There are so many factors to why link building could go wrong.
Poor content? Not compelling enough pitch? Bad timing?
But one factor we’re noticing more and more has nothing to do with the outreach campaign, and everything to do with your website. In this month’s Content & Links we explain some common blog UX mishaps that hurt your link building potential (and brand as a whole).
Today I’m going to share blog UX examples that hurt your linkability. We’ll get new clients come to us sometimes and they’re ready to dive right into link building, and we have to pump the brakes really quick because their blog UX and design is just not up to snuff.
We have to recommend some general changes and best practices so that we can make sure a well-branded, great looking blog is something that will appeal to their audience and earn links. I’m covering a few examples of areas that we immediately try to correct before starting to link build.
The first one is just general poor copy formatting. If your blog posts is still really small text (under 16 pixels), the font itself is really hard to read or if your width of your entire blog is just too long, it can be a lot of different things that attribute to just overall poor legibility and poor UX on a blog.
An example here that I’m gonna share is from The-House.com which is a snowboarding and outdoor recreation e-commerce brand. They have a blog post on snowboard sizing, and you can see it’s all over the place in terms of things that could need improvement.
I’m seeing a table of contents that’s really obtrusive and not properly aligned. I’m seeing the text with the images all over the place, the column width is different sizes. It doesn’t seem like an appealing blog post to make me wanna read, especially in the snowboarding community something that’s outdoor and adventure sports, you wanna look a lot more fun than what this is communicating.
A competitor example would be Evo.com. I really like how simplified their blog content is. This is the same exact topic on snowboard sizing and you can see it’s a lot more streamlined, like:
- It’s one uniform column
- The text is really easy to browse and skim through
- Text is broken up with variety of different images, like diagrams, video and photography
They really do a good job at switching it up and keeping the user engaged on the post. This would be a standard that you need to match or even beat if you’re going to be playing in this space.
The second thing that I see that usually needs to be corrected is an out-of-date sidebar. Blog sidebars are consistently ignored or an afterthought when it comes to blog UX, and I think that’s a huge mistake.
Some of the tips that we typically provide people are looking at their social media buttons in their sidebar. Are your social media buttons well-branded? Are they out of date? Do you still have Google+ in your sidebar? That’s something you should probably check right now and remove.
Other things like archive drop downs could immediately date your sidebar and feel off. Are your CTAs kind of all over the place? Do they just not feel very uniform? Is it just a very crowded sidebar?
For example, 1-800-Flowers on their blog, I find that their sidebar is not the best formatting. They also have some poorly designed and old social media buttons that could use updating.
On the flip side, I really like ProFlowers. This is a creative way you’ll see in ProFlowers blog posts, there isn’t an actual sidebar, it’s just one column and it’s all the content.
Instead, they have taken some sidebar elements and incorporated it more on the blogroll. You’ll see things like highlighting social media posts and related products. That might be a smart way to balance it if you don’t have a sidebar currently and you don’t want to implement it on actual blog content.
Maybe you can see where you can get some of those other converting elements in the blogroll, or is there just an easier way you can implement it to the right hand side.
Think about what is your sidebar looking like right now? Do you even have a sidebar to begin with? And how you can make that work a lot better for you and just improve your overall UX?
Blog Categorization and Hierarchy
Another one is the misuse of blog categories. I found this can sometimes hurt your link potential or just general UX if your blog navigation just seems really weird.
An example of this is Container Store. They’re categorizing their blog content non-optimally than what I would recommend.
You’ll see in their dropdown for organizing tips, they’ve categorized based on content format, so you’ll see things like videos, projects etc. listed there. The left hand sidebar where it shows room type, so kitchen, living room, and so forth. That should be what’s in the navigation because if I’m a user and I’m browsing their blog, I’m not necessarily trying to browse based on a video or a blog post.
If I’m browsing based on how to improve my kitchen, I just wanna get right to all the kitchen ideas. That quick tweak of reevaluating your information architecture could improve your UX quite a bit.
The next thing, and this is a huge thing, is aggressive calls to action. Especially if we’re doing link building for a client, we look at their blog content and figure out if they have any aggressive calls to action on the page that are going to immediately turn off a prospect and make them not wanna link to this website.
Things like chat boxes, excessive banner ads, huge full page pop-ups, any navigation that follows you as you scroll—this is something that we’re either going to suggest that they turn off completely and update to make it look a lot better, or at least turn it off short-term during our active outreach period and they can turn it back on once we’re done link building to the post.
An example of this is in the Medicare space. I found this Medicare resources site, and their calls to action are not really well designed. They have too many on the page—a scrolling nav, a call now and a banner ad, it’s just a lot for one blog post.
A better example is MediGap. They still have one too many CTAs on the blog content than I would prefer, but it can just show you how much cleaner the same CTAs can look.
They have the call now navigation at the top, but what’s nice is it doesn’t follow the user as you scroll. They have a much nicer banner ad to the right hand side in the sidebar. These little tweaks can make a big difference on the linkability and potential for their content.
My final tip is an unappealing blogroll. Readers and everyday users are pretty savvy now to understand what is clearly a WordPress template even if they don’t know what WordPress is. If you’re working off of an existing template that is provided to you from your CMS, see how you can level it up and make it feel a lot more custom to your brand.
An example of this is Student Loan Borrower Assistance. If you go to their blog, it clearly looks templated and not customized. I’m seeing things like the byline very general. The balance between the images and the title and the preview text is way off and could use a lot of improvement.
It’s clear to me that this website took a WordPress template and just published it. That there really wasn’t much thought and consideration to what else they could customize on this blogroll.
In the same space, if you go to a blog like Sofi, they have a much more appealing blogroll that looks a lot more custom. It’s branded nicely with their colors, the treatment of the hero images is a lot more custom, the sidebar just looks a lot better on their content.
It’s not perfect, but it certainly looks a lot better in the space. If I’m marketing to college students, they are going to be very brand focused and very brand loyal, and Sofi is giving them an immediate draw to that brand.
If you’re doing link building and you look like a template site, you clearly didn’t put in effort to even build your blog in the first place, so how do you expect that to lend credibility to the content you’re trying to pitch to? It doesn’t match up if I’m the person being pitched to.