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How pictures can sell your post (and your product)

ArieannafoleyNext up in the 12 Days of Christmas Series is a blog tip from Pro Blogger Arieanna Foley – a (blogger who has at last count) involvement in over 16 blogs (actually it’s probably more than that now she’s a channel editor at b5) on a wide range of topics. She blogs for herself at Blogaholics and for b5 at the popular Cooking Gadgets and She Knows Best. She’s also our Entertainment Channel editor. Here’s her tip on using images in posts.

Although I give due credit to the amazing Rhys Alexander on the importance of “Writing Gooder“, but a blog post is not all about what you say or how you say it. Face it, there are hundreds of things that just slip past us, well written or not.

Here’s the problem: your reader has a very very short attention span. You might get just a portion of a second of their attention, in which you need to grab hold of them to keep reading. I have honestly unsubscribed from some blogs not because I was bored of them, but I honestly didn’t have the time to read their posts. They were long and unscannable – I’m sorry – I love them, but I read 400 blogs, and I need shortcuts.

We all know of certain techniques to improve these Attention Techniques. Good blog design, catchy titles, shorter posts, text techniques, and breaking up long paragraphs.

Well, I’m here to tell you another trick that can not only smack your readers across the face to get their attention, but also help you make money. [Read more...]

Blog Design and Ad Conversion

Peter’s posted an interesting post over at The Blog Studio on blog design and Ad CTR. Peter’s done a few blog designs lately and has found that in designing blogs to incorporate ads that the blogs have seen significant boosts in conversion.

‘What neither client expected though was that their click-through percentage jumped – dramatically. Not only were more people coming to their sites, but more (many more) were clicking on their ads. We’re talking about significant, sustained double digit growth. One client recouped the cost of his redesign investment in a single week.’

This sounds a little like Peter’s selling himself here (and I’m sure to some extent he is) but I know of one of the bloggers that Peter is referring to and they’ve also told me about their increased conversion since the redesign also.

In chatting with Peter this afternoon via Skype about what he’s found I’m fascinated and pleased by his.

I’m fascinated (or maybe it’s a bit of surprise) because one of the things that often comes up when I talk with bloggers is that it’s often their ugliest blogs that have the best CTR. Slapping ads front and centre on a blog without much thought to design can certainly get them attention and as a result clicks – but at what expense?

I’m also pleased by what Peter’s found because 2006 is a year where I’m going to be working on new designs for my blog. I’ve already penciled in some time with Peter himself to get some work done with him on one of my blogs and am eager to find out what impact it will have, not only on ad performance but more importantly to me reader loyalty.

Making Titles Live Links

One of the first tips I was given when i started to blog that I’ve not talked about for a while here is to consider making the titles of your posts live links (permalinks).

These days most blogging software does this automatically for you – however today as I’ve surfed around the web I’ve seen quite a few blogs that do not do it. Instead they link to the individual pages on their blog with the word ‘permalink’.

I hope they’ll forgive me but let me give you a couple of examples on two of my favorite blogs – A View from Home and Micro Persuasion. You’ll see in both instances that if you put your cursor over their post titles that they are not live links and that they have the ‘permalink’ link to their individual pages.

Of course some bloggers are more traditional in their approach and like this approach (and I think there can be some valid reasons for doing so) – however in my experience – making the title of your post a live link can have some significant benefits.

The greatest of these benefits is that it helps with Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engines rank sites on many factors – but one of these is that the words used in links linking to a page carry a lot of weight in how that page is ranked for those terms. It is not just how other external sites link to you either – it is the way in which your site is interlinked that counts also.

Take for example Steve’s post ‘Go Behind the Scenes at Rocketboom‘. If he’d made the titles on his front page, category pages, date archive pages and even his individual pages live links he would probably rank higher in Google in a few times for the term ‘Rocketboom’ than he will by just linking to those pages with the word ‘permalink’.

You’ll see that I’ve used this system here at ProBlogger – everywhere there is a title it’s a live link.

Ad Sizes on Blogs

Duncan has posted A short guide to ad sizes which really is a must read if you’re looking to use advertising on your blog. He takes a look at Ad placement, ad sizes and Chitika just to name some of what he covers:

‘Dont be afraid to experiment with your template as you would with any other aspect of your blog. First and foremost, its fun. For me getting a template to work is like painting a picture for someone else, its nearly like a piece of art that gives you a feeling of gratification once its completed (although in my case 3 months later I’m playing with it again :-) ) Take a stroll across the blogosphere and be inspired by what others are doing.’

What ad sizes and positions are your favorites?

Top Ten Blog Design Mistakes

Jakob Nielsen has put together an interesting article with the Top Ten Design Mistakes that he sees bloggers making. It’s a pretty insightful list – not definitive by any means – but definitely helpful in my mind.

1. No Author Biographies – I’m amazed that so many blogs don’t have any information about who is the behind them. Not essential information but common sense in my books to be transparent enough to tell people who you are.
2. No Author Photo – for me this is not a must – but it does add something personal to a blog.
3. Nondescript Posting Titles – regular readers will know about my passion for post titles – enough said
4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go – I agree – it also helps with SEO to use make links more descriptive
5. Classic Hits are Buried - So true – highlight your best posts or they’ll go unseen after dropping from the front page
6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation – has anyone ever used a calendar to navigate a blog or is it just me who avoids them?
7. Irregular Publishing Frequency – again something I’ve written quite a bit about. It’s not about high or low posting frequency – but regular posting. Find your rhythm and stick to it.
8. Mixing Topics - Stick to you niche
9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss – so true. Once you hit publish you lose control over who will ever see what you write. Be careful.
10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service - the quote of this article is ‘Letting somebody else own your name means that they own your destiny on the Internet.’ So true.

What mistakes do you see a lot of bloggers making?

I’ll add a brief one which is related to Jakob’s first one:

No Contact Details - A few weeks ago I was surfing through some blogs in an effort to build some relationships with some new bloggers and I was amazed – not actually I was stunned – but the number of bloggers that have no personal way of contacting them. Most of them had comments – but so many had no way to get an email to them.

The result was that I didn’t/couldn’t contact them and we both missed out on an opportunity to connect.

Favicons on Blogs

Today I had a nice surprise waiting for me in my inbox – an email from Tiago who had kindly taken it upon himself to design me a favicon for my blog in thanks for the advice I’d given him and others through this blog.

For those not familiar with favicons – they are the little tiny 16×16 pixel pictures that appear to the left of a site’s URL. They also appear in the tabs of firefox and in bookmarks on some browsers. – in my case Tiago had taken the ‘p’ from my logo and constructed one as follows.

Picture 2

He then pointed me to this favicon instruction site which told me how to add it to my blog – it took about 2 minutes.

I’ve been meaning to add a favicon here to ProBlogger for some time as it adds another element of branding to the site, increases useability for tabbed browser users and those who use bookmarks regularly to surf – but unfortunately it’s always slipped to the bottom of my ‘to do list’ – so a big thank you to Tiago.

Experimental blogging.

Duncan has a useful post on experimenting with the design of your blog at Don’t be afraid to experiment. Well worth the read.

BusinessLogs Redesign in Process

I’m watching with interest the redesign process of BusinessLogs.com which has already won awards for it’s designs.

Mike Rundle explains some of the reasons for and thinking behind the design (which is slowly coming into effect on the site). I can’t wait to see how it ends up because these guys always come up with innovative design and create a feel that makes me purrrrr with delight. Wish I had this type of design ability – in fact I wish I had any at all!.

Redesigning Blog Templates

I just stumbled across a useful page for those wanting to give their blog a bit of a design overhaul – it’s a blog tutorial on Blog Templates using Photoshop. In it they talk about how to design header banners/logos, give photos borders, make button etc. They also give a lot of useful links to help in the process.