Format Rules: 31 Elements to Make Your Blog Credible
On blogs, format is king, not content. Without reading a word of content, 94% of people distrusted a site based on its format according to research of online health sites by Elizabeth Sillence, Pam Briggs, Lesley Fishwick and Peter Harris. Therefore, blog format commands readership while content converts visitors into loyal readers.
Increase your blog’s trustworthiness and hence its readership by improving your blog format.
Here are thirty-one elements to get your blog on track while ensuring your 360° brand is integrated into every aspect of your blog structure and content.
1. Runs on efficient, up-to-date software
If your blog takes too long to load or perform an action, visitors will be gone in a heartbeat. It’s helpful to get tech help for this aspect of blogging (BTW—I highly recommend my webmaster, Larry Aronson.)
- Use a quality blog theme to enhance your content’s visual layout and usability. When selecting a blog theme whether a template, custom developed or a combination of the two, consider how it lays out factors like columns, sidebar widgets, header and footer.
- Select appropriate blog plug-ins. These are small pieces of code that enable you to capture, use and/or format information.
- Minimize load time to retain visitors and improve search rankings. Here’s a blog speed checklist for your technical support.
2. Integrates brand colors
Leverage the use of your brand colors across your blog.
- Spotlight your brand’s color scheme. Which colors do you want to use on your blog? Are these colors associated with your brand? Are they consistent with your offline collateral and your retail establishments?
- Include your brand’s colors and/or images in your blog’s background. Consider this as the platform for your content. Remember you don’t want the background to detract from your blog content. Therefore, avoid overly busy designs or extremely bright colors.
- Select brand related colors for type. Highlight text through the use of color but make sure it’s easy-on-the-eyes. Too many colors confuse visitors and some combinations just drive visitors away. When using a white (or other light color) on a black (or dark) background, use a half a size larger type so that it’s legible.
3. Uses easy-to-read type
Particularly with an ever-increasing number of people using smartphones and tablets to consume content, it’s important that your type is large enough to be legible. This is especially important for audiences that are over 40 and wearing reading glasses.
- Choose a readable typeface that’s in line with your brand. It conveys information about your brand. Special typefaces may not be able to be read on all browsers. Further, distinguish between headline and body fonts. Text that’s difficult to read can hinder your traffic building efforts. Therefore, select a common, easy-on-the-eye font face such as Arial or Times New Roman.
- Select a reader-friendly type size. Remember you want your readers to be able to see your text so use at least 12 point type.
4. Has appropriate look and feel
- Streamline the blog layout. Get rid of elements that make your blog feel busy and complex. Use bolding and outlining. Where blog design is concerned, less is more. Determine the necessity and importance of all design elements. Leverage the power of consistency over adding more graphics. Eliminate flashing items.
- Have an attractive web design. Streamlining blog design doesn’t mean boring. Use your brand colors effectively. Use creative resources to develop a blog design that extends your business or personal branding. (Here’s help to develop your brand.)
- Make the human connection. Blogs require a human voice. Most people view corporate communications as well as related stock photography as being void of anything resembling a human emotion. If an element can be applied to another business, forget it. Remember that white space is your friend!
- Skip the pop-ups. Readers find them annoying. If you must display pop-ups for advertising and/or email registration, set cookies and timers to prevent them from appearing until a visitor’s been on your site for a while or you’ll loose them before you can persuade them your blog has value.
5. Offers variety of content formats
To attract attention and keep readers engaged, it’s useful to add different forms of content.
- Include images, graphics and photographs. Since images attract attention, it’s important to use one in every post. How are these images related to your brand in terms of content, size and position? Make sure that you have permission to use all images and photographs.
- Create relevant videos. Visitors are accustomed to viewing videos.
- Speak your message clearly via audio. A number of bloggers have started growing their audio offering.
- Offer your presentations. Incorporate presentations in your blog to continue to promote you content.
6. Effectively presents content
- Keep it light. Make it easy for readers to skim your content. This means easy-to-consume outline and bolding format to guide readers through your content time efficiently. Avoid dense blocks of text.
- Layout content for quick consumption. Remember, many readers only scan for specific information so bullet points are helpful.
- Create special styles for lists and block quotes. Numbered and bulleted lists are important tools for organizing and presenting content. Block quotes identify content from other sources.
- Incorporate post metadata. Include author information, publication date, categories and tags. Consider how this text will be formatted and how related content (like photographs) will be presented.
7. Requires navigation support
- Choose easy-to-understand navigation (aka UX or User Experience Design). Ensure that first-time visitors can move easily through your blog. include a search box, archives index and top post titles.
- Use categories or tags to help visitors get through your blog.
8. Socialize your blog
- Include social sharing buttons. Present the most appropriate social sharing buttons for your blog and audience. (Of course, it’s useful to include a call-to-action.)
- State your comment policy. Let readers know whether your comment section is open, moderated or closed. Since you can’t just keep the good stuff, you need a policy for what is accepted and what is not.
9. Findability (aka search) matters
- Have effective search facilities. People must be able to find your the content they’re looking for on your blog before they can read it.
- Focus each post on a keyword phrase. (Here are more blog search recommendations.)
- Incorporate internal and external links. Link to material in your blog/website and to other third party content.
- Include a keyword in your post permalink.
10. Offer different formats by distribution channel
In today’s connected world (aka mobile), you must allow readers to select how and when they want to consume your content.
- Offer RSS and Email Options. These older communication channels can distribute content automatically. Decide whether readers will get the full text of your posts or if they need to click through to your site.
- Provide mobile presentation. With increased mobile usage, it’s a good idea to enable your blog to render in a readable fashion on a mobile device.
- Allow print versions. Include a separate style sheet for when readers want to print your content out and include your blog address and phone number if appropriate.
While content is important, if your blog format doesn’t command attention and trust, prospects are gone.
What other elements do you think help build your blog’s trustworthiness in terms of its format?
Join me at Social Media Marketing World this coming Spring in sunny San Diego, California, where I'll be presenting a session on Blogging.
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Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alismith44/269843032/