Better blogging: 10 ways to improve your home page

STT home page

Every blog has a home page. Depending on the template you use, that may be your latest post, a page showing a number of different posts or a specific page. Regardless of the exact layout, it’s important to make a good first impression. So here are ten top tips to get the most out of yours.

1. A helpful header

Your header is the image or banner that appears at the top of your home page, which shows the title of your blog, typically with a background image and possibly some other text such as a tagline. It gives new readers an idea of what you and your blog are about.

There are no hard and fast rules about content or size. Think about what you find appealing and don’t be afraid to experiment, but ensure any text stands out clearly against the background. I use a simple design that I cobbled together in PowerPoint – an informal script typeface for my blog title that hints at my fondness for writing, a short tagline that highlights that this is a dad blog and three head-shots of the kids.

Personally, I would avoid making headers too large – they take up valuable space which could more productively be used to showcase your content.

2. Menus and categories

If you write about a number of different topics, pay attention to how you categorise your posts, which you can then present in the form of a menu on your home page. It makes navigation easier for readers.

Most of what I write is about my fatherhood experiences in ‘A dad’s life’, which also includes regular Sunday and monthly photo series, which are given their own sub-categories in my main menu to make them easier to find. I also write separate nostalgia and blogging tips streams (this post being an example of the latter), which also have their own menu categories. Anyone glancing at my menu will immediately see what topics I cover on the blog.

3. Pen portrait

Tell your readers who you are and a little about yourself. Most templates allow a sidebar in which you can insert text, image or HTML widgets to customise your home page. Many bloggers include a short profile, telling readers their name, a bit about the blog and perhaps attaching a photo.

This enables new readers – and reminds existing ones – to discover who you are and what you’re about. When I’m commenting on other people’s blogs, I like to ensure I address them by name. Having a visible profile on the home page makes this easier and encourages familiarity.

4. About page

In addition to or instead of having a short profile, it’s also common to have an About page (often linked to from your blog menu).

A good About page informs new readers and potential advertisers about you in greater detail than you can display on your home page. The downside is that doing this on a separate page means fewer people will see it. That’s why I have both a home page profile and an About page, to cover both bases.

5. Be easy to follow

Followers are like gold dust because they automatically receive a notification whenever you publish a new post, which is more likely to turn them into regular readers.

I’m constantly amazed by how many bloggers make it difficult for readers to follow them. Don’t be one of them! Make yourself easy to follow in a variety of ways – via email, WordPress Reader, Bloglovin or RSS feeds – and display these options prominently. I’m always keen to follow new blogs, but I’m less likely to do so if I can’t do it at the click of a button.

6. Be sociable

If you have a presence on other social media such as Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, make it easy for readers to follow you by including social media buttons on your home page.

Major blogging platforms also provide the option of adding a box to your sidebar showing your most recent Twitter and Facebook updates. It’s a good way for readers to try before they buy and check out your latest updates without having to leave your blog or commit to following up front.

7. Top posts

Before I follow a new blog, I often sample a few random posts. If you have particular posts you are proud of or want to direct people to, use a widget that allows you to display your top posts.

I have a ‘Top posts’ widget which automatically displays a list of my most viewed posts over the past 24 hours. You can often also customise them to display specific posts or types of post, allowing you to direct readers to what they should read next.

8. Prioritise above the fold

‘Above the fold’ is an old term referring to the upper half of the front page of a newspaper. These are traditionally displayed folded so that only the top half of the front page is visible. Therefore an item that appears ‘above the fold’ is one that the editors feel will engage readers.

The equivalent of ‘above the fold’ for a website is the top part of your home page that doesn’t require a reader to scroll down.

It’s easy to want to do everything but ask yourself which items are really important and ensure they are placed as far up your home page as possible to ensure maximum exposure. So if driving people to your other social media channels is key to your blog, put those links as high up as possible. Or if you want to let people know who you are and what your blog is about, put your profile there instead.

9. Look at other people’s blogs

Check out the home pages of a few other bloggers and make a note of what does and doesn’t make their sites easy to navigate and use. Are there any lessons you can apply to your own blog?

10. Get someone else’s opinion

Ask someone with a fresh pair of eyes for their opinion. You don’t have to follow their ideas slavishly but chances are they will see things you can’t.

Do you have any top tips for creating a brilliant home page? If so, leave a comment below.