5 Powerful Design Elements that will Transform Your Blog into a REAL Business

by Marcus Sheridan

“Marcus, I love your blog, but to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what it is you do…”

Ouch. I’ve received that statement more than once over the past few years. Heck, I’ve actually received it multiple times.

Stupid me for “assuming” others would clearly understand that I speak, teach, and consult about all things inbound and content marketing for business of all sizes, even though I hadn’t taken the time to properly show it via my site’s design.

The Blogging Mistake We’re All Making

But truth be told, most bloggers make this same mistake, as the design of their website grossly falls short in displaying what it is they actually do.

As I considered this messaging problem I’ve had over the past few months and started to delve even further into the principles of web design, conversion, and overall branding—I came to the point where I knew it was time to make a change.

I was tired of businesses thinking I was just a blogger. A new message, and brand, had to be reflected.

But before I actually made any changes to this site, I did what I typically do at this point in my life when I’m working out a problem in my head—I wrote about it.

In fact, you may be interested to know my ruminations, ponderings, and studies lead me to write the post “Why Funnel Marketing is the Future of Home Page Design.”

And once I was done with this post, and the vision was clear in my head, it was just a matter of contacting a web designer that would fit the bill.

The Kid

Serendipitously, at this exact same time, I was speaking at Blog World New York and was approached by a young man after my session named Alex “The Kid” Mangini.

For those of you that don’t know Alex (I’ll be writing about him more very soon), he’s an 18 year old kid with a sick passion for code, Thesis WordPress theme, and great design. Oh, and he has also made quite a name for himself in the world of WordPress designers—hence the nickname “The Kid.”

And as soon as Alex pulled up my website while attending my session, his eyes bursted with enthusiasm and immediately approached me about some “changes” he thought could enhance the site.

To make a long story short, Alex and I shared almost the exact same vision, which is why I tossed him the keys to TSL and gave him the green light to make the necessary changes—changes that I strongly feel will take my business, brand, and website to the next level. Here’s a closer look:

5 Powerful Design Elements to Turn Your Blog into a REAL Business

1. The YOU Statement

Hi world, this is what I do…

Who are you? What does your company do? What’s your vision? In my opinion, every great blog and business needs a statement on their homepage that clearly and concisely answers these questions. Before, TSL had no such statement, but today, it comes right out and smacks readers in the face:

Build your company’s brand: (This is what great marketing and content will do. And notice it says “company.” The reason for this is because I want to work with companies of all sizes, not just solopreneurs or mom and pops.)

Make content marketing a culture: (This is my unique phrase that I want to be known for—the guy that understands how to make content marketing more than just a side element of marketing, but rather a culture within any company or organization.)

Be Awesome: (My goal isn’t average results with average companies. It’s greatness.)

Keep in mind too this statement is all about the reader, and not about me and how “great” I am. As always, readers need to know what’s in it for them as soon as they come to your site.

2. Funnel Marketing and Opt In Boxes

There are 3 critical success elements of the TSL brand—speaking, the eBook, and consulting. In order to achieve more awareness and conversions with each, web visitors must be able to clearly see this information and then decide where they want to go with it (i.e. choose a funnel).

As I mentioned before, my big mistake in the past was including services like “speaking” and “consulting” in the site’s navigation bar, but this clearly wasn’t enough in terms of promoting awareness.

Today, with 3 powerful Opt In Boxes/Call-to Action areas, no one will mistake what it is I do. Furthermore, over the last 48 hours since the site’s new launch, just having this triple opt-in set up has increased conversions over 200%!

(Note: If you’d like something similar done to your site, I’d suggest contacting Alex. As you can see, he’s dang good at it and it’s one of his specialties, and mentioning him here is my way of saying “Thank You” for doing such an amazing job.)

3. Utilize Video and the Power of Personal

The video is now a still shot, including a call to action.

Although I’ve had the “Marcus Sheridan/Inbound Marketing” video on this site for a few months now, Alex took things to another level by customizing it to show a still photo with a small call-to-action. And now, when someone clicks on it, the entire screen blackens and just the video is shown—very cool.

4. More Social Proof

Instead of just another subscription box, a social proof statement is now included.

Previously, in my “subscribe to future articles” box, I didn’t include any type of social proof to further help folks make the decision to enter their email address. But today, as you can see, the subscribe box includes a customer testimonial.

In fact, better social proof is something I’ll be adding a lot more of in the future with customer quotes, testimonials, videos, features, etc.

5. The Power of the Post Footer Opt-In

3 communication platforms, 3 reader options

As we’ve all read, immediately after a blog article is a great time to show some type of call-to-action because the trust level with the reader is at its peak in that moment.

Although I’ve always had some type of call-to-action in the past, my new post footer box takes things to another level, as it hits the 3 main platforms by which I communicate with my audience—the eBook/newsletter, RSS, and the podcast.

Now, with all 3 showing in the post footer opt-in, readers can easily choose which platform they feel best suites their preferences and needs.

(Note*** As I mentioned before, if you’re looking for a post footer triple opt-in(or the like), make sure to contact Alex.)

A Blog or a Business?

Although I’ll certainly continue to enhance this site to meet my business goals, I thought these 5 were very applicable to any blog and business and hopefully you’ll find ways to experiment with and apply each.

When it comes down to it though, the time has come for me to take this business to the next level, and I would imagine you’re likely shaking your head and feeling the same.

Blogging is great, but blogging alone is not a business. Nor will blogging, without proper design, allow you to deliver your brand messaging in a way that converts at the highest level.

Am I there yet? No, but The Sales Lion took a quantum leap with these changes and I look forward to reporting further results and numbers in the future.

Your Turn

What do you think about these 5 design elements? Are you already using any of them on your site and what have been the results? What other elements would you add to the list to help turn a blog into an actual business?

(Image Credit by Pure Nyx Design)

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