Blogging Tips: Things every blog needs (and doesn't need!)
I mentioned in my post about starting a blog that for me blog design is really important. I love finding a blog that not only has good content, but also LOOKS good and easy to navigate to find what I want, whether that be the latest post, a specific post or a topic.
There are certain things I always look for in a blog that I find important. These are the things that make me want to stick around, besides content that have me hooked. Because even if your content is amazing, I'm still going to feel negative if these things aren't present.
The things your blog needs:
About me page
If I like someone's posts, this will be where I'm headed next. I want to find out more about the writer behind the words. The more I know about you as a person, the more I will be able to relate to your content. And also, I'm a little bit nosey (in a completely non-stalkerish way). So tell me who you are, how old you are, what you do, in what corner of the world you're living. Let me see your face, so I have an accurate picture of you in my mind. Tell me something interesting about you.
A blog without an about me page feels impersonal and anonymous to me. I have no idea who you are. You could be telling me about your new makeup buys and be a 50 year old man having never once bought so much as a nail varnish. Unlikely, but I'm trying to make a point. I'm not going to judge you, but a blog should be a two way thing, and without knowing a bit more about you, how can I trust what I'm reading?
Perhaps not so important to the average reader, but important legally. If you've used photos without crediting them when you should have done, then it becomes a copyright issue. Also if you're reviewing products that you've received free or are writing a sponsored post, you should definitely be disclosing this fact. No blog should be without a disclaimer. This could be in the footer, a sidebar, or more commonly on a separate, static page, and you should also mark every post where you've been paid to write it or sent products for free.
Social media links/Contact page
If I really like your blog, I will want to follow you. If I can't find your social media links easily, then I may just give up and click off, and forget to come back and check for new content. When I say I, I'm talking on behalf of your average viewer.
Social media is so important for bloggers to grow. Don't make it a challenge for readers to find your social media, on average we humans have an attention span of only 8 seconds, it shouldn't take that long for someone to find your links. I would say it's a similar scenario with brands if they can't find your contact page or email address anywhere. If you want to be contacted, make it easy for PRs!
Not having a good layout and navigation set up on your blog is only detrimental to you. If readers don't know where to find what they're looking for, they will give up eventually. Make it easy for readers to find posts they're interested in by having an organised system. It's difficult, I know, especially when your post topics vary so much, but it's so worth doing. I get a lot of clicks on my category pages and when I look at my traffic flow, often people will either click a related post, my about page or my categories page. I am working on trying to improve my navigation further, but because I'm adamant about coding things myself, it's taking longer than I thought haha!
Good navigation will also help to lower your bounce rates, as readers can go where they want and are less likely to leave your site after only reading one post. I don't know about you, but I'm highly unlikely to follow a blog after reading only one post, I like to read a few before I click that follow button (if I can find it...)
Blogs are not just about the writing. Photos are becoming increasingly important in blog posts, and you should never publish a post without one. Take Pinterest for example, this is entirely visual based and you can't pin something without a photo. We humans are visual creatures, we are naturally drawn to beautiful and interesting photos. When I'm scrolling away online, it will be an attractive image that will capture my interest, and then I read the words to see if this is something I want to read more about.
Obviously if you're posting a review on a product, you need photos, but I think that every post needs at least 1 image to break up the writing. In terms of reviews of a product, snapping your own photos of the product and you using it rather than simply taking them from the website makes your review more credible. I will be posting about how to improve your photos in the future, but if you really don't want to take your own photos, there are always stock libraries out there. Just make sure you credit appropriately.
A good commenting system
Now this is a topic that splits the opinion of the blogging community. Some people hate Disqus with a passion, some won't comment unless there is Disqus. There are a number of commenting systems you Google+, Wordpress, Blogger's default, Disqus, and I'm sure there's others. Everyone has their personal preference, but I have to say I see more love than hate for Disqus. It's my favourite, and engagement on my posts has increased so much since I've installed it and I'm not the only one who has found that. I never comment on blogs with Google+ comments (sorry!) and I rarely comment with Wordpress comments too (it annoys me that I have to type my life story in every time). There are also a lot of posts out there which say TURN CAPTCHA OFF NOW FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, but personally I'm indifferent to it. I get that it filters spam comments, and I'm hardly going to click off after writing a long, meaningful comment just because it's going to take me a couple of seconds longer to type some random letters in a box.
The things your blog doesn't need
Your blog doesn't NEED advertising. If you don't have many page views, you'll find it really tricky to earn anything from it. I prefer not having advertising on my blog as it stops my blog looking over cluttered and keeps my theme consistent. At some point I probably will delve more into advertising, but right now I'm okay with not making pennies from having adverts on my blog. Don't feel like you have to either.
Badges and Other Distractions
Again, to keep my design looking clean and minimalistic, I avoid adding badges and buttons to my main page. I used to have them all in my sidebar, but really there is no need for it. Add them onto your about page or somewhere less distracting for readers. Other things you can remove from your sidebar are blog rolls, page view counters, a never ending list of labels, and blog awards (unless they're from really big name places). Remember: less is more.
Massive blocks of text
Please, please, don't be tempted to do this. It's super difficult to read a huge block of text that isn't broken up with headers, images, or even line breaks. It puts readers off. Like I said before, short attention span. Headers are attention grabbing, and easy to scan quickly. White space is important too, it's hard to read loads of text on screen with no white space, so please, at least paragraph your rambles.
Following from the easy to read theme, please use fancy fonts sparingly. Especially in posts. A clear, sans serif (better for the web, supposedly) or serif font is ideal for bodies of text. Avoid comic sans, it should remain in the last decade and not be revived. Go ahead and use fancy fonts in headers, sidebars, on images, but don't go wild. Keep your fonts consistent for attractive looking blogs, using only 3 (or 4 at an absolute maximum) complimentary fonts.
Disclaimer: All of these views are personal to me. Everyone's opinion varies on these sort of topics. None of these things are compulsory to do: please include what you want to include on your blog as it is YOUR blog at the end of the day. I am simply offering my opinion of how to improve a reader's experience and what I like to see when I read a blog.