Even before Google’s Panda update, producing great blog content has been a solid strategy to increase inbound links, boost site traffic & brand awareness, and ultimately, ramp up conversions. But in order to reap those rewards, visitors have to not only feel comfortable browsing your content, but also feel confident in recommending your content to others.
Here are 6 ways to ensure your blog’s design maximizes the link-generating potential of your content:
1. Look Like a Pro
First thing’s first, your blog needs a professional, well-designed theme. The free, out-of-the-box solutions are just not going to cut it. In most cases, you want to match the look-and-feel of your blog with the personality of your business. But, remember, blogs are conversational, so if your website is a stuffy, straight-to-the-point B2B sales tool, try switching things up and giving your blog’s design a little character. First impressions are everything, so make sure your blog’s header and other above-the-fold elements convey the style and tone that your content is aiming to achieve.
2. Navigate Accordingly
The next thing you want to look at is your blog’s navigation. A lot of times, this will match the navigation of the rest of the site, but be careful, too much commercial influence on a blog can send visitors back to the social media site they came from. Pare down the navigation on your blog to include just the most important top-level pages from your website, while still making it easy for users to browse your product or service pages if they’re motivated to do so. If your blog has a wide topical focus, include helpful category links, but if not, it might be best to leave them out altogether. Also be sure to give your evergreen content a permanent and accessible home.
3. Ad Insanity
Are you going overboard on ads? Unless you’re a publishing business that is supported by ad revenue, ask yourself why do you have advertising space on your blog in the first place? Are you promoting your own products or events, helping other good companies increase awareness for their business, or are you looking to make an easy buck off Google AdSense? In almost all cases, ads are going to interrupt your visitor’s experience on your blog, so be very thoughtful in how you execute them. Always use standard ad block sizes, set quality standards on ad design, and keep ads super relevant to your target audience. While sidebar ads won’t get the visibility in-content ads will, they will help preserve the user experience and increase the opportunity for social shares and inbound links.
4. Image is Everything
Including images in blog posts to help illustrate your point can be one of the trickier parts of producing a great blog. Unless you have design skills or a graphic designer on staff, it can be difficult to put together the kind of supporting imagery that really successful blogs use to captivate their readers. First off, stop stealing images via Google Image Search. There are a ton of options for using Creative Commons images on Flickr, and it’s always good to have a loaded iStockPhoto account to grab anything you can’t find for free on the web. Also consider taking a free beginner Photoshop course at your local professional education center so you have the ability to spruce up the images you find and make them truly unique to your site.
5. Step Up Your CTA
What’s the point of writing great content and building up readership on your blog if you don’t have a call to action? Encourage readers to share your posts, subscribe to your newsletter, become a fan, sign up for an event, or any other goals you’d like them to accomplish. You have a much better chance of your readers taking your desired action if you let them know exactly what you want them to do. But be careful not to overwhelm them, we’ve all happened across those sites that serve 4 pop-ups in a row begging you to download their free E-Book, sign up for their mailing list, take a short survey, and RSVP for their webinar. Don’t be THAT guy.
6. Link Like a Gentleman
One of the biggest things that interrupts the blog user experience is overly aggressive internal linking. This is compounded when the link anchor texts are so unnaturally skewed towards SEO keywords that it becomes too much work to even understand the sentence that you’re reading. Don’t get me wrong, internal links are important, and they can be great for providing additional context for your readers, and increasing pageviews, but be smart about it. Use descriptive anchor text that flows with the sentence structure of your post, not the search volume of an exact-match keyword.
Experiment with Tynt’s free publisher tools. They offer a script which tracks the content on your blog that users are copying and pasting into emails and websites. They not only automatically include a link back to your site when your content is pasted, but they analyze the content that is being copied most frequently and help you determine the topics that your visitors care about most. Tynt claims that for every user who clicks a share button, 90 users still share by copy and paste. For anti-social and non-web-savvy industries, this free tool could possibly be one of your best link building strategies.