Essential Business Blog Design Tips For Every Marketing Director

Do you have the optimal setup for your business blog?

As a marketing director, you have to be an expert in multiple areas that have a direct impact on your business. You have to understand advertising, branding, email marketing and lead generation. You manage internal employees, external resources and often jump in and create campaigns and content on your own.

You probably thrive off of having so many responsibilities but you also know that you can’t possibly have time for everything.

As for your blog, you know that an effective business blog is built by providing great information to your readers. In turn, your readers will view you as a trusted source and move from visitors to warm leads, fans or buyers.

In order to reach your business blogging goals, your blog (and site for that matter) needs to be designed to facilitate this progression.  Whether you are building a brand new blog or embarking on an ambitious redesign, there are specific tips and techniques you can follow to create a high performance business blog.

You can use this blog post as a checklist to see if you have the essential elements of your design in place so that you are capturing all of the benefits of your traffic.

Three Key Areas

There are three main categories that need to be addressed when evaluating your business blog:

  • Design Elements
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Lead Generation

All of these categories are intertwined and difficult to separate. However, breaking down this information into categories helps you address each one with focus and keeps the process from overwhelming you.

Design, SEO and lead generation all merit much lengthier discussions. Entire websites and thousands of books cover each of these topics. Often, there are multiple conclusions, differing opinions and constant change in each of these areas.

Rather than letting this sea of information freeze you in your ability to address your blog design, quickly attack the key elements in this post and you will be well on your way to the perfect blog setup.

Design Elements

Every brand, no matter your color scheme, logo or volume of information can improve their design by addressing these three elements:

Create Contrast

Make sure that contrast exists between your text and your background. According to web designer Rafal Tomal, contrast accommodates people with poor vision as well as those reading on mobile devices. For great examples and a more in-depth look at the importance of contrast,check out the site Contrast Rebellion.

Simplify Your Navigation

The fewer options the better for navigation.  The key to your site is to make it easy for visitors to know what your site is about and where to go next.  You also want to lead them to your primary call-to-action on each page. If you are having trouble limiting your primary navigation menu, think about using sub-menus to reduce clutter.

Typography

Use typography combinations to make your text more interesting and easier to read. Typography is a design element that keeps your site simple and doesn’t add the clutter of unnecessary images.

You don’t always have the time or resources for a redesign and typography can make your blog stand out as well as making it more readable. Just My Type has examples of font combinations that look great together. When in doubt, make the font bigger!

Search Engine Optimization

You are always going to get asked about SEO. It’s one of those areas where people know just enough to realize it’s important but not enough to differentiate good advice from bad advice.

Here are some SEO areas you can improve right now without diluting your content:

Linking

  • Link to Your Best Content. Internal linking is extremely important for SEO purposes.  In order to maximize your internal linking opportunities, start out by building a great site map. On every blog post, make sure that you are linking internally to your best content. Link externally to trusted experts, clients and prospects when appropriate.
  • Resource Pages. Determine 3-7 areas that are your main focus of blog content. For each area, build a resource page that explains to your reader what they can learn about the topic. Link to your best posts on each topic.
  • Don’t Go Overboard. SEO experts have determined that there is such a thing as too many links per page. The threshold is probably right around 100.  That shouldn’t be a problem for most of us.  However, if you are creating a large resource page, keep this in mind.

Encourage Sharing

Social sharing has a huge impact on organic search. Make sure to include social sharing buttons on your blog posts. Only include buttons for the social sites where you are active. If readers are going to share your post, it should be in a venue where you can thank them and track discussions.

Comments can also improve your long-tail keyword search results.  There are many ways to encourage comments.

First, make sure that you ask for comments.  End your post with a question and directly ask for reader feedback in the comments.

Second, make sure your comment section is easy to use.  Many questions surround the use of comment moderation and the risk of inhibiting comments in the name of decreasing spam. Ask for recommendations and keep your comment system simple.

Test for Speed

Speed is something you need to test but don’t have a lot of time to fine tune. For most people, you should test your site speed to see if it is terrible. If it is OK, move on. If it is really slow, hire someone to fix it.

For a quick test, pick your favorite blogs as a comparison. Run your blog and a few of your favorites through Pingdom (scored in seconds) and Google Labs Page Speed (scored on a scale of 100).

If the results are similar, your speed is likely fine. An ideal page loading speed is 2.9 seconds according to a study by Geoff Kenyon.  For those of you interested in aiming for the ideal speed, SEOmoz walks you through some actionable steps here.

Resource: Cyrus Shepard has an in-depth post called Blog Design for Killer SEO with a beautiful infographic designed by his wife Dawn. It was a great resource for this post and you should definitely give it a read.

Lead Generation

As a business, you always want to be generating qualified leads and moving those leads closer to a buying decision. Your blog provides valuable free information so it is the perfect place to extend an offer to explore your business further.

Email List Building

Your email list is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. Once you capture the attention of a reader, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to receive automatic updates.

Make the subscription box obvious and explain to the reader what they will receive. It doesn’t get more obvious than Chris Brogan’s blog. Also, be sure to have a subscription box at the end of every post.

Call-to-Action

Depending on your business resources, the primary call-to-action on your blog might be something other than a subscription. You might have a valuable email autoresponder that is a great lead generation tool.

You might also find that your sales process is most effective if visitors read a case study or white paper. For others, a free trial is the most desired outcome. Decide where it makes sense to send your readers next and ask them to take that step.

Keep it Above the Fold

Your primary call-to-action should be above the fold.

A large eye tracking study determined that 80% of a users attention is directed above the fold.  That doesn’t mean there is no value in information below the fold but it makes sense to get your message out early.  It also confirms the importance of writing great content and having a beautiful design in order to entice a user to keep exploring.

Some people will argue that modern users know to scroll down and that great design is not limited by the fold. While I agree in part, getting to the point is important for most businesses and there appear to still be some lead-generating implications.

To find the fold on your blog, try the following tools:

http://whereisthefold.com

http://www.foldtester.com/

http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/

Conclusion

While blog optimization is an ongoing process, you can drastically improve your business results by addressing each area in this blog post.

What areas of your business blog are you struggling with?

Share in the comments so we can help you find even more success.

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