Yesterday, I posted part one of What I Learned from the 12 Days of Blogging, all about advice for posting a series on your blog. Today, I wanted to talk about what I learned about site navigation as I perused the Internet looking for links to include in the series. I featured over 100 bloggers but easily visited twice as many websites in my quest to bring you information. I likely missed a number of awesome posts, not because I didn’t land on the right blogs, but because I simply couldn’t easily find them. Some of the lessons below are things I need to implement on my own blog – I didn’t even realize they were missing.
So, without further ado, here’s what I learned about presenting information on your site as I compile the 12 Days of Blogging:
Lesson #1: Have a search bar.
I was going to sites looking for specific information, and while that may not be the case with every reader, there are a lot of times when someone will want to see if you’ve written about that specific topic. If you have a site search tool on your sidebar, I’m more likely to actually follow through in hunting for the information and I do so all while staying on your site. Making your readers go to Google is not a good thing.
Lesson #2: Use categories that make sense.
If readers can’t easily find information on your site, chances are good that they’ll leave pretty quickly. It doesn’t matter how well you write. It isn’t always relevant for me to go through your last few pages of posts. Sometimes I want to see what you’ve written on a particular subject. This is especially true for people hunting for specific information, like I was, but is also true of long-time readers.
Lesson #3: Have a “Best Of” page.
When it’s the first time I’m visiting a blog, a best of page draws me in and gives me a quick way to find out if this is a blog I want to visit again. Without a best of page, the saying, “you’re only as good as your last post” rings true. Yes, you should focus on being awesome with every post, but what if you last post was a site announcement or the end of a series or a review or another type of post that it’s super relevant to a new reader? For people who want to link to you in some way, a best of page also highlights the posts that make you most proud, so they can get spread more often.
Lesson #4: Don’t make me hunt for your Twitter ID.
Again, I included 100+ bloggers in my 12 Days of Blogging series and I found Twitter IDs for ALL of them except ONE. So, if you’re a blogger, you have Twitter. Of all of those Twitter accounts, I’d estimate that a good 80 to 90 percent of them are active, at least mildly, and at leas 75 percent of them are active daily. The real crime here was that I had to hunt for Twitter IDs for a lot of bloggers I included. If you’re not active on Twitter, that’s one thing, but if you are, put a link on your sidebar or at the end of your posts! It blew my mind how many bloggers made me go to Twitter and search for them or click the “tweet this” button on a post to see who is CC’ed.
Lesson #5: Control your pop-ups.
I know that the debate about having a pop-up (“hover over” or otherwise) will rage on until the end of time. Some bloggers add them because the stats don’t lie – you do get more clicks/subscribers/etc that way. Other bloggers won’t add them on principle, since they can be intrusive. If you do add them, a word to the wise – CONTROL THEM. I don’t need a pop up on every page. I don’t need it to fade in again after I’ve already clicked “no thanks” to get rid of it. More than once, I decided not to use a blogger’s link because their pop up was extremely annoying. Good content won’t always save you.
Lesson #6: Give me an RSS button.
At BlogWorld, one of the things I heard most often was that you need to give readers email options for subscription, since not everyone uses RSS. True. Very true. BUT SOME PEOPLE DO! I went to a lot of sites that did not have RSS buttons, and while I know that I can just type /feed after a URL in many cases, I’m lazy. I just want to click a button. Plus, if I do that, feedburner might not record me as a subscriber, which messes up your stats. And sometimes that trick doesn’t work. And blogs where I do that are more likely to be broken in my feed reader in the future. It’s just bad news. Don’t give up on RSS completely. Oh, and pro tip? I found that I was more likely to subscribe if the person had a button at the end of their post in addition to on the sidebar. Food for thought.
Lesson #7: Site design matters.
If your site has a pixelated header, a bunch of blinking banner ads, and comic sans font, I just can’t take you seriously. You don’t have to pay someone to design an amazing site for you. You don’t even have to pay for a theme. But take a little pride in appearance. It’s the least you can do for your readers.
Lesson #8: Write a good About page.
Your about page should contain two things – information about the website (i.e., what readers can expect from you) and information about the person/people who write the blog posts. I went to so many About pages that only included information about the site. Part of the reason I read any blog is its writer. So tell me about yourself! As someone hunting for information, this was also important to me. I want to know why I should care what you say. Do you have education? Experience? Life circumstances that qualify you to write in your niche? I want to know that I’m getting good tips, not just “well, maybe this will work because other people say so” advice. For the record, your About page is a great place to include your Twitter ID and email address (or link to your contact page).
I know there are lots of other little “pet peeves” I could include about people’s site, but sometimes what works for one market (or even one reader) doesn’t work for others. The above eight things are lessons I think EVERY blogger needs to learn, regardless of niche, and they’re things that a lot of people are missing.