Advice for Blog Design and Blog Goals

I recently found some notes I took from an interview Darren Rowse (Problogger) did this summer with The Blog Squad and thought I’d share them with you. He has some basic, but unbelievably useful tips. The following are my notes and thoughts from his interview in August. His key points are the bold bullet points. My thoughts follow that bold type. When the notes say I this or that, they are referring to me, Melanie.

Blog Design

  • Think about what is showing above the fold. (Above the fold means the content you see when you first view the blog. It’s anything you don’t have to scroll to see.) You should be showing recent content above the fold. I see many mommy bloggers in particular who have large title banners that take up the entire space above the fold. I would suggest making these banners smaller and focusing on providing your audience with as much info as possible above the fold.
  • Make your blog sticky. Sticky means you are encouraging people to return to your blog. To make your blog sticky, create a path to more of your blog with backlinks to previous (relevant) articles. The more they read, the more likely they are to subscribe to your RSS feed. Another way to make your blog sticky is to invite readers to subscribe to your feed and make your RSS feed available with the click of a button.

Blog Goals and Advice

  • Find a niche. It’s true that there are blogs on every niche. However, if you look, you’ll see that there are holes to be filled. Find a need and fill that need. I started Blogging Basics 101 (at the urging of Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer) because there are many intermediate and advanced tech sites for bloggers, but there wasn’t a place for beginners.
  • Don’t be afraid to self-promote. I think many bloggers (mommy bloggers in particular?) find self-promotion difficult at first. The key is to find a balance between promotion and humility. If you’re in blogging for the long haul and want to make some money, you have to put yourself out there. You’ll need to use Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to bring attention to yourself. You will have to comment at other blog posts and become part of relevant blogging communities. You will have to toot your own horn sometimes. Be careful not to spam your friends and readers with too much, but don’t be afraid to draw attention to yourself when it’s warranted. Why do you think businesses have commercials?
  • Build on what works. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new weekly columns, placement of ads on your site, or guest posts. Use your statistics programs to gauge your readers reactions. If you can’t garner information from your stats program you should a) ditch the stats program and try something new and b) ask your readers for feedback on what they like and don’t like. Then implement any ideas you receive.
  • Look for ways to extend your blog. Problogger suggests considering forums, job boards, newsletters, podcasts, and videos as ways of extending your blog’s reach.
  • Content is King! Everyone says it and it’s true: without compelling and well-written content, your blog will go nowhere. Yes, blog design is important, but they’ll stay if you have great content they need (and that ‘need’ can encompass learning or entertainment).

I have more to share with you. Stay tuned this week!

10 Responses

  1. Jena (Organizing Mommy) December 9, 2008 / 2:26 pm

    When I saw that you and Darrin Rouse are connected, I instantly subscribed to your RSS. I love his stuff. Even though I’ve only been blogging for a year, I have really enjoyed the journey. Thanks for the useful stuff.

  2. Melanie Nelson December 9, 2008 / 2:48 pm

    Jena,

    You are right: Darren is an amazing blogger who is personable and writes excellent info.

    I want to be clear that this interview wasn’t with me. I’m sharing my notes from an interview I listened to online (been looking for the link all day–it was way back in August). He and I aren’t “connected” other than I’ve met him briefly at BlogWorld Expo ’08 and I’ve Twittered with him. I don’t want to give the wrong idea. 😉

    Having said that, I hope you find lots of useful information here at Blogging Basics 101 and continue to subscribe to my RSS. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at melanie.nelson AT bloggingbasics101 DOT com.

    Thanks for coming by!
    Melanie

  3. Heidi @ GGIP December 9, 2008 / 3:15 pm

    When talking about sticky, do you mean adding links to “relevant” posts below your post, or just linking to them within your current post? Just wondering!

    Thanks!

  4. Melanie Nelson December 9, 2008 / 5:06 pm

    Heidi,

    “Sticky” can be either of those: linking w/in the post and/or linking to relevant posts after the main post. The main thing is to make people want to return. By linking to relevant posts, you’re encouraging them to read more of your writing. If that writing answers a question, encourages them to join a community, or entertains them, they are more likely to subscribe to your RSS feed and return.

  5. Fran December 11, 2008 / 8:59 pm

    I am a total amateur but just wanted to say thank you for all of your wonderful information. I have moved from page 56 on google alerts to page 5 for my niche and it is mostly due to your wonderful tips! Just wanted to say thank you!!!

  6. A Maui Blog December 14, 2008 / 2:37 am

    Thank you for this post. i am getting a new blog design as I move to WordPress. This post is very helpful.

  7. Michael Gaudet February 17, 2009 / 10:28 am

    Thanks for this useful post, Melanie. You’ve got me thinking about ‘sticky-ness’.
    I am going to try plugging this idea into my blog to see what happens.
    Cheers!

  8. Betsy May 20, 2013 / 4:35 pm

    I started my blog about a month ago, and I’m always looking for advice on how to improve it…here it is, 2013, and were still reading your good advice from 2008. I’m glad I came across your blog!

    • Melanie Nelson May 20, 2013 / 6:48 pm

      Betsy,

      Thank you so much. That is very kind of you to say. I’m glad you stopped by, and happier that the information is helpful to you.

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