Is your blog outdated?
Forget about responsive design, parallax scrolling, and secure hosting for right now … let’s talk about the basics.
Implementing the latest trends online won’t help your website if you don’t have the basics nailed down, so instead of focusing on the responsive design and secure hosting I’d like to explore some of the more common reasons why a blog seems outdated as well as some suggested fixes.
Let’s start it off with one of the most misunderstood areas of your website.
1. Your sidebar is desperate for attention
You spent a lot of time writing your latest article, crafting a strong title, and effectively capturing someone’s attention — congrats!!
Are you sure you really them to lose interest and focus on that banner flashing obnoxiously in your sidebar?
Sure, it might lead to some affiliate earnings, but imagine what kind of earning you might be able to generate once visitors consider you an authority in your niche and look to you for recommendations.
The sidebar should compliment your content, not distract readers from it.
The Fix: Create a complimentary sidebar
The suggestions below are merely what I find to work for my goals, so please be sure to consider what your own goals are and outline the steps required for your visitors to reach those goals.
My goal is to grow my influence within the community.
- Remove everything.
- Display an email subscription form* prominently.
- Install WordPress Popular Posts, customize settings to your liking, and add to your sidebar.
- Listen BlogTyrant XPeriments: Episode 002 for tools and ideas regarding the sidebar.
2. You’re not building an email list
An email list says a lot about you.
It reveals how serious you are about your content, your delivery, and your readership. Your average visitor may not understand the importance of an email list, but he or she knows there’s a big difference between connecting on Twitter and connecting via email.
Making that option available gives your visitors the option to take the relationship to the next level. It also helps you build your independence from social platforms.
The Fix: Start building an email list sooner than later
After spending years exploring the various services and plugins specializing in building email lists, and even bouncing back and forth between a competitors, I found the following three to be the most exceptional.
3. Your social buttons are … silly
You’ve seen ’em before …
If you’ve ever searched for cool social icons, you’ve seen just how “cool” they can be. But why aren’t the pros using social icons styled like bottle caps, stamps, weathered parchment, pins, hand sketched, wooden blocks, or any other 3D object?
It’s all silly, that’s why.
The key to getting people to share your content has nothing to do with how cool your social icons looks.
It’s all about the content.
The Fix: Keep your social icons simple
I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the web for the perfect social sharing service, and found a few I think will save you time. At the moment, I’m using AddThis because of it’s awesome layers feature.
- Simple Share Buttons
- Flare by Filament
- Jetpack Sharing by Automattic (WordPress)
4. Your font is distracting … and silly
During the early days of the web, people were excited to see fresh new fonts displayed on websites. It was fun and different and not to be taken too seriously.
And then we realized just how serious the web was.
It wasn’t just a place to waste time in AOL chat rooms anymore; It was a landscape of opportunity … a revolution in the way we communicate and live our lives.
The Fix: Select a basic font
Stick with a basic sans serif typefaces, like Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana. If you’re not happy with any of those, find out what typefaces your favorite bloggers are using and implement them.
- TypeKit by Adobe
- Google Fonts
5. Your visuals are boooooring
Visuals have become more important to the web than ever before.
Since it’s barren beginning, the web has bloomed into a beautifully visual landscape thanks to both the technology enabling it and the users contributing to it.
And we love it.
Most of us notice the visual attached to an article first … even before we know what we’re about to read.
It’s not always so beautiful however, as a lot of bloggers make the mistake of marrying a boring stock photo or graphic with their content.
The Fix: Treat your visual with as much care as your title
As the first hook capable of capturing a visitor’s attention, you need to spend time finding a visual that both complements your content and compels the visitor to start reading.
- Creative Commons by Flickr
- PhotoDune Premium Stock Photography
6. Your social integration is sloppy and doesn’t make sense
Beautiful integration is just as important as beautiful visuals.
Even if you’re using Jetpack or AddThis, the placement of your social icons can damage the experience your visitor has on your website — especially if you’re hammering your visitor over the head with it.
Think about how the placement of your social icons adds to the visitor’s experience.
Does it make sense?
Is it helpful?
Does it look good and compliment your content?
If not, social integration could be more hurtful to you than helpful.
The Fix: Be strategic in placement and customize the CSS
Look at your favorite websites and take note of where they have integrated their social sharing options.
Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Place sharing icons below the content title
- Place sharing icons below the content
- Place follow icons in your sidebar
If the integration doesn’t look good, consider the following:
- Installing a different social sharing plugin*
- Customizing the CSS
*Many social sharing plugins enable you to customize the placement of your icons, but sometimes the styling of your theme conflicts with the styling of the social icons.
7. You haven’t updated the favicon
The favicon is the icon that appears next to the title of your blog, page, or post in the tab within your browser. You should see the Creativeblogger “C” in the tab above.
What’s the big deal?
The favicon does two things for your visitor: it serves as a visual bookmark of sorts when your visitor has multiple tabs open, and it accompanies the title of your website whenever someone adds you to their favorites (hence the name favicon) or subscribes using a reader.
If you haven’t updated the favicon yet, you’re missing out on a big branding opportunity and others, especially in the blogging community, will view this as a lack of attention, care, or ability.
Three ways to update your favicon:
- Locate the favicon option in the theme settings of WordPress and upload an image or designate the URL of the image you want to use.
- Access your theme via FTP to locate the current favicon of your website, create a favicon (16pxx16px or 32pxx32px), and upload the file to the same location.
- Get help from Elto
8. Your title is crowded
If the title of your page or post is crowded by social buttons, meta items, and content, you’re probably making your visitor work harder to focus and understand what you’re saying than necessary.
Empty space is a good thing.
When utilized effectively, empty space can help your visitor understand what’s important quickly with little effort. This can result in reducing the time it takes to capture a visitor’s attention and lead to a more enjoyable experience on your website as a whole.
Two ways to make your title stand out:
- If you’re familiar with CSS, consider adding some padding around your title. You can also try hiding some of the meta information if you’re interested in a minimalist style.
- Get help from Elto
9. Your content is dense
If you’re not breaking your blocks of text into bite-size paragraphs, you’re doing a disservice to both you and your visitors.
Visitors are quick to lose interest online, so it’s important you do what you can to hold their attention once you have it. In terms of content, the fastest way to lose their attention is to show them a large block of text.
It has nothing to do with the quality of your content.
It has everything to do with how hard you ask your visitors to work in order to obtain the message from it.
The Fix: Make your content easy to read
A few things you can do to achieve this include the following:
- Break your content into sections using Sub-headings
- Limit your paragraphs to three – four sentences when possible.
- Use bullet points
Break all the style guidelines you learned in school and pay attention to how your favorite websites structure their content.
10. You use one sidebar for your whole website
If you have an about page, you should be displaying a secondary sidebar specifically designed for visitors viewing your about page.
Because your visitors’ intent can change while exploring your website.
After reading half of your latest article, a new visitor might lose interest and jump to one of your more popular articles prominently displayed in your sidebar. Yet, while visiting your about page, that same visitor might be interested in contacting you via email, connecting with you on Twitter, or subscribing to your newsletter.
It doesn’t have to be complicated.
It’s just a matter of creating multiple sidebars.
The Fix: Create multiple sidebars
It’s up to you to figure out what kind of intent your visitor may as he or she moves from page to page. Once you have an idea, install the following free plugin to create multiple sidebars.
- Custom Sidebars by WPMU Dev
I use this plugin for several projects, including Creativeblogger and Wearabl.
Is your blog outdated?
Be honest with yourself.
Like most bloggers out there, I’m constantly working to improve my work. In fact, I’m still playing around with my social sharing icons, sidebar, and email list.
Creating a solid foundation should take precedence over the latest web trends, so ask yourself what you can do better in regard to the basics.
So, what will you be working on?