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    Business blog designWhen I consider Business Blog Design, Im not just thinking about the graphics side of blog design, but rather all of the elements that go together to make a successful business blog. For me, the key aspect to the design is that it should enable your business blog to support the business goals that you are looking to achieve with it.

    Use your blog’s “prime real estate”
    To make this happen, you need to ensure that you place the elements which are most important in achieving these goals in the most prominent places. These are areas which are going to be viewed most often by your readers and so, in property terminology, would be your blogs prime real estate. Generally, these will the areas in the header and at the top of the columns and, to a lesser degree, all of the area above the fold (ie. what you can see on screen without scrolling). Use these areas carefully when designing your blog.

    What should be the focus?
    There is no single answer as to what should be there, simply that it should support the business objectives of your blog. So if you are looking to increase subscriptions to a free download, course or newsletter, then make sure that the sign-up box sits prominently at the top of your page. Likewise if you have a special promotion or service to push or perhaps a book that you want to publicise, then make sure that there is a clear link there through to a page where you can talk more about it.

    In addition to this, there are certain other key factors that you really need to be focusing on when it comes to the design of a business blog. To help on this, I’ll be doing a series of posts here which will cover these points in more depth starting next week – check it out, I think it’ll be useful! ;)

    Some key elements to consider
    However, in the meantime, these are the areas of blog design that I believe should carefully be looked at, with a brief overview of why that’s the case:

    • Profile and contact details
      At the end of the day, the goal of 95% of Business Blogs is to encourage people to engage in dialogue with you so make it easy for them to do so. And while you are at it, take the opportunity to let them know a bit more about you oh, and dont forget the information you need to provide by law now!

    • Navigation and usability
      While you want to use the key areas for the elements that you particularly want to promote, you still need to make it easy to find all the information that it contains. As a basic, use categories and archives sensibly and let the blog software do the work for you there are some other tips on that which I’ll expand on in the Blog Coach post.

    • Blogging software generic templates
      The templates supplied with blogging software are the basic building blocks for a blog – in most cases, a common denominator which, by its very nature, needs to be all things to all people. It supplies a good basic format but can never give you the real benefits which will truly differentiate you from others and allow you to promote your key business elements properly. If you use a template, take the best from it but then make it your own.

    • RSS Subscriptions / Signups
      Just like an ezine subscription box on a normal website (in fact, make sure you have one on your blog – they work well together), RSS subscribers are important or even key to developing your business blog. So make it easy to subscribe and give them options such as specific chicklets or subscribing by email – incentives such as a free ebook to RSS subscribers are an added bonus.

    • Onpage advertising
      Its so offputting having to wade through adverts to get at the posts and its the posts that are going to do the real work for you – if you have to include ads then keep them clearly differentiated. Ideally, unless you really need to directly monetise your blog, dont include them. Youll get all the benefits you need from the extra business your blog generates.

    • Make it easy to leave comments

      You want to encourage dialogue, so dont make it difficult for your readers to leave comments – having to log-in or fill in a CAPTCHA (one way to protect against comment spam) just puts up additional barriers. However, make sure that you dont allow rubbish comments either which could damage your blog. Ah, so much to think about!!

    • Search Box

      It’s important to include a Search facility on your site by its very nature, a blog focuses on your most recent posts but is meticulous about storing everything that you write. Its the cumulative information that is the real value both to your business and to your readers. So its important that you give readers every opportunity to access it and the Search function is of course at the centre of that.

    • Categories and Archives
      Keep the names relatively short and where possible have them contain some of your keyword phrases. Like the Search function, these are key ways for readers to explore what you have written in more depth.

    At the end of the day, making sure that you have the basics in place is key after all, you are spending a lot of time on your blog and you want it to be successful for you and fulfil your business objectives. So get the design right and make sure that it helps and not hinders what you want you blog to achieve.

    A blog is wonderfully flexible, despite first appearances, so incorporate different side bars on different pages where necessary and ensure that they help re-inforce your business objectives. After all, a business blog is a tool (albeit a very powerful one) so make the best use of it you can and make sure that the blog design supports the business goals … and not vice versa.

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    This post is the 3rd part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    ReadReply – Return – RecommendRSS>

    Let’s turn our attention to the third of the 5 Rs, which is:

    If people are interested in what you are writing about and find value in it then the likelihood is that they will return to read more. By maintaining the quality of your posts and demonstrating your expertise on a consistent basis, you will develop not only a loyal readership but you will also be developing a level of trust and a bond between yourself and those reading your Blog.

    Targeted, quality content
    In planning a Business Blog, one of the key elements to decide is who is the intended audience of the blog. If we have managed to maintain this focus with posts whose content is directly relevant to our target group and of high quality, then we are on the way to exceeding their expectations and encouraging regular readers. They will not come back just to read excerpts from your product portfolio which are nothing more than classified ads. They will, however, return to hear more of the same original, interesting and information based opinion that drew them in the first place.

    An inviting “Look & Feel”
    You should also make your Blog look inviting you need to make a good first impression to turn visitors into regular readers so let your graphics and the format of your Blog help you. Two things that you definitely want to avoid:

    • using a default template which then puts you in the same category as thousands of others. You need to differentiate yourself and so let the look and feel of your Blog help to display the quality of its content;

    • and, secondly, just having long pages of text. Break up the text perhaps using images or graphs, include bulleted lists where appropriate and use other formatting to keep the look interesting.

    Make it easy to return
    As you have persuaded them to return, make it easy for them to do so. RSS [the 5th R] is the ideal way to achieve this for blogs which we will examine later, either directly or even via email. But dont forget about the inclusion of a newsletter on your Blog if that is appropriate which can also direct readers back to you RSS and newsletters can work well hand in hand. If nothing else, at least suggest that they put your Blog in their Favourites on their browser, and then show them how to do that.

    Entice them with a series
    You can also encourage them back by the way you structure what you are writing. For example, if you write a series of posts on a single subject which attracts attention, then you are encouraging your readers back again to read the rest of the articles in the series. In the same way, you can pre-announce certain topics ahead of posting them so that people are eager to return to check for them.

    Be THE place for information
    Develop your Blog as THE place to go to for information on your niche area. In addition to demonstrating your own ideas and thoughts, make sure you reference and provide links to other relevant articles and also invite in other people to write a post or a short series. These guest bloggers will give an additional dimension to your Blog, assuming the subject matter remains focused, and will add kudos to what you are doing. Readers will return because you will be providing all the information they require on your chosen subject area – it may be available elsewhere on the web, but they KNOW they can find it on your Blog so that’s where they go.

    Easy Navigation especially to Key posts
    Once they have returned to your Blog, make sure that it is easy to navigate and make sure that all of the information can easily be found and the posts are categorised sensibly. It is also a good idea to highlight your key articles so that they can easily be found just create a page with links to all your main articles and then create a special link to it in your sidebar.

    Finally, remember that getting your current readers to return is easier than attracting new readers, just as it has been proven time and time again in business that it costs more to find a new customer than to keep the ones that you have. So make as much effort to get current readers to return as you do attracting new ones.

    Key elements: maintain focus on your readers, make posts easy to find, make your Blog look appealing, develop trust and a bond, become THE information source in your niche, make it easy to return

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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