Pop open another tab on your web browser and pull up your blog URL. Look at your blog as if it were a storefront, or an office space, or a gathering spot for conversations, or a magazine, or a part of a mall. Look at it as a property. Ask yourself what are the most valuable parts of that real estate. Ask yourself how you’re choosing to use that real estate. I have a few thoughts.
Thin Up Your Header
The header, the part of your blog where your logo or title goes, is often quite large and eats up a lot of the “top of the fold” view of your blog. Now, swing by Problogger and GigaOm. Look how thin their header bar is – look at mine. Why? Because we want you deep into the main story before you even stop to think about it.
The Upper RIght
In most blogs, the upper right area is the “call to action” area that’s most prized. Looking at that upper right quadrant gives you a sense of what action you’re asking people to take more than any other when they arrive on your site. On my blog, the upper-right is about subscriptions and engagement. I want you to get hooked into my platform. Below that are my affiliate ads.
On Christopher S. Penn‘s blog, that area is where he invites you to book him for events. Interestingly, on Julien Smith’s blog, that area is a blank white wall. (What are you saying to us, man?)
A Quick Note About Ad Placement
If you’re doing ads, note how most of the biggest, most popular media-style blogs don’t have an ad in the top header area. They almost all have a decent sized ad at the top of the fold to the right of the main content. If ads matter to you, realize that that’s probably your most prime piece of real estate. The only other really successful place in current blog design (and I’m not counting popovers, popunders, squeezeboxes, and all the other annoying types of ads) seem to be in-line, either at the end of a post, or as a sponsored post.
I’ve written about sidebars a lot. Lately, I note that people put all kinds of things in their sidebar that send them away. People put their Facebook fan page widgets. They put their tweets. They put all kinds of things that say, “Please, leave my blog and go off on this tangent.” I’ve decided to keep those to a minimum on my site.
After your advertising (be that for your own products and services or for someone else’s), sidebars can be either a great way to focus people on something that matters to you, or they can be a tool to lob people back off your website. Which would you prefer?
Badges and the Like
I’m of split mind on badges. For example, I prominently display that I’m in the Top 5 of the Advertising Age Power150. The reason I do this is that I believe it tells prospective clients (either for my professional speaking or for working with New Marketing Labs that I have some level of awareness in the greater advertising/marketing community. That one, I feel I can justify.
But I’m not so sure how many badges I’d want there. I’m not sure what other accolades I could heap up there without feeling like I was worried about social proof. And I’m not sure just how much more visual real estate I’m willing to give up to other people. The last one, of course, is the issue I’m talking about in this post.
Your Blog as Property
If you think of your site as a gathering place, it’s important to think of what the design will help you define. Every choice we give people is a choice that can augment or detract from the value of your blog. Want one to think about? Comments.
For instance, I’m really reconsidering whether or not I want comments at Man on the Go , my travel review site. Why? Because though sometimes a comment gives me a sense that someone wanted more information on a post, I’m also realizing that comments interfere with my intended call to action on certain posts (according to my stats), and that I’d rather people click on another video than I would rather them just comment (for that site, which has different goals than [chrisbrogan.com] ).
Do What You Like- Just Be Thoughtful About It
It’s a choice. Everything about your site is a choice. And each one comes with a mindset and a general response from your peers as well as your prospective audience or community. If you want advertising revenue, be aware that some people will be turned off. If you want more engagement, make it easier, not harder, to comment. If you want more sales, consider where you’ve put your calls to action.
It’s your real estate. How do you choose to use it?
Photo credit JuJups Studio