Thinking Outside The Blog

Great minds think alike, I guess. At least that's what they always say. I have been doing a little brainstorming about some big changes to the design here at DavidRisley.com. All of it has taken a backburner while I work full out to prepare for the relaunch of PCMech.com's new design. However, I'm looking forward to doing it. At the same time, I see a few of my fellow bloggers making some moves which are on parallel to what I was thinking, too.

Great minds think alike, I guess. At least that’s what they always say.

I have been doing a little brainstorming about some big changes to the design here at DavidRisley.com. All of it has taken a backburner while I work full out to prepare for the relaunch of PCMech.com’s new design. However, I’m looking forward to doing it.

At the same time, I see a few of my fellow bloggers making some moves which are on parallel to what I was thinking, too. First off, Nathan Hangen’s blog is on the verge of a re-make right now. From my private conversations with Nathan, he is definitely looking to break the usual blogging template. While I don’t want to talk about his ideas before he implements them, I can make note of Jordan Cooper, who’s blog re-make is now public at Not A Pro Blog.

Here’s what I want to make note of about Jordan’s re-design:

  • There are no posts on the homepage. Instead, he has an opt-in form.
  • His site links clearly link to things which matter and they’re not hidden on a cluttered blog.
  • His blog has gone dateless. The typical chronology has gone bye-bye.

Jordan also did a fabulous job of laying out what was on my mind in his post, You’re NOT Only As Good As Your Last Blog Post.

Let’s put it this way…

The Dusty Blog Archives

This blog currently has 835 posts (this very post will make 836). I’ve got some really good stuff back there in those archives! Yet the problem is that the typical reader who comes to this blog is going to make note of just the latest few posts which sit on my homepage. If I went a few days without posting something on this blog, somebody is very likely to come to my homepage and say, “Hmmm….the blog is looking a bit stale.” Why? Because the date might be a few days old and the Internet works on a per-minute basis (especially now that we have stuff like Twitter).

It leads people to ask things I’ve already covered numerous times. It leads me to repeat myself. It leads to more work. And its all rather pointless because what it does is turns my latest blog posts into just my latest tid-bit to feed the masses. And once it disappears off the homepage, it does into oblivion unless somebody happens to find it via search results or related posts.

With the typical blog set up, you ARE only as good as your last post. We’re thinking too much like magazines here and I find that rather ridiculous.

The Tucked Away Opt-In

List building is extremely important. We all know that. However, most bloggers tuck their list opt-ins away in their sidebar. We count on the opt-in fairy to guide our reader’s eyeballs into our opt-in form.

Most good marketers know how workable a squeeze page is. As bloggers, we usually have to create custom pages inside of Wordpress to build squeeze pages. Either that or we use separate domains.

Seems very round-about when you think about it. For that reason, it seems like making your blog homepage into a squeeze page might make sense. Get them on your list with a KILLER opt-in bonus, then bring them into your blog.

Thinking Outside The Box

So, what I’ve been thinking was essentially what Jordan did. Turn the usual idea of a blog on its head by:

  • Making the homepage into a squeeze page, with prominent links to the stuff I want new readers to see. Stop depending on the eyeball fairy and start controlling the message visually. Makes for solid branding control, too.
  • Remove the dates from my posts and URLs. Simplify the actual blog and feature high-quality content. This will allow posts to be about pure quality rather than feeding into the time demands of blogging that just end up giving us gray hair.

I will note that this wouldn’t work in just any niche. For example, PCMech.com couldn’t go to a non-chronological setup because the tech market is fast changing and more news oriented. However, a post about blogging or marketing really doesn’t change all that much. Most of my 836 posts are still as relevant now as they were when I wrote them.

Also, with Wordpress 3.0, you can easily break it up using custom post types. So, if I post something which is time-sensitive, I can still do it and keep them separate. My timeless posts can go into a different rotation.

I’m going to begin work on this project soon. It won’t be a brand re-making or anything. I like a lot of things about this site, and judging from the many people who always ask me where I found this theme, others like it, too. (BTW, this theme is custom and you can’t find it anywhere). But, some adjustments can be made and I know just the designer to pull it off. Get ready, Shawn. πŸ˜‰

 

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Responses

  1. With a blog name like Daily Shot Of Coffee, having the date always seemed natural. I have plenty of posts and a small team of writers helping out to keep the posts going daily, but I can see a lot of advantages to taking off the dates. I can't decide, I keep going back and forth since first reading this article.

  2. I like the idea of removing the dates in our blog. You gave a good glimpse of how our readers think and view our blog in that aspect.

  3. David – there are too many strong arguments supporting both sides of the camp.

    I think we need some more statistics and success (or horror) stories to make an objective call on this.

    I was reviewing a bunch of other “problogger” blogs – and have a write up on Social Media Notebook that talks about this upheaval.

    And at the end of the day, every baby (and blog) is different – so a catch-all approach might not work for everyone.

    I'll wait for some more details to come out from Jordan, Nathan, Mike and you πŸ™‚

  4. Awesome idea. I would imagine a “Best Of” page would work fairly well, and
    various “best of” articles.

  5. Well, one thing I'm doing on the new PCMech (to be launched perhaps even today) is to tag some of the best posts with a particular tag, then have a box on the site that randomly lists some posts with that tag. It is a way to put older, quality posts in front of people.

  6. I've been thinking of doing something like this as well, and have noticed it seems to be coming a trend. I look forward to seeing how you implement it.

  7. Very likely Website In A Weekend will be doing this in the future. I don't really even need a blog there, just the relevant 25 pages for the course. I'd want to move a fair number of existing pages, and of web logging would continue elsewhere, unabated. (I write, always have, it's what I do.)

  8. Any specific suggestions as to how to keep older posts fresh? Both you and Jordan mention it, but I'd be interested to know what you mean by that…practically.

  9. I hope you'll do an AB test. Your thinking makes sense, but in the end, readers might not like it confronting that squeeze page first and the last think you'd want is to lose people at that point

  10. 836 posts? Wow! I guess you can use deeplinking techniques, but with that many articles who has the time to search which articles in your archives to link to.

    I think what you are thinking of doing is a great idea. Wondering though if it would be more relevant to blogs that have high levels of traffic and are more 'destination' blogs and oppose to blogs with substantially less posts and still working on attracting more traffic???

    What I currently did is add a sitemap plugin so all my article headlines show up on one page. It works chronologically but may be interesting to see if it could be categorized instead, especially for blogs that have hundreds of post, for easier viewing.

    Can't wait to see the new design!

  11. well, Judging from the amount of publicity they gleaned, the liberal bloggers who gathered in Las Vegas recently for the first annual!

  12. I'm in the process of doing this for my site as well. Does that make me a great mind too? πŸ˜‰ I agree with with the main focus of the homepage as the opt-in for two reasons:
    1. building a list is critical to the success of the business
    2. does better for personal branding.
    I didn't think about removing the post dates though. Definitely on affiliate pages you never put the dates because people give more credit to what's recent. I can see how this would be beneficial for a blog as well though. Thanks for bringing up that point.

  13. I too thought of implementing the change of removing dates very soon after launching my blog. I realized we all are addicted tot he Cult of the New and we just judge too much by how NEW it is. I do it – so why make it easy for others to do it to my stuff?

    Anyway – I'm ready David. Bring it. :-p

  14. I'm mid way to re-designing 3 of my sites, keeping them very similar as they link..
    I am sticking to the Blogging essentials of the featured posts and most recent posts. If you have anything to sell or want people to notice, push it in their face, which is what you should do with your opt-ins…

    Stuart

  15. I have a site that is layed out similarly optin in front page, blog seconarily and you know what after reading your commentary I think all my niche sites should go to this model.

  16. Thats funny, when I designed my site with headway a critical part for me was to include a homepage.

    A homepage that 1) Will have an free offer via optin (almost ready) 2) Links to my money pages via images above the fold 3) A description of what the site is 4) keyword focused description to help my site rank 5) simple, attractive, effective design that blends well.

    The results have been very quite good. More bloggers should use a homepage and not just have it lead to a blog. Make it a full site. Love not a pro blog design btw, its cool, professional, and fits his personality.

  17. Kind of funny that the day we talk about is the same day that my blog gets hacked and my posts get wiped. Maybe I should start over πŸ™‚

  18. Thanks David – I took a look at Jordan's new layout (and commented) as a result of your link.

    As I mentioned on Jordan's blog, I'm always looking for new ideas to profile my best and most pertinent content (for example most of my links now point to my YouTube channel where I have a very successful video elevator pitch of all my stuff – in under 107 seconds required in attention time!).

    Thanks to you and Jordan for your insights.

    – Don

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