Starting a blog can be pretty seriously overwhelming. There are so many moving parts that need to come together to create an easily navigable, appealing, and exciting blog for your readers— the kind of blog they come back to over and over again. It's fairly tempting when you're starting out to throw all kinds of extras on your blog that it doesn't really need, in an attempt to snag readers with anything. The problem with this is that readers end up distracted, overwhelmed, and ultimately not interested (I'm looking at you, cluttered side-bar). It's an easy mistake to make, and it's one I made when I first started out, too. Besides consistent posting and quality content, there are a few other things that are absolute must haves for any kind of blog, old or new, business or personal. Here are 9 essentials that helped me build more than one successful blog (and which I always recommend to clients as they're building their own blogs and businesses).
1. About/Start Here page
The about page is the second most viewed page of any blog— so it's no wonder that it's so important to get right! An about page should strike the right balance between telling the reader about yourself and your blog, but even more importantly, telling the reader how you will help them, and why on earth they should stick around.
Although you don't necessarily need to call it a Start Here page (though I think it can be useful for providing direction to your reader), coming at the 'about' page with this mindset can be very helpful. Often, new bloggers get lost in telling their reader about how they're a "dog lover, latte drinker, mum to three boys and hand-lettering enthusiast" without sharing why they're blogging and what they have to share.
2. Contact/FAQ page
I've been to more than one blog where I was interested in contacting the owner, only to find out that they really didn't have a method of contact.
Don't make this mistake. Putting together a super-simple contact page takes a few minutes at most and makes sure that readers who have questions, comments, or other feedback know how to get in touch with you (it's also crucial for those folks who may want to reach out for a collaboration or sponsorship).
Super tip: in order to field repetitive questions such as what camera do you use, how long have you been blogging, how do I start a blog, etc, the contact page is a great place to insert a few FAQ, right before the form that allows your readers to contact you. Even if you haven't been asked a whole lot of questions yet, you can anticipate the kinds of questions your readers might have and answer a few of them up front.
3. your Mission statement
A lack of clear purpose can be a big pitfall for many blogs that would be otherwise successful; it's important that your reader know straight away what kind of blog they're reading, who it's for, and what you do. You can work parts of your mission into a tag line, including your mission statement in your sidebar area, or include a longer more detailed mission statement in your about/start here page.
It's easy to put together— what you love, where you excel, and who you're serving. Learn how to create one here.
4. Social Media icons
These days, so much of the conversation takes place outside of the blog— not really in the comments, but on social media. There's not much to say here except that there should be an easy way for your readers to find you on social media, whether you include this in your sidebar, footer, header, or some other magical location your readers can't resist.
Super tip: I've seen a lot of great blogs which place an Instagram feed at the bottom, which boosts their brand and adds a lot of interest. I also decided to use this technique for my lifestyle blog, although I'm not exactly fantastic at staying active on Instagram.
5. blog Tags + Categories
One of these matters externally, one internally.
A lot of new users get confused about the difference between tags and categories.
Tags: A method of telling your blog which posts are most like other posts. If I tag my post with 'introduction' 'blogging' and 'beginners' it will recommend related posts which have similar tags. This is super important for getting your reader clicking around and reading more than one post on your blog before leaving.
Categories: These are the topics on which you post. Each post belongs in at least one category such as "business", "fashion", "beauty", or "meditation" (and none of the categories should ever be "other" "uncategorized" or "random). It's a good idea to have your categories displayed on your blog (sidebar, drop down menu, secondary menu) so that your readers know exactly what to expect when they come to your blog; it's simply another great what to show them what you're all about in a few quick words.
6. Internal Linking + SEo
Internal linking is the juice that keeps your blog going. It's how your readers find other content that is relevant to what they are looking to learn, or other content they love. I've done it several times already in this post, and you may have even clicked on one already. Internal linking is also a great way to drive traffic back towards old blog posts that may not being showing up on your blog anymore under recent posts or on the home page.
Example: "Last week when I was talking about some of the great ways you can start a meditation practise I mentioned that I had been meaning to learn how to..."
Where the content in aqua is the previous blog post. Easy as pie!
7. Search Bar
Another simple but essential feature that a surprising number of blogs are missing. Toss in a search bar or button in your header, footer, or sidebar so that readers looking for something specific are able to find what they need right away!
8. Great Visuals
Having excellent visuals no matter the type of blog you have is almost always necessary (exceptions: few, including Zen Habits). Great visuals attract your readers, tell your story, and give your readers more information, too.
This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be using photos, as this wouldn't be suited to every type of blog, but whether you're a food blogger or a financial blogger, having some kind of chart, photo, or infographic is a very good idea.
If you're new to a camera, check out my introductory guide on photography for bloggers!
9. a Way to Follow you
Last but not least, you need a way for your new readers to follow you and keep up to date with everything you do! Even if they loved your blog, they may not remember to come back and check (people are busy these days). Including a method of newsletter signup, a place to follow your blog by email, or a link to your Bloglovin' account (all three aren't necessary).
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>> Want to be sure you build a quality blog the first time? Grab my Blogging Better guide, written specifically for new bloggers or bloggers who are ready to cut out the noise and build a blog that lasts. Because I care about new bloggers, and because price inflation sucks las cojones de burro (I'm Canadian, don't judge my Spanish), the guide is actually affordable.