.

This is a brave design that takes a lot of courage because if each and every post that appears on the homepage is not amazing, you will see a lot of people drop off.

5. Smart Passive Income

Speaking of nice guys, Pat from Smart Passive Income is one of the nicest. Recently when I was setting up my podcasts he gave me a lot of time-saving tips. And that is a big theme in Pat’s design: help.

See the top level of menu items? Each one has a sub heading that gives you more information about what to expect inside. I remember the first time I visited Pat’s site, I spent ages clicking through each menu item to browse the contents. That is something I don’t normally do. The navigation is extremely “sticky”.

Similarly, there is a little space below the menu where Pat gives little random messages or tips. This takes the “tutorial” vibe of his site even further and definitely makes the experience feel more personal and intimate.

6. Tumblr

The guys at Tumblr are extremely good at design. In my article on the 12 Best About Us Pages I confessed that I thought theirs was the best one of the lot. And while the blog homepage isn’t right up to that standard, it is still worth a look.

The reason I included Tumblr in this list is because they use simple graphical elements to draw the eye down. Each post is very simple and usually only includes a picture or a bit of text. And each alternating post has a different background. Mixed with the fact that the emphasis is on showing which staff member wrote each post and you have an extremely addictive blog home page.

7. Fail Blog

Fail Blog, in case you have been living under a rock, is part of the LOL Cat empire. These guys build sites with funny pictures of cats and dogs and people getting hurt and make a small (read: large) fortune out of it.

Again, the homepage design is not beautiful, but it is extremely addictive. You can navigate through all their sites from the top as well as getting in on the action by voting for the best fails. They also have a little “random fail” generator, which is the kind of gimmick people on this site love to use to waste more of their day.

One of the cleverest ideas here is the fact that every can have a go at re-captioning the fails. This builds on the community in a massive way by getting everyone interacting with each fail multiple times. People write new captions and then come back to see what other people are saying about it.

8. The Onion

The Onion is quite literally one of the funniest websites on the Internet. And aside from hilarious content, great titles, and a home page that lets you see a plethora of content all at once, one thing they do really well is have an interactive and changing header that gives you access to new information.

Normally blogs just have a static header but this one moves and changes based on what’s going on at the blog. Sure, they still have the same logo and colors to keep the branding recognizable but they also use the variation to get people involved in new areas. Very clever.

Lessons to apply to your own blog

So what are the take-aways from these eight blogs home pages? What are some concrete things you can apply to your own blog today to increase the amount of pages people view?

  • Focus on social proof.
    Make sure your homepage always has elements that relate to social proof. Use testimonials, popular articles, high comment counts, and social media followers to show that your blog is busy. This is something that you should never underestimate.
  • Know your audience.
    It is really important to know who is coming to your home page and why. Are they coming for this topic or that topic? Do they want to read articles or listen to podcasts? Make sure your navigation allows them to find what they want instantly.
  • Let your story show.
    Make sure you use photos or text to tell your story. Let people become loyal to you and your message. Tumblr does this with staff profiles, Pat does this by showing himself with his baby, etc. You want to make sure people feel like you are different from everyone else they’ve seen today.

As I mentioned in the post about the best about us pages, it is a really good idea to occasionally take a look at what the big guys in the industry are doing. Quite often they are doing it for a reason. The most important thing, however, is to make sure you don’t leave it as an idea but apply it to your own blog right away.

What draws you in?

I’d like to open up the floor now and find out what parts of a website’s home page draw you in deeper? Is it something to do with the layout, the content, the colors—or something totally different? Please leave a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant hasn’t revealed his name yet but we know that he is a 25-year-old guy from Australia who works from home and has sold several blogs for around the $20,000 mark. Now he’s teaching you how to dominate your blog. Subscribe by email to get his free eBook on capturing 120% more email subscribers overnight or follow him on Facebook.

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Comments

  1. Great post, we’ve been tweaking our site back and forth to see what works best, finding the scroll feature area is the best place to show competitions and attract social media followers.

  2. Steve says:

    A clean, well organized home page helps me find the info that I’m looking for on a site. Well defined areas on the page to draw your eye to topic areas is what I like to see.

    Typing this I realize that I’ve got work to do…

  3. Justin says:

    I’m looking into purchasing a new theme for my blog. I’m not sure if I will go with a WordPress Thesis theme or use Unique Blog Designs. I definitely want to customize my blog with all of the latest gadgets, and I don’t want to have to mess around with code.

    • Curtis says:

      If you consider Thesis, check out Headway Themes too. It let’s you build and edit your blog areas visually. Very slick.

  4. Great post Tyrant. I particularly love staying much longer on site like Huffington Post, Copyblogger, Mashable etc. I guest i’ll have to improve on my site too so I can have more people stick around on it. Thanks for sharing this tips.

  5. ShaynnaB says:

    What a brilliant and informative post – to tell you the truth I thought nearly all of these were websites. Shows me what a ‘hokey’ blog I have at the moment. I think I need a professional to rake mine over the coals!
    Thank you!
    Shaynna

  6. I love Mashable’s design. But the current one is quite disappointing or not above it’s expectations. Bloggers often ignore the fact that their readers not only read the content but also view them along with the blog’s design.

  7. I’ll be honest, I really don’t enjoy Mashable at all and don’t understand the hype they get. But then, it wouldn’t be the first time I didn’t “get” what others seem to enjoy.

    For me the biggest draw is the content. Maybe that’s why Mashable doesn’t appeal to me…it’s all over the place and not specific enough to what I’m willing to spend my time reading. Time is, after all, the one thing we cannot get back. So I prefer to focus my attention on those sites that fill the needs I have directly, rather than here and there.

    All these designs are wonderful though. Your final thoughts are spot on too. Great read!

  8. Andrew Hill says:

    I am new to Blogging. You have convinced me to pay attention to the way I present my blog and the content it contains. I find that headlines can capture my attention; also, interesting photographs; so those are two other things I also keep in mind.
    Thanks, BT for this post.

  9. Tony says:

    These are great examples! It’s amazing the level of social interaction that these sites have. And I agree, it’s one area that should not be overlooked…people like to go where the action is!

  10. I think the photos really make a difference. If they are colorful and relevant to the blog content. They can tell a story in their own capacity.
    Compelling offers make a difference and make me delve deeper. I also like general interest posts… How to… Communicate, decrease stress etc

  11. se7en says:

    Wow what a brilliant round-up!!! Love how you show us what really works from all the millions of ideas out there!!! I know my blog appearance needs some refreshment, thanks for all the inspiration!!!

  12. Max Bronson says:

    I really love Zen Habits’ design. It’s shows that if you have great content, you don’t need the extra frills. I would suggest that before anyone goes minimalist in design, you better make sure you have awesome content like Leo does at Zen Habits.

  13. Smartv Passive Income has an awesome design indeed, one of my favorites and you are absolutely correct, Pat is a super nice guy. One of the few sites I actually read on a regular basis (besides yours).

  14. Graham Lutz says:

    I find that a good color scheme and well thought out division of sections are what initially grab my attention. I’ve been putting together a list of sites that I really like in order to give directions to the designers.

  15. Rob Berman says:

    Tyrant:

    There is always that balance between content and form. With really bad form no one will see the content. Really great content can overcome bad form if the word spreads. Visuals really do draw you in.

    Rob

  16. Jamey Thomas says:

    Nice mix, and I love Zen Habits too.

    I like what Danny Brown has done with his blog:

    http://dannybrown.me

    And the BlogWorld Expo blog too:

    http://blogworld.com

  17. Tom says:

    Simple designs where I don’t have to guess what menu links do are always a plus.
    Sticky sites with lots of deep links are always fun.
    Sites which are overloaded with ads, and push the content to the side, I tend to ignore.

  18. Good article with a lot of examples. I think the main thing you need for a popular blog is interesting content. If you have something that’s entertaining, like the Fail Blog sometimes, people share the post with their friends. It’s like all the dumb jokes floating around in email, if one of them is good, it gets copied and pasted into a new email, or the original message gets forwarded. If you provide some value for people, they will spread the word. In the end, that’s really what makes a site popular, useful content.

  19. I found Pat’s blog just a few days ago and he has instant likeability.
    I agree about his picture being personal and I love his navigation. Wish I could find an affordable wordpress theme to be able to implement some of the great things mentioned here.

    One question about social proof?
    How do you get the buzz going for blogs just starting to get a following who have low numbers?

  20. Another excellent and thought stimulating post. Perfect timming too, as I’m currently in the process of adding a home page to my blog!

  21. Julio says:

    I like the simplicity of Zen Habits but Smart Passive Income looks really nice. I’ve always like that dark grey color and the way the menu looks on top. I’m going to bookmark it now. :)

  22. Steve says:

    A clean organized homepage, with well thought out groupings of different types of information. I like home pages like this, they help me find what I’m looking for.

    Reading this makes me think I’ve lots to do…

  23. George Tee says:

    Hi Blog Tyrant, this is a nice post. I truly believed that one can achieve visitors to your site by having a good content and web design layout.

    The social proof is a positive way to connect to the readers and can draw people to a blog. It is a successful way to help sell products and services. Interacting with the readers is a good thing because it tells that a site is alive. The layout of a blog should be cleared so that the visitor can easily be guided, it makes them want to come back to the blog.

    Mashable and Huffington Post have great web design layout. It looks very professional.

  24. JulieG says:

    Great post, although the Huffington Post screengrab is not very convincing with a giant ad taking up most of the room! I do like the idea of including more social proof though, it seems reassuring to people to know that they’re on a well-trod path.

  25. worth read ! Blog creation has a physiological effect.to stay back users .

  26. “Because unless those visitors delve deeper into your site you are essentially wasting your time with all that amazing content, social media effort, and SEO work.”

    You could not have said it any better. We all spend a considerable amount of time trying to please Google. Google may bring people, but what will keep them there?

  27. AE Thanh says:

    The social proof tip is really great. I’ve noticed myself that I get enticed when I see that on other websites. Especially with browser toolbars that show Alexa and PR. The better these stats, the more I’m willing to look closer. Although I wouldn’t showcase these numbers, the number of RSS subscribers and people on the mailing list can definitely help.

  28. hittoyeh says:

    Thank you for the great post. Your tips is really helpful to me to builds up my new blog
    the smart passive income.com is really awesome and useful for everyone to set up the passive incom~!!

  29. David says:

    These post are very helpful, and looking at what the big guys are doing in the industry is a must.
    You should always use some Photoshop on your website add color etc.

  30. John says:

    What about a simple layout that’s accessible for the blind who use screen readers on their computer or web navigating device?

  31. namita says:

    Really fantastic themes i like it…

  32. DummyTech says:

    The above sites look amazing. It takes a lot of skills and work to create a neat and organized layout. Often, a little investment on a talented designer will result in the perfect layout. Thanks for the tips.

  33. MXN says:

    Got the point of what you are trying to say. I know the importance of it because when I first started my blog i was getting good amount of traffic but the bounce rate was 80 – 90..SO thanks for this article every blogger should know about it.

  34. Thanks for mentioning the three reasons why we must get readers to want to come to our blog. Now we must put them into good use.

    Lawrence Bergfeld

  35. Love Mashable. I scam through Failblog for a good laugh as well. Good list of strong bloggers!

  36. trailsnet says:

    It all comes back to great content and concise headers to convey that content. If I’m going to feature information about a specific trail, I try to put the name of that trail in the header, a picture of the trail somewhere near the top, and a compelling first paragraph that doesn’t leave readers guessing what the topic is.

    I’m not too attracted to gimmicks, and I don’t really care how many other people are reading that blog. As long as the topic interests me, that’s what matters.

  37. Cool post. These sites are all favorites of mine, and yet I’d never really given any though as to why I’m so drawn-in to them. After looking at them more carefully, and considering some other pages I frequent, I’ve come to a conclusion:

    Featuring great content in preview-form on the homepage is the key. If I see some excellent content that I’m interested in right off the bat, I’ll click through and then explore the site more… and usually return later!

  38. Allen Walker says:

    For me, I think simplicity in the layout and design is important.

    If the layout is too cluttered with too many things, people will have a hard time deciding on what you want to do or where to look and may most probably leave your site much sooner.

  39. One thing that makes me delve deeper are hyperlinks to other content or anything the blogger is referring to, which you strangely omitted here. So after having to Google the right web address for Digital Photography School, for example, I might be tired out and leave.

  40. Glenn Meder says:

    Excellent post. Your point on social proof is very good. It is reinforced by what Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.
    says on her blog http://www.whatmakesthemclick.net. Thanks much!

  41. Thanks for taking us through each of these blogs and breaking it down–it is hard to quantify what will draw people in. But these guys are all doing a great job of it. I like the advice “make sure people feel like you are different from everyone else they’ve seen today.” Above all, be yourself.

  42. Mark Owen says:

    Although there are numerous ways to get traffic to visit your blog initially, finding ways to keep those visitors coming back on a regular basis can be a bit more difficult. I found the layout and design of the Huffington Post blog to be very clean and simple, and sometimes, less is more. I can see that it would instill a sense of confidence and professionalism to its readers and motivate them to return to the site again.

  43. Zoë Dawes says:

    Your advice & analysis is very helpful. I need to get a new blog format as my quirky travel work becomes more focused and need guidance! If anyone has time to visit the somewhat jumbled pages at http://www.thequirkytraveller.com and give some constructive advice I’d be most grateful :-)
    Zoë

  44. Well great post..I m regular visitor of mashable and huffington post sites..Its great to drive traffic and visitors. Also its great to know the news of world.

  45. Darryl says:

    The ratio of advertising to content on the Digital Photography School site is particularly distracting. Sites that choose to devote prime pieces of screen real estate to promote things like Google ADs and social media keys instead of providing quality written content take on a cluttered appearance and make themselves look inauthentic to visitors.
    In stark contrast the Zen Habits blog presents a much more genuine tone, albeit incredibly minimal. In this case visitors can focus their attention on the articles and not feel there’s a hidden agenda by the authors to simply monetize page views rather than provide useful information. Banner ADs are fine, they just need to exist in balance with a blog’s core material and not dilute the user experience.

  46. humorlook says:

    great example, seems my website need so many improvements

  47. Raj says:

    Very informative post. Definitely, having a good theme and home page, helps in having the readers stick to the blog. This is one area where every blogger needs to invest.

  48. Julian says:

    the main thing to remember is, their home pages doesn’t have full of post list :-)

  49. thanks for posting..The dual-human review process is designed to eliminate the 1-4% error rate our primary Editors may make in the subjective decision-making process … which over-time results in our members seeing a more consistent article review process and our QC Editors (our most experienced Sr. Editors) catching/deflecting low-value thin content that should never be published. We’re not perfect and we’ve also got work to do.

  50. Great article. It’s good to know that you consider all 8 of these blogs effective in drawing readers deeper. My blog is most similar to Zen Habits–very minimal layout with emphasis on content. I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate more social media. Perhaps I could add a Tweetmeme button.

    Also, I currently have a page labeled “Favorite Entries.” Perhaps I should change that to “Popular Entries.”