Setting up a blog is one of the best ways to attract visitors to your website. By publishing content that resonates with your ideal audience, you can get in front of potential customers more easily. Nowadays, it’s one of the best ways to gain visibility and sales.
Blogs have come a long way since they were popularized by WordPress. Back then, most blogs would have a very cookie-cutter layout– a chronological list of posts, and a sidebar with some additional content. This layout has largely remained the same after many years.
But things are different now. Content marketing has matured a lot, and that influences the way blogs are designed. What might work for a specific website does not mean it will do the same for you.
The design of your blog matters
There are many different ways to design a blog page. You could display your most prominent content in a featured section, or you might want to split your articles into multiple categories.
The way your blog is set up can heavily influence the behavior of your visitors, and the best choice depends on what your goals are. Do you want to gain more visiblity? Do you want users to buy your product? Or do you simply want them to become more informed?
Keeping this in mind, you might want to plan a bit before deciding how to design your blog.
Should You Use A Classic Blog Layout?
Almost every WordPress theme nowadays comes with a classic blog layout. A classic blog will have a list of posts on the main content, accompanied by a sidebar that holds some additonal links.
One example of this is Smashing Magazine, which has stayed true to this type of blog layout for a long time. It uses a simple approach to blogging, and it has kept the same overall layout for years. It’s the living proof that a simple and straightforward layout works.
Classic layouts are a simple and efficient solution. They offer plenty of flexibility because of the sidebar– it is a great spot to place advertising banners, product upsells, or optin forms.
However, one major flaw of this design is that it’s boring. If you are striving to make a difference, you will depend on the strength of your brand to leave a lasting impression. There are plenty of design variations that have their own original take on this type of layout, but it’s still the same.
Showcasing Featured Content
Every blog has hits and misses. The hits are those articles that, for a particular reason, become immensely popular and engage users on a regular basis. The misses, on the other hand, are posts that don’t resonate too well with the audience and fall behind in pageviews.
Most of the time, you want your best hits to be displayed on the front page of your blog. Doing so can help you engage better with your audience, showcasing your best pieces right away.
An example of this is the CoSchedule blog, which has their best content shown alongside their latest articles. Most of these are a must read:
If your posts are evergreen and focus on providing lots of value, it’s generally a good idea to follow this strategy. In the long run, this can help you get more social shares, engage users more consistently, and also boost the growth of your email list.
Ditching The Sidebar
The WordPress sidebar has a lot of uses. You can include advertisements, embed optin forms, and provide links to other content pieces in your blog.
However, it can also be a counter-productive element.
The sidebar can often become a distraction, because it displays content that may not be relevant to the actual article.
Let me illustrate: one of the more useful things you can do in your sidebar is ask the reader to sign up for your email list. But if your optin form displays something completely unrelated to the current article, chances are your readers will simply become distracted.
On the other hand, if your offer is carefully tailored to what the visitor is reading, you will probably get a much higher conversion rate. This line of thinking goes hand in hand with content upgrades— they are highly specialized offerings that have a better chance than generic offers.
Since changing the contents of your sidebar for each single post is cumbersome, there is one easy way to solve this problem: ditch the sidebar altogether.
One example of this is Groove, which uses a no-sidebar layout for its articles. There are no distractions and no links to click:
Removing the sidebar can provide your readers with a much more focused reading experience. That way, you can capture their attention for longer, and you can sell them whatever you need in the article itself. Still, keep in mind that this will only work if your content is high-quality!
Post Listings vs. Single Post Layout
In a lot of WordPress themes, the overall layout of your blog page is often the same as your individual posts. But as we have seen with the sidebar approach, this can vary.
Keep in mind that the goals of your articles are different from the actual blog page.
In a single blog post, you want the reader to stay glued to the screen until the very end. It’s a focused task that requires time and concentration.
In your post listing page, you want to present the reader with interesting choices and get them to click on an article. They might as well spend only a few seconds before moving on.
Because of this, you might want to consider using different layouts for each page. Your blog page should be more visual and capture the reader’s attention, hoping to get them to click onto another page. Here are just a few examples of what you can do to achieve that:
- Use a grid-like layout
- Add larger images
- Use consistent visuals that follow a theme
- Remove excerpts and use post titles only
Depending on what your goals are, some of these tips might be more effective than others. For example, if you are a membership site you might want to display your best offer on the blog page. If your primary means of income is through affiliate marketing, you should showcase your best performing articles on top.
In some cases, you might want to upsell them something– so adding a highlighted box or a call to action might produce good results. On the other hand, if the content is a standalone piece you could keep the experience distraction-free.
Lastly, you can simply take a completely unique approach to stand out from the crowd.
Since a lot of blogs share a similar layout, you could try using an unorthodox layout to become more memorable. Just take a look at the Awwwards website, and you will see a lot of website that would not be considered normal:
Using an unorthodox design can help bring more visitors, if only for the novelty. If you manage to create an experience that is both entertaining and useful, it might get picked up by more people and shared more easily. People are always looking for new things to try, and there are lots of websites dedicated to showcasing that.
However, you must also keep usability in mind. It’s okay to design a creative blog, but if the resulting experience is bad then your efforts might be for nothing.
Make your blog unique
Nailing down the perfect blog layout for your website boils down to testing and measuring everything. You need to know what your audience wants, and then make small, progressive tweaks to give them what they need.
Remember that something that works for a specific website may not work for you. Your audience is unique only to your own website, and you should work on discovering who your readers are.
What does your blog look like? Is it fully optimized towards your readership?