It can be almost impossible when starting a blog to know what “blog must haves” you need to include for success. There are no key places to go to look up what’s needed, and joining a course may or may not give you everything (some things are dependant on country that you are in, for example). As such, I wanted to look at the essential things to include in your blog that I have worked out over the past 7 years of blogging. This includes crucial pages, tech stuff, and things to make your readers happy. I hope it helps you understand a little more of what’s required…
Things in the blogging world change, constantly.
Mostly because it’s a new industry, and also because of the nature of the industry. Anything tech related has the capability of being updated pretty quickly nowadays (look at the iPhone, TV, and the internet in general!).
Over the years, laws have been introduced, best practices formed, and technical advances mean that everyone with an online presence can do more and reach more people more easily.
It’s a great time to have an online business, but it can be a minefield to say the least.
After all – where can you go to find out what’s needed to include on your blog?, and how do you know you’re ‘covered’ in terms of the law?.
KEEP UP TO DATE WITH BLOG ESSENTIALS
Over the past 7 years of blogging I’ve seen things change A LOT.
There used to be very little guidance on what you needed. It really was a case of keeping an eye on what others were doing who had been around or knew more than me, and following their lead once I’d decided on my stance on whatever it was being implemented / discussed.
TIP – My advice from the outset to you is to join a few groups that you can trust for advice and updates on what’s going on in the blogging / online world. Facebook is great for this, but ideally you want to find a group associated with a training that you have done that you’ve got a lot out of and that you trust. This is a lesser thought of benefit of trainings, but they can be a goldmine of advice and info for keeping up to date with the latest news. My recommendation would be to look at EBA training** which I am affiliate of – because their Facebook group has bloggers from all countries and at all stages, and everyone is keen to help each other – you can find out more about that training, and join the waitlist HERE** – but I digress!.
Basically – you don’t be someone who doesn’t worry about what to include on your blog.
It’s YOUR business, and you are responsible. It’s not just a fun thing to do – there ARE some things that you simply MUST HAVE to be a true blogger, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
This is by no means meant to scare you, not many bloggers have been caught out by not doing something properly – but the few who have have definitely learned from that – and so have we all when we found out about these cases. I am sure that as the online world grows there will be more to look at – so it makes sense to make steps towards keeping your blog up to date from the outset.
As such – let’s get going on what I would consider to be the main blog must haves for right now.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but I will be updating as and when new must haves come along – but in the meantime I hope it helps you get a good start on knowing what’s important, and what will probably be worthwhile spending your time on up front.
Let’s go, shall we!
BLOG MUST HAVES – EVERYTHING LEGAL
Arguable the most important parts of staying up to date with your blog is to keep on top of any legal changes you need to know about. Here are the main things you need to consider for your blog from a legal stand point: –
#1 – GDPR COMPLIANCE
GDPR was pretty much all most bloggers were talking about / worrying about at the start of 2018. It was an EU law that was brought in to protect peoples privacy online.
As a reader of other sites online, I was totally for this change. It meant that no-one could email you unless you had specifically signed up for it (no more spam emails, hopefully!), and that any data you gave a site would be better protected. This was specifically for EU residents, but the web being the web, it meant that online business owners worldwide needed to comply because their sites were still likely to be visited and used by EU residents.
As a blog owner – learning about the changes that I need to implement, and making those changes, took up a good month of my blogging life – and was a headache to say the least.
BUT I am SO glad I now have a good understanding of GDPR because I am as sure as I can be that my site is compliant.
I would highly recommend getting legal advice for this – and I used the amazing Suzanne Dibble who is a UK lawyer specialising in this stuff – you can find out more in her free Facebook group (see what I mean about Facebook groups being handy!) – and you can buy her GDPR pack as well** (I am an affiliate – and firmly believe in it. I bought it and used it to update all the policies I will talk about in the next few points, along with SO much more….).
I’ve bundled these 4 together because some bloggers have them as separate pages on their site (like me), and other blend them together somewhat. You should of course do what you feel is right for you and your readers.
Links to them ALL should be available on each page of your site – so I recommend doing as I do and having them in your footer (scroll to the bottom of this page to see mine in action!).
For the Privacy and Cookie Policies specifically I paid for the wording, and changed according to my blog – but make sure yours is written specifically for you, and ideally from a lawyer (this is where the GDPR legal pack** was invaluable to me).
DISCLAIMER – Goes through what you are and are not responsible for in terms of what you write about, comments, social media etc….
DISCLOSURE – Specifically states things like where you receive compensation for what you blog about, and how you earn your money etc…
#6 – AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE ON EACH POST
Along with your disclosure policy you need to be even more obvious with your reader about whether you have earned or will earn from anything you put on your blog. Most readers, after all, won’t know to look at a Disclosure Policy before they click an affiliate link within a post, or whether you have been paid to review a specific product in a post – for example.
As such, I have a statement at the top of each and every post that says: –
“This post may contain affiliate links (shown as **). To find out more about these links please Click HERE“
I like to also show my affiliate links when in situ by adding a ** to them as well – and some bloggers put (affiliate link) by the side of the links. It really is up to you how you do it as there isn’t a one-rule-for-all as yet – but take a look around at other blogs and see how they do it.
#7 – PROPER USE OF PICTURES
Basically – you can only use pictures on your site of the following types: –
- Anything you have specifically photographed
- Any images you have paid for (as long as you paid for the right use – check their terms for whether you can use for what you want). Also check whether you need to give credit (a link under the photo) as part of the agreement as well)
- Any images from sites that state specifically they are free to use without obligation (Copyright free). Unsplash is one of these such sites that I use at times, they are great because you don’t need to give credit for the photos if you don’t want to, and you can use them for anything you like.
- Any images from blogs where they state that you can use one photo if you give credit back, or that you have asked for and gained permission directly from the blog owner.
Phew! – that’s the legal stuff done – but I want to again stress that more could be added to this over time – AND I am UK based, so your needs may vary slightly depending on what country you are based in – so start checking as well!
Now we get onto the more fun stuff….
BLOG MUST HAVES – FOR READERS TO GET TO KNOW YOU & YOUR BLOG
#8 – START HERE PAGE
Always good to include, because it gives new readers a definite place to, well, get started! You can include first steps to take, an invite to join your newsletter, a run-down of what your site’s about – whatever you want to really – but it’s main goal is to draw a reader in and make them feel like they are in the right place for their needs.
#9 – ABOUT PAGE
This is more of a CV/resume about you. You can be personal and have your story if it’s relevant to your blog theme, or more business oriented and have information about awards your blog has received, and information about why you do what you do.
#10 – PICTURES OF YOU
Having your personality on your site is what makes it stand out from the crowd. Yes, there may be several thousand budgeting bloggers out there for example – but YOU are what makes your frugal themed blog your readers favourite.
You HAVE to put your personality and voice into your blog, and one of the first steps to that is to put a face to your name. You could add your photo on your about page, on your sidebar, on your home page, within posts, in your emails – wherever works for you – but make sure it’s there!
#11 – YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA BLOG LINKS
People won’t search Facebook for your page, they just want to be told where to go to find you there – so don’t miss out on visits to all your social media networks and have icons clearly visible that readers can click.
#12 – CONTACT PAGE
Whether it be a reader wanting to give you feedback or chat about something, a PR company wanting to contact you about some sponsored work, or a potential customer needing to get in touch – you NEED to make it easy for people to get in touch.
#13 – MEDIA PAGE
If you want to work with brands and do any sponsored work, then you will want to include a media page as well.
This is where you can show what work you have done with brands before, and even give an idea of your stats for your site so that PR companies and brands can get more information about how great you are to work with!
Some of what you may want to include would be: –
- Links to previous sponsored posts and work you have done for brands before
- Your target market – who reads your blog
- Your blog stats – page views, unique visitors, social media numbers etc…
- Any awards and exposure you’ve had (media coverage etc…)
By the way – some people like to create a media pack for their blog – which is a specific pdf with loads more details of your blog and also rates you charge and work you are happy to do. I like to give more basic info on my media page, and then get them to contact me to request my media pack – that way I can see who is interested and talk directly to them at the same time.
BLOG MUST HAVES – FOR READERS TO JOIN YOUR COMMUNITY
#14 – SIGN UP FOR NEWSLETTER
Having somewhere for readers to signup to your newsletter is crucial. The easiest way is to simply add a subscription box to your sidebar, on your homepage, or even have a specific landing page set up – the choice is yours!
#15 – SPECIFIC SIGN UP OPTIONS
The other option for signups that works even better than a straight forward signup request is to give away something as a freebie.
As an aside – You HAVE to say that they are going to become a subscriber and will get x for free as a gift from you – OR give them the freebie and then invite them to join your list specifically (for GDPR compliance!).
I have specific signups on my site: –
- Printables Library
- Printable Checklists specific to a post and only available on that post
- Challenges such as my clutter challenge.
BLOG MUST HAVES – FOR READERS TO FIND & SHARE YOUR CONTENT
#16 – SOCIAL SHARING BUTTONS
I can’t state how important it is to have social sharing buttons on each post / page you have on your site.
If your readers want to share your content, then you need to make it as easy for them as possible.
Clicking on a button that shares that post immediately is a no-brainer for them – but be sure that they won’t bother if they have to copy your url and paste it into their social media of choice and write their own words…..
#17 – MENTION OF YOUR SHARING POLICY
I talked about photos in point #7, but it is highly likely that you will absolutely WANT other bloggers to use your photos on their sites.
Well – you can specifically state that using 1 picture from a post is fine with you AS LONG AS YOU GET A CREDIT IN THE FORM OF A LINK TO THAT POST.
This will mean that you get all-important backlinks to your site, and your work is being shown to a whole other readership. You can see my sharing policy in my sidebar – I have it there to make it very clear that I am happy as long as the sharing is done on my terms.
#18 – SITEMAP
A sitemap can be thought of as a chart that shows how your blog has been put together. It will map out what categories, tags, pictures, posts, pages etc… you have – and is used by Google to help them index your blog so you can start to appear in searches.
(You can create a sitemap AND submit it to Google through the Yoast plugin, the easiest way!).
#19 – SEARCH BAR
Having a search bar at the top of your sidebar makes it even easier for your readers to find what they’re looking for.
#20 – NAVIGATION / MENU
Think carefully about your blog structure, and what you will include in your menu. Make use of dropdown menus to give readers more choice rather than have your main menu look too cluttered.
OTHER BLOG MUST HAVES…
#21 – BE MOBILE RESPONSIVE
In todays world MOST people will look at your blog on their phones, and so you need to make sure that everything about it is mobile friendly.
This starts with your choice of blog theme. Ensure that you choose one that’s mobile responsive because that will do the hard work for you in terms of moving items around and making it easy to navigate on a smaller screen.
#22 – CONSIDER TEXT SIZE AND READABILITY
For any website, it’s easier to read words when the text is a decent size, and the font is clear.
You may be tempted to have a light grey font in a handwriting effect – but trust me – this will turn off readers as they won’t want to take the time to read more slowly – they will simply move on to the next blog that has easy to read words.
It’s a simple thing – but really does make a massive difference, and can’t be overlooked.
#23 – LOGO & BRANDING
Last but not least – a good logo and clear branding will help your readers know it’s you wherever they find your work. Having your logo and brand colours on your pictures means that when they come across them on Pinterest or Social Media they will immediately know it’s you, and that can only be a good thing!
Oh my! – So many Blog Must Haves that you need for blogging success!
I sat down to write a quick post today, but sometimes more words are needed. I hope it’s helped that I’ve gone more in depth with this one. I know it would have helped me a TONNE to get this information all in one place!
Whatever you decide is right to include for your own blog (it is YOURS after all), at least this has given you a good starting point…