How you organize the content of your site can make or break your blog. It can be the difference between making some extra income and quitting your job to become a full-time blogger.
The way your site is organized plays a large role in engagement, Google rankings, and conversion rates. The pro bloggers that have been doing this for awhile have it down to a science. In this episode, I am going to break down the science for organizing your content in the perfect manner.
Over the years, I have tested every section of my blog extensively. This has included A/B testing, heat map analysis, and visitor path analytics. For these tests, I strategically broke down my blog into sections so that I can find out the answers to some big questions. These sections included the header, main navigation, footer, top bar, bottom bar, sidebar, and the homepage. The results from all of these tests answered the following for each and every section.
Who is going there?
Why are they going there?
What type of content and call-to-actions drive the maximum engagement?
I gave you a taste of the value of knowing the right formula for the sidebar in the last episode. In this episode, I will reveal everything I know about the header, the main navigation, the footer, and the home page.
Before we start breaking down each section, let us first get into my process for categorizing all of my content. This may seem a little boring, but it is a big piece of the foundation of my blog. If you mess this up, then your visitors and Google will not be able to find your posts.
How to Use Categories to Strategically Feature Popular Content
I have two types of categories for my blog.
#1 Primary Categories
Primary categories are made up of the high level topics that I feature throughout my blog. These are the posts that I place front and center on my home page. They are also the posts that I send out to my email list. My primary categories are blogging, social media, marketing, SEO, psychology, entrepreneur, business, and HR.
Each of these categories covers a broad array of current topics and possible future topics. By having this type of broad coverage, it keeps me from having to create new categories every other week for a post that does not fit. It also allows me to have eight categories that are filled with great content. If I chose niche topics, then I may end up with only a couple of posts in each category.
I recommend having no more than ten primary categories. Anything beyond ten will be overwhelming to new visitors. It will also water down the quality and consistency of content across all of your primary categories.
#2 Secondary Categories
My secondary categories are made up of my niche topics. These posts usually have little competition in Google search, or they are not sexy enough to feature on my home page. I will give you two examples of secondary category content so that you can better understand what I am referring to.
The first example is a category dedicated to quotes. The content in this category is made up of simple blog posts that are a collection of 20 to 40 quotes. I have read over 1000 business and self-help books over the past two decades, and these posts are focused on the authors of these books. While these posts are highly engaging to someone finding them through a Google search, a new visitor to my home page might not even recognize many of the names of these authors.
Another one of my secondary categories is my statistics category. The content in here is largely comprised of statistics posts on specific industries. Way back in episode 2, I shared with you that statistics posts are the best way to passively build high quality backlinks. A big percentage of news reporters perform Google searches to find statistics to use in their articles. If they use a stat from one of my posts, then they will link back to my blog as the source.
Do not get me wrong. These statistics posts are all made up of top notch content. However, only a small percentage of my audience cares about the latest coffee industry statistics and trends. That is why this is a secondary category.
The secondary categories will all run through your latest posts feed. They will also get indexed just as fast as your primary categories. The secondary category posts will usually account for 80% of a pro bloggers organic Google traffic.
I was recently sent emails from three separate listeners in a 48 hour period asking the same question…
How do I balance writing posts on my passion and writing long tailed keyword posts that will have a better chance to rank on Google?
This question led to conversations about not wanting the passion posts to be drowned out by all of the long tail posts. The solution was to use primary categories for the passion posts and secondary categories for the long tail posts. By creating a primary category for your passion posts, you will be able to feature those posts across your blog. Meanwhile, your long tail posts will continue to drive traffic from Google, while they are strategically placed in the background.
Tags Are Better Than Sub-Categories
If you are thinking about using sub-categories, then you are better off using tags to sub-categorize your content. Too many sub-categories can make the site hierarchy a little unbalanced, and this can lead to posts not getting enough authority passed to them. To simplify this, more authority leads to higher Google rankings.
Because tags were abused for SEO purposes, the Google algorithm completely ignores them as being positive factors. If you jam your post with a bunch of tags, then it can actually lead to a Google penalty. The best practice is to use no more than three tags on any given post.
How to Make Your Header Shine
The header is made up of your top bar, logo, and main navigation. This is the first visual that a new visitor sees, and it is important that you get it right.
We are going to start with the logo because it sets the tone for your blog and your business. A cheaply designed logo screams out to new visitors to leave your website. It is kind of like the old school Scooby Doo cartoons. It seemed like almost every other episode the gang would be investigating a haunted house or haunted resort. As Scooby and Shaggy walked around on their own, there would be a creepy voice that says, “Leave before it is too late.” That is pretty much what people hear and feel when they come to a site that has a logo that has been sloppily thrown together.
You can not expect anyone to pay you for your products and services if you did not pay for a professionally designed logo. The best way to get a great logo is to run a contest on 99Designs. Over fifty designers will compete to come up with a logo that you will fall in love with.
My logo is made up of an icon, the brand name, and a tagline. The color scheme is black, gray, orange and white.
The icon uses a nice combination of my initials B and G along with a little comment icon on the bottom right.
The brand name has my first and last name. The last name is in gray parenthesis to give it a little flare.
The tagline reads.. Marketing Expert & Blogmaster. This is what I want people to associate my name and brand with.
The Main Navigation
A common mistake that newbie bloggers make is to stuff their main navigation with tons of links. Instead of thinking about it as way to navigate through all of your posts, try envisioning the main navigation as a collection of your most important call-to-actions.
The vast majority of new visitors will come to your blog to read a specific post. Whether by social share or Google search, these visitors are there to get certain information that is within a single post. They will not be stopping at the main navigation to figure out how to get there. The post will have internal links and related posts at the end, and these will guide them to another post that is related to the topic.
If they scroll back up to the top of the page to look around, then they are sincerely interested in finding out more about you and what you have to offer. The last thing I want to do is to show them a collection of vague category titles (Blogging, Business, Entrepreneur, etc.).
My main navigation has six strategically placed call-to-actions. Every phrase is carefully chosen, and they all literally begin with an action verb.
#1 Join My Course
This takes visitors to a landing page that pitches them on signing up to my online blogging course. The landing page shows my statistics, gives a quick summary of my story, and goes over all the video modules of the course. It let’s them know more about me, and it makes me money.
#2 Listen to My Podcast
This section is made up of a podcast player that allows them to listen to any of my podcasts in one click. My podcast episodes are made up of my best content, and it allows my voice to reach out and make a connection with my audience.
#3 See My Top Posts
When someone hovers over this link it drops down a sub menu, which has six category links. These categories are listed in order by the highest engagement rate. This gives visitors a simple navigation that directs them to my top notch content.
#4 Read My Story
My 5000 word autobiography was read by almost half a million people last year. This page takes them on a journey through the highs and lows of the four decades that make up my life. The complete transparency and personal nature of the content creates a special psychological bond with my audience.
Your visitors want to know you. Do not short change them with a few hundred words that are topical in nature. Dive deep into the story of you, and your audience will reward you in more ways than you can imagine.
#5 Hire Me
This page goes over some of my marketing services and offers an opportunity to schedule a free consultation. I keep the call-to-action simple and intimate. Most blogs will have the age old phrase “services” in the main navigation. You want to avoid vague words like this. I want my audience to know they are going to get me and not just some cookie cutter company service.
#6 Email Me
You always want to make it as easy as possible for anyone to contact you. The best location for the link to your contact page is in the last position on your main navigation.
I recommend keeping the number of links in your main navigation to seven or less. Each call-to-action should have a maximum of 20 characters.
The Top Bar
Many WordPress themes give you the option to have a top bar that appears directly above the logo section. I have tested different call-to-actions in this section, and most of them have received very few clicks.
I recommend using the top bar to place your linked social media icons in the top right hand corner. This has become the default location to place the links to social media channels over the past five years. People have become conditioned to look in the top right hand corner for your social media profile pages.
Other than the social media icons, I advise to stay away from trying to add any other links. The text is usually to small to draw the eye, which makes it pointless to use it for anything other than the social media icons.
With all the call-to-actions in the posts, at the end of posts, and in the sidebar, there are few visitors that will make it all the way to the footer. The vast majority of people that scroll to the footer are looking for a contact or an affiliate program link.
The top two thirds of my footer is used to place links to all of my categories. This includes both primary and secondary categories. I have a grand total of 24 categories. They are listed out in alphabetical order and broken into three sections.
At the top of each section I place a short motivational quote, and all three quotes work well when read together.
Those quotes are..
Success is a Decision. Never Give Up. Amazing Things Will Happen.
I chose these quotes for the headings because it sounded better than using Categories A-F, Categories G-P, and Categories Q-Z.
It is important that you include all of your categories in the footer, and it looks much better when it is broken into three sections. This is going to guarantee that all of your posts get spidered and indexed properly by Google.
Do not be pulled into adding the pretty widgets to the footer. Those most recent category post widgets, with the featured images, are never going to get clicked on. However, they will dramatically increase the load on your server.
In the bottom one third of the footer, I include a “More About Brandon” section. It has a picture of me and my wife right after the birth of our first child, and it has three sentences with a call-to-action. This section is designed to pull people into my story when they are looking for the contact link.
I also include my social media icons in the bottom right hand corner because there is a growing number of people that prefer to contact me through these channels.
The Home Page
My home page is broken up into four sections. Just like with every other section, the design is optimized based on the motivations and desires of the visitor flow.
Section #1 – The Big 3 Call-to-Actions
The first section promotes my course, the free consultation, and the podcast. People that come to my home page are return visitors and new visitors that saw instant value in my content. By coming to the home page, they have given a virtual vote of approval. This makes each of these visitors primed to take the relationship to the next level.
Section #2 – My Comeback Story
Right in the middle of my homepage, I place a big visual call-to-action banner that drives people to read my about me page. It is 324 pixels in width and 520 pixels in height. As I have mentioned many times, you want your visitors to read your story.
Section #3 – The Primary Categories
All eight of my primary categories have a sub section dedicated to featuring the two most recent posts. I use a medium sized featured image paired with a title, and I do not use post excerpts. The visual image paired with the title has shown to drive the most clicks from my home page. Each category sub section also has an ajax next button. This enables my visitors to browse through the entire category without having to scroll down or go to another page.
Because I know that every primary category post is going straight to the home page, I only publish the best of the best through these categories. The topics covered in these posts have a wide appeal to any entrepreneur, no matter what industry they are in.
Section #4 – The Latest Posts
The latest posts section is at the bottom of the home page. It only lists out the linked title for each post. This section is here to help every new post get indexed fast and high. I have it set to show 12 links per page, and I use pagination to make sure that Google indexes every last page. I do not include the featured image on these post links because I want the visitors to my home page to ignore this section.
The reason why I want this section ignored is because this feed includes both my primary categories and secondary categories. As I mentioned before, the secondary category posts do not have the wide appeal of the primary category posts. The removal of the featured image visual throws up a psychological stop sign when the visitor reaches this section.
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A Review of the Key Takeaways
#1 Use Up to Ten Broad Topics for Primary Categories
#2 Place Your Niche Topics in Secondary Categories
#3 Use Tags Instead of Sub-Categories to Break Down Your Categories Further
#4 Do Not Use More Than Three Tags on Any Single Post
#5 Invest a Little Money in a Nice Clean Logo that Has a Straight Forward Tagline
#6 Use Up to Seven High Value Action Links, With Less Than 20 Characters, in Your Main Navigation
#7 Dedicate Your Top Bar to Your Social Media Profile Links
#8 Place All of Your Primary and Secondary Categories in the Footer
#9 On Your Home Page, Place Your Big Call-to-Actions at the Top Followed By a Visual Display of Your Primary Categories
#10 Include Your Latest Posts Feed, Sans Featured Images, at the Bottom of the Home Page
By understanding the how and why behind the movements of your visitors through each section, it enables you to organize your content in a way that stimulates the flow of engagement. This allows you to give them what they want and put your best foot forward at the same time.