10 Must Have Blog Design & Usability Tips to Boost Your SEO

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]

Your blog’s design is such an important part of blogging, not just from a presentational perspective but also from a search engine optimization one that I feel that it needs a little more attention than just the one focused blog post that I wrote earlier this week.

The problem and challenge that most bloggers have is that they concentrate on design and usability only from the presentation level – that is, they only care about design insofar as it looks good to them first and then, perhaps, their users.

This is completely backwards! Good design works and converts one time visitors into passionate and interested subscribers because it enables the content to speak loudly and boldly through the screen convincing them that your blog is a definitive resource for their desired information (whether that is transactional or non-transactional search).

This is called usability, plain and simple.

In other words, your blog’s design is about and for your intended audience and much less about you and your opinion that the background should be a light shade of gray instead of vanilla-white. It’s funny how our blogs become about us instead of our users!

So what you need to make sure is that you have the right elements in place and the right strategies working for your users so that you can rock the search engine game and come out on top as a clear winner.

Here are 10 things that I always consider when doing a redesign or when I audit an existing website/blog for search:

1. Have Your 404’s in Check and Designed

The fact is that people (and search engines) are going to completely botch the links that are getting to your content (inbound links) and that they’ll land on broken pages. Not your fault!

Great blogs have a functionally designed 404 page and it’s an important part of your overall blog design and user experience! Make sure that you’ve got one for your users to look at and use because it’s inevitable that they’re going to encounter it a few times.

2. Review Inbound Links, Redirect Broken Link Juice

This has much to do with the first point as you’ll realize that many of the inbound links are simply broken. You can easily redirect the broken links yourself which is far easier than having to contact each webmaster or blogger and asking them politely to “fix” their links to your blog!

Part of your user experience starts at the other end with other blogs and you have to be able to transfer the traffic and viewer effectively into your property instead of them banging their head as they walk through your doorway.


3. Spend Time Optimizing the Most Viewed Pages

The most viewed pages on your blog are obviously the most critical in terms of your design and usability. Working on the content of these pages, optimizing the links that are accessing them (and jumping out from them) is an important step of capturing your audience long-term.

Some examples of these top priority blog pages are as follows:

  1. About Page
  2. Subscribe Page
  3. Disclosure Policy
  4. Comment Policy
  5. Comment Experience Page
  6. Privacy Policy Page
  7. Advertising Page
  8. Search Results Page
  9. Archives Page
  10. Sitemap Page

Spending the necessary time to make these pages amazing is part of your entire blog’s “design” and use. I honestly can’t believe how some bloggers just casually pass over these content areas and say that they’ll “get to it later” when they have time.

Here’s the truth: My About Page is one of my highest converting subscription mechanisms on this blog! Why wouldn’t I spend time building it out?

4. Have the Most Simple Site Navigation Possible

One of the neat things that I love about the Standard Theme (my Premium WordPress Theme of choice, obviously) is that I’m able to create one line of links at the top and the bottom of my blog in such a simple and linear fashion – it combines both pages and categories into one user experience in terms of navigational choices.

This is because I really do treat my categories very much like pages in terms of information and content display – I see both as places to get more information and to dive deeper into who I am and the content that’s here to enhance your blog as well.

How I did this was to strategically choose my categories so that I could minimize the traffic flow dilution that happens when a blog’s content is completely unfocused!

Some of the best blogs out there have simple navigation systems for their users so I’m hyper-critical of my own and those that I counsel.

5. Website Analytics are a Must

What do website and blog analytics have to do with site experience and usability and design? Everything.

You see, they will inform you in terms of what your users actually enjoy engaging with, how they connect with your content as well as where you lose them. Understanding your website analytics can’t be stressed enough!

Setting up an analytics system like Google Analytics is quite easy (10 steps or less!) and that’s the first step into becoming an usability master. I’ll spend some more time walking us through the use of it optimally in a later series but it’ll only be worth something to you if you have some history of data.

So install it today!

6. Become a Webmaster with Search Engine Tools

This one’s simple: Setup and install all the major Webmaster Tools that are available to you. Validate and authenticate your blog and be ready to understand your blog and website like a Jedi Master.

You’ll learn more about your site than you ever dared thought possible and it’s free! What a deal.

7. Images – Use Them Well and Wisely

The images and assorted creative media is very important for your overall design and user experience. But the question is whether or not you’re using them well, wisely, and legally!

I’ve got a comprehensive blog post covering the use of images for your blog and you should keep this close (or memorize it) so that you can stay way above board while creating the best darn experience for your readers.

8. Mastering Link Design, Slugs, and More

Part of your design is you actual link structure and I want to make sure that all of you become master link architects when it comes to your blog – in fact, it has added benefit than just creating a good user experience as you’ll get some serious bumps in PageRank and search engine rankings as well when you knock your link SEO techniques out of the park!

But don’t forget to optimize your blog post slugs and your blog post permalinks as well as the level of readability matters when it comes to your links as well.

9. Calls to Action – Making Them Count

Your calls to action are important to convert both new visitors as well as consistent readers into engaging with you strategically. I’ve written a post (that I probably need to expand on) about maximizing your calls to action around your blog and you should spend some time building strategy around the idea.

Your goal is help your users make the right decisions as you see it as well as creating an effective overall usability so that they keep coming back.

Nothing should feel forced nor required – but it all should be benevolent, good, and for their benefit.

10. Sharing is the Game

The use of social sharing techniques and other assorted calls to action are just as important in your design as anything else. I’ve been asked about my social sharing icons that are persistent throughout the reading experience and that answer is easy: It’s built directly into my WordPress Theme.

Another option is to use Jetpack, a killer WordPress plugin that will give you the ability to add sharing icons in your content easily. No blog should be without them!

Hope that helps and keep rocking it! You’re all doing a great job – just some are a bit farther down the journey than others, but that’s ok!

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]