Hi there! Just starting a blog? If so, I'm THRILLED for you. I'm not going to lie and say it's super easy or super painless, but it's so worth it.
Today, I'm reflecting back on my first days blogging in 2008. I started a blog as a 14 year old excited to share my views, diary my memories and garner a following. I knew absolutely nothing about marketing, but I knew everything about the new blogging trend and followed game-changers like Karen Cheng and Ree Drummond, modeling my blog after theirs.
I started on little ol' Blogger.com and found myself on WordPress.org self-hosting by 2015, later switching to Squarespace this July (I would NEVER go back!). But several things never changed. I've compiled a list today of the items you must have on your blog, no matter where it's hosted.
A SEARCH BAR
There's two reasons we start with a search bar as our most prized blog possession:
- Just in case one of your page links are broken, new readers can search for topics by using keywords in the search bar. This is especially helpful if the readers found a link off a third-party site such as Pinterest.
- New (and returning) readers are able to search for what they might be interested in based off of what they've already seen. Searching keywords in this case will bring them to related content.
I LOVE it when a blog makes me smile. When the blogger intentionally crafted welcoming statements and a witty or helpful introduction. Welcoming vibes are your chance to utilize personality and exude your true self. You've only got one shot to captivate a reader and this is what makes readers fall in love with you.
Don't miss the About page! Similar to your initial welcoming vibes, your About page is your chance to shine even brighter! Asking your readers to relate to you as you tell them your life story, your fears and your aspirations. There's nothin' better than that!
Once your new readers know who you are and catch a glimpse into your life, you suddenly become relatable and trustworthy. This is greatly what determines whether readers will stay or leave. If they can't relate to you, you don't have anything. Don't ignore this valuable opportunity!
CUSTOM 404 MESSAGE
404 pages are the error pages you reach when a page link is not found on your website, or in other words broken. Usually, 404 pages say something like: "Sorry, this page is not found." Which 404 page displays generally depends on your Internet Service Provider, but I just can't get down with any of the generic memos!
I've designed an intuitive, helpful 404 page for those who REALLY wanted to find the content they were looking for. I actually request that readers send me the broken link so I can manually redirect pages (301 maps). Take advantage of what would have been a horrible moment and turn it into something positive! Your readers will appreciate that you went the extra mile.
CALL TO ACTION
Don't leave 'em hanging! Always end each blog post with a call to action (CTA). Whether this is asking them to subscribe to your newsletter, leave a comment with their two cents or send you photos of a craft project or recipe final result.
Equally important is to have an e-newsletter that will keep them coming back for more. You can install various newsletter widgets to your sidebar and pages on your site, encouraging them to sign up for updates - and DEFINITELY offer them a freebie to sweeten the deal!
You want to chat more with your readers, correct? Having linked social buttons (buttons for Facebook, Instagram, etc.) will encourage them to find you on other platforms and communicate with you there. I love being able to share moments of my life with my favorite bloggers and pin with them on Pinterest - there's something creepily satisfying in knowing what they're making for dinner so I can replicate and gain inspiration! #NoLies
Not only do Emma and I take our own photographs for the blog, we additionally enlist amazing styled stock experts that create on-brand beauties for our posts, along with using free CC0 images found on a variety of sites. These images are easily accessible and necessary for creating a beautiful, seamless reading experience for new visitors.
What are your blog must-haves? Comment below!