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So my friend just started a blog; she’s on cloud nine and totally enjoying it and asking me all these blogging related questions. I realized that I have forgotten SO MUCH of everything that goes into setting up a blog! So I thought about it and asked myself to answer this question: what are a blog’s MUST HAVES. Things that make a blog flow well, keeps it organized, and most importantly, entices readers to stay and click around. Here are my top 10.
Seamless Blog Design
I really do think a blog design is SO important. Just like they say the cover of a book sells the book; even though the content could be amazing…if the cover is horrid, you’re gonna question what’s inside if the outside looks that bad.
So, your blog needs to look GOOD. At the very least, it needs to be bright, open, and not cluttered. I bought my design from Restored 316 Designs (aff link). There are a lot of child themes available for WordPress blogs but a lot of them are just NOT cute or feminine, so I really like this site. When I was on Blogger, I did most of my site myself but there are lots of cute templates you can buy on Etsy.
Nothing haunts my soul more than not being able to contact a blogger. You ransack their blog trying to find a freakin’ email or a contact form to no avail. NOT COOL, people, not cool. You can put it in your About page, you can make a contact page and put it there, you can add it to your social media icons, etc.
Social media icons
Another soul haunting mistake: not having social media icons. These are the buttons you put under your picture at the top of your sidebar or in your blog’s header area that link to your blog’s social media pages. Readers then have the opportunity to follow you on their favorite social media outlet in order to stay updated with your blog. I use this plugin for mine and here are some free ones for Blogger blogs. Usually they will come with your design if you purchase one.
And on a side note, if you want people to share your stuff on multiple media outlets, it’s best if you yourself are also on those social media outlets. A lot of times I want to share a blogger’s post, but when I go to check what their Twitter handle is so I can tag them and realize they aren’t on Twitter, it kind of discourages me from even sharing their post. I would say, if you’re a blogger, make sure you’re on Facebook and Twitter where it’s common for people to tag you when they share your stuff.
Having a section for the different categories you blog about will help keep your blog organized and will help readers easily find the content they’re interested in reading.
All blogs FOR SURE need a search bar, the higher the better. I prefer them to be right at the top so that I can quickly find something if I can’t find it just by scanning the page.
Some bloggers hide their archives and I think that’s a bad idea. I know I used to because either I was embarrassed of people going through them or I was trying to hide how new I was, but if you want someone to fall in love with your blog (keep them clicking around and wanting to come back) you need to let them dig around a little. The more ways you can help readers navigate around your posts, the better.
Social sharing buttons
These are buttons that you display in your posts so that a reader can share your content if they really love it. I use Shareaholic for my blog and love them. And for those of you who are using Shareaholic, make sure you have the section filled out with your social handles. When I go to share your content, for example, and it looks like this: 10 Things Every Blog Needs www.piganddac.com via @shareaholic <— that should say @piganddac so it tags YOU. That way you can know when people are sharing your content and people can easily follow you on Twitter. But the standard install comes with it tagging Shareaholic so make sure yours is customized.
When I had a Blogger blog, I added these social share buttons from ShareThis to my site.
If you plan on ever doing reviews, sponsored posts, displaying ads on your blog or adding in affiliate links, you’ll want to add a disclosure page. Google Adsense actually requires you to have one set up before they’ll approve you. This site really helped me understand disclosures; when and why you need them and examples for disclosures to add to your blog. I like this site because the author is a lawyer and knows her stuff.
It is a very, very good idea to have your most popular posts displayed somewhere on your blog. You could put them in your About page, make a special page for them, or display them in your sidebar. A lot of times when readers come to your blog, they will make a very quick analyzation of whether they’re interested in coming back to your blog or not. When I had a post go viral once on Huffington, most of the traffic that came to my site went straight to my About page. They wanted to know what my blog was all about and what kinds of posts they could expect to see if they followed me.
I didn’t add an About page as one of my top 10, because I feel like it’s a given, but it’s extremely important that you have one and that it’s polished and updated frequently. It’s your blog’s first impression, so make it look awesome! I struggled for a long time on what to put in my About page since I hate talking about myself and I feel like I suck at writing those kinds of things, but basically just a quick and simple description of your blog, of you, and your best posts are all you need in your About section.
What do you think is absolutely necessary in a blog? What do you look for when you’re on a blog? I’d love to hear your answers!