The Race To Impress

15 seconds.

That’s the amount of time you have to capture your audience’s attention when they stumble across your blog. That's it! And that's being generous!

In parts one and two of our series on badass blogging, we detailed how to get started and how to craft a great post. This week, we're gonna set up that blog and lay it out properly, so your audience is having more of these moments...

..and not just hitting that back button on their browser.

Pull up your blog and ask yourself:

1. What do you do? Can a new reader figure that out at first glance? 

Your reader wants to know what your blog is about without having to deep-dive into your posts, as excellent as they might be. Consider a tagline or short description above-the-fold (meaning near enough to the top of the page that no one has to scroll to find it) that tells your reader what to expect.

We're not just talking text, either; ensure that the look and feel of things (your color choices, fonts, photos, logo...) set the tone for the reader's experience. Are you a policy wonk with an eye on the latest healthcare drama, or a certified nutritionist sharing vegan recipes for bodybuilders? Make it clear from the jump.

2. Who are you? Yeah, you! 

Your reader wants to know that there's a person writing all this juicy content. Your bio should be easily accessible, so with a quick skim they can learn why you are doing what you're doing. After all, there are a ton of blogs out there. Why should yours be the one to read?

Consider the popular option of a compelling one-sentence bio and a headshot in the sidebar that links to your About page (where you can put all the detail and nuance). Want to stay anonymous? Describe your point of view and purpose. It will make your site more credible and help people connect with you.

3. Where’s this, and that, and that, and this?

Help people find what they're looking for right away. First, make your content easy to skim using bold and italics, headers, and colors as accents. When a reader lands on your page, they should be able to find what they want quickly; if not, they'll go find something else... on another blog.

Second, don’t underestimate the quiet power of a search bar. Your reader may want to know if you've covered something before, find that post from a long time ago that they forgot to save, or just don't want to click around too much. Either way, a search bar is easy to integrate on most platforms and can save your reader some frustration, which is key for keeping them on your site.

And third, make your text easy to read! Is your font dark enough, and is your text large enough, that we don't have to squint? Run your site by a few friends who can check it out on their desktops and phones to be totally sure.

4. How can I get more?

Ideally, all of your readers are asking themselves this question now. They love your content so much they want more of it, and more of you (...but not in a weird way!). How can do they get it?

Listen carefully: include a subscribe button for email updates. Put that sucker in a spot so easily accessible that your readers can't help themselves but sign up.

You may be thinking, "But I don’t want to send email updates! It's so old school!" Include a subscribe button anyway. Email ain't dead yet; your list is an invaluable asset that you control. 

5. Where can I follow you?

Are you on any social networks? (We certainly hope so; if not, we should have a chat because social media is kinda our thing!) Include social icons on your web page so your audience can easily find you on whatever their favorite network is, and hopefully share your content there too. Whether you’re in love with social and tweet fifty times a day or just post periodic updates, your social channels boost your credibility by another few points and tell search engines that you're legit. (Just don't forget to put your website in those social media profiles.)

Last tip of the day: Don’t overwhelm your reader with every possible widget and sidebar item and badge and shiny thing that you can find. Keep your layout simple, so it's easy for your reader to meet you and see what you've got to offer, without sensory overload. Run it by some trusted folks and see where their eyes are drawn first. If they get confused or aren't sure where to click next, you know what to start fixing.

Stay tuned for next week’s Slice on how to start building that traffic!