Blogging Tips: Improving Your Home Page

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Blogging Tips

Blogging Tips - ImprovementWhen someone visits your blog the first thing they see is your home page, or as I prefer to call it, your index. This is your one chance to gain a new reader. If someone is stumbling across your blog then you need to grab their attention right away, give them reason to stay and not only read your current article but also to dig through your older posts. The design of your blog is a superficial way to accomplish that. I’m sure we’ve all dug through blogs that looked great just because they looked great. However, if you’ve nothing to back up that great design then it does you no good. In the end you’re at a blog to read, not to gawk at an amazing design. So, I plan to talk about those things that any blogger can do, not just the digital artists.

* One of the most crucial things, in my opinion, is to offer up article teasers and there’s a few reasons. When you’re offering up your entire article on your home page/index, you’re taking up a lot of visual real estate, assuming your articles are around 750 words or more. As such you’re only able to put up the most recent few on the index because you don’t want people scrolling for two minutes on your index to check out articles.

The other thing you’re doing without realizing it is you’re disengaging your audience. If you’re offering up your entire article on the index page then people are not seeing the comments that have been posted. Sure, they’ll see it has X comments but they have to click to see what they are. Unless the reader was truly captured by your article then they most likely won’t click to read the comments.

Offering teasers to your articles on your index page engages your audience. You’re able to put more articles on your index page because they are short exerts and in turn are taking up less visual space. Where before you had 3-4 articles on your index you can now list 12-14 in the same space occupied. This accomplishes a few things. One, people can quickly skim over a larger list of articles for other articles they may enjoy without having to view your archives. Second, it gets people to click to read the full article. When they do this they now see the comments posted on your article and are more inclined to respond with a comment of their own.

Navigating your blog is another all important aspect to getting readers. So many blogs neglect this and make it hard for the reader to find the content they want. ** If your blogging program offers categories for your articles then you should utilize them. WordPress does this, allows you to create categories and assign articles to them. Additionally, tags or labels are another way of giving navigation and is common to any blog program. If categories are an option for you then create categories for your common article types and any series you run. If you don’t have the use of categories, and even if you do, try and use unique tags/labels for any series you run so that readers can easily click that tag and find the other articles in that series.

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With the above, you need to give readers a way to navigate your categories and/or tags/labels. Typically these will show automatically at the bottom of any article you do but that’s not enough. Add a region to your blog that includes any categories and tags/labels you have so readers can see them and click them easily. Also offering up an archive is extremely handy. Usually this comes in the form of an area that lists dates that are expandable that then list articles written.

Lastly, give your readers a means of searching your blog. With WordPress it’s as simple as adding the search widget. I’m ignorant on how to accomplish this with the Blogger platform but I know it can be done. Even with using categories and tags/labels, you still want to let readers search your blog, especially if you’ve got a large collection of articles. I don’t want to sift through 50 articles on tactics if I’m after something specific. In short, offer readers multiple ways to get to your content, don’t rely on a single means.

* WordPress users, to create a teaser you can use the ‘Insert More Tag’. It’s located in the top center toolbar when you’re writing a post. I use a plugin called Post Teaser and that takes care of it for me automatically. For Blogger users, Brent at Strictly Average did an article explaining the same feature in Blogger. You can check it out here.

** I did a previous article on categories and tags/labels, explaining them in a more technical means that you can check out here.

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  • Excellent post, and you must be reading my mind… my Blog-Fu article this week is also about indexing and archiving posts. I’m also probably going to look at a few of your suggestions for the main page when I have a moment.

    • Great minds and all that :)

      I am trying to stay focused more on the technical side of blogging but I can’t help but delve into something like this now and then. Having been in this industry for 1/3 of my life gives me some great insight.

      • I’ve only just begun to play with Blogger’s deeper HTML because while being the guy with the linux firewall and 11 hard drive raids at home is fun, after a long day of teching, I want to come home and have things just work, which is why I’ve swapped to a store-bought router and manually copying data to 2 hard drives is less fiddly… hence why I let Blogger do my work for me, rather than build my own platform…

        • I’d imagine, or I’d hope, that the stuff I was talking about above is a simple matter in Blogger, a built in feature you just have to enable. I think categories aren’t available in Blogger, which really sucks, but everything else I’ve seen done in Blogger.

          • Ah, yes, sorry.. those things are relatively easy to do in Blogger… I was meaning actually diving into the giant template code and seeing what I can fiddle with and tweak..

  • Great post. Which widget do you use for your related posts? I’ve found that to be a really useful tool in the past but haven’t had any stand out to me so far…

    • I just started using this one: Related Posts Thumbnails (http://wordpress.shaldybina.com/plugins/related-posts-thumbnails/).

      I’m pretty happy with it overall. It’s a bit flaky in that if your thumbnails aren’t the exact width defined in your Media settings (120px for me), then it won’t show the thumbnail at all, meaning if it’s smaller it won’t show. I could fix it but then I’d have to fix it each update of the plugin until the author fixed their version. Maybe I will and then send along the update for him/her…

      It also doesn’t have any amazing algorithms to factor the most related content, it just pulls based on categories and/or tags, but I can live with that.

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