The Venerable Blog Gets a Facelift
Back in early 2004, after I’d been blogging a few months, someone pointed out that my free Blogger blog ranked higher in Google than my expensive business website. That was an “a-ha” moment for me. Right then and there I decided to start putting more time and attention on my blog than on my website.
Almost four years later, I’ve never regretted that move. And as it turns out, I’ve gotten more business from my blog than I ever did from my website. Sure, I need the website for credibility. But the blog is where the real action happens.
The natural advantages of blogs
Blogs are great for small businesses to develop and maintain an effective Web presence. Just consider the advantages of blogs:
- The owner can update a blog easily and quickly, without requiring expensive technical help.
- Blogs are natural networking vehicles, offering social features (such as onsite commenting) that engage visitors.
- Blogs by their nature tend to be naturally search-engine friendly, so they help your business get found in the search engines.
- And best of all, blogs are inexpensive to set up and operate, with a typical blog ranging from free, to perhaps $5 to $30 a month.
The limitations of blogs
However, much as I love blogs and appreciate all these advantages, I have been frustrated by their limitations.
You see, most blogs are NOT set up to allow users to easily move around inside them or find information. What tends to happen is that after a few weeks older blog articles that you’ve written get buried. The way most blogs are set up, older articles may rarely if ever see the light of day again. Sometimes those can be your best work -- what a waste!
Why does this happen? Blogs usually have homepages with a long list of blog posts that you can quickly scan. However, finding older posts beyond the 7 or 10 most recent ones can be challenging. Navigation tends to be rudimentary or in some cases nonexistent.
Finding older articles on some blogs can require the blogging equivalent of reading a treasure map in a foreign language without your reading glasses. You either have to click day-by-day on a silly little graphical calendar that was designed back in the days when blogs were merely online diaries. Or you have to laboriously scroll through monthly archives or category archives. Neither option is well-suited for a business searcher who wants to get to a specific topic quickly. Some blogs offer search capabilities, and while this feature helps, it doesn’t prompt visitors to browse through your best blog posts or convey the depth and breadth of your work at a glance.
Enter new blog homepage designs
To deal with these limitations, and increase page views and visit session length, some of the larger blogs run by professional bloggers or small businesses are leading the way with new blog homepage designs -- with smaller publications starting to follow on their heels.
These new designs are set up to enable the bloggers/writers to showcase more of their best work right on the homepage.
GigaOm.net, ProBlogger.net, PaidContent.org, Huffingtonpost.com, CommuteByBike.com, Business-Opportunities.biz -- these are just some of the blog-based sites that now have varied homepages containing more information than the standard blog homepage provides.
Let’s look at some of the features these new blog homepage designs include:
- Partial posts. Some of these publications no longer display full posts on the homepage. Instead, they offer the headline and a short extract, requiring the reader to click through to read the entire article.
- Popular posts or featured posts. Many homepages now have links to the site’s most popular posts, so that they can be highlighted and not buried, no matter how old they are.
- Extended navigation. Some blogs now feature extensive navigation. In the old days your navigation consisted mainly of monthly or category archives. Now you see navigation to site sections, and sometimes no links to monthly archives at all. It is not uncommon to see two or even three rows of horizontal navigation, or navigation that takes you to a section home page, where you drill down further from there.
- Links to related blog sites by the blog owner. Some blogs now have branched out to additional sites by target niche. They build in navigation links for the reader to access these sites. Some even highlight recent posts or articles appearing on the other network sites, via headline links.
- Deep long footers, often in dark colors to capture attention. The footers allow information to be pulled off the side columns of blogs and placed at the bottom of the page. This is useful for information that you want on the homepage, but don’t want to take up important information above the fold.
- Video posts. Some blogs are routinely doing video or including relevant videos aggregated from other sources. Video on the page adds visual interest and provides interactivity. Often video is more viral than text information.
- Job boards links. Some blogs have become such popular hubs for their industries that they operate their own job posting boards. You can find several of the latest job postings listed on the blogs.
The list of homepage features can go on -- the only limit is the human imagination. So consider some changes to your blog homepage design that highlight more of the hard work you and/or your staff have put into your business blog?
Anita Campbell is a writer, speaker and radio talk show host who closely follows trends in the small business market at her site, Small Business Trends.