First impressions matter. Why? Because they tend to last. They are notoriously difficult to change if done wrong, and your blog is not exception.
There are several “first impressions” your blog makes:
Search Engine Results: A lot of people will stumble upon your blog as they search for certain keywords. They see a post title, blog title, and content excerpts around these keywords of their search terms.
WordPress Reader: If you tag your blog posts accordingly, they will appear in the WordPress Reader, a feed delivered to pretty much anyone that is subscribed to the certain tag. This feed showcases the blog title, post title, first 100-400 words of your post and the featured image if one was uploaded. That’s the first impression, and for this reason I consider headlines and introductions to be the most important elements of a blog post.
From Other Bloggers: Another first impression? The words other bloggers have to say about you. It could be a simple link to your post in one of theirs, or a paragraph or two recommending your blog and/or a certain blog post. The information surrounding that link can make or break a reader’s decision to click through to your blog.
Your Blog’s Front Page: True, visitors may arrive on any page on your blog. If they get lost, they will go to your blog’s front page. Every page, including your front page, must be indicative of the purpose and intent of your blog. The front page must also be the gateway to all the categories, sub-sections, and pages of your blog.
A Certain Blog Post: Most visitors arrive on a blog post. The first impression is to the visual presentation, blog title, post title, and the content itself. But how do you end a blog post? Is the ending remarkable enough? Do you end on a strong enough note that your call to action does not get ignored?
About Page: More than anything on your blog, it’s your About page that oftentimes gives potential readers enough information (or doesn’t) about the blog’s purpose and intent, as well as info on the blogger.
Categories, Tags, Most Popular/Recent Blogs: These all showcase the content within your blog in related groups. One can learn a lot about a blog from reading the headlines of its most popular articles. And, yes, a lot of readers spend time scanning those post titles in their search for information that might suit their needs.
Ideally, you should cater to all these aspects of blogging in such a way as to offer first time visitors a great first impression. Because fair or not, first impressions matter. And they last. A lot.
A good impression means the chance to develop a relationship with your reader, while an unpleasant one means alienating them.