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5 Most Important Things Your Blog Should Have

Posted by on Sep 23, 2010

I’ve been blogging for a long time now, and I’ve also seen lots of blogs. I’ve come to the opinion that not everyone has a good understanding of the most important things their blogs should have for them to be successful in some way.


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I’m not talking about making money. What I’m talking about is offering your visitors access to information that they might want that can only help you in the long run. It’s the overall combination of certain things that make your blog user friendly, and I’m all about being as user friendly as I can be when it comes to accessing information. So, here’s my list of the 5 most important things your blog should have.

1. Search function. I know that not all themes come with a search function, but I believe it’s imperative. Sometimes your topics might not fully indicate everything you’re talking about, and allowing people to search for certain terms or subjects helps them find what they’re looking for. It benefits you because you spent all that time writing those posts, so you might as well help people stay on your blog longer. If your blog doesn’t have the search feature then add the one from Google, which means you have the opportunity to make money and still offer something good to your visitors.

2. About/Contact page. Mine are separate, but you don’t necessarily need two separate pages. Showing people a way to contact you shows you care for people as consumers of the information on your blog. If it’s a business blog it’s imperative that you have this information, with at least an email address. If not, if you want to be taken seriously and not have people think you might be a scraper or have something to hide you should have that contact information somewhere. Adding it to your about page is a great way to do it, but if you want to say something more about yourself, which I obviously did, then have two separate pages.

3. Categories. No matter what your blog is about, having categories gives people the opportunity to lock in better on the content they want. For instance, I have lots of categories, but they’re specific to what I talk about. If you want social media you can get all articles in that category. If you want writing, the same thing goes. It’s definitely reader friendly.

4. Archives. This one might be debatable by some, but I think it’s an imperative. Your visitors can come by and see just how long you’ve been blogging, and if you’ve been blogging a long time it enhances your authority for others on your subject matter. It might not be as important for brand new blogs, but once you reach six months worth of material, no matter how often you write, it’s great to have this widget on your blog.

5. Blogroll. This one is definitely controversial to some, but I see it a different way. If you want to highlight blogs you like and want your visitors to see that’s fine. If you only want to use it to link to your other websites that’s a smart business decision. Many people miss this opportunity to always have a link to their personal websites. You get to set up the titles of the categories on your blogroll, so you can have blogs, business, information, etc.

Those are my top 5 most important things. Do you disagree or agree?

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36 Comments »

Mitch,
I do more or less agree with you. Since blogs are like online diaries, we need to have ‘chronologically listed’ posts – older items ‘archived’ and written by an ‘human author’ who is ‘contactable’. Blogroll and Search features may not be a must though. Blogroll are essentially the networking aspects then the whole lot of social media entities also may be required, going by that logic. Local search is slowly dying I think.

Another ‘must have’ according to me is the feed syndication.

September 23rd, 2010 | 1:44 PM
Mitch:

You’re right, Ajith, feed syndication is a biggie; how the heck did I forget that one?

September 23rd, 2010 | 2:42 PM
Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing:

Hey Ajith, long time no see man. 🙂

“Local search is slowly dying I think.”

I thought the same until recently. I’ve been using it lots in recent months.

It’s quite handy on big *years old* blogs.

September 24th, 2010 | 9:25 AM
Val:

Yay! I have all of these one my blog and I absolutely agree with you on all of this, Mitch.

A lack of archives in some blogs drives me crazy! I like to look at past posts, particularly like to see first posts so that I can get an idea of what the person’s about, why they started the blog, and if it’s been going for a long time – it helps me get an idea of how far they’ve come, how far the blog has developed or deviated from its original intent (if there was any).

I’ve got Search in my blog, but don’t know if it’s used much. I use it a lot myself to keep track of posts I want to link to – it’s the easiest way to find them!

My About and Contact pages are separate. I think an ‘about’ page is essential and the more informally it can be written, the better, to help people relate as fellow human beings. I added my contact page as an afterthought only recently when I realised that I don’t give any other way for people to get in touch with me! How remiss of me.

I have quite a long blogroll (though I frequently edit it and try to keep it up to date) and it’s used a bit by visitors, though not as many surf off through it as I’d have thought would. An important thing that you might like to talk about sometime (if you haven’t already) is making any links open, when clicked on, in a different tab or window so that people don’t actually surf away from your blog completely. The only exception I make to that, in my blog, is the Free Rice link that’s in my side panel. I’d far rather some starving people were fed than people staying on my blog and passing time with me. (If you’d like the link to it, let me know and I’ll pop it into another comment here. I don’t want to pepper your blog’s comments with links to outside things, don’t really know how you feel about that).

Categories are good – help people find their way around.

My fave thing, in my own blog, for helping people feel at home is my ‘start here’ page – which you’ve seen. It’s basically a guide to how to navigate my blog and has a lot of silliness thrown in to keep people entertained.
🙂

September 23rd, 2010 | 4:59 PM
Mitch:

Thanks for the contribution, Val. You know, it hit me earlier this morning that some kind of tutorial for newbies on getting around the administration area of WordPress wouldn’t hurt. I just took to it easily enough, but many people wouldn’t. Matter of fact, the one thing I don’t know, since I never needed it, is how the WYSIWYG works with links. I mean, I know it will automatically add the HTML, but how would one go about adding that HTML link to the name without coding?

Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

September 23rd, 2010 | 9:18 PM
Val:

I use wordpress.com not wordpress.org, so I don’t know if the dashboard is the same or different, but do you mean the links in the blogroll or in comments or what? As far as wp.com dashboard is concerned, there are several fields for the link list/blogroll – you fill in the name of the link in the top one, the URL in the next, and put a description (for cursor hover-over info) in the next. Then there are three radio buttons for decision on whether you want the link to open in new window/tab, current window/tab with no frames, or same window/tab. I always check the first one. Next, providing you’ve set up categories for each link, you can assign it to a category of your choice (for instance, in my blog I’ve got categories according to the bloghost mostly so that I know how easy – or not – it will be for me to comment! And a few other categories.) There’s some other stuff below that that I never use – XFN link relationships and image address/RSS address/Notes. Finally there’s a button you can check if you want the link to be private (not visible to the public). Then when you have all those fields, etc, to your liking, you just click the ‘add link’ button and WP does all the actual work to make it into an active link and it appears in your side panel’s link widget (of course you have to enable that first!)

For links in posts, you can choose to use the Rich Text (wysiwyg) editor or HTML. I use both, as there are times when I need the code for a widget and I find it easiest to get things into a post with Rich Text and then copy and paste as HTML. In the Rich Text editor, you just type the name or phrase you want the link to appear as, in your text, then highlight the name/phrase and click a little icon that looks like a chain (chain links) and it changes the name to an active link.

In the comments editor, there are various options. You do the same as in the Rich Text editor in post, but instead of making into an underlined active link in the comment edit box, it visibly adds the HTML code in the right places to your text. Then when you okay the comment edit, it appears as a link in the actual comment.

As far as I recall, there are various other things like this in the dashboard, etc, but I can’t remember them all.

When I first came to wordpress (after years of using LiveJournal which is very different) I could barely figure out the dashboard – it took me ages to suss it out, but I usually do.

A suggestion, Mitch, if you want to have a go at WYSIWYG editing, links, etc. I know you don’t like WP.com but if you get yourself a blog on WP.com and make it private, just for yourself, you can mess around with it and learn the bits that you want to write your tutorial/s about. And if it’s similar to wp.org then it means you won’t have to change anything in any of your existing and public blogs. Nobody will see it, so you won’t have the ‘shame’ of having a wordpress.com blog, lol!
😉

September 24th, 2010 | 8:12 PM
Mitch:

Hi Val. No, I’m not going through all of that; setting up an account like that seems both a waste of time and a waste of resources to WordPress; not my style. I have been in a WP.com blog and I knew some of what I said worked with the things I mentioned, but I wasn’t sure about everything across the board. I figure I don’t need to know any of that stuff; someone else could always talk about it from that vantage point. Still, some of what I mentioned should work just fine.

September 24th, 2010 | 8:38 PM

Great suggestions, I definitely agree on the Contact Page.

I also think blogs should have a list of Popular Posts, and most commented posts. Sometimes it’s a hassle browsing through the archives finding those “gem” posts.. highlighting them and showcasing them would save me lots of time and help me be a loyal reader too.

September 23rd, 2010 | 6:08 PM
Mitch:

That’s not a bad thing, Henway. I always add links within my posts that are related to what I’m writing about, which is why I don’t use that particular plugin; helps me in my little bit of SEO efforts.

September 23rd, 2010 | 9:19 PM
John Dilbeck:

Hi Mitch,

I agree with the five things you mentioned and the inclusion of feed syndication.

I think there are some other things that should be included, especially if you want to use Google Adsense to help monetize your blog.

They require a Privacy Policy page and parts of it has to say exactly what they require.

I also think a Disclaimer page and a Comments Policy page are good ideas.

I used to have a large Blog Roll, but now it’s down to just three. That isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot more out there that are just as good or better than them, but I’m kind of partial to I’m Just Sharing, John Dilbeck and Friends, and Wassup Blog.

I think it helps if a blog shows recent posts and recent comments, too.

Good post.

JD

September 23rd, 2010 | 6:20 PM
Mitch:

Thanks John. Course, if I’d written all those things it wouldn’t have been a top 5. lol I didn’t want to get into monetization just yet because I thought it was important to start with the other stuff first. I’ve always considered the disclaimer and privacy page as the same type of thing, which is why I put them both together.

And I’m happy to be on the blogroll; I love being in exclusive territory. lol

September 23rd, 2010 | 9:23 PM
Patricia:

I’ve got 4 out of 5 on my site. Don’t have a blogroll but have 2 buttons that if you click take you to sites I like. I like the idea of popular posts and top commentators. I also would appreciate you doing a post on wordpress admin as unlike you I don’t find anything techie easy lol thanks Mitch
Patricia Perth Australia

September 24th, 2010 | 12:19 AM
Mitch:

Actually Pat, there’s nothing saying a blogroll has to look like they traditionally do, so you’ve got it covered in your own way.

Want a post on the admin area, eh? We’ll see what we can do. 🙂

September 24th, 2010 | 9:32 AM
Patricia:

Thanks Mitch. Anything on WordPress would be great. I am sure there is heaps more to learn. Slowly getting there but a lot is still a mystery lol
Patricia Perth Australia

September 24th, 2010 | 11:13 AM
Mitch:

There’s always more things to learn, Pat, but these are a great start for everyone.

September 24th, 2010 | 11:36 AM

Yep agreed

I’ve got all these on my blog so at least I must be doing something right

September 24th, 2010 | 2:08 AM
Mitch:

You do man, Peter. 🙂

September 24th, 2010 | 9:33 AM
Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing:

4 outa 5! You know my blogroll thoughts. 😉

However, you may have given me a use for one, especially when my network starts going into effect.

I’d like to change the name/title though, and haven’t figured out if that’s possible.

September 24th, 2010 | 9:30 AM
Mitch:

Actually it is possible with the WordPress widgets. At least it asks for a name, which I’ve never given, so I assume if you put the name it it’ll override the word.

September 24th, 2010 | 9:35 AM
Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing:

The widget it comes with? Mine doesn’t ask.

September 25th, 2010 | 9:41 AM
Mitch:

I think when you pick “links” as opposed to blogroll you can change the name.

September 25th, 2010 | 7:42 PM
Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing:

That’s the one I was referring to. I don’t see an area to change the title.

September 28th, 2010 | 5:43 PM
Mitch:

Dennis, I gave it a shot myself, and I guess you can’t change the name, although it doesn’t make sense why you can’t change it.

September 29th, 2010 | 2:05 AM
Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing:

Eh no biggie, A manual list is not so difficult.

September 29th, 2010 | 6:21 AM

Great list Mitch, if there’s anyone who should know the top 5 most important things for a blog it would be you!

I’m gonna give it a couple more months and then make my archives page. Like you said, I’m still new and don’t have enough articles to fill up an archive.

Clear RSS and social media links could also be important for a blog.

September 24th, 2010 | 5:43 PM
Mitch:

Hi Keith. RSS is definitely important, and I wish I’d remembered to mention that. As for the social media links, I don’t think they’re actually as important to have, at least not initially. But I’ve added lots of other stuff to my blog over time, as I assume many people will. Thanks for the retweet also.

September 24th, 2010 | 6:53 PM

Definitely those are some of the most important things about one blog. May be I can add privacy policy, sitemap and beedburner link. Which can help you improve SEO results. It can go a bit more complicated at the admin back end – like gzip compression and cashing. This will definitely speed up your blog.

September 25th, 2010 | 6:19 AM
Mitch:

The Feedburner link would help a lot. I’ve read recently that sitemaps are grossly overrated, per Matt Cutts.

September 25th, 2010 | 5:07 PM
Linda@Eczema Treatment:

Hi Mitch
I have all the above mentioned items on my blog.I have rss feeds too.I think adding recent comments plugin is also good one to have.Oh yeah adding twitter and facebook ads are important too:-)

September 25th, 2010 | 7:52 AM
Mitch:

Thanks for contributing Linda. I’m not sure those things are important, other than the RSS feed, but they’re nice to have.

September 25th, 2010 | 7:41 PM

I have all those things and since my visit here, I now have a comment policy as well. Got to set some ground rules too. Well not really, I thought it looked cool so I had to put my spin on it. And how did you forget RSS/subscribe?

September 25th, 2010 | 9:28 PM
Mitch:

I wasn’t really thinking about it in terms of what’s already on the blog, per se. I mean, everything else is something you do within the blog; for RSS, if done correctly, it should be done outside the blog to begin with, via Feedburner so folks can also subscribe via email, and then added as code to the blog. At least that’s how I was seeing it.

September 26th, 2010 | 12:05 AM
Kyle@Kansas City Marketing:

These rules are very good to follow. Maybe if you added another, it could be to focus keywords in the Title as well as incorporate them into the body as well.

September 27th, 2010 | 12:19 PM
Mitch:

Thanks for participating Kyle. Of course, that’s more a process and procedure than an “item”, and maybe one I should incorporate into a post I’ve been thinking about regarding blogging structure.

September 27th, 2010 | 12:33 PM

Mitch..Where in WP, do you think is the best place to “Silently” insert URL links to “Other Peoples” sites, but still get SEO juice?

I have 8 WP blogs and would like to backlink them to each other…but not DISPLAY the links publicly (unless it is necessary for SEO)

A) In the WP “Links” page?
B) create a dummy category with a page that has all the links in it (and use a category Masking plugin to make it not visible)?

Thank You Sir

September 29th, 2010 | 5:11 PM
Mitch:

Well, if you’re looking to do it in a blogroll capacity, you can set a link to private, but I’m not really sure what the purpose would be in doing that. Don’t create a dummy page because someone could consider that “cloaking”, which is a definite no-no. I’m trying to figure out why you don’t want to show those links; you don’t want anyone visiting any of those sites?

September 29th, 2010 | 10:10 PM