When asked what separates a good blog from a great blog, the first thing we think about is the quality of the content.
After all, we live in an age where content is king. The success of a blog depends on the message, right? As long as we’re making solid points and writing like we have half a brain, we should be good.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
We know that in basic person-to-person communication, how you say something is just as important as what you say. The same principle applies to your blog.
The most successful blogs are masters at this. They know their blog should help their target audience gain valuable new insights or knowledge while simultaneously building their brand authority and encouraging them to take the next step.
That takes great content and a great layout.
In this post, we’ll be diving into the 10 blog layout principles to make your content more impactful for your readers and more effective for your marketing. We’ll break this down into two sections: first looking at the blog homepage, then individual blog posts.
Let’s jump in...
The Blog Homepage
In your site’s navigation, there should be an easy-to-locate menu item for your blog. This could be labeled “Blog”, “Articles”, ‘Resources”, or “Insights”. Whatever you choose to call it, this button should take people to your blog homepage (not to be confused with your website homepage).
Next to the website homepage and about page, the blog homepage is typically the most clicked page on a website, so getting this layout right is absolutely critical.
1. Display Your Categories
There’s a reason bookstores don’t organize their inventory by publication date: it would be nearly impossible to find anything you were looking for.
So why do we think that should work on our blogs?
In the old days, when blogs were mostly personal online journals, this wasn’t a problem. But now, especially for businesses, your blog is a knowledge bank. It’s a library of valuable information and resources for your target audience.
Just like a bookstore, start by making your blog categories apparent so readers can easily navigate your blog and find what they’re looking for. This can be done in several ways...
List out your categories in separate sections, followed by the most popular or helpful articles in each section.
Include in Navigation
Add your categories to your navigation as dropdown submenu items or standalone items so they can be located from any page of your website.
Top of Page
At the top of the blog homepage above the most recent or popular blog posts, give your readers a way to filter the posts by category or tag.
Add your categories to a sidebar, but only in addition to one of the other methods. Sidebars don’t show up correctly on mobile devices, so don’t rely on them as the only way to display your categories.
2. Add a Search Bar
Search bars may have fallen out of fashion on many blogs, but we’re still big fans. If your readers are seeking something specific, a search can be the quickest way to find results.
They’re easy to add, take up little space, and can make a massive difference in your reader’s experience.
3. Make the Posts Enticing
The purpose of your blog homepage is to display a list of blog posts and so readers can click through to the article they’re looking for.
While you could provide a basic list of hyperlinked titles, that’s not very enticing. This is your chance to make the blog posts attractive to readers so they want to read on.
At a minimum, include these elements:
- Blog Title
- Featured Image
- “Read More” Link
Besides the “Read More” link, make sure the title and featured image are clickable so readers can quickly get to the post.
Depending on your audience and breadth of content, you can also include the publishing date and tags so readers can quickly find related content.
4. Feature 10 or Fewer Posts per Page
Your blog homepage should also use pagination (splitting up your library of articles into multiple pages) to break up the content. This reduces page load times and keeps you from overwhelming your reader with too much content.
We recommend featuring 10 or fewer blog posts per page.
Individual Blog Posts
Once you’ve formatted the layout and design of your blog homepage, you need to optimize the individual post layout. This is where your readers will spend the most time on your site, so it’s important to use a layout that enhances readability and removes distractions so your content can shine.
5. Correct Your Column Width
Column width refers to the area of the page where your blog post’s body text lives. It’s one of those things that goes unnoticed when you get it right. But when you get it wrong, your content feels hard to read — even if readers can’t articulate why.
Finding the right column width is about balance. Going too wide forces your readers to scan left to right with their eyes too much. Going too short will force them to scroll more than they need to. The perfect width increases comprehension and gives readers a sense of accomplishment as they move through the page.
Most modern website themes will account for blog post column width automatically, but it’s good to check.
While there are too many variables to determine the perfect width for everyone (like font family, font size, character and line spacing, etc) try using a column width of 600-720px for desktop sizing.
6. Optimize for Mobile
If you haven’t optimized your website for mobile already, this should be your top priority.
This is not only crucial for reader experience — 55% of web traffic from mobile devices — but it’s now essential for SEO. For Google to index your site’s content, it must be mobile-friendly.
To hear it from the horse’s mouth and find more details, see Google’s documentation HERE.
Once your site is mobile-friendly, double-check that your blog post column width and font formatting look right on your mobile device. While it may meet Google’s standards, it still may need some tweaking to maximize readability.
7. Size Up the Featured Image
Using a featured image for each post is a great way to capture attention and provide a visual anchor to your content. It also enhances your site’s SEO when used with the right keywords, caption, and display text… IF you size it correctly.
Images with a width of 480px or less will not show up in Google's search engine index, so use high-quality images at least 480px wide.
8. Choose a Readable Font
When choosing a font for your blog, it’s tempting to go with something that’s heavily stylized. After all, you have a brand, and you want every element of your site to reflect it.
Resist the temptation.
If people can’t read your post easily, it will take away from your content (if they read it at all). Choose a font that’s easy to read, but still consistent with your brand.
We recommend choosing a popular Google font. They’re free, safe to use, and easy to implement on any site with their API.
For sizing, start with 18-20px and adjust slightly to fit your eye. Then, use a line spacing of around 1.5 times your font size for maximum readability.
(For example, if your font is 20px, set your line spacing to 30px.)
9. Make Your Posts Scannable
Most readers don’t read blog posts word-for-word, end-to-end. That may be a hard truth to swallow after you’ve put so much time into writing a post, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be valuable to them.
By making your blog posts scannable, readers can still walk away with insights and value as they scroll through your page. And by breaking up your text with these elements, you may grab their attention and get them to read sections they would have otherwise skipped.
Tips for making your blog posts scannable:
- Format section subheadings with H2s, H3s, and H4s to provide a clear structure for your blog post
- Use numbered lists or bulleted points to break up long sentences.
- Use quote boxes to visually highlight important statements
- Add images and illustrations to break up the text, clarify your points, and focus their attention
- Embed videos to keep readers on your blog post, rather than redirecting them to external players or pages
10. Embed Relevant CTAs
No one likes pop-ups. Even if we like what the pop-up is offering, pop-ups themselves are an interruption and we should all be cautious about overusing them.
Instead of offering CTAs as a pop-up (or hidden button at the end of the post), embed relevant CTAs directly in your content.
No, this isn’t like sponsored ads we see on news articles that have nothing to do with the story we’re reading. This is about displaying helpful information that relates to the subject you’re talking about so readers can get more value.
This may be a lead magnet, newsletter sign-up, or related post. There are even several plugins that can automate this for you.
When you get your blog’s layout and design right, the changes will largely go unnoticed. And while it may seem counter-intuitive, that’s a great thing.
This means your layout is getting out of the content’s way so it can do its job: communicating your message to your readers and giving them value so they’re ready to take the next step with you.