The first time our real estate agent took us to visit the house we refused to get out of the car. The dated pink paint, the brown window frames and wildly overgrown garden said it all. This house was in need of a major renovation and, with our second baby due soon, we just weren’t interested.
Three months later, still desperate to find a bigger home we agreed to look round. Much to our surprise, and despite the terrible first impression, this house checked all the boxes.
It had a private, sunny position, ocean views, a big flat lawn for the kids to play on plus plenty of space to raise a family and work from home.
Those things are hard to find on Waiheke Island in New Zealand where we lived unless you have more than a million dollars to spend – which we didn’t.
So we bought that dated, unloved house, spent six months renovating it and lived there happily for five years.
Although the house looked like a lemon it had that all important great location and, because it was the worst house in the best street, it turned out to be a great investment that turned into a tidy profit when we sold it.
So how can my real estate experiences help you improve your blog design?
1. First impressions count
First impressions are made in the blink of an eye but once made they’re hard to change. It’s true in real life and online.
If you were meeting a prospective client you’d put on smart clothes, brush your hair and look lively. But in a web-wise world many people won’t meet you in person, they will meet you and your brand online at your website or blog.
There they’ll assess how trustworthy, competent and reliable you are based solely on the first impression they get from your website.
To create a winning first impression online make sure your website has immediate appeal. It’s common sense but it’s the reason many small business owners never find out how blogging can help grow business and why their web marketing fails.
When I design a new website for someone or update an existing blog most clients report an immediate up turn in business because the new site makes them look professional, appeals to their target audience and persuades people to buy now or get in touch.
If you’re not getting new business online your website or blog design is probably letting you down. Can you honestly say your website makes you proud? Or does it look cheap? Thrown together? Unfinished? A badly designed blog or website will be costing you in lost business.
If your blog or website looks amateur, confusing or cheap people won’t even get out of the car and give you a chance.
Which is why good web design is worth paying for because, in time, you’ll get an excellent return on that investment in your business and online marketing.
Check out the blog update we did for author and spokesperson Marybeth Bond at the Gutsy Traveler.
2. Give your blog readers what they want FAST
Just like you, your clients and blog readers are busy. So busy that most of them will only spend five seconds looking at your blog before deciding whether to read on or click away.
If you pass the first impressions test above next they’ll be looking to see if you’re the right person to help them with their problem. Are you an accountant who helps people with end of year taxes? Are you a personal trainer who can help women get fit in record time?
Blog readers and your target audience have problems that need to be solved and they’re hoping you can help.
The question you need to answer fast is: What do you do and how will you help your readers and clients?
Make sure you tell people who you are, how you can help them and why they should give you their time using as few words as possible. Here are a few suggestions:
- A photo of you with a slogan should do the trick.
- Add a one sentence testimonial or your unique selling point if you wish.
- Consider creating three to eight topics for your blog to emphasise the type of things you blog about and can help with.
Maybe that real estate agent could have asked me what I was looking for and mentioned that doer upper was the only house that checked all our boxes within our budget. I’d have bought it a lot quicker and paid more too.
By giving your readers the information they want fast you’ll be helping them make a quick decision that you’re the best person for them to work with.
Check out the blog design we created for Sydney author Seana Smith.
3. Use your most valuable blog real estate wisely
The term above the fold applies to newspapers and the content which people can see before they pick the newspaper up. That’s the lead content which makes them want to buy the newspaper and read on.
On your blog the most important real estate is the content readers can see as soon as they get to your site without scrolling down.
That’s because they may never see what lies below and, if they don’t see what they’re looking for immediately, they’ll probably just click away – that’s the Internet equivalent of driving by without getting out of the car.
The most valuable real estate on my travel blog Get In the Hot Spot includes a professional logo, a slogan to tell readers what the blog’s about, a photo of me to personalise it and a subscription box to encourage people to become regular readers. Every color, font and image has been chosen to emphasize the fun content and reader experience readers can expect on the site.
The size of that prime real estate will vary depending on what computer your readers are using and if people are reading your blog on their mobile or iPad you need a good mobile blog design.
Your blog designer will be able to advise you on best practice but if you’re working alone do some research to find out what percentage of Internet users are viewing on the various different screen sizes and mobile devices so you can choose the right size for your audience.
Blog Design Dos and Don’ts for your prime online real estate – the content that users can see without scrolling down:
- Do make sure your site is professional with a clean design and clear navigation structure.
- Do include a photo of you;
- Do have a meaningful slogan;
- Do tell your reader who you are, what you do and how you can help them in as few words as possible;
- Do make sure you’ve got an email subscribe box so people can subscribe in one click;
- Do make sure people can see your latest (or greatest) blog posts immediately;
- Do include social proof such as how many readers or subscribers you have (as long as it’s 1,000+), an “as seen on” box or a punchy testimonial.
- Do learn about user-friendly website design or find a blog designer who understands it.
- Don’t give your valuable blog real estate away to other brands, for example with banner ads or by immediately giving people the option to click away to your Facebook page or other social media outposts.
Remember that ugly old house I ended up buying? We fixed it up to create a great first impression and renovated it fast so we could enjoy living there – I loved that kitchen you see in the photo up top.
We took a risk but ended up reaping the benefits of investing in prime location real estate. Our second baby boy was born in that house. Three years later I gave birth there again, this time to a baby girl with a beautiful home water-birth.
Then five years later we sold the house by private sale for a chunky profit.
As with real estate when you invest in blog or website design that does your business justice you’ll see the return on that investment. A great blog design will:
- create an online presence to be proud of;
- make people want to hang out with you;
- build trust so they’ll want work with you.
If your website’s uniform and uninspiring then it’s letting you and your business down. Bad website design will lose you money.
The time for dabbling with Internet marketing is over. It’s not enough for people to find your site through good search engine optimisation, you need to win them over once they get there.
So now’s the time to sort out your website and design a blog that you and your clients will love.
Just like buying an old house and doing it up good web design takes time and money but it’s the only way to get exactly what you want.
Like help with blog or website design?
I own and run Mucho website design with my husband and WordPress wrangler aka the Mucho Man. So if you need help with blog or web design we will design a site to suit your needs and budget. The Gutsy Traveler and Seana Smith are just two examples of our work.
We’ve been helping small business owners set up effective websites for 15 years. We’re really proud of our blog designs and the long term relationships we’ve built with our clients so we think you’re going to love working with us too.