Five years ago, blog buttons were a very social thing: you’d visit your favorite blogs, grab their buttons and display them proudly on your sidebar. A badge from another blog meant you were part of their social circle, and it added to your credibility – in addition to promoting someone else you admired.
These days, there’s a little less “love” going around in terms of blog-button-sharing, but as part of your blog’s identity (and a handy tool if you want to sponsor other blogs), your blog button may be the first impression a reader has of your work. In this post, I’ll show you how to make it count.
I’ll be giving you the instructions for how to add that “grab me” code beneath your blog button soon, but before I give you the “how,” it’s important to know why- and what makes a good blog button in the first place. In order to be effective for drawing people into your blog, your blog button should do at least two of these three things:
- Be interesting
- Tell people what to expect
- Present a clear call to action.
Keep your blog button interesting
I think people who are selling products are much more adept than bloggers at creating advertising that grabs your attention. After all, their purpose is clear:
But if your blog button is going to appear amid a sea of other buttons and ads in someone’s sidebar, it needs to grab our attention. Let me give you an example. I was surfing the other day (I’m sure I should have been working…) and saw this blog button in someone’s sidebar:
And I took the bait. I clicked.
The rest of the sidebar had looked more like a kindergarten classroom roster – a picture of a cute kid, with the blog’s name written on top. There were ten of these. And then there was Chelsea, looking like she was just waiting for me to pop over and have a margarita on her blog.
Granted, not everyone has this woman’s vibrant personality, but if you’re a lifestyle blogger, you can take a cue from her and use an image of yourself. If your focus is on creating community on your blog (and it should be), your readers want to feel a connection with you, and the best way to do that is by showing them who you are. Featuring yourself on a blog button isn’t vain – it’s like saying, “Hi, I’m Jeni. Nice to meet you.”
But I’m not photogenic!
Okay, clearly some people may have issues with putting their picture on a button. If you won’t take my advice and put yourself at the center of your blog, I’ll give you a few more tips.
Even if you’re not a photographer, you should still consider incorporating images into your blog button. iStock Photo has tons of professional images you can purchase for only a few dollars. Using an image that ties in to the theme of your blog can really give your button some visual impact.
Besides incorporating interesting images, there are other ways to make your blog button stand out.
Choose interesting colors, for example. Go window shopping over at Colour Lovers or use the great tools at Adobe Kuler and pick a color scheme that rocks. With either of these tools, you can make your own color scheme by inputting some of the colors your site already uses, and having the programs work their magic to pick you out a complementary or contrasting color. There’s no reason to stay black and white (unless that’s your “thing”) with a world of color at your fingertips.
You can also start shopping the fonts aisle over at Google Web Fonts. When I started in web design, Google Fonts was just a fledgling with a few (um, not that great) font choices. But now they have over 500 fonts that you can download for your personal use – or if you’re a CSS whiz, you can add them straight to your website. I’ve spent more than one Saturday night with a
glass of wine cup of chamomile tea and some Google Fonts.
Tell people what to expect.
It’s great to have a blog button that gets people to come visit your blog, but once they get there, they need to feel like they’re in the right place. There should be a level of consistency with what people see when they arrive at your blog and the way you portray yourself in a blog button.
If your blog is all about beauty and simplicity and you take lots of gorgeous photographs, then make sure your blog button is styled accordingly. A simple photo with some overlay text can be very effective, as long as that’s what people will see when they arrive at your blog.
Likewise, if you’re a coupon blogger, a graphic element like dotted lines (looks like a coupon cut-out line) around your button can help people tell easily what you’re about, and then *click* if you’re what they’re looking for.
Present a clear call to action.
If you provide a service or host a weekly blog carnival – a “linky” event you’ve invited other bloggers to participate in – then your blog button can give a clear call to action. You can give a direct invitation, like “Real Food Tuesdays – browse our recipes!” or go for a more testimonial style button, like “Featured on Real Food Tuesdays,” that bloggers will be proud to display in their sidebar. This also helps set the stage for what readers will encounter when they first visit your blog. I did this with one of my own buttons.
Clearly, from this button, you know what I do – and more importantly, you know that the blogger with this image in their sidebar had a great experience and is willing to share it with their readers. Incorporating a testimonial anywhere you can (including on a button!) is a very effective way to get people to come check you out.
Not a Designer?
Most bloggers will shy away from doing complicated design stuff – and if you’re not experienced, it can be hard to pull off a professional-looking graphic. If you depend on a blog designer to pull off feats of graphic genius, you can still have a clear idea of what you want your blog button to look like before you fill out the contact form. At present, a blog button will probably cost around $40-50 to have professionally designed, which may be worth the frustration of trying to do it yourself.
And if you’re the do-it-yourself type and want to learn these skills, there are great places like Nicole’s Classes and the Tuts + Network where you can take online courses to get you started with Photoshop.
A great blog button is an investment.
Since your blog button is often a reader’s first introduction to your blog, you should look at your blog button as the marketing tool it is. Invest your time – or if you lack the skills, a little money – into making sure you have an interesting button that makes people want to find out what you’re all about.
And now, a question:
Have you tried to design your own button before? What tools did you use?