This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, author of The Advanced SEO Book.
Previously in the Blog Design for ROI series, I discussed the importance of prioritizing your email optin form within your page layout.
The next best use of space in your design is to highlight your key content.
Why does highlighting your key content matter?
There are a few reasons why this is important.
- It helps convert one-off visitors into repeat visitors: If someone browses a few posts and realizes that they really enjoy the content, they’ll keep coming back for more. This is one reason why many blogs struggle to build a loyal following—they leave it to more-or-less random chance whether someone sees their best posts.
- It helps repeat readers keep digging into your archives: This way, they deepen their knowledge of the subject, and associate that education with you.
- This highlighting is also an easy, practical way to give visitors an idea of what you blog about.
When I say you should highlight key content, I don’t just mean posts, I mean your key posts and key blog categories. You can pick key categories either by popularity of the category’s posts and/or frequency of posting on that topic.
In the main content area
In this regard, I think ProBlogger’s design circa end of 2005 was a brilliant, successful approach to the problem:
Beneath the logo and banner ad, there are three visually dominant content blocks. The prominent position is one part of the story.
Another part of the success story here was the specific content featured.
- The first block, aptly entitled Introduction – Key Articles, featured core posts. It did something quite clever that went beyond that, though—after five specific posts, it offered a single link to drive people further into other posts—the Top 20 Posts at Problogger. And it offered a broad review of past experience—a summary of the best content, if you will—in the seventh link, Lessons I’ve Learnt.
- The second block, Tips and Hints – Toolbox, listed core categories on Problogger that still represent the blog’s topics accurately to this day—advice on publishing ads, blog design, writing and marketing.
- The third block, for miscellaneous items, provided valuable resources like interviews, case studies and tools, as well as miscellaneous info about ProBlogger like ProBlogger News, ProBlogger In The News and a Disclaimer.
I don’t know if it was deliberate at the time, but to me the content in those blocks is arranged in increasing order of expertise. Beginners can read, “What is a blog?” Intermediate bloggers can dig through the archives to satisfy their curiosity and deepen their knowledge. Experts can see interviews and case studies with particular details, as well as tools for for implementation.
In the sidebar
Another popular place—though probably less effective—to highlight a blog’s top content is the sidebar.
Here’s how Copyblogger did it back in the day.
And you’ll see that this is still where CopyBlogger highlights his top content today:
While CopyBlogger didn’t also link to category pages in 2006, you’ll see the design comes around and does this later, with the categories linked to above the Popular Articles section. Again, he enables people to go deeper into his subject matter and deepen their knowledge.
Email form + top content = win?
Another aspect which I like about Copyblogger’s positioning of the top content in the sidebar is that it’s right next to his email optin form.
One best practice for optin forms is to provide a [lightbox / popover] link to a sample email so people can preview what they’re signing up to. This advice comes from those well-known conversion experts, the Eisenberg brothers, founders of FutureNow. Here’s a look at their optin form.
Caveat: I said that I like this association of the email form with links to key content, because I think it’s similar to providing a sample newsletter as advocated by conversion rate gurus like the Eisenberg brothers. I haven’t tested it myself, though, so I don’t know if the analogy (sample newsletter link = top blog post links) holds true.
Raise ROI by highlighting your key content
After your email optin form, the most important element of your blog that you need to devote space to is your key content. It shows what you blog about, builds your loyal and subscribed audience, and helps people explore your archives.
Your key content is not just articles, but also categories and additional resources like tools and case studies.
Organizing the key content call-out by the intended audience’s degree of expertise is a practical way to make multiple audiences happy.
Placing the key content near your email optin form gives people a preview of what they’ll get in the newsletter, and may increase subscriptions.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these tips in the comments. Have you tried these approaches? How did they work?
Next time, we’ll look at integrating the community you’ve built around your blog into the design of the blog itself. See you then!
Gab Goldenberg wrote The Advanced SEO Book – and you can get a free chapter here. Gab and Internet Marketing Ninjas, the folks behind the Blog Design for ROI series here on Problogger, are offering to mail you a free print copy of the Blog Design for ROI guide as a small book. Get your free copy from seoroi.com/blog-design-for-