In How to Convert Your First Time Visitor Into Regular Reader, offering tips for traffic conversion to audience, this section rang out loudly and true:
1. Make Your Blog Message Very Clear on Every Page
If your reader cannot work out what is the point of your blog within a few seconds they will probably take off pretty quickly. Ask yourself this question – What message are you sending about your blog?
This is the single, most important element in your blog often overlooked in our race to shove attention-getting content out the blog door.
Let’s look at some of the different ways your blog has the ability to inform people immediately on the message your blog is sending.
The Blog Title
When someone arrives on your blog, they need to know within micro-seconds what your blog is about. This information often comes from the title.
Blog Herald represents news from the blogging industry. Taking Your Camera on the Road is about traveling and photography. Successful and Outstanding Bloggers is about successful and outstanding bloggers and how to become one. These are blog titles that make sense.
A blog title with your name alone might help, if you are “someone”. If you are blogging about your life, then titling your blog with your name personalizes it. It says, “this is my blog and it’s about me”. If you are working on turning your blog into your resume, then naming your blog after yourself is a must. People have to know “you” are the expert.
A blog title like “4 Be 4 Me” is cute, but does it tell you what the blog is about? A blog title like “Dancing With Code” is fun and gives us an idea about what the blog is about, but it isn’t very specific. Is it about writing in secret code and deciphering code? About computer code? Programming code? About the code of the Bible or religious studies? DNA code? Morse code?
Still, it’s a clue. Or at least we hope it is.
That’s the problem with fun but vague titles. Unless the rest of the elements within the blog support the blog title, it’s hard to determine what the blog is about.
A title like “I Like Flowers” featuring content about landscaping makes sense, but if the content turns out to be about flying airplanes, some serious confusion could arise.
The subtitle of your blog clarifies what your blog is about, even if you choose a title that isn’t specific. A title like “4 Be 4 Me” with a subtitle of “Tracing our family’s history” makes perfect sense. Together, the two parts explain the purpose of the blog.
Using your name as the blog title, reinforce the blog’s purpose with a good subtitle that explains what you, the expert, will be blogging about.
Your subtitle doesn’t have to be boring like “Blogging about dogs, cats, horses, and cows”, though it helps. You can use wording that indicates what you blog about while showing off some creativity. Liz Strauss of Successful and Outstanding Bloggers features the subtitle “Thinking, writing, business ideas, you are only a stranger once”, a creative way of including the subject matter while putting a twist on the relationship angle of blogging. Mark Jaquith has a short but clever subtitle of “WordPress puts food on my table”, a clear indicator of what he represents on his blog.
Does your blog title make sense? Is it a reflection of what you blog about? Does it help people understand what you blog about? Does the subtitle of your blog reinforce your blog’s purpose?
Post titles clearly written with a purpose in mind tell the visitor exactly what they are about to read. “Something I Just Thought Of Now” isn’t as helpful as “How to Fix the WordPress Header Image”. Specific and to the point sends a clear message.
In Writing Effective, Attention-Getting Headlines and Titles on Your Blog, I talk extensively about how your blog title impacts your traffic levels, search engine optimization, and return readership. By using specific keywords in your titles, post titles in feed readers, search engine results, blog posts, sidebar lists, and elsewhere catches people’s eye if they spell out what the person is searching for.
You’ve won once with the title that brought them here, but what about the rest of the post titles on your blog? Do they also send a message about what your blog is about?
Look at all the places on your blog where you feature your post titles. On the sidebar, there are often lists of your blog’s most recent, most popular, related, and featured post titles. On the front page, category, archives, and other multi-post view pages, 5-25 post titles, with full posts or excerpts, are listed. On many blogs, the next and previous post links point to two post titles. Within your own blog posts should be titles pointing to other posts on your blog and to other blogs, with the title or descriptive text making it clear what the link will lead to.
Post titles are everywhere, showing the visitors what you are linking to, thus, what your blog is about, right?
Do your post titles reflect your blog content and purpose? Are you using your post titles to convey the message about your blog and it’s content? Are you using them to draw in the readers to find similar or related content within your blog? Do post titles send a clear message to your blog visitors?
Outgoing links within your blog also help represent your blog’s content. Most outgoing links are found in a blog’s sidebar in their Blogroll. Others are found within the blog’s content.
Links to other blogs and blog posts are your recommendations of these resources. Because of your recommendation, people assume they will find related or similar content to your blog, connecting the flow of information, thus providing additional clues to what your blog is about.
Your outgoing links represent your blog content. Thus, they should be a reflection of your blog’s message. Are they?
If the list includes topics from all over the map, how certain are they that you are an expert in the field they need? What do your outgoing link titles look like? Do they represent your blog’s content?
Images, Graphics, and Art
Images, graphics, and artwork, as well as the overall look of your blog, sends an instant message to your new visitors on your blog’s purpose and content.
When someone arrives on your blog their eyes are immediately drawn to visual images rather than words. Words come later. They tend to look at pictures first, dramatic visual graphics or designs second, then links, icons, and badges in the sidebar, the post title, and eventually the words. Images used in the header, sidebar, and post content areas send a visual message helping the visitors identify the content within.
Images can be a challenge to work with as they can send a variety of messages. The reception may be different depending upon the cultural perspective of the recipient.
The most powerful images are ones featuring clear points such as a person reading a book rather than a photograph of a person reading a book in a busy coffee shop where the book reader represents 5% of the overall clutter in the image. Too much clutter and the viewer doesn’t know what they are looking at. Blur all that busy surrounding except for the still book reader, and the point comes right into focus, but the message now changes from the first example, doesn’t it?
The header art is the single most important clue to a blog’s purpose. Think about what your header art tells your visitors?
Finding the right images for your header that showcases your blog’s content isn’t easy. Should it feature a photograph of your subject matter such as a video camera for a video blog or computer chips or code samples for a computer tech blog? If your blog is personal, should you include a photograph of yourself? Is it important that your readers “see” what you look like in order to understand what you blog about?
A photograph of a bicycle race, car, horses, tools, machines, and specific subjects clearly state what the blog is about, if the content backs up the picture.
Images which conflict with the blog title and subtitle, as well as the content, can confuse the new visitor. A picture of kittens playing in your blog header probably isn’t a good image if you are promoting your web design professional business or computer technology blog. But it works if you are a photographer and this is an example of the types of pictures you sell. Or maybe you think it shows your “gentle side” to soften the tough industry you blog in.
A couple walking on a beach at sunset could mean you are writing about photography, beaches, sunsets, or are at the sunset stage of your life with stories to tell. It’s a nice picture, but it can send a lot of different messages, so it often needs the help of a good blog title and subtitle to make sure the message is clear.
Think it through. Is your blog about the forest, or the tree in the forest. Find the visual image that best represents your blog content, whether it is about the forest, the trees, the leaves, or the seeds.
I highly recommend you do not feature a photograph or image just because you like it or it has sentimental value. While the image needs to be representative of “you” and your blog, you have to consider what others will think when they see the picture. They don’t know the history of the picture or your decision behind it. They only know what they see.
There are a lot of options to consider when choosing the header art or images within your blog. Think about the message the images send. Do they reflect the purpose and intent of your blog? Do they help people understand what’s going on inside the blog?
Are You Sending a Clear Message to Your Blog Readers?
Look thoroughly at all the elements on your blog. I’ve only covered a few. What other areas help new visitors determine your blog’s purpose?
Remember, you only have a micro-second to send a clear message to new visitors about your blog.
Stand back and really look at it objectively. Is your message clear or cluttered? Then ask yourself: What does your blog say about what you blog about?
If you don’t like the answer, isn’t it about time you made some changes?
Take this farther and test your blog on others. Have some friends or co-workers unfamiliar with your blog take a look at it and tell you what your blog is about without reading it. That’s always a big eye opener.
If you aren’t sending a clear message out on every page of your blog, how can anyone know what you are blogging about?
Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on Lorelle on WordPress.
Author: Lorelle VanFossen
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won’t Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.