This post was originally published on Nov. 29, 2017, and was updated on Aug. 26, 2019.
Maybe you have a small business and you’d like to generate more traffic. Perhaps your business is booming, and you’d like to have more of an online presence. Or, it could just be that you have a very strong opinion about why kiwi-flavored meatloaf should be a “thing,” and you want to connect with like-minded individuals. Whatever your reason, you’ve decided to start a blog, but you’re not sure where to start. After all, if you’re going to invest time and effort into blogging, you want to make sure you learn how to design a blog that converts into actual leads.
Don’t worry — blogging for your venture doesn’t have to be rocket science or brain surgery. Anyone can learn how to design a blog that converts with the right tools, knowledge, and just a little elbow grease.
Related: How to write a great blog post
First things first
Assuming you don’t already have a website, start by choosing your platform.
For this, I highly recommend you use WordPress.
First off, it’s free (music to any small business owner’s ears), although you will need to pay for hosting. WordPress is also a great way to let you design a website when you’re not a website designer. The number of available themes and plugins are vast. And, because WordPress is open source, the support community is huge as well.
GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress Hosting makes starting and designing your own WordPress blog easier.
Managed WordPress features a Quick Start Wizard, pre-built themes, core software updates, daily backups and 24/7 support. This means the bulk of behind-the-scenes work is done for you. You can simply focus on writing a blog that converts ... without worrying about how to configure everything.
WordPress was designed from the very beginning as a personal publishing tool, and as such yields itself extremely well to blogging. You also have a nearly unlimited library of articles, advice, themes, and other tools that have already been created for WordPress at your fingertips.
How to design a blog that converts
Now that you’re set up with a WordPress site, let’s take a look at some of the main features that will help ensure your site attracts users (and converts them into customers).
Every “expert” has their own set of tips and tricks; however, most successful blogs all have several things in common.
- Choose a clean layout.
- Responsiveness is key.
- Include a call-to-action.
- Content is relevant to the discussion.
- Categorize and search.
- Make friends with SEO.
- Measure success.
Start with these ideas as a guideline and you’ll be well on your way.
1. Choose a clean layout
No one likes a website that is so busy and distracting they can’t find basic information. A user arrives at a site for one reason: information.
Whether they came to your site specifically or arrived via a search or other redirect, they’re looking for something.
If you want your blog to convert users, you must make the information the are seeking easy to locate.
Here are a few pointers:
- Stick to simple color schemes (usually only two or three colors) and clean graphics.
- Don’t go crazy with fonts; most good websites use only one or two.
- Keep your navigation easy to see and intuitive to use. Your menu names should be clear and make it easy for your visitors to find what they’re looking for.
- While strategic use of videos and animations/transitions can be sleek, avoid their overuse. A single, well-placed video can increase your conversions, but covering your home page with them will just prove distracting. Consider using clear, relevant images in place of videos or sliders.
- Make sure your navigation is clear and easy to find. All menu items should be simply named and all links and buttons have an obvious purpose.
Other simple design features can help increase your conversions, and you can find more conversion tips in this easy-to-follow guide.
2. Responsiveness is key
Responsiveness refers to a website’s ability to look good on any device or at any screen size.
A responsive site will look just as good on a mobile phone or tablet as it does on a desktop monitor.
By 2018, over half (58%) of website visits were from some sort of mobile device instead of a traditional desktop. More and more users are visiting websites from their phones and tablets.
If you want to effectively explore how to design a blog that converts, a responsive website is essential.
Fortunately, there are hundreds of responsive themes available for WordPress. Starting with a responsive theme will help ensure your site looks good for as many potential customers as possible.
Check your site on several different screen sizes to make sure your content still looks good no matter what the device.
Related: Responsive web design tutorial
3. Include a call-to-action
When someone visits your blog, you want to encourage them to take the next step. Whether you want them to sign up for a newsletter, make a purchase, or join as a member, you need to make the process easy and clear.
Make the next step easy and clear for your visitors by placing a CTA above the fold, with a link to the desired page. This will drive your user to act.
The best way to do this is with a call-to-action (CTA).
Be sure to place it above the fold — meaning the user sees it on the initial page without having to scroll. A single click should put the user right where you want them.
A good CTA will include just a little information (usually a headline and small blurb) and a clear button or link to the desired section or page. Avoid using verbose language or confusing graphics or colors in your CTAs; you want the user to ACT, not to get distracted.
4. Content is relevant to the discussion
Everyone has something to say, a unique perspective to offer or advice to give. So far, we’ve discussed mostly design and setup concerns.
However, if you want to design a WordPress blog that will be relevant, you need to focus the most on your content.
The best blogs are those that are updated frequently and present relevant information in an enjoyable, easy-to-read format.
The style of your writing may depend most on your desired target audience, but make sure it’s well-written.
Re-read, proof, and edit your blog posts before you publish them.
Few things are more annoying than poorly written blog articles pumped full of choppy sentences and poor grammar. Before you dive in, create a list of ideas and topics that you could write about and keep it handy. Add to it when inspiration strikes, and refer to it when you feel “stuck.”
Another factor in keeping your blog relevant is to post new content frequently. Users who return to your website often to read new posts are more likely to convert.
If you feel the urge to write several posts in one sitting, utilize the “schedule” feature for WordPress posts. Instead of publishing several articles at once, you can schedule them to be automatically posted at future dates/times. This spreads out your new content and contributes to the “freshness” of your blog.
Your own content is always best. However, feel free to reference or point back to other posts or articles of interest to you. Keep in mind the following guidelines if you do:
- Make sure the post you’re referencing is relevant to your blog/audience.
- Give credit where credit is due; tell people it’s a reference to content you didn’t create and include an appropriate link to the original author.
- Avoid re-posting articles in their entirety. Paraphrase or reference the original and post a link, but don’t copy and paste the entire post.
5. Categorize and search
As you get the hang of how to design a blog — and it starts to grow — you’ll need an easy way for potential customers to find the information they seek. Skimming through titles is easy when you only have three articles posted. But what happens when your blog extends to 30 posts? Or 150? Or 1,500?
Smart blog design with categories
Enter the wonderful world of categories.
Adding categories for your blog posts is a fast and easy way to direct your users to the topics of their choice.
You can display categories on a sidebar, and a single click will direct the user to the articles that match the criteria.
With the ability to cross-categorize (i.e., a single article can appear in more than one category), having a large number of blog posts is suddenly much more manageable.
When using categories on your blog, keep in mind the same guidelines we discussed with navigation.
- Make sure your categories are easy to find and use.
- Use category names that clearly represent what they point to. If your categories have names like “Category 3” or “General Stuff”, they won’t be useful to your visitors.
- Keep your categories somewhat broad.
Tag, you’re it
What if you want to offer a more specific group for your users? This is where you would use taxonomies (or “tags”). Think of these as “keywords” for your articles.
For example, you could have a main category on your blog for “Music.” If a visitor clicked this category, they would see posts about all music. If you wanted to allow a narrower search (for example, only posts about “reggae”), you would use a tag.
You can tag posts with as many keywords as you want, regardless of the category.
You might create a post about Memphis in your “Travel” category, but not want to include it in the “Music” category. Adding a tag of “blues” would still allow music lovers to find the post easily.
Make search simple
Another critical element for your blog is the search box.
Any customer not finding the information they want within the first several seconds is likely to start looking for that little magnifying glass.
WordPress offers a built-in search that will automatically search the entire site — blog posts included. Adding that search box to your blog is a fast, simple and effective way to ensure your users can find articles and information easily.
6. Make friends with SEO
Ahh, the dreaded topic of search engine optimization (SEO) … such a daunting and complex-sounding task. SEO refers to the practice of adjusting your website to be friendly to search engine ranking requirements — and hopefully raising your position in the search engine results in the process.
While this is an ever-changing and evolving area, there are some basic items you can address to make your site more SEO-friendly. Fortunately, WordPress makes these tasks easy as well, and you don’t have to be a marketing genius to optimize your site effectively.
Start by using pretty permalinks. This feature simply adjusts how your page URLs (the “permanent links”) are displayed to the user. Instead of seeing a link with a post number, like this:
… your user sees the name of the page instead:
This not only makes more sense to the customer, but the search engines like it better as well.
Set this up BEFORE you begin blogging!
If you have already created content and change your permalinks, the links to all your previously created pages and posts will change. If search engines have already started indexing this content, users who attempt to visit the old link will receive an error page instead of your post.
Leverage the parent page structure
Another easy SEO tip is to make use of the built-in “parent page” structure in WordPress.
For example, let’s say you have a page called Dogs. You also have specific pages for Labradors, Poodles and Greyhounds. By setting Dogs as the parent page, you essentially organize your website for the user.
This kind of tiered structure — as opposed to flat URLs — is beneficial for SEO.
More blog SEO tips
Other simple tips include:
- Making sure all images have title/alt tags specified.
- Using an SSL certificate on your website.
- Making sure you’re targeting appropriate keywords.
It also bears repeating that responsiveness is a big deal, as it has a HUGE effect on SEO.
Mobile-friendly websites generally rank much higher on search engine results than their non-responsive counterparts.
We have plenty more SEO tips and strategies if you really want to dive into the subject in depth.
Related: Blog SEO tips and tricks
7. Measure success
So, you learned how to design a blog, set up all the correct features and elements, and you’ve published your posts. How do you know if any of this is helping? How do you know if all your efforts to design a blog that converts were successful?
There are several metrics you can use to assess changes, but one of the most useful is Google Analytics.
Adding a simple script to your website allows this tool to track the traffic patterns on your website and offer insights into trends and potential issues.
Whether your business is new or has been around for years, everyone can benefit from a clear website and clean blog. Now that you have reviewed the basics, it’s time to throw on your thinking cap, site down behind your keyboard, and start writing!
Related: How to use Google Analytics