Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to Design an Efficient Blog

Since this seems to be a popular topic, let me throw in a post in the early stages of this fresh blog of mine. It is popular because everyone and his dog have written something about it. Now, hear what this cat has to say.

Why do you blog?

No, I am serious, think about it. What is your aim, your target? What do you want to achieve? This is the single most important factor that will have an impact on designing an efficient blog (you noticed the emphasis on efficient, didn't you?). Here are some thoughts:
  • You want to spread your ideas, i.e. you want to be read.
  • You want to sell your products, crafts, etc. on-line.
  • You want to make money from advertising or similar.
If you consider the above, you will see that:
  1. First group needs readers or subscribers;
  2. Second, customers;
  3. Third, targeted visitors.
You should evaluate your blog, from top to bottom, taking into account what type of visitors you expect. Without further ado, excluding the third group (there is a plethora of articles and tutorials on the web and duplication is unnecessary), the good stuff:

Software/platform:

Any software or free platform (like blogger, wordpress.com, self hosted) will do for subscribers. For the customers group, however, there are additional concerns.

First and foremost, blogging as we know it, is NOT for you. You should consider alternative software (CMS) and think blogging as a marketing arm/tool of your company. By blogging, you inform your customers about new products, tell events/news in your niche, history of the craft, how a product is created from ground up, so and so forth. Remember this! You are not selling anything in your blog. You are branding and increasing the visibility (from a search engine point of view) of your products/shop.

Background:

This one's easy; white or light backgrounds for subscribers, dark for on-line shops (it really increases the visibility of your products).

Fonts:

You should always opt for clear and reasonably large fonts for your subscribers. As the average age of your readers increase, their visions unfortunately decrease. Giving them an option to adjust fonts is a plus. For customers, the fonts should neither stand out, nor be extremely difficult to read. Avoid unnecessarily using color phrases.

Images:

Images no doubt draw attention. However, use them sparingly for your subscribers. They must be to the point and contribute to the story. Choose thumbnails over full-size ones, as each image added will slow down your site. The visitors' attention span is very short. They will not wait 20 seconds for your site.

The second group is handicapped again as far as images are concerned; they have to use images. Still, with a little bit of planning, you can minimize the damage.
  • Limit the number of posts in your index page; three is ideal, four is the maximum.
  • When you are publishing a series of pictures, say the same product but different angles, consider using one big picture and the rest as thumbnails.
  • Avoid unnecessary pictures, widgets, buttons and what not.
Social networks:

Following is valid for both. Social networks like Entrecard, Digg, Facebook, etc. are only beneficial if you are active in that network. You can achieve very little by frantically mixxing, redditing and propelling your own posts on the same day and asking people do the same. Choose one of them and be active. Participate in the forums, discussions and make friends.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

Oh, the holy grail! First the readership group:

Do NOT optimize your post titles and texts. Write as naturally as possible. Stuffing keywords in the titles, counting and/or unnecessarily adding them in the posts will harm the readability of your articles. If I changed the title of this very post to "Design Concerns in Implementing and Successfully Running Weblogs", would it be more readable (it surely looks academic, though)? There are only two items you should really care about:
  • Always give a proper description of your images using the alt tag [w3.org].
  • Keep a good link structure. Whenever you are referring to an article -on or off site, give a hyper-link to it. Directing your readers to posts and quality content is a good policy.
Well, here comes the customer group. I am afraid you have to optimize your pages as you will be competing with others to appear in the search engine result pages (SERP's). You can either read a lot of articles and learn (not always correctly) by yourself or take my advice and do the following:

Advertise! You are a business man or woman, making an investment in your store. Allocate a budget, even as low as $ 10 a month and spend it. Your place is inside the ring (or something similar, Godfather?, can't remember).

Advertisements:

So, you want to do something in between, writing and one day quit your day job and make a living by writing or crafting, etc on-line. By all means give it try. Making a living from something you like is definitely satisfying. Do not annoy your readers by overdoing and filling your site with irrelevant ads, though. Filter, where necessary.

And again I will depart from the main stream and offer something different for shop owners: Accepting advertisement is NOT good for you. I do not see any reason whatsoever referring a potential customer to a competitor of yours. Try affiliate marketing, instead. Unlike ad programs, you have full control over the affiliates and their products that will show up in your site. You can offer complimentary products and services to your customers and create value for them.

2 comments:

Intelligence said...

Great tips, I'll definitely have to begin implementing some of those! I blog due to sheer boredom and a lot of free time.

Intelligence said...

Thanks for the tips, I will definitely implement some. I blog for pure pleasure and due to utter boredom and a lot of extra time on my hands :)

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