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Four Ways to Make a Captivating First Impression with Your Blog In a Reader’s Market

This guest post is by Bill Post of 123Print.com Business Card Design.

In real estate, first impressions are everything. Even though the color of the front door would be easy and affordable to repaint, it’s one of the first things a potential buyer notices. If your door is red and the buyer doesn’t like it, most likely she isn’t going to bother looking at the interior. Maybe she doesn’t even know why she doesn’t like the house. She’s on to the next one before yours had a chance.

Blog readers are just as finicky as house buyers—not that there’s anything wrong with that. There are simply so many choices in blogs and other online publications that it’s a reader’s market. A blog that doesn’t pass the front door test doesn’t attract readers willing to go farther inside the blog to look around. Think about these four ways to make a first impression with your blog so it becomes a hot property.

Create curb appeal

Junk in the home’s yard, or old and battered features are a quick turn-off.

On a reader’s first drive-by of a blog, they will keep moving if your blog is cluttered with an over-abundance of information or too much distracting formatting. Use a clean and open format that is easy to read and in which important information is easily identifiable. Choose your content selectively. Don’t recycle other people’s used articles. Use fresh and relevant content that is easy to see and access.

Be a good neighbor

Put some rocking chairs on the porch. Invite readers to share, comment, and interact. Ask them questions. Link to and connect with other blogs.

Realtors always advise baking fresh cookies so buyers feel like they’re at home in your house. Do the same for your blog. Make it a welcoming resource and a positive exchange of information that gives readers a sense that they belong. A blog that is all talk without any listening or interaction is like a big tall fence that reads Stay Out.

Look at comps on other houses in the neighborhood

Search the terms that you believe your best visitors will be searching so you can see what other blogs and sites your targeted audience reads. What do the blogs with topics similar to yours look like? What do they seem to be doing well? What could you do better? What differentiates your blog from the others? What niche within your topic could you be filling for readers that no one else seems to have developed yet?

Once you’ve figured out what your blog’s strengths are compared to the competition, play up those assets. Give your posts titles that speak to these strengths and originality. Put your best material where everyone can see it and include a “most popular” posts list to show off your best features.

Show some character

Nobody wants a cookie-cutter house that looks like all the other houses on the street. Stand out with details that give your blog character and originality. Give your charming cottage or svelte condo of a blog a name that attracts your targeted visitor. Give your headings and posts engaging and creative titles. Write entertaining content that makes you stand out and that exemplifies your unique take on your topic of expertise.

While you don’t want to get too fussy with formatting and features, do try to be original with color and design. Walk that fine line of visitors feeling as if they are experiencing something new and different while simultaneously feeling a sense of comforting familiarity. Charm them with what makes your blog like all the best blogs, and delight them with what sets your blog apart.

Behind the shutters

Once you feel ready for an open house, be prepared on the back end. While the first impression is essential, you wouldn’t want your blog to be like the house in the Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit. It looks like everything the buyers ever dreamed of in a house, but after only a little living, the underlying structure begins to fall apart board by board, and bathtub-through-ceiling by bathtub-through-ceiling. Be sure your foundation is sound with all the bugs worked out.

Test your comment process and archiving. Be sure you have enough content to sustain your blog. If you get one week in and you’re already out of material, it’s all going to come crumbling down. Prepare your blog with extra posts for times when you get in a jam. Prepare to spend time on your blog and not leave it on its own without diligent maintenance, upkeep, and tweaks as necessary.

When trouble does arise, work to fix the problem quickly. Then write a post about the misstep or problem and what your learned from it. Readers can relate to that, and in a reader’s market, they’re the ones you’ve got to impress.

What tips can you add for creating a great first impression with your blog? Share them in the comments.

Bill Post, Small Business Research Analyst, has been providing research on issues of concern to small businesses for 123Print.com Business Card Design for three years. A former business owner prior to his involvement with 123Print Custom Business Cards, Bill spent several years after receiving his degree in the fast-paced corporate world before going out on his own to provide marketing and branding services to other small businesses in the Washington, DC metro area. In his work for 123Print Business Cards Online, Bill works to help small businesses get ahead and assist the little guy to prosper.

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Comments

  1. Graham Lutz says:

    I think one big thing missing from many blogs is the “Start Here” tab. I like to help my readers navigate to the most important parts of the blog and the posts that show my best work and will engage my readers most.

    This keeps the overwhelming feelings to a minimum and allows for better connection.

    • Graham,
      That is so funny that you menitoned the Start Here tab. I havebeen feeling that my blog needed one as well. When you visit a site, you may read the one post that brought you there, or the current post on the front page, but if it is otherwise overwhlming for the reader to know where to find what, they will move on. I put my start here button up about 2 weeks ago and it gets a lot of clicks and then addtional clicks from readers finding other posts to read.
      Bernice
      Living the Balanced Life

    • I tried that once and my regulars got a little insulted. I like the way Copyblogger and Problogger do it. They put their best posts on the front page.

  2. Style Maniac says:

    Great advice. I especially like “Walk that fine line of visitors feeling as if they are experiencing something new and different while simultaneously feeling a sense of comforting familiarity.” I think of the design of my blog–masthead, colors, layout– as a “wardrobe,” and tweak it to reflect the season and the monthly theme my written content revolves around. The constant challenge is to simplify without taking too much away, keep it fresh but still familiar, have a clean design yet highlight reader comments, subscription options, archive material, and now sponsors. It’s a lot to fit in! Just wish Blogger offered more diversity in template choices.

  3. Wonderful advice. You really do have to look at the entire package. We also like Darren’s 31DBBB advice about watching a first-time visitor read your blog. It’s amazing the things they notice–or don’t.

    Off to share this with our network.

  4. IM Nick says:

    So true, in this day and age you really need to stand out from all the others otherwise you will just get lost in the fuzz. I’m going to go “bake some cookies” for my blog now ;-).

  5. Harrison Li says:

    Well said! I believe uniqueness is the most important factor of all in these few years, just like what the post earlier talked about.

  6. green says:

    content, layout, and traffic very important to make easy get impression

  7. EF Cussins says:

    People like things that excite and feed there emotions. What makes the difference between the Today Show, Good Morning America, and any other local morning new show. It is the feeding of emotions that draw people to their show,

  8. Tim says:

    I think one of the most important first impressions is the “about” page. I feel like when I get to a blog without an about page, even if it has really awesome content and it is visually appealing, it’s still like taking candy from a stranger wearing a mask.

  9. Great analogy, Bill! One more key to success here is “don’t try to be everything to everybody.” Know what your blog is about and stick with it – the right audience will come. In the real estate analogy, don’t try to remodel a Colonial as a modern hippie shag den. Both the Colonials and the hippies will pass it by. Thanks!

  10. I love how you used the real estate analogy! These factors are all so important, especially the curb appeal. The first glance can make a BIG difference!
    Bernice

  11. Bryan says:

    This is good, solid advice to follow. I have been slowly making improvements similar to the ones listed above at my own blog, http://www.moneysavingparent.com, and it has made a noticeable difference. I recommend checking sites like http://www.viewpoints.com for further ideas on consumer blogging, comment posting, etc.

  12. Bill,
    I loved the way you compared blogging to selling a house. You’re spot on. When I land on blogs that have the pop-ups trying to get me to subscribe, I click right out. That, to me, is worse than clutter in a yard; it’s down-right annoying.

    I think you need to have your personality shine through. If you can touch someone’s heart and show them that you care about them, they’re going to want to come back.

    Thanks for writing a post that made me smile and feel like I was sitting next to you on a rocking chair listening to your advice.

    Connie

    • GolfGurl says:

      Connie… I agree with the annoying factor of those popup sign in forms, however, both my mentors in blogging use them and swear they increase their email rate. I guess it depends on what it is you are offering. I’ve used them as well… but have resorted to a static form in a sidebar after I got a few people telling me, as you have, that they are a turn-off. It’s hard to know which way to go. If you have time check my blog, golfgurls.com and let me know if you think the sidebar form is enough… do you even see it? Thanks.

  13. Daniel says:

    Very nice Article, Bill.

    You pretty much covered all bases(Well, almost all).

    I can see a number of tips you have included that should be essentials for any Blogger wishing to lift their site to a much higher standard(Quality).

    When I read through a second time I have to bite my lip(Ouch!), due to my knowing I need to personally make far more effort in the Presentation and Maintenance of My Blog(Site).

    Your color of the door Real Estate analogy, is something I experienced with a neighbor(Property owner investor). This particular person was doing up the units(Apartments) of the Block that he owns.

    He(And the Contracted tradesmen) did an incredible amount of work to the inside of the building(New Bathroom and kitchen units/ fittings, painting, etc,etc).

    Yet, when it came to painting the front of the buildings Garage doors(Very important for catching the eye) he chose a dull Mustard color.

    It looked terrible, as it did not add to the appearance in any way(It may have actually detracted from it)

    I joked with him saying ” Look at my nice Aqua Blue Garage door “!

    The fact is, he owns all the units and rents out all the units.

    Though, you can be sure if he ever decides to sell one or more apartments, the first thing on his”to do” list will be to paint his East Facing Mustard Colored Garage doors(Maybe even to a nice Aquatic Blue).

  14. Hi Bill,
    Great article on comparing a blog to selling a house. Totally the same concept. I spent many years reading about selling homes and creating curb appeal.

  15. Jason says:

    I definitely agree and it my next step on my blog. A never ending fun project : )

  16. Mushfique says:

    Awesomely useful points for the bloggers!
    “Don’t recycle other people’s used articles. Use fresh and relevant content that is easy to see and access.”
    a very important point indeed!!
    Cheers!

    • GolfGurl says:

      Being creative in every post is a challenge and the temptation to “borrow” another’s article is strong, however, just being yourself and writing from your own experience is always the best and most attractive type of post… at least I find that to be true.

      • Graham Lutz says:

        I think you’ve got to “borrow” to a point…the challenge for most is to bring to life to old ideas. Thank being said, you’re 100% right that writing from your experience is best!

  17. Archan Mehta says:

    Bill,

    Please allow me to take this opportunity to thank you for contributing this guest post: well done.

    I would like to share a few ideas based on my own experiences with blogs…

    I find it annoying when blogs have too many links. I like my articles to be on one page–leading to other pages, but I do not like following links. It makes me feel like I’m a rat, riding on a roller coaster, and trapped inside a maze. Readers can be fickle-minded and may not enjoy jumping around like that.

    It is also important to make your readers feel valued: welcome them and make them feel right at home.
    Metaphorically, include soft pillows, cookies, milk, and comfortable furniture. Your blog should be a place where readers can comment freely and express their thoughts in a non-threatening environment.

    You don’t have to be Johnny Truant or SNL or MAD magazine, but try to lace your blog with a bit of humour. Readers like to be informed and entertained and feel like they have just had a good time.
    So, let the good times roll. If your readers feel bored, they will move on to greener pastures and you don’t want that to happen. Try to find out what kind of material will make your readers laugh and smile.

    Don’t make the mistake of trying to please people all the time: that is a recipe for disaster, to be sure.
    Instead, find a niche and focus on it. Ask readers for feedback based on interviews, surveys and questionnaires. What are your readers’ concerns? Identify a problem and find a solutiona and write about it. Your readers will keep coming back for more if they know they can trust you to address their concerns.

    Cheers.

  18. Ann says:

    They say you move half your furniture out!!

  19. i will be posting ‘humor’ filled articles in future. Appreciated article this is..

  20. John Gregory says:

    Good job, you have out done your self again Darren. I find your posts to be interesting and helpful. Especialy for the beginners, that have no experience with blogging. One thing i liked about this post is that It makes bloggers feel better for one reason. A lot of bloggers, when they meet the challange to increase the traffic, give up. And your posts are inspiaring, and helps them to continue fighting. Honestly, thank you very much for your hard work!

  21. Thanks for all the info’s,I always learn something when I read somebody’s blog.I do try my best to keep my blog interesting for other people to read.
    All of you have a great Sunday.

  22. I’m fairly new to the blogging world, but since I’ve started I’m always changing the ‘theme’ of the blog. I’m using wordpress and there are so many choices, it’s overwhelming. I’m constantly changing the theme to find one that fits my writing, is not overwhelming for readers and is simply nice to look at.

    You’re definitely right about the blogroll, directing readers to useful information is a must. I know it’s something I look for when I stumble onto a blog, will work on that ASAP! :)

  23. Anabelle says:

    All great tips for a beginner blogger… love the analogy.

    However I’m finding it difficult for people to actually sit down on my porch… it’s like they just come by to look at the lawn but never bother to stay. I try asking questions but it doesn’t seem to work. How to I make it more relatable?

  24. Fran Civile says:

    “Charm them with what makes your blog like all the best blogs, and delight them with what sets your blog apart”
    I guess that would be you? To further Bill’s real estate analogy, the house (or blog model) singled out after looking the others over will become a memory when infused with your personality!

    Thank you for that great post Bill,

    Fran

  25. Carolyn says:

    Thanks for all the great advice! As someone just starting out with a blog, I feel like I’m learning as I go and I’m glad to see that I’m getting some things right, but there’s a lot of room for improvement too! I think deciding what to blog about was the hardest for me because I’m interested in so many things. Ultimately I decided it will be travel since that’s what I enjoy most and it allows for such a diverse variety of topics.

  26. Kalyn says:

    This is great advice. I am looking to re-brand my blog as I move from blogger to wordpress and I want to make sure I get it right!

  27. Great advice, speaking from someone who loves writing blogs, I will def take this into account.

  28. Excellent post, Bill!

    I agree on all counts. It is refreshing to see a post that compares a blog to a house, since so many, myself included, talk about how a blog is essentially our “online real estate”, so why not make the most of it and do it up with care and style?

    Well done!

    Peter