It’s a cliche because it’s true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is as true with blogs as it is with people. Studies show that if your blog doesn’t draw a reader in within the first few seconds, he or she may click away for good – even before viewing the titles of your blog posts.

How it Looks

The first aspect of a blog that many people notice is the header. Ideally, the header should be bold and attention-grabbing while simultaneously showing the reader how to navigate the site. So in addition to a catchy title, the blog’s mission or message should be prominently displayed along with helpful links and the newest content.

Similarly, the entire presentation of the blog should be visually appealing. Not only should the blog appear to be unique, but it should also incorporate fresh, engaging colors and an intuitive layout. It may be worth spending a little money for a non-generic blog template or theme; there are plenty of choices available out there.

It’s also a mistake to overlook the fonts that you use. Consider embracing Arial, Tahoma, Calibri, or a similar “easy on the eyes” font instead of dull Times New Roman types. Try to stick to one default font and two or three others for headings and titles, and remain consistent through all of your blog pages. Finally, be sure to maintain adequate spacing between paragraphs and content items.

It’s perfectly okay to try and turn your blog into a moneymaking endeavor; however, you must be cautious when determining the number and placement of your advertisements. You’ve probably seen some sites or blogs where wading through banner and flash ads becomes cumbersome and annoying. First-time visitors to your blog won’t stand for that, and they’ll go somewhere else.

How it Works

A key element of your blog’s appearance is its usability. Your pages should contain easily-identifiable links without overwhelming the reader with choices or drop-down menus. You should especially focus on making navigation to your blog content and points of interaction (comments, subscriptions, etc.) as simple as possible.

A sidebar can be a handy tool for a blogger, and many templates and themes let you utilize sidebars easily. But too many bloggers treat a sidebar as a depository for every widget or link that they can find. Like page layouts, sidebars should be lean, neat, and organized. If readers have to scroll down a lot to get to the bottom of the sidebar, it’s probably too convoluted.

In addition, many bloggers don’t know how to use or optimize footers. A good blog has footers at the end of content blocks that encourage readers to “take the next step” and provides them an easy way to do so. Footers with messages or icons that instruct readers to view similar articles, share or bookmark the post, make a comment, check out an advertiser, or subscribe to a news feed are important functions that a footer can perform.

Last but not least, a reader should easily be able to connect to you or your blog in other ways. Links to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media pages should be obvious; and readers should have the capability to share your content with others without just a click or two. That’s how you build a community of followers who will become your best marketers.

There are countless blogs out there in cyberspace all fighting for eyeballs and page views. If you want your blog to be noticed above the din, its appearance is of paramount importance. Because even the best blog content is useless if no one ever reads it.

In other words, skillful or insightful writing alone won’t attract people to your blog. That’s why a blog’s appearance is so vital.

Chris Martin is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites and is also a ghostwriter for several blogs. In addition, he is an accomplished voice actor and an experienced sportscaster. Martin has also worked as a radio DJ, a traffic reporter, and a public address announcer for sporting events – and he actively monitors his online reputation on Reputation.com.