In the world of digital marketing, content is crowned king. World-renowned marketer Seth Godin even said that "content marketing is the only marketing left".
But is it enough to have good quality and valuable content in your blog?
Let me remind you of the definition of content marketing:
How do you know if your blog is doing well ?
The common notion of some bloggers and businesses is that the number of visitors is the best metric to measure the effectiveness of content marketing. Sure, it's one good indicator that a piece of content is good but having massive pageviews DOES NOT always equate to high inquiries and sales.
Visits are a "vanity metric". They do not necessarily correlate to the important numbers like engagement and profits. (Source: Techcrunch) If you're running a blog for your business and you're only focusing on investing in blog posts that drive a ton of traffic instead of blog posts that bring you customers, you're just wasting your time and money.
If you're running a personal blog,
Are you satisfied with getting traffic? Sure, you might be blogging just for fun but it won't hurt if your blog can also bring in additional income, right? Some personal bloggers monetize their blog through banner ads and sponsored posts, while some through hard work with blogging become influencers in their niche and offer workshops, consultations, and even set up online shops! Dream big for your blog, no matter how small it is.
You should be treating your blog like a business. “If you treat your business like a hobby, it will cost you like one. If you treat it like a business, it can pay you like one.”
Are your readers engaged?
Whether you're running a business or a personal blog, don't obsess about the number of visits. Focus more on how you can improve your engagement. Are your visitors commenting, reading your other posts, clicking on other pages, curious about who you are and what you have to offer?
Turn readers into customers with blog design
While it's true that "great content is the best sales tool in the world" (according to The Sales Lion founder Marcus Sheridan), you also have to backup your awesome content with strategies from other marketing disciplines to make it work - just like how a great king should have brilliant advisers, a formidable army, and a powerful kingdom.
SEO strategies can help you rank your blog for specific keywords and win with organic traffic. Here in Spiralytics, we also work closely with our amazing design team - not just for our blog banners and infographics, but with blog layouts too!
We've blogged before about why you should be doing more visual content marketing to stand out from the 27 million pieces of content that are shared every day. Aside from data-driven content plans, part of our Content Marketing Strategy work includes enhancing our clients' blogs to increase conversion. We don't just make our clients' blogs look appealing, we also create a blog design that translates to engaged readers and turn them into customers. After all, a blog isn't just to create a connection with their target market but to also earn money from it.
There's no cookie cutter formula for a high-converting blog page layout. However,
We've learned through our client blog performance reports that a blog layout template we've customized (taking inspiration from various influencer blogs) helped increase engagement and conversion.
This infographic below presents our go-to blog layout that we do for our content marketing clients. The design may vary depending on the products/services offered by the client but we still follow the structure and tweak it to achieve our content marketing goals. Each element is crucial, regardless of the size they take up in the layout. Below the infographic is my explanation of each element so you can understand how they work individually and in the overall design.
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A. The Blog Post
What makes a good headline? I blogged before that when thinking of a headline, you should put yourself in the shoes of a newspaper editor who's writing the front page headline. When buyers of newspapers go to news stands, they see a number of newspapers displayed. Though most of the time they all only talk about the same news, the one with the more interesting headline (and photo) gets the reader.
A headline that will entice your reader into clicking “Read More” is one that is informative (without giving too much away), catchy, and lets your reader instantly understand what the article is all about before even reading the content.
2. Byline and Date
Byline: One goal of content marketing is thought leadership - to build influence in your niche. One good way of introducing yourself to the world and increase your credibility is by putting your name (or a REAL living brand representative from your client) in the byline. Some websites like MOZ blog and Hubspot for example even put a photo of the author and their Twitter handle in the byline.
Show your pretty face! (Photo: MOZ blog)
Create a public Twitter account to build influence in your niche! (Photo: Hubspot blog)
Date: Which blog post would be more valuable and relevant to a reader: a blog post that was published in 2013 or one that was last updated in 2015? Instead of just putting the date when you first published the blog, display the date when you LAST published the post (a Time Stamp). This is especially useful for evergreen blog posts that feature constantly changing content or updates in specific industries for example.
90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text. (Source)
What grabs your attention when you scroll through your Facebook newsfeed? Photos. And with millions of Facebook posts shared everyday, you would want to create a banner that not just supports your headline but also captivates your target reader enough to click the post and go to your website.
"A great headline mixed with a lame opening is like inviting someone into your house, only to slam the door in their face as they approach."
- Brian Clark , Copyblogger founder
Start your article with a question, tell a story that readers will be able to relate with, or shock them with interesting facts - seduce your reader and make them curious about what you have to say, and eventually curious about you and your website.
5. Text Break
Internet users are impatient readers. Text-heavy posts are a big turn-off for them. Don’t write posts in a big block of text. Style your text by writing lists, bullet points, and subheadings. Break your post by adding images or videos.
6. CTA below the post
Congratulations, you got your reader to scroll to the bottom of your blog post! Now's your chance to showcase your product/services with a Call-to-Action Banner. You can create CTA banners for the ff goals:
1. Drive them to your services page
2. Drive them to your Contact Us page
3. Offer something FREE
A great example of this is Hubspot where they often promote a free downloadable eBook that is related to the blog post.
7. Author Box
In # 2, I discussed about putting your name, photo, and Twitter handle in the byline. In the author box, you can go all out and tell your readers about yourself. You can also put links to your other social media accounts or websites.
8. Related Posts
Don't settle on driving traffic to a single post, instead your goal should be to make your reader stay in your website and make them read more articles, eventually earning their trust and get interested about your products/services. Let your reader know that you have other amazing content that they might be interested in by displaying related posts under every article.
Blog comments are a great indicator of engagement. Not only does this allow your readers to give feedback on your post, you can also gain insights and interact with them (who knows, you can even make a sale!). Yes, do respond to people who leave comments on your blog even if they're not asking questions.
Neil Patel is one busy man for being the founder of Hello Bar and Crazy Egg, but he finds time to answer comments in the Quick Sprout blog. This helps to build your influence in your niche and make friends with other influencers to widen your network!
10. Social Media Sharing Buttons
Make it easier for your readers (and encourage them) to share your blog post by adding social media sharing buttons in every post.
One of our best performing blog post in Spiralytics, 9 Annoying Things Every Designer Does, follows you with social media sharing buttons as you scroll through the post
The order of elements in your sidebar will depend on your priority customer action. Feel free to rearrange.
11. About You
Say hello! Introduce yourself and the blog to new readers. Think of this as your elevator pitch, briefly explaining why they should follow your blog. Put a nice picture in there too!
12. Email Subscription
If getting emails for your database is one of your priorities, then you can put this up higher in the sidebar. Write a one-liner (or two) to convince them why they should subscribe to your newsletters. Make sure that the subscribe button's color grabs their attention too! Take inspiration from Backlinko:
13. Social Media Links
While your goal is to make your reader stay in your website, you should also promote your social media accounts for them to follow so that they'll always be updated of your latest posts and offers.
14. Top Articles
Similar to Related Posts under each blog post, display your Top Articles on your blog's sidebar to encourage users to read them and stay on your website.
Aside from listing them down, you can also put here custom thumbnails of your top performing posts.
Another way to make users stay longer in your website is by by displaying more of your articles by category.
16. CTA Banner
Like an ordinary ad banner, you can create a custom ad for your business and showcase it on your sidebar. Your goals can also be the same with the 3 mentioned in # 6.
Make it easier for your readers to find your most important pages. Also, your header appears in every page of your website and not just on your blog. These can be your Services page, Contact Us page, About Us, etc.
18. Hero image + CTA
As Shopify puts it, if your website is a piece of real estate, this area of your website is a prime location. It's the best part of your website to showcase an element for a priority customer action because it's the most seen part of your page so you have to maximize it.
What should be included in your hero image? Some websites use an eye-catching image, it depends really on what you want to put emphasis on. In Spiralytics, we believe that with or without an image, it should have 1) a convincing tagline/copy to make them do a customer action and 2) a strong Call-to-Action.
In the infographic above, our example is an email capture form since most of our clients' priority is to build their email database. If your priority is to direct them to your services page, Contact Us page, or a specific offer, here's an example:
Airbnb's priority customer action is for users to book a house/room in their listings.
If you really want to be aggressive,
Here are other highly-recommended blog features outside the layout that you can install:
1. An attention-grabbing bar at the top of your page
These very visible bars at the top of your page are often in striking colors and a convincing call-to-action. Some examples of these are the Hello Bar, Attention Grabber, and ManyContacts bar. Here's an example from Jason Acidre of kaiserthesage using the ManyContacts bar.
2. A Slide-in CTA
According to Hubspot, visitors learn to tune out static CTA banners. One way to grab the attention of users (especially returning ones who ignore your banners) is by installing a slide-in CTA. These banners slide in from the right side of your screen when you scroll halfway down a blog post, without blocking the post that a user is reading.
3. Exit Pop-up
These things are amazing! Unlike the annoying pop-ups that randomly appear when you're on a website, exit pop-ups only show up when it tracks that you're leaving the website. A little creepy, but smart. It also has an interesting CTA that "manipulates" you into doing what the website owner wants. Here's an example from Quick Sprout. Would you really admit that you have enough traffic?
Are you already doing some of these and do they work well for you? Are you using other blog design elements that have helped you get more sales? Let's discuss in the comments below!