Your blog is your best marketing tool, but only if it does what it’s supposed to do.
When everything works correctly, you have a Web-optimized hub with excellent, shareable content that builds your community.
But how do you make the leap from an ordinary blog to one that’s a credible hangout for the people you want to attract?
Let’s start with these seven key areas:
1. Design errors
It may be wrong to judge a book by its cover, but Web audiences do judge a blog by its design—what they see when they first arrive at the home page.
Be honest: If you visit a site that has a static design from the early days of the Web, you won’t take it as seriously.
If your blog doesn’t look the part, then it’s time to spruce it up.
On a WordPress-based site, fixing design issues can be as easy as changing the theme. Most premium themes are between $30 and $100, or you can spend a little more and get a custom design. Either way, isn’t your online image worth it?
There are more excellent design tips and resources in Kathryn Aragon’s article on blending design and copy for visual conversion. (And don’t forget to address page load speed when you create your design.)
2. Confused navigation
Although a great design will get people onto your site, usability will keep them there.
A recent study by Hubspot found that 76 percent of consumers want a site that makes it easy to find the information they want. Good navigation is an important part of that.
People don’t want to work too hard to find information on your site, so place your navigation in one of the usual locations (left, right, top or bottom), use either recognized terminology (home, about, services, FAQs) or descriptive terminology for labels and take advantage of categories, tags and the search bar to provide even more ways to navigate your blog content.
Some sites successfully use pathways targeted to seekers of different types of information. That can work, too. A good example is the screenshot below from Copyblogger.
Whichever route you go, don’t forget to include a sitemap, which will help both visitors and search engine optimization. This will smooth the path to accessing information. Yes, you can lead people deeper into your site, but you have to do it in an understandable and transparent way.
After all, if your customers can’t find your authority blog post, how will they know you’re an authority?
Find additional help on avoiding website navigation mistakes.
3. Poor content
Successful marketing relies on excellent content.
The latest figures from the Content Marketing Institute show that 90 percent of marketers use content marketing. There are even more supporting statistics on the Top Rank Blog. They all add up to one thing: Great content is what differentiates ordinary sites from those with authority.
[FREE DOWNLOAD: How to manage online feedback and brand reputation]
There are two aspects to address.
The first is to make sure the written content follows good Web-writing guidelines. Web copy should have a headline that attracts attention, be well-spaced and easy to read, have paragraphs that cover one main idea each, and include subheadings, bullet points and—only where necessary—bold text. Illustrate it with suitable images.
The second is to make sure that, whether you are posting written content, video, audio or graphics, the content is excellent and unique. Avoid regurgitating what others have done. Take the time to write (or hire others to write) content that is insightful, thought-provoking and different.
If you must cover a well-traveled path, put your own spin on it. PostPlanner has some useful tips on using content on social media, which can also help your site.
4. The unexplained
No, this isn’t something from science fiction. It just means that when it comes to usability, the background technology is just as important as what people see. There’s nothing more frustrating than:
- Trying to comment and getting a blank page.
- Having social-sharing buttons fail.
- Seeing strange display errors.
- Having to change your browser to access the site.
- Randomly loading audio and video.
Address usability issues and your target customers will have more incentive to stick around. Leave them alone, and you might have an unacceptably high bounce rate.
5. Trying too hard
The screenshot in No. 1 illustrates another common issue that undermines your blog’s credibility—trying too hard to promote everything.
Take a look at the Crazy Egg blog page. It has clean navigation and a single ad box.
Here’s another example from the Unbounce blog. There’s one banner ad, a search form, a subscription form and links to useful, relevant information.
Both of these blogs offer restful visual experiences while making it easy for visitors to find information. Trying to promote too many things at once will fatigue or annoy your visitors and send them away, which won’t help with your online image at all.
6. Too many hoops
Did you know there are a whole bunch of people who won’t:
- Register with a site before they comment?
- Register with a site to download something?
- Pay with a tweet?
While some consider those interactions a small price to pay for a free resource, others consider them to be deal breakers. Some people don’t want to jump through hoops to interact with content on your site. If they have to, not only will they go away, they will tell others to avoid you.
My pet peeves are having to sign up over and over again for the same site every time I want to download something, and sites that don’t remember who I am.
7. No mobile interface
In the early days of the Internet, simply having a website was enough to make your business more credible. Those days are gone.
Now your business doesn’t just need a website, it needs an optimized site so it works just as well on mobile devices as on the Web. More and more people are using smartphones and tablets. Sites that don’t adapt could soon be irrelevant.
Does your website make any of these mistakes? What else undermines the credibility of a blog or website? Please share.
Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. A version of this article originally appeared on The Daily Egg.