Blog Layout

Jim from Blog Kits shot me an email last week saying that he thought it would be interesting to do a post asking readers what their favorite blog layout was.


What is your favorite blog layout?

Do you prefer 2 columns, 3 columns or some other format? What are the advantages of the different formats that you’ve tried?

I think it depends upon the blog you’re running. Most of mine are a 3 column format mainly because I find 3 columns gives more options for placing advertising, affiliate programs etc. Two columns can make it hard to fit ads, navigation and other blog buttons and features in.

The downside of a 3 column layout is that it can make your blog look quite cluttered.

What do you prefer? Feel free to leave links to blogs that you like (or dislike) the layout of.

Does blog design matter?

One of my favorite new bloggers is Peter Flaschner who today asks the question – Does blog design matter?

I first reviewed the design of Technorati’s top 10 blogs a month or so ago. At the time, I came to the conclusion that design didn’t really matter all that much. I figured that within a couple of months though, with the fantastic growth rate of the blog world, design would start to matter. This is based on the belief that given the choice between two sources of equal quality content, people will choose the better designed site.

In a medium where many argue ‘content is king’ I would argue that its queen is design. This is not just the case in blogging but in many aspects of business. I live in a suburb where there is a local strip of shops. There is a huge variety of stores, cafes, restaurants and offices there but most of them are fairly run down with quite a few old ma and pa stores that probably haven’t changed much in the past 15 – 20 years. But things are changing – the suburb is becoming more popular and gradually new shops and cafes are creeping into the strip of shops.

It is amazing to see the difference between the old and new shops – whilst the old one’s are dark and dusty the new ones are well lit, classy, clean and are very 2005.

Both types of shops sell the same stuff – but given the choice of a fresh and hip place or a dingy musty smelling one – I know where most shoppers are now heading. Aesthetics, sensuality and emotion are key in communication and are all things that a well designed blog can evoke.

Update: Interestingly (and perhaps I’m arguing with myself here) I was also reflecting this morning about how News Aggregators have changed the design equation somewhat.

As I surfed through my bloglines feed this morning I realized how much of an equalizer it was to see virtually all of the content presented to me in black quite and blue. The most amazingly designed blogs going around were reduced to the same level as some of the most appallingly designed blogs that I’ve ever seen. Could the news aggregator be quality content’s saviour!?

Update: Flyte has a great comment on this post – ‘The discussion of content versus design in blogs is like discussing what makes a rectangle bigger: height or width?’

Blog Design Layouts

Rachel at Designer Blogs has a cool post with 7 different blog layouts used by top bloggers – classified (with pictures) into navigation, sidebar, design and content.

She’s even got pretty pictures!

Blog Design Survey – Planning the design of your Blog

Rachel over at Designer Blogs has just posted a blog design survey that she gives her potential clients who are wanting her to quote on blog design.

I think its a pretty helpful list for those thinking through a new blog – whether they are getting a professional to design it or are doing it themselves.

Increasing the Longevity of Key Posts – Part II

This is the second part of a post on extending the life of Evergreen posts. Take a look at the first part here.

Related Articles – Many Bloggers use a ‘related articles’ feature in at the bottom of each of their posts. In most cases these are automated links from a plug in. WordPress and Movable Type both have such plugins available.

Once again such a strategy is good for both getting readers to go deeper within your site and for your search engine optimization.

Deep linking within posts – Similarly deep linking is an effective strategy. To actually refer to previously written evergreen posts within an article (where relevant) is another strategy that you should consider. This could be more effective than a ‘related articles’ feature simply because you have a bit more control about their positioning and the links that you highlight. Also people are more likely to take an ‘in content’ link recommendation than an automated one – it will also mean that the links is a highly relevant one – which SE’s tend to like.

Site Maps and Highlighting Categories – Whilst these may not specifically increase the profile of Evergreen posts – highlighting other key pages on your site (categories especially) helps to generate repeat page views and assists the Search Engines in indexing your blog. What you should be aiming for is that a reader or SE bot should be able to navigate to any page on your blog within two or three clicks. The simplest way to do this is to have your categories listed in your sidebar or menu and to use a pagination system (the little numbers at the bottom of this page that lead you to different sets of older posts).

What I’m really highlighting here are different ways in which you can interlink your site whilst highlighting your key pages.

So take a surf through your archives and make note of the underrated evergreen posts that you find and consider finding places on your blog to highlight them. You might be surprised what impact it has.

Feel free to share what strategies you use to highlight your evergreen posts in comments below.

Increasing the Longevity of Key Posts – Part I

Last week I wrote about the nature of two types of blog posting in Evergreen vs Time Related Posts (or posts that are long lasting in their relevance and appeal to readers versus posts that are time or event specific). I wrote that each can be profitable forms of blogging – but I failed to give any tips on how to get the most from your Evergreen Posts.

One of the best ways in which you can lengthen the longevity of your posts and take them to ‘evergreen status’ is to be smart about how you integrate them into your blog.

Let’s look at how most blogs operate.

  1. You write a wonderful post with evergreen potential and hit ‘publish’ – your post appears in the prime position of your blog – front and centre where anyone coming to your blog will see it. At this point it will be read by virtually everyone who comes to your home page.
  2. You write another post an hour, day or week later and your evergreen post begins its decent down your page. You might allow 10 posts on your blog’s main page and so after 10 new posts it slips away into another blogging dimension – your archives.
  3. At this point your post drastically reduces its chances of ever being read again in large numbers – it is out of site to your readers and because its no longer on your main page the chances of search engines sending traffic its way decrease also.

So what is a blogger to do? Is there a way (short of letting your main page contain 100 posts – and slowing to a crawl) of keeping your wonderful post in the spotlight?

I’d like to suggest that there are a number of ‘in house/on blog’ strategies that smart bloggers use to increase the life of their evergreen posts (note there are also off blog strategies that I won’t go into here). Let me outline a few before I invite your opinion:

[Read more…]

Where’s the Content?

Search-Engine-BlogSometimes its easy to get so carried away with earning money on your blog that your content can become secondary to everything else.

I’ve had (and probably fallen for) this kind of temptation myself – but think its probably the blog and your readers who suffer most for it.

I was just surfing by this blog and was struck by the layout there (screen capture above – click to enlarge).

The screen capture is of an individual archive page that I surfed into from an RSS feed. When I got to the actual site I found myself asking ‘where’s the content?’ (it reminded me of one of those ‘Where’s Wally/Waldo books’). Perhaps its just my screen size (15 inch) but as you’ll see from my screen capture the content’s heading was the only part of the content to show above the fold – the rest of the page was almost completely affiliate links (hidden as recommended reading), cross promotion to other parts of the network and ads.

Once again – I too feel the temptation to smother some of my blogs in ads and on some of them could be accused of similar tactics – but I wonder what it does for building a loyal repeat readership? To be honest coming to a page like this doesn’t inspire me to come back – not because of the content (they often have good stuff there) but simply because it is so hidden amongst the rest of what the page has.

My recommendation to bloggers is always to work on content – provide relevant and useful information for your readers – put it in a clearly identifiable and easily found position and don’t fall for the temptation of the quick easy buck.

Using Photos in your Posts

GnomesArieanna asks her readers if they are influenced by pictures in posts? She writes:

‘I notice quite often that I scan blog posts quite quickly to pick up on one of two things: keywords in the title or pictures. One or the other has to catch my eye to stop my scroll down the page.’

I’m a big believer in catching the attention of readers by whatever means is needed – picture, keyword, intriguing title, promise of free gifts (ok – not that one – yet).

I got to look at some Eyetools results for one of my blogs recently and was intrigued to see how pictures inside a longer article can actually help to draw readers eyes down the page. Very useful strategy.

It’s all part of making your blog scannable – drawing your reader in – grabbing their attention.

Do you use photos in posts? What’s your strategy? Do you think it works?

PS – why did I pick the above photo for this post? It was the first one I found in iPhoto – of a few of my mates who watch me blog all day.

Making your blog sticky

Duncan over at The Blog Herald has a great post on Making your blog sticky which is a second post (first one is here) on what he’s doing at his great blog to make readers stick around after surfing in for the first time to one of his individual archive pages. Its a great article with some useful tips that I’m going to consider playing with.

I am particularly interested in his experimentation with the ‘Recent Posts’ plug in that he’s implemented at the base of each of his posts. I’ve been considering doing that on one of my blogs which has struggled to get people to view more than one page per visit.

In making this move on Blog Herald he now estimates that 60% of his readers now read more than one article on his blog per session in comparison to 10% a month ago. Thats a serious improvement!