I don’t remember where I heard the term ‘blog flow’ or if it’s just something I started calling the concept I’m about to talk about.
What The Heck Is Blog Flow?
Okay, so blog flow is a term I use to describe the design of your website or blog and how that design affects what your visitors do on your site.
If you think of your blog homepage as your storefront (which it essentially is!), then imagine a first time visitor arriving. Where do you want that visitor to go first? What do you want them to see? Are there ‘featured’ products or services in your store that you want them checking out? Would you like them to find and meet you the business owner? How can you best help them help themselves?
This is what blog flow is all about. It’s the idea of setting up your website in a user-friendly, helpful, and controlled way. You’re setting up ‘pipelines’ for visitors to seamlessly ‘flow’ through your content. And what this ultimately does is keeps people on your site!
Why It Matters
Having a visitor flow that is structured and customized for your site matters. It matters more than you realize.
A huge benefit is bounce rate. By structuring your blog so that readers are encouraged to click on more posts, pages or internal links, you’re automatically reducing your bounce rate. And if you’ve done any research on Google/SEO, you know by now that bounce rate has a big impact on where the search engines decide to rank you. It could mean the difference between page 1 on Google or dusty old page 10.
What about building a community and creating social proof? Keeping new visitors on your blog for longer periods of time and having them visit multiple pages and posts will undoubtedly increase the likelihood of shares, likes, tweets, comments and whatever else. Not to mention higher numbers of email sign-ups and RSS feed subscriptions per visitor.
Blog Flow gives you a level of control. Think of it this way: We, as site owners and content creators, want some sort of control over how our original content and works are presented and discovered by other people. Right? You spent so much time on your pillar post about “how to create a blog and make money with it”, so why in the world would you want that post to just get buried into the archives? When you take the initiative to set up a pathway for readers, you take the initiative to show off your best content.
Going With The ‘Flow’
1. Give Users A ‘Suggested’ Archive
Almost every blog has some sort of blog archive. It could be your monthly archives, or your recent posts roll, and even your categories or tags are basically just specific archive lists. But why leave automated and basic archiving systems like categories, recents and time-frames as your main tool for users to navigate through your content?
I, for one, have never enjoyed the process of clicking on something like ‘posts from august’ in order to try and find something else to read on a blog. In fact, the only time I ever waste time sifting through those types of archives is when the blog is REALLY REALLY GOOD. Otherwise, I’ll head back to Google or some other blog to find something useful to read. It’s just an archaic and labor-intensive way for readers to find content.
What I recommend instead is setting up a thoughtful and customized area that visitors can easily one-click and get to. The best example I can give you is my ‘Best Of IMMethods’ page. At any one time, while visiting any one page on the IMMethods blog, there is menu tab that points directly to that ‘best of’ page. I created that page specifically to help my visitors find the most useful content on this site. Looking at it you can see that I have it split into main categories with short descriptions and then a list of relevant posts underneath.
I suggest studying that page and making something similar. It’ll give you the chance to quickly help your visitors find your best content.
2. Emphasize Your Story
Creating a personal brand is a big thing I talk about here on the blog. A huge part to that is having a picture of yourself, creating a really good ‘About Page‘ and making a prominent author area above the fold in the sidebar.
Most bloggers have those things. How good your about page, author box or pictures are is a discussion for another time. In relation to blog flow I want you to ask yourself a few things: Is ‘my story’ easy for users to find? Is there a link to the about page in my author box? Is my author box very visible to users? Once a reader is on my about section are they encouraged and excited to continue exploring my blog?
This is a new age of marketing. An age where personal brand is everything. Connections and community building is what drives business in the information age. If you’re not making a significant effort to be transparent, honest and open by sharing who you are, what you do and your story to other people, you’re not going to go very far as a blogger (or business owner).
So, consider how best you can flow a new visitor to your about page so that you can make that connection with them.
3. Internal Links
This is pretty basic but I come across plenty of blogs that don’t seem to take advantage of internal linking. For those that don’t know, internal links are links to your own pages and posts that you place in another page/post you’re writing. A simple example would be this article. Up to this point in the post, I’ve already linked to five of my own pages and posts.
The strategy is simple. Whenever you’re writing and a topic is mentioned that could be expanded upon – if you have content that fits the bill, then make a link to that content where it’s relevant.
This is more sporadic and less ‘planned’ way of creating blog flow. Nonetheless, it’s going to achieve the same goals of making your content readily available for readers, lowering your bounce rate and just generally making your site more active.
4. Getting Started..
One of my greatest additions to the IMMethods blog was the ‘Getting Started‘ section.
While the ‘best of’ page may be better suited for return visitors, the ‘getting started’ section is my solution to keeping new visitors around.
What the page does is give the new user a ‘safe’ place to go if they feel overwhelmed (and if you’re new to internet marketing or blogging, then you know it can be MORE THAN overwhelming at first), it also provides some specific recommendations of what to do, what to read, or where to go next.
Overall it’s a useful page for new visitors to get some instant and concise answers. But it’s also a great way for me to keep them on my blog at the same time. If I had nothing but tons of unorganized and (to a new marketer) confusing/overwhelming content on the blog, they might just leave and look for something simpler to start with. By having that ‘getting started’ section, I’m providing them the answers they’re looking for.
5. Some Other Considerations
So, the goal is keeping people on your site and having an influence over where they might go or what content they should consume first.
A couple other things I do to achieve this include, but are not limited to:
- My ‘Popular Posts & Pages’ section in the sidebar. With this area I basically created a mini-version of the ‘best of’ page. It’s has links to articles and pages I consider very useful.
- The ‘Tools Of The Trade‘ page. Although this page is full of outbound links, it’s still important to my own blog flow because it gives my readers a central resource for products and services related to online business that I recommend and find useful. In other words, I’m providing another page with potential value to my readers. They may click on a link to somewhere else, but I bet they won’t forget what brought them there. And as a side note – I also make money from that resources page, but you can read the affiliate disclaimer on there for more.
- Sidebar design and order is something I’ve spent a lot of time, on this site and others, experimenting with. I’ve found an order that works for me on this blog and having things like the RSS and social media links above the fold is the best place. I’ve also discovered that a big bold picture plus author box above the fold is paramount to getting new visitors interested in you and your site. I’ve got a link in that author box that points right to my about page. Also, my email subscription box is about half-way down on the sidebar. I discovered that was a good place simply because a reader is more likely to subscribe to email after deciding if you have valuable content. So, having the opt-in box lined up in relation to the post body just makes sense.
- I won’t get into this too much because it really deserves it’s own post (maybe soon..hmm), but I’ll just mention that your theme, your color scheme and all of the different aesthetic related stuff does have, at the very least, a measurable impact on keeping visitors around and getting them interested in your blog. Again, just a mention and something you can look into more when you get a chance.
What You Can Do Right Now..
Take in all the things I’ve just listed and head over to your blog or website. Look around and pretend you’re a first time visitor. Then ask what makes sense and what doesn’t. Ask – “Why is this there and why is that over there, and would it work better for my users if I put it here?”
Without reading this article I’m sure a lot of the design of the IMMethods blog wouldn’t be something you even payed much attention to. But now that I’ve explained why certain elements are where they are, you have a great opportunity to take those concepts to your own web property.
Just about every link and design element can have a potential impact on how visitors ‘flow’ through your site, or if they even ‘flow’ your site to begin with.
So, get over to your web property and start working on ‘flow’. Right now! Then, come back and leave a comment explaining something you changed and maybe why you changed it. Feel free to leave a link back to your blog so we can see your ‘flow’.
Hope to hear from you soon. Ciao!