Are you a newbie that wants your blog to look professional? Or are you a professional but your blog still looks like it was created by a newbie? If so, then this post is for you!
But first, a short video to give you a kick in the pants!!! (Warning, it contains the "F" word.) You may or may not recall the incident in 2009 when the actor Christian Bale totally lost it on the set of the movie 'Terminator' and completely went off at one of the workers who was acting "unprofessional." Well ... some one made a song about it using audio clips from the actual rant. And a music video, naturally!
Are you now feeling motivated to get your professionalism in gear lest you should find Christian Bale cursing you out?
I really enjoyed the 20 actions that Regina gave on how not to look like a blogging newbie, so I thought it would be fun to expand upon that masterful list! We're gonna cut straight to the chase here because my hands are cold and I really want to go make myself a hot cup of chai and sit in a pile of blankets! So without any delay, here's 30 ways to look like a blogging pro (and not a newbie!)
1. Give away Freebies!
People love free stuff, me included! (Who else goes to Whole Foods on the weekends just for the free food samples?!) Offering freebies to help, inspire or excite your readers is a wonderful way to position yourself as the fabulous professional that you are! Your freebies don't have to be expensive on your end- think along the lines of digital downloads and printables! Planning sheets, patterns (if you're the crafty type), guides, checklists ... all great options!
2. Use a website theme that's unique.
Do you want your blog to look just like some one else's? No? I didn't thinks so! Do you want it to be cluttered with unrelated affiliate adds and and a poor design? Of course you don't! There's a bazillion and one blogs out there today, and if you're using a free, basic theme then the chances are that there is some one else (or a CRAP TON of people), using that very same theme too! In order to stand out like a pink flamingo in a sea of white swans, your blog needs to be memorable. It needs to be unique and catch people from the second they lay eyes on it! So if you ARE using a free template, be sure to modify it to make it totally yours. And if you don't wanna DIY it, hire a designer to tweak it for you. It will definitely be worth it, and won't be as expensive as having them build a site from scratch! I went the DIY route and I really enjoyed working through this Blog Design e-course by A Beautiful Mess, it's super rad.
3. Speaking of your website, make sure the design is clean and uncluttered.
I love looking at a super cluttered blog just about as much as I enjoy living in a super messy apartment! (Which, if you know me than you'd know that I'm a total clean freak and therefore would NOT enjoy living in a super messy apartment!) Even if you're not a total clean freak like me when it comes to your living space, you probably also don't enjoy wading through a cluttered blog design. A cluttered blog design not only looks unprofessional, but it can be confusing to your readers. Which leads me to my next few points ...
4. If you display affiliate links, make sure they are inline with your brand's purpose.
You know what really comes across like a sleazy salesman? Displaying affiliate links that have nothing to do with you or your ideal readers! It looks sloppy, unprofessional and you are basically encouraging people to leave your site for something that you probably don't even believe in! If you ARE going to provide people the option to leave your site via affiliate links, make sure they are for things you actually USE and/or LOVE. You want these links to be inline with your blog's purpose and to lead to something that can actually help your readers.
5. Make your blog easy to navigate.
Alright let's face it, if you make things hard to find or confusing on your blog, people are going to give up very quickly and move on. After all, there's thousands of blogs out there that AREN'T confusing! You want a clear navigation menu, obvious links guiding people where they should go, calls to action and a design that isn't cluttered. Don't make it hard for people to find what they're looking for!
6. Make sure the purpose of your blog is super clear!
I see a lot of blogs out there where the purpose of the blog isn't very clear. I'll go check it out and be like uhhhh ... so ... what is the point of this? Is this a fashion blog? Wait ... lifestyle? Hold on I see recipes ... okay but it looks like it's just a personal blog maybe?
Don't let your blog confuse people! People should know what the focus of your blog is (and what it can do for them) immediately. Yep, in order for people to really want to read your blog, it needs to benefit them in some way. Whether it's helping them, entertaining them, teaching them, inspiring them, etc. You can show your blog's purpose in the title, the tagline, your bio snippet etc. Just dooooo it! And if you're unsure of what your blog's purpose IS, check out this post!
7. Keep readers engaged by linking to popular posts, yo!
You are responsible for leading your readers where you want them to go! Think of yourself as a cute and quirky tour guide leading them to what you think they would enjoy the most. Provide links to your most popular and/or recent posts in your side bar, make archives of your old posts easily accessible, declutter your menu and make it easy to find the most important goods and continually update old blog posts by linking to newer blog posts when relevant! (I also wrote about 10 ways to engage your readers right here.)
8. Don't ask for "likes" and "follows."
I believe that if you consistently post awesome content, then people will want to follow you naturally all by themselves! Asking people for likes, comments and follows always has a hint of desperation to it, no matter how it's worded. (In my not-so-humble opinion.) Instead of outright asking for these things, simply share your content with people who you think will find it helpful/beneficial/entertaining. And if it's good? I'll bet you my last donut that they will follow you all on there own! You want loyal, engaged followers who enjoy your stuff, not people who are following you simply because you asked them to.
9. Create a terms + conditions and comments policy for your blog.
Alright this might not sound like the most exciting thing to do, but it makes you look extra professional (Christian Bale would be proud!) and it helps protect you from all of the stupidity that can happen on the internet! In order to get all the possible shiz that can happen under control you've gotta get really clear about what you will and will not allow in the comments section and what others can/can't do with your lovely content. Don't allow mean commenter trolls to spam your site and make you sad! If you need an example, you can click on mine in the footer!
10. Don't forget to add a copyright notice!
Alright people, take two seconds (or five minutes), to place a copyright notice (c) in your site's footer if it doesn't have one already! Although a copyright is kinda already built into your content if it's original and yours, adding that cute little "c" is a good reminder and plus ... you get extra points for looking professional if you have one! We can even call them "p points!" Which stands for "professional points" and not "pee points" (because of course your mind works like mine and you were also thinking that right?!)
11. Ditch the "free site made by x"
Not to sound like a total website snob, but anytime I see a "this site was created for free using x" on the footer of a website, I can't help but think that it looks just a tad unprofessional. Your website is SUPER important, and when I see that I think to myself, "huh ... guess they don't really care to invest in one of the most important aspects of their online presence ..." Of course I understand that lots of people are on a super budget (me included!) many times. But you don't have to spend a fortune, there are tons of website themes under $100 that you can customize yourself so that you won't have "free site made by x" at the bottom.
12. Make sure you have at least 5 quality, kick-butt posts up before launching.
If you launch your shiny new site with only one or two posts not only will that look a bit sad, but people will probably wonder if you're consistent and/or serious. And you want them to know that you ARE consistent and serious, baby!!! Speaking of consistency, that's super important. Especially in the beginning when you're trying to establish yourself and trying to gain trust from your readers! So set a schedule and stick to it. And if you're feeling stumped for blog post ideas check out this post for 50 types of blog posts by Elle & Co and this post for 15 ways to get super inspired!
13. Fake it til you make it.
In other words ... have confidence!!! Remember, we ALL start from some where. If you are blogging about a particular topic, have confidence in what you are talking about. I mean ... I started my photography business not knowing what the sam hill I was doing! But I was confident and always presented myself as a professional right from the start. (Even if I was secretly thinking OMG what the heck am I doing?!)
14. Start building an e-mail list.
Yep, the sooner the better! I'm sure you've heard this already, and you're probably getting super sick of hearing it! (At least I know I was before I actually bit the bullet and started mine!) E-mail lists are super important because it's the only one true connection with your followers that you really have control of. Just think about how sites like Facebook change it's algorithm constantly, or how Pinterest now controls what goes into the feed, and how social sites CAN just close down entirely! Blagh!!! So whether you're a control freak (like me) or not, you SHOULD have one.
I use Convertkit for my e-mail list, and in order to entice people to sign up for your list you should offer them something of value in exchange. (LIKE DONUTS!!!!) Okay maybe not donuts, but something like a free ebook, guide, PDF, etc. (Psssst, check out this blog post about the 7 strategies I use to get around 3,000 new subscribers a month!)
15. Speaking of e-mail, create some snazzy and professional e-mail templates!
You know what saves butt loads of time and helps to ensure that every e-mail you send sounds professional? Creating some e-mail templates! For example, you could create an e-mail template for inquiries, commonly asked questions and basically any type of e-mail that you find yourself writing over and over! (You can then quickly modify each e-mail to suit a particular person when sending it.) Also, don't forget to load a spiffy custom signature into the e-mail platform that you are using!
16. Start offering your own awesome products and services!
Ohhhhh yeah, doing this will make you look UBER professional. We're talking Christian Bale status professional!!! (Sorry I just can't let the Christian Bale thing go.) However, you don't want to just offer crap. You want to make sure that whatever you offer has real value, stands out and is catered towards your ideal reader! So spend some time and thought developing 1 - 3 things that you can offer to your readers.
(Pssst, that's my Be Your Brand workbook which you can get inside my free mini course!)
17. Make sure your social media accounts are professional looking too.
Don't neglect your social media! Looking professional shouldn't just mean your website- it should mean everything! Use the same professional, branded, personality-filled photo across all your social media accounts! Create a spiffy tagline that tells what you're all about to put in the little bio areas. Get my drift?
18. Upload a spiffy avatar of yourself for commenting.
You know what makes me think of creepy, perverted internet stalkers? Empty commenter profile pics. Yes, some commenting systems like Disquis will pull a photo from your profile, but others won't. And then it will display as empty. And then I think of creepy, perverted internet stalkers! This is why you need to create your very own Gravatar so that your lovely face displays wherever comments are allowed. Plus, it gives you pee points. I MEAN "P" points!!! And it helps with branding consistency, and ya'll know that I'm obsessed with branding.
19. Use professional, personality-filled photos of yourself.
You might think I'm a little bit biased on this one since I'm technically a professional photographer, (man it still feels weird saying that!) but it IS actually very important. The photos you use of yourself on your website (and across social media) will be many people's first impression of you! So make it a good one. And professional one.
20. Make your permalinks look professional.
If you're wondering what the SAM HILL is a permalink?!?!? it's totally okay, I won't judge you. A permalink is the special URL you get for each blog post. Every time that your post gets shared across the internet, that permalink will be displayed and you don't want a bagillion numbers at the end of it cluttering things up now do you? For example ... which permalink for the blog post titled, "5 Ways to Act Like a Cat' looks better?
Please say number two! (Stop thinking about poop, please.) Not only does a cluttered permalink look unprofessional, but if it includes the date that can really screw things up! Why? Because if you go back and update that post, the date will change and then the permalink will change. So if that post got tons of shares on places like Pinterest guess what? That old link no longer works!
If you use Wordpress just go to "Settings" then "Permalinks" and select the "Post Name" option to take the date away from the permalink! Then you can also modify the permalink as you see fit right underneath the blog post title when you're creating a new post.
21. Make yourself available like the professional that you are.
You know what makes me sad? People who don't engage with their followers! Yes, if you're getting hundreds of comments a day you probably won't have the time (or sanity) to respond to each one individually. But engaging with your followers is SO important! You can create weekly "office hours," hold Twitter chats, hold Q and A's, get creative! Check out this list of handy resources and scroll down to 'connecting with your people' for more ideas.
22. Create a cute little favicon for your website.
Why the heck do you need a favicon? BECAUSE THEY ARE CUTE. And besides being cute and creating a stronger brand presence they are ... you guessed it ... another way for you to look professional! A favicon is the little graphic that shows up in some one's browser when they're visiting your blog. For example, mine is a cute little pink donut!
If you don't customize your favicon yourself, chances are a boring filler image provided by your hosting company will appear (like that blue sphere!) and that's just no fun. I used this favicon generator to create mine!
23. Include easy to see social media links.
While you don't want people to get distracted away from your site you DO want them to be able to find and connect with you on your social media! So make sure your social media links are easy to find but not distracting. OH!!! And make sure that when some one clicks on your social media links that they open up in a new window. Notice Brit + Co's easy to see social media links ...
And that is all I have to say about that.
24. Include at least one high quality image in each blog post.
People are visual creatures, and some times looking at just plain text on a screen can be a bit ... dull. It's like Gaston in Beauty and the Beast when he says, "How do you read this? There's no pictures in it!"
But really, having at least one high quality image in each blog post is essential for getting pinned on Pinterest and it also helps boost you site's SEO! If you don't take the photo yourself you can find them for free on sites like Unsplash, Pixabay or the Flickr Creative Commons. You can also find inexpensive, awesome ones at Creative Market! (WARNING: Creative Market is a dangerous place filled with TONS OF AWESME STUFF that you will want to browse forever and buy tons of!!!)
Want 15 lovely stock photos for FREE that I shot with my own two hands to use on your blog? Feel free to grab 'em below!
25. Make sure your branding is on point.
If you've been reading my blog for awhile you probably think I sound like a broken record but WHATEVER I DON'T CARE, broken records are awesome!!! (Well ... actually I prefer records that function, but ya know.) Having a strong, clear brand is what will make you stand out from the rest and look SUPER PROFESSIONAL. So if you don't know where to start, start with this post on 10 steps to create a kick-ass brand. And if you already think you have a kick-ass brand, check out this post on how to do a brand audit just to make sure!
26. Don't overshare.
You definitely want to show personality on your blog and it's certainly okay to share personal stuff, especially if that's a part of what makes your blog tick! But be careful about doing things like airing out dirty laundry on your blog or posting things that will make you look unprofessional. (Doing so will cause Christian Bale to come after you in a curse-filled rage!) Speaking of a curse-filled rage ...
27. Don't bad mouth others.
Bad things happen, mistakes occur, misunderstandings take place, people disagree with you ... you know ... all of that good (or not-so-good some times) stuff happens! It's a part of life. But you know what makes you look super, duper, ridiculously professional? Responding to these situations in a positive, professional manner. Got a comment troll trying to bring you down? Don't engage with them by being a meany- that will only encourage them! Got someone whose getting on your nerves and really pissing you off? Don't bash them publicly. Basically what I'm saying here is, try to look for ways to turn negative situations into positive ones!
28. Make sure all your links work. For real.
Alright this might sound obvious but ... it's a really common thing that I see happening way too often! Broken links. Ya know ... links that lead to no where or broken pages! It makes me really sad when I click on something with the hopes of it leading some where awesome and then I get taken to ... no where. (Including on my own site because broken links happen to me too- doh!) Take a moment to make sure that all of the links on your site work and then periodically go through your blog posts to make sure that everything is up-to-date! It might also be a great idea to include a custom Error 404 page that way when a broken link incident does happen, you can turn it into a positive situation by directing your readers where to go next and even injecting some humor into the situation. Check out this post for some cool examples of custom error 404 pages!
29. Use a "professional" e-mail account.
What would you think if you really admired a popular clothing brand called, 'Up Down Tees' (totally made that up by the way), and then went to contact them only to find that their e-mail address was: firstname.lastname@example.org? I'm gonna guess that you prooooobably would think that the e-mail address looks just a teeeeeny bit unprofessional. Am I right?! (Just say yes, I love being right.) If you want to look legit, use an e-mail address that corresponds with your business/blog.
30. Grammar and spell check!
Last but not least ... don't forget to read and then re-read your posts for proper spelling and grammar. Yes, we all make the occasional slip up every now and then, (me included!) but you want this to happen as little as possible. And DEFINITELY make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors in places like your site's bio, about section, etc!
Are you feeling more professional yet? Because you should be.
And now I'm going to go act really professional by answering the door in my zebra print Snuggie. (Hey, it's chilly inside my apartment!)
p.s. Want to up the ante in your blog and business eve MORE? Maybe turn it into a profitable business ... perhaps? (That was said in my most enticing voice possible! Hahaha.) Then enroll in my free e-mail mini course, From Side Hustle to Success!