13 Ways Our PR Agency's Blog Blew It -- And What Kuno Creative Did To Fix It
Just as every parent thinks their own sons and daughters are the best looking and most brilliant children on Planet Earth, too many companies and marketing agencies – our Minneapolis PR firm included – are convinced that their blogs could hardly be better. I ask you: how could anyone improve upon perfection?
Ah, hubris. We asked Kuno Creative to demolish our PR agency’s old MaccaPR blog – inviting them to take a sledgehammer to, and then rebuild, our PR agency’s most important content hub. So that you can learn from our blog design mistakes, here are our favorite insights from Walt Winchel (right), lead designer at Kuno, who details how the 39-employee inbound marketing agency located in Cleveland and Austin transformed our unruly blog into a vastly more effective content portal.
First off, you reduced the size of our precious Maccabee agency logo, Walt. How could you DO that? How, how...can you sleep at night?
“Clients love their logos. But visitors love content. Sometimes clients fail to put themselves in their blog audience’s shoes and think as a visitor does. People go to your blog for information that can help or entertain them, not for your logo. I’m sure Nike loves their logo too, but you can see they emphasize images and headlines on their website (as seen below).
By minimizing the size of your Maccabee logo, we were able to decrease the height of your blog header – and make room for items like topic filters and more blog posts with bigger images.”
Be brutally honest – what were the three biggest weaknesses of our original MaccaPR blog design?
- “You posted full blog posts on the main blog index page. From a design perspective, it’s a common mistake to fail to create an initial blog ‘homepage’ – an initial hub where visitors can quickly see a variety of article topics.
- There were few compelling visuals before you scrolled down, and a lack of calls-to-action (CTAs) that would take your visitor to your main website.
- You asked for too much information if someone wanted to subscribe to your blog.”
Okay, that was way too brutally honest. Let’s start with #3, above. Our original design asked marketers to fill out four fields to subscribe. The new “Subscribe to Blog” box reduced that to just one field, an email address. What’s up with that?
“Subscribing to your blog should be simple – just an email address. Kuno believes that you should reserve forms with multiple fields (requiring names, addresses, phone number, your subscriber’s business, etc) to when you invite prospects to download content like whitepapers, guides and tip sheets.”
Okay, #2 above – what do you mean by a need for more compelling visuals on our old blog?
“Blog designs should be highly visual. When a visitor comes to your blog, they should notice imagery first and your text content second. You don’t want blog subscribers to feel overwhelmed with copy. Think of billboards and magazine ads. Your main blog page should treat articles in the same manner – with a highly graphic image and catchy headline. That’s all a visitor needs to pique their interest. It’s the same methodology that Facebook and LinkedIn use in their ads.”
Go check out our new blog homepage for yourself!
What are the most common content mistakes Kuno sees on corporate blogs?
- “Blog posts that aren’t updated regularly. Nobody wants to go to a blog where the last post was two months ago.
- Writing only about your own company’s product and services.”
How many blog posts are too many to feature on a homepage?
“As long as your posts’ structures are organized and sized consistently, you can have as many posts as you want on your blog home page. One option is an infinite scroll like Mashable uses. But a good rule of thumb is – don’t have your blog homepage longer than 4 to 5 times the screen height. You can always add a button at the bottom that says ‘More Posts,’ like we do on Brand & Capture, the Kuno blog – and MaccaPR now does with "View More Posts."
7 BLOG REDESIGN TIPS
We also spoke to Kuno sales associate Michael Fisher (pictured below), who added these seven nuggets of blog design wisdom:
1. Publish Shorter Posts (e.g. 500 Words)“When I first scrolled down the MaccaPR blog, the length of your posts threw me off. I was reading your ad blockers post that mentioned actress Anna Kendrick’s Super Bowl-themed spot. That post seemed to go on and on – I scrolled down, and figured that I must have missed the end of one post and started a second blog post, but no, it was all one long post. We recommend keeping a post to less than 500 words if media is being featured in it, such as a video, Slideshare or infographic. If it is a post without featured media, it can be around 1,000 words.” (Editor’s Note: we know, we know – this very post has more than 1,500 words! We’ll start practicing what we preach next week...)
2. Don’t Fall In Love With Your Own Image
When Maccabee first launched its blog three years ago, we used a photo of our office jukebox as a placeholder image – and never changed it. “When I first saw that jukebox image at the top of your blog,” muses Fisher, “I figured that Maccabee must do PR for music companies. But then I saw your OfficeMax case history, and I realized that the lead visual was not capturing what your agency actually did for clients.”
3. Put Social Media Buttons At The Bottom
“On the old blog, all of your social media links for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, were at the top, next to the search bar. That’s a no-no in the inbound marketing world. When you put social media links at the top of your blog, it’s a sign to visitors saying – ‘pull away from our content and check us out somewhere else.’ So your social link takes me to your Facebook page; but once there, I see a Facebook notification from my sister and you’ve lost me. The longer marketers can keep visitors on your website and blog, the better. Social media links should always be at the bottom of your web page in the footer.”
4. Avoid Taking Yourself Too Seriously
“Hey, I love the new design of your MaccaPR blog. But if I had to choose one blog that gets everything right, check out the HubSpot blogs - I wind up reading each and every one of their posts. There’s always a joke buried in the copy that gives you a ‘a-ha!’ moment.”
5. Connect Tweets To Your Blog
“Whether or not you put social feeds on your blog page is dependent on the preferences within your industry and business. If your target audience doesn’t know what Twitter is, it wouldn’t be necessary to have a Twitter feed on your blog. But, if you’re active on Twitter – as Maccabee is – and your tweets are more than just links to your blog, I would highly recommend it.”
6. Embrace Blog Viewers on Mobile
“Every section of the new MaccaPR blog homepage is designed to adapt for both desktop and mobile visitors. Here are three improvements that acknowledge your readers are most likely viewing your content on their narrower screens:
a) the blog post items that appear in the center column are formatted to adjust their text size for greater readability across any device,
b) the amount of space between each blog post item is increased on mobile devices to allow for easier scrolling, and
c) sidebar sections use custom formatting to allow for more efficient layout of content on narrower screens.
For example, whenever possible, the ‘Our Contributors’ section of the blog displays that list of contributors in two columns rather than one.”
7. Keep Blog Metrics (e.g. Subscribers, Conversions, Web Traffic) In Mind
Here’s a bonus tip from Kuno’s lead marketing technologist, Dan “Romo” Romanski: “View your blog as the top of the funnel of your content delivery system. So when gauging the success of your blog, you look at two measures of engagement: the growth of your subscribers and the conversion rates from your articles.
a) Make it easy for visitors to subscribe.
b) Make sure there is a clear, concise path for your visitors to convert – using calls-to-action (CTAs) that deliver relevant offers of content.
c) Blogs should be a gateway that get people from across the web and social media to your website. Make it easy to move from your blog to your main site.”
Finally, here are two of our favorite HubSpot posts on how to improve the design of your company’s blog:
- “The Non-Designer’s Guide to Creating Better Blog Graphics”
- “17 of the Best Examples of Beautiful Blog Design”
Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.