It’s pretty simple really. Just like with any business, hobby or random activity, there are certain things you must have. Check out this list of 16 must have items for every blog. Get all of them and get to writing!
- Killer Content! – Broken record time. You have heard this line until you can’t stand it anymore. As a matter of fact…you almost clicked off this article when you saw the first item in this series just because you don’t want to hear it anymore. Just remember…people wouldn’t say it over and over again if it wasn’t true. The only way to really insure that you are going to be there for the long haul, make money and grow a readership is to have some incredible content. That is what keeps readers coming back time and time again. Get the content up first!
- Incredible Design – There are some people that will argue this point…but I don’t care. As much as content is king…if that content is wrapped in a terrible looking package…people aren’t going to come back. This is simple marketing. How many items have you passed by in the store just because it had terrible packaging? For all you know…that could be the best product in the world, but because it looks terrible…you don’t give it a second thought. The same applies online. You don’t have to have a unique 10,000 dollar design, but your content does need to be pleasing to the eye for that first time visitor. A clean, professional looking design also inspires more confidence in your words.
- Permalinks – If you are going to be serious about your blog, even if it is just to share with family and friends, you need to get rid of the standard link structure of WordPress and enable your pretty permalinks! It is incredibly easy…
- Go to your settings tab in the WordPress admin.
- Click on Permalinks
- Under Custom Structure…past this…/%category%/%postname%/ and click save changes.
What does this do? It gets rid of all of the funky characters in your url for individual posts and makes the url easy to understand for search engines and for your readers. Take a look at the url in your browser bar for this post as an example.
- Logo – Branding online is becoming more important by the day. Your site/blog needs something that visually sets it apart from the rest of the pack. A logo is the first step in branding and should be done as soon as possible. It doesn’t have to be real complicated. In fact, some of the best logos in the world (FedEx, Target) are the simplest designs. Get your creative hat on and give it a try. If you can not think of anything, enlist the help of a professional. Logos are the easiest, hard things to do in design. They are extremely hard to come up with, but look like commonsense when they are done.
- Contact Form – I have come across a lot of blogs that do not have a contact page with a simple contact form. You can have your email address pasted all over the place, but a simple contact form will engage your readers much easier. I use cform for mine, but there are many other plugins available also. A simple contact form will give your readers another avenue in which to communicate with you. This will increase their personal involvement and create long-term readership. Answer EVERY email you get from readers.
- About Page – Your readers are going to want to know who you are, what you are about and what they are going to find on your blog. There is a certain format that successful about pages follow, but for the purposes of this article…just know that you have to have one and it has to have a picture of you. You can work on the formatting later…just get it up now!
- Organization – A poorly organized blog is a bear to navigate. The harder you make navigation on your readers, the lower traffic numbers you will have. You can use tags or categories, but pick one and stick with it. It is also a great idea to highlight posts on a specific article page and display relevant posts at the end of articles. It will engage your reader more with your content and increase your pageviews. The goal is to make things easier to find for the reader…not harder.
- Full Article RSS Feed – I subscribe to a lot of blogs through my RSS feed aggregator. It allows me to absorb a lot of content in a very short amount of time. By providing a full article rss feed, you are allowing your readers to digest your content easier and this creates loyal readers for years to come. If a feed does not have full article content, I do not subscribe to it and therefore…I do not digest their content as frequently.
- Newsletter – Every blog should have a newsletter. It creates a more personal relationship with your readers and provides you with that all valuable email list. The best way to intice a reader to sign up for your newsletter is to offer something for free. Once you get a list of subscribers, fight to keep them by providing value through unique content and interaction. These are the readers that will be one of your most valuable assets as you move forward with your blog. I find Aweber to be the easiest and most complete newsletter management system on the market.
- Google Analytics – Google Analytics is still the best out there when it comes to tracking website stats. It is also the most widely used tracking system, so it provides a baseline on which you will be measured. Inserting the code into your blog is rather easy and it provides you with extremely valuable visitor information.
- Feedburner – Recently acquired by Google, Feedburner is the only RSS feed metric tool you should be using. Ever seen one of those tiny rectangles that displays the number of subscribers a blog has? That is Feedburner doing its work. Sign up for an account and start tracking your feed.
- Title Formatting – Correct title formatting is something that is normally overlooked by beginning bloggers. When you correctly format your titles and subtitles, your article will be scanned by readers and search engines much easier. Use your H1, H2,H3 etc!
- Google Sitemaps XML Plugin – When Google spiders your site, it looks for a xml sitemap for changes in your structure…specifically new information. The Google Sitemaps XML Plugin simplifies this process for you and creates a new sitemap automatically. It then pings the sitemap to Google.
- Polls – I love polls. They create reader interaction through a simple click and submit. Polls are also annonymous, so readers that wouldn’t normally comment will participate. When done correctly, polls can also provide you with insight into your readers preferences and habits. This information can be used to increase traffic by targeting subjects in future blog posts. WP-Polls
- Above The Fold Marketing – All important call to actions should be above the fold. If you do not have your RSS feed, newsletter, navigation and logo above the fold, now is the time to do it. You want to give your readers and first time visitors every opportunity to interact with the site without having to scroll. Optimizing this above the fold area of your site will insure success.
- Did I Mention Content? – Content, content, content…get as much valuable content up as you can.
Image by Duane Storey