This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, author of The Advanced SEO Book.
Are you writing phenomenal posts only to have your poor design fail you? Here’s how to fix that, with rules that will guide you whether you create a custom theme or just pick a theme and adapt it.
Today’s post is the first in a series on blog design for ROI.
Lots of articles give blog design rules or guidelines, but no one I’ve seen explains how these rules achieve your goals.
So let’s look at a business blogger’s possible ROI goals and how the design can help one achieve those goals:
- earning ad revenue
- earning revenue from selling your own products and services
- growing your email list, RSS + Facebook, or Twitter list (listed in decreasing order of value)
- building a community or audience—especially as reflected by comments, forum activity, etc.
- developing connections and networking.
Every blogger’s first goal should be developing repeat traffic from a loyal audience. Everything else—sales, links, social sharing, networking opportunities—is attainable from this.
In practical terms, the most direct way to achieve this is to blog regularly and to build an email list. Blog design can’t motivate you to write regularly, but it can maximize the number of people who subscribe to your newsletter.
Blog design for ROI rule #1: Prioritize the opt-in form above all
Q: How does your blog design help you build your list?
A: It makes the newsletter subscription call to action the most prominent element on any page, be it the homepage, an individual post page etc.
Notably, Sandra highlights the following factors, which are within reach for every blogger to use.
- location on the page
- whitespace around an element
- colour (saturation, hue and contrast).
Have a look at Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers. The design is brilliant with regards to building an email list. Here’s what an individual post page looks like:
Notice how besides the logo, the next most noticeable things are the email optin area and Derek’s face, followed by the title? Derek is making excellent use of both location, whitespace and color to draw attention to his opt-in box.
Even top marketers like Derek can improve, though.
If you look at the above screenshot, the email opt-in stands out—but it’s trying to shout over the logo and the further branding in the image box embedded in the post.
It’s easy to understand that Derek wants to brand himself and his blog as an expert source, but the large logo and face staring out are very distracting. Derek would likely increase his conversion rate by making the logo smaller and removing his face from the promotional box within his post.
What about branding? Branding is the result of relationships and getting your message out—two things which email does significantly better than a one-time view of a large logo and face.
So what lessons can we draw from Derek, on prioritizing our opt-in form in the blog design?
1. The ideal location to place your optin box is after the logo, before the content
This is the most prominent position you can place anything on the page, and since this is the call to action we care about, it fits here best. This is also why Google suggests placing AdSense ads there.
Failing this, you should still get it above the fold, and you can see that Derek did so at the very top of his sidebar. (Personally I’d love to see it integrated in the post’s upper right corner where his Insider box is, but that’s not always possible.)
2. Give the box plenty of breathing room
Note how it’s not squished between anything else? There’s also whitespace on the right and left margins, so this stands out even more.
3. Give it some colourThis way, it can contrast with the remainder of the page.
4. Make the rest of the page’s above-the-fold elements less prominent
Keep your logo small: look at Amazon’s for a good example of smart use of space. Also, avoid using a headshot above the fold, unless it’s integrated into your opt-in box.
Even this second point is debatable, as making the box too loud can make it physically hard for people to draw their eyes away from the opt-in to read your content. Or you could use a grayscale headshot in association with the author credits, or else resize the face image to be quite small.
The point is to be warily careful in using faces because they’re such a visually dominant element.
5. The spot before your comments is also a big draw visually, so put another opt-in form here
I attribute this prominence to people skipping down to the conclusion of a post to learn quickly what matters, as well as to being curious what others said and/or to see replies to their own comments.
Again, Derek does a good job with his placement, whitespace, and color contrast.
So that was rule number 1: give the top spot in your visual hierarchy to your email list’s opt-in form.
I’d love if you could comment with other examples of bloggers whose designs do a very good job of persuading people to join their lists.
At this time over the next few weeks, I’ll share the other steps involved in designing your blog for ROI. To follow along, add ProbBlogger’s RSS feed to your reader!
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-