Yep, it’s time for another Blogging Help post. (Miss a past post? Click here to view all Blogging Help posts.)
I wrote about today’s topic, Blog Necessities, with DIY/home/decorating blogs in mind. But if you blog in another niche, some of these things are applicable to your blog also. I’ll let you be the judge of that.
So to my fellow DIY/home/decorating bloggers, I’ve compiled a very short list of things that I think are vital for your blog.
1. Your Name
I know this might seem obvious, but I’ve visited enough blogs to know that this isn’t obvious to a large number of bloggers. It’s difficult for your readers to make a connection with you if they don’t know your name.
When I feature another blogger’s project on my site, I always like to include the blogger’s first name. But more times than I can count, I’ve searched and searched a blog, even on the “About” page, and can’t find a first name anywhere. Other times, I have to read the “About” page completely in order to find the name buried in the depths of the page somewhere.
Even if you’re an incredibly private person, you can still let people know your first name. Put it somewhere prominently on your blog, such as somewhere prominent in your sidebar, or as a signature on your blog posts. I used to “sign” my blog posts, but decided it was a hassle. Now I just have it prominently on my sidebar.
2. An Easy-To-Navigate Menu With Actual Substance
Your menu should be something that allows your readers to gain easy access to specific information on your site. I’ve seen many blogs where the menu consists of Home, About, Contact and Advertise. Those are good and necessary menu items, but they don’t allow a reader to gain access to the “meat” of your blog.
Do you blog by category? Then put your categories on your menu. Do you have regular features? Then put a link to the feature categories on your menu. If readers don’t have a way to navigate and gain access to the meat of your blog, then they’ll visit the first page, and then click away. Obviously, the goal is to encourage readers to stay, to click around, to read, to interact with your blog, and to enjoy their stay so much that they’ll come back often and tell their friends about you.
3. A Project Gallery
If you are a DIY blogger, I simply cannot stress enough the importance of a DIY Projects Gallery. Let me give you an example from my own personal experience:
About a week ago, I was visiting a link party, and I clicked on an amazing project, curious to see the details. After arriving on that blog, and reading through post with the amazingly beautiful project, I was so impressed with this blogger’s talent that I wanted to see any and all of her other DIY projects. I scrolled up to the menu to look for a project gallery, and only found three links: Home, About, and Advertise. I scrolled down and looked at everything on the sidebar, hoping that there would be a link to a gallery, or at the very least, individual links to other projects. I found nothing of the sort.
So there I was, on the blog of an obviously incredibly talented blogger, but I had absolutely no way of finding other projects. So sadly, I clicked away, and haven’t been back. This was just one example. I’ve had the same experience with a number of DIY blogs.
Creating a gallery should be on the top of the priority list for all DIY bloggers. And while a page with text links is better than nothing, a page with pictures is the absolute best. Pictures are what grab readers’ attention. It may seem like a hassle, but I can guarantee you that a DIY Project Gallery will increase your page views and will draw your readers into the “meat” of your blog.
FYI, for you WordPress users, a DIY Projects Gallery can be set up so that it automatically generates a thumbnail every time you post a blog in that category. No extra work necessary!
Another FYI…if you’re not a DIY blogger, but instead post something like home tours, a gallery like the above could be useful to your readers as well. Galleries aren’t just for us DIYers!
4. Large, clear photos
I’ve mentioned this on the A2D Facebook page a number of times, but it’s so important that it’s worth repeating again (and again, and again, and again). If you are a decorating/home/DIY blogger, your photos are probably the number one most important thing on your blog, and I personally believe that photos can make or break a blog.
When you purchase a shelter magazine, do you purchase it for the articles? Or do you purchase it for the pictures? I’ll ask it another way…If you could choose between
- a shelter magazine with amazingly well-written, witty, insightful articles that had small, less-than-quality pictures that didn’t show any detail, or
- a shelter magazine with sub-par articles that had page after page of large, clear photos of beautiful rooms and inspiring projects,
…which one would you choose?
Let’s face it…pictures are what sell shelter magazines. The same thing is true on decorating/home/DIY blogs. Pictures are the “meat” that readers are after. Here’s an example:
Would you rather see a blog post filled with pictures like this…
…or would you rather see a blog post filled with pictures like this?
I think that answer is fairly obvious.
But let me do one more comparison, this time addressing the issue of clear photos. Would you rather see a blog post filled with large photos like the one above, or would you rather see a blog post filled with photos like this…
Using special effects on your photos might seem like a great idea, and they may be fun and easy to play around with, but in reality they do absolutely nothing to enhance a photo of a room or a project, and in most cases, they can be distracting and actually detract from the substance of the photo. My suggestion? Leave the special effects to your fun iPhone snapshots, and use large, clear photos with no special effects on your blog.
5. Copyright and Photo Usage Information
A few weeks ago, I was reading a blog post about copyright violations and Pinterest, and of course that topic sparks some interesting comments. I’ll never forget the very first comment on that post, which was written by a blogger with a fairly well-trafficked blog. This blogger insisted that any and all photos that are posted on any blog become part of the “public domain”, and therefore she (and anyone else) has the right to use them in any way she wants to.
It was hard for me to imagine that a blogger with a well-trafficked blog could be so misinformed about copyright. Just to be clear, any photo you take has a copyright on it the moment it is taken and published on your blog, whether or not you put watermarks on your photos. And as the copyright holder of your photos, it is completely up to you to set the parameters in which your photos can be used by others.
Somewhere on your blog, you need to state these parameters. Do people need to ask your permission first? (Actually, if you don’t spell out the parameters, then legally they’re supposed to ask your permission first.) Do you give other bloggers permission to use one or two photos without your prior written permission? If so, are there guidelines that they must follow? Spell it out. That way, if someone misuses your photos, you can direct them to your Photo Usage Information page so they can correct the problem.
Just my two cents on this topic: I do NOT recommend requiring other bloggers to get your prior written permission before using any photo on your blog. If you do that, you could be missing out on some great features and exposure on other blogs. On several occasions, I’ve wanted to feature projects on blogs that specifically require prior written permission. I wrote, requested to use their photos, and never heard back from them. Unfortunately, because of their requirement and a lack of response, they missed out on traffic and exposure. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even bother if I see a statement like that on a blog.
So that’s my short list! What are your thoughts? Do you have something you would add to the list?