18 Essential Things Every Successful Blog Should Include

Thursday, 22 June 2017

I am so excited to finally start this blogging series. I was a little hesitant at first, because I am as much of an amateur as any newbies reading this post, BUT, I am sure we can work together and create something beautiful. Design has been something I have always loved, so when I finally decided I wanted to start a blog, the creative side got me really, really, excited. Over the past 3 years, I have had 3 different blog themes, but my current design is the one I love the most.

The content of a blog is really important, but having a theme with a well designed user-interface is important too. You wouldn't turn up to a job interview with an impressive cv dressed in a questionable slogan t-shirt, ripped jeans, and dirty trainers. It's all about presenting your amazing work in the best possible way. Somebody has clicked on a link to read your post, great, but what if they stays a little longer to read other posts, or maybe even share your post, or follow you on social media. For this to happen, they need to be given everything they need without having to click and search too much. You've got to admit, we are pretty lazy readers, and if it means far too much clicking and searching, and not getting what we came for, we are going to leave.

For the first part of my series, I want to get you thinking about your theme. Is it something you love, or something you're using because it's what you have. Sometimes we only need little tweaks, so today I'm sharing 18 things each and every blog should include, ranging from design, SEO, and user-friendliness.

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LOGO

Just like with any business, you need a logo or name that is easily recognisable, and can be used throughout any promotional materials such as media kits and business cards. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, it can simply be your blogs name in a font you love.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Having your social media links is so important, but it's shocking the amount of times I've had to look for them. Growing your social media following is a great way to share your posts and grow your online presence. Have your links throughout your website in places a reader would see them. I have mine in three places; the top, so it can be seen on first view, on the side bar, while they're reading the post, and at the bottom, after they have finished reading. I also find it more user-friendly having the links as images instead of words, as the icons are widely recognised.

A NAVIGATION

You want your content to be found easily, so a clear navigation is needed. You can display it in anyway you like, (drop down, text, or images are a few idea) as long as you can help your readers see a brief look at what is available on your blog. Think about the main categories your blog has, and use these as keywords in your navigation. You can also include other important pages such as your about me, and contact details.

AN ABOUT PAGE

It's always nice to know a little about the person behind the blog. Your about me page can include a story behind why you started blogging, to what you like to do outside of blogging, or a brief summary about who you are. You can include photographs too. It's nice to make it personal so your audience can feel like they're getting to know you.

.@helloaycan is sharing 18 things every blog should include.

CONTACT DETAILS

If you want to start working with brands, having your contact details is necessary, but it also needs to be easily found. You can have your email address placed throughout your blog, or on a dedicated page with email information or a contact form. Make sure the email address is professional with your name or your blogs name.

COMMENT BOX

A great way for your readers to let you know they love your post, or to get a conversation started is a comment box. They are included in most blog templates, but you may want to use a different program such as Disqus (which is what I use). Think about how easy it is for your readers to comment. A long signing up/logging in process is a big no no!

POPULAR POSTS

Showing off your most popular posts can help create a huge buzz. A group of my most popular posts are presented in my sidebar on the home page, whereas on the post pages, I have only included my most popular post. (This is because I display my popular and recent posts differently, depending on the page.) Blogger includes a widget which automatically presents your popular posts based on daily, weekly or monthly statistics.

RECENT POSTS

You want your new posts to gain as much exposure as possible, so find ways to incorporate them into your blog other than on your home page. I've placed mine in my sidebar on all my post pages. Again, there are widgets that can update this for you automatically.

RELATED POSTS

If someone has clicked on your blog to read a post they find interesting, what's better than showing them something similar so they can stick around a little longer. Related posts are usually placed at the bottom of your post, and uses labels or keywords to determine other posts which might entice your readers.

A SEARCH BOX

Having a search box lets your audience find content which isn't presented on the current page. If you have Google Analytics set up, you can also see what's been searched for, which helps you understand what posts may be in demand, or it might just make you slightly concerned and confused about what people are actually looking for on your website.

AN ARCHIVE PAGE

It can sometimes be hard to find older posts, as the main page of your blog is usually dedicated to your most recent work. The best way to not let that hard work get forgotten is with an archive page. You can present this in years or months, depending on how much content you have.

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OPTIMISED IMAGES

What the hell is optimised images you may ask? Well, it is simply naming your images. Every single image on your blog (except decorative images), needs to be named. This is a great way to help with your blogs SEO, and will overall increase the rank of your images in search engines, (plus is makes organisation freaks like me super happy!). The first way is to name your files. Sorry but IMG_4755.JPG is not the right way. This doesn't help search engines find your images because it's not describing anything; mobile-rainbow-pattern-wallpaper.jpg lets your images get crawled and be found. As well as naming your image files, it is also a good habit to use alternative tags, better known as alt tags. This is placed in the html of your images as alt="img alt" and it's a simple description of what the image is; product name, brand, recipe title ect. Keep it short, but be descriptive. If you haven't already done this, it can seem like the most tedious thing to do, but it will help your blog in the long run.

POST DESCRIPTION

Another useful tool for SEO is post descriptions or meta descriptions. This is a small snippet which summarises your post, and appears in the search results. This should describe your post in no more than 160 characters, and should make the reader want to click and read your post. Use really strong, call to action terms. Think of it like the blurb of a book... but a lot shorter. I like to use this description testing tool to check the length, and see how my description will be presented. As well as search results, these descriptions are used across social media when your link is shared, so this is really important to get people clicking.

TWITTER CARD/META TAGS

Have you ever tweeted a link and wondered how they automatically showed an image and description? Well, that's the work of Twitter cards. It's a little piece of meta description that is added in your code to let Twitter know what should be shared. The can be set up on twitter developer. Meta tags/open graph data are very similar to Twitter cards, except these work throughout the WWW. This should include a description of your blog, keywords, images ect. Check out Moz and the open graph protocol for a template, and a much better explanation than I could ever do.

SHARING LINKS

There is only so much promotion you can do with your posts, so having sharing links allows your readers to share your post to a wider audience. Pick the social media platforms you feel your posts are best suited on, and link these at the bottom or top of each post.

DISCLAIMER

This is so important if you use adsence, affiliates or are creating sponsored posts. You want to be completely transparent with your readers, and should make it really clear that you have been paid to write a post, or have created CTR links to earn money. You can either include this as a statement on your blog, or at the bottom of your posts. In some countries it's actually illegal not to mention you're making money this way.

A COOKIES NOTICE

A cookies notice is another piece of information which is needed on your blog by law. It informs the reader how and why their information is being stored. Blogger automatically adds in the notice for you, but you can make it look as pretty as you like (of course I had to).

A MOBILE FRIENDLY SITE

Mobile friendly sites have become so important in the recent years because of the increase in smart phones. You want your website to look as beautiful on a mobile as it does on a desktop. There's nothing worse than having to constantly zoom to read content, or having to try and click tiny little buttons. When developing your site, think about what is necessary to see on a smaller screen. Remove side bars, and focus on the written content and clear photography. Your navigation and important links must also be easily accessible. You can use resources such as Google mobile friendly test to check how mobile friendly your site actually is. I have been putting off creating mine for such a long time, but now that I have started, I am slightly in love. I'll let you all know once it's finally finished.

I hope this has inspired you to take a look at your blog design and find ways to make it better. Like I've mentioned above, I want to start a blogging series where I teach you how to design and code your own blog, but I need your help. Let me know in the comments below what you'd love to learn, and I can base my tutorial on the information you provide.

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