The 4 Essentials Elements of a Reader Friendly Blog

We’ve all seen those blogs, and blog templates, that are just an absolute nightmare when it comes to organizing content. And while some of those templates may be beautiful, or exceptionally easy to use, if they don’t have the right elements to make reading and searching your blog easy, you’re likely to lose readers over it.

But what does “having the right elements” even mean?

Elements are simply the things on a blog’s web page. The navigation menu, header, footer(s), images, modules, and anything else that a visitor to your blog would see, or use to surf around on your site. Below, you can read about the 4 essential elements every blog should have if it wants to be reader friendly.

Categories

Even if your blog has a single focus, you should immediately get rid of the “uncategorized” option, then create categories to organize your posts.

For example, this blog is about blogging, and has various categories to organize similar topics together. You want to use categories in order to allow readers to go deeper on the topics that interest them, as well as to be able to find posts to share with others when they can’t remember your post’s brilliant title.

Also, if the topic fits into more than one category, then don’t be afraid to categorize it in a couple different categories as this will help visitors searching in either category.

To Archive or Not to Archive

Depending on how long you’ve been blogging, an archive may feel like a serious hit to your site’s credibility. But, only having a couple months worth of archives when you’re blog is new isn’t a bad thing. It just, sort of, is. If readers see fresh content they like, on a new site, that potential hit to credibility from newness gets offset by the fact that readers know there will be more content coming.

If you do not update your blog often, archiving by quarter, or annually, could work, especially if your blog has been around for a few years or more.

Navigation

Believe it or not, a blog needs some form of naviation menu. Even if it is just one or two links in the header, having a way for visitors to surf around and find the content they are interested in is critical. Links to categories on a sidebar can be rather useful, as can sidebar links for recent or popular posts, or content you want to highlight.

You want your navigation menu to have an easy flow for new users to get up to speed on your site, while at the same time providing convenience in an unobtrusive way for your regular visitors.

Subscription Options

In today’s modern world of Uber-but-for-electric-scooters, there’s a lot of stuff out there competing for attention. You should make it easy for your readers to subscribe to your content so that they will receive updates or notices when new content is posted.

Notably, depending on your own goals, the more avenues you’re willing to open, the easier it will be for readers and visitors to turn into subscribers. Using all available, or just a selected few, popular social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, or even Instagram and Pintrest, can be great ways to reach your audience where they already spend time.

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So You Want to Start a Blog …

Starting a blog may be easy, but keeping it going is where most bloggers tend to struggle.

Who among us hasn’t started like six or seven blogs in their lifetime only to let each and every one atrophy into a depleted echo chamber of loneliness after the first few posts didn’t go viral?

So how do you start a blog that will keep you, and your readers, interested and engaged? Read on below to find out.

Pick a Niche You Actually Care About

Blogging is all about niches and authenticity. Readers visit blogs in order to get specific, detailed information about whatever they are geeking out over. The catch is that these readers generally only want to consume content created by like-minded people. While the technology isn’t there, somehow readers can smell insincerity through the web.

Simply put, if you’re not actually engaged in the topic your writing about, or you’re just re-blogging what has already been written elsewhere, your audience will catch on, then move on. But, if you’re creating original content that is informative and creates value for readers, you’re much more likely to get a subscriber, follower, or bookmark, out of it.

For example, this blog you’re reading right now is focused on writing blogs. Readers can expect that by following this blog, they will be sure to get tips on how to keep their own blogs going, or other writing tips, from a writer who has published thousands of blog posts and has studied the craft of writing for decades. For a blogger, or any other type of online content creator, learning how to improve your writing is indeed valuable.

Deciding on your niche might take some work and some soul searching. The next section provides some advice on figuring it out for yourself.

Considerations for Choosing Your Niche

The most important aspect of choosing your blog’s focus is you. Since the blog will depend on you creating content for it, and you likely won’t have a boss or editor throwing assignments at you, if you don’t like the subject-matter, you’re going to suffer.

Again, for instance, this blog: Writing is a passion of mine. There is just something personally satisfying about seeing words on a page come together to form meaning, and like the big writing nerd that I am, when meanings muddle or phrases beg to be written, I smile. Simply put, writing about writing is my penultimate-geek-pleasure.

However, notice that my niche is not exclusive to people who are like me (that just take sheer delight in how words and meaning can be funny). In fact, anyone who wants to learn to be a better writer, or blogger, can find value in the content being created here.

Following closely behind what you find interesting enough to sustain a blog, the other big, very important, consideration you must ponder is value. What are you providing for your readers? Information, entertainment, education, advice, laughs? At the end of the day, if you are not consistently providing value to your readers, you shouldn’t expect to sustain their interest.

Putting Value on the Blog

You’ve surely heard the saying: “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.” It’s a pretty new saying, but it’s been true for as long as there’s been no free lunch. It’s the same saying.

For bloggers and online content creators, those readers, viewers, and subscribers, are the product. On most platforms, advertising is what monetizes a blog or website. Advertisers pay more money for sites that have more targeted audiences and more views. This means you have to acquire products to sell, and since nothing is free, that means you have to give value to acquire your products, aka your readers and subscribers. Fortunately, if you’ve selected a niche you enjoy, providing that value amounts to creating good, high-quality content, which will probably be enjoyable to do and rewarding for yourself as well.

While this may seem like a distant issue to consider, if you aren’t providing value from the outset, you’re not likely to keep those first readers.

Read Your Competition

Thanks to how great the internet is, someone has probably already done and written about what you want to write about. Don’t worry, that’s not a problem. The internet is a big place and there’s plenty of room for everyone to write and publish, and if the demand is there, then the internet can sort it all out. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore these other bloggers or websites. In fact, you should become avid followers, especially if those sites are doing well. Learn as much as you can from what your competition (or peers) are doing right (or wrong).

Another good reason why you should keep up with your competition is simply to make sure that you keep up-to-date with what’s going on in your niche.

Always Engage Your Readers

Lastly, it’s always a good idea to engage your readers at the end of every blog post, beyond just the friendly reminder to subscribe or sign up for a newsletter (hint, hint). Providing links away from your site to source material, related content, or anything else you might think is relevant, may feel counter-intuitive, but it helps build your credibility, both from readers and from search engines.

If you have any comments or requests for future topics about blogging, feel free to contact me.