From the Trenches

When to Redesign Your Blog

Mike Sweeney | May 18, 2010

While there are countless articles and blog posts published on website design/redesign on a daily basis, blog design/redesign receives far less attention.  The irony in that is that in this day and age, a blog is as important (if not more important) than what passes as a standard website.

So when Will and I sat down 3-4 months ago to discuss our internal marketing projects,  the redesign of the blog became the clear top priority. Why? For us, the reason was simple. Our blog represents our unique personality, attitude, and original thinking.  While our corporate website is more than adequate for most situations, our return on blogging (ROB) has outperformed just about every other marketing program we’ve ever executed.

And that’s just us. If you talk to some of our clients that have followed our blogging advice, they will echo those sentiments.

In the spirit of launching the new blog, the following are some of the specific issues that drove our decision to redesign (and may drive your decision as well).

Content management became a bit messy and complicated.

Blogs evolve over time. When we launched Marketing Trenches a couple years back, it seemed to meet all of our content management needs. That changed quickly. During the 6 months preceding our redesign, there were too many times when the words “if we could only do this” were uttered in our meetings or conference calls.  Now, we can do this, and that, and the other.

The design wasn’t going to scale as we add employees, guest authors and promotions.

The blog design also evolves over time. We have some aggressive expansion plans for the blog and Right Source Marketing, and the design and layout wasn’t going to allow us to reap the rewards from the significant time we’ve been putting into the blog.

While we received rave reviews on the blog posts, the blog itself lacked a personality.

Some of you seem to like our posts. Many of you like our posts enough that you actually request to be notified when we publish a new one.  That being said, our actual blog didn’t do justice to the posts, and did not highlight those posts in the best light.

New visitors were not consistently connecting Marketing Trenches to Right Source Marketing.

Both Will and I love writing. Part of the reason we write is to help clients, prospects, employees and others understand a particular topic. That understanding helps our business in the short and long-term. With the old design, visitors were not connecting Marketing Trenches to Right Source Marketing, and that was a problem we hope we’ve solved.

We weren’t taking full advantage of the power of WordPress.

WordPress is an awesome design, publishing and content management tool. The more you use it, the more you realize just how flexible it is. We were probably using 30-40% of its functionality. Now, we’re using at least 50-60% of its functionality, which ought to pay off quickly.

Analytics showed us that while new visitors were driven by and engaged with a specific post, we did a terrible job of showcasing other valuable material.

The good news is that visitors spent a good deal of time reading a particular post. The bad news is that many stopped after reading one, even though we typically have 3-4 other relevant posts to offer on the same topic.

We simply wanted to hit the refresh button.

Anyone who has ever led a website or blog redesign project will understand this statement – sometimes you just know it’s time to hit refresh and have something shiny and new show up. The audience may not demand it. Your employees may not demand it. Your analytics may not demand it. You just know it’s time.

One piece of advice: Whether it’s a website, blog, email newsletter, banner, logo, or whatever, someone will always have a negative comment or two, whether constructive or mean-spirited. Everyone handles criticism differently.  Decide whether you want to open yourself up to criticism or not, then proceed accordingly. We want to hear all of it, good and bad. While we put a good deal of time and thinking into the design, layout and structure of the blog, the beauty of the WordPress platform is that if we find a useful suggestion, it doesn’t take much to implement!

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