In the blogosphere, it takes maybe five seconds to encourage readers to keep reading or to click away. If your blog fails to capture the interest of your reader, chances are they won’t stick around. Over the last few weeks I recently screened several dozen blogs to see if they would be a good fit for my blogroll. With the limited amount of time I had to work with I would compare the experience to an agent shoveling through a pile of query letters. If the blog didn’t catch my attention right from the start, I lost interest.
Here are 5 ways to make a bad first impression, as learned from experience:
1.Use a format with harsh colors, designs, or cluttered look. There are so many choices with colors and templates that it can be a challenge to find something that is both unique and appealing. Stick to simple designs and limited color schemes. For posts and articles please use dark type on a light background, most find it hard to read light text on dark. If it hurts my eyes to look at it, chances are I won’t read it.
2. Keep the subject of your blog a mystery. There is nothing wrong with a creative title, but if it doesn’t tell the reader what the blog is about then use a subtitle. If it is easy to tell that a blog centers around a subject that interests me, chances are I’ll read through some of the posts. If I can’t figure it out, I’ll move on.
3. Leave no trace to who you are. If you are not yet ready to show your true identity to the world at least write something telling your readers why you are blogging. Like most people, if I can identify with a blogger or writer, I’m far more likely to be interested in what they write.
4. Make it hard to navigate. Chances are there will be dozens if not hundreds of posts on your site, if it is hard to find your way around then readers will not be able to find what they want. Categories are wonderful things, they reinforce blog’s content and make those items easy to find. Be careful not to make categories too specific or too broad.
5. Post only every few weeks or less. If you want to gain a following you have to communicate regularly. Blogs with few posts or infrequent posts look like they are abandoned. Think of blogging as sharing with your friends, the more you share they more they know you care.
This is only the tip of the proverbial blogging iceburg, I’m sure there are many other deadly sins to be avoided.
What are your blogging pet peeves? Do tell in the comments!
I’m juggling my time at the moment and can’t get to comment much, but I do read your blog in my email inbox and like the tips you’ve given here.
Thanks for coming by Cindy!
I’m 80% with you, Jodi. I don’t get too upset if someone doesn’t come clean as to who they are. In fact, I’ve had some rather nice discussions with pen names and aliai.
Otherwise, you’ve nailed it pretty well in my book.
I don’t mind aliai, but I do like to know a little about the writer. I get annoyed when there is nothing on the site about the writer at all.
I agree totally, plus I am not particularly fond of blogs, to which I’ve subscribed and receive as e-mail, that force me to open another window in order to read the remainder and to comment. Also blogs where the comment boxes are hard to find or require opening yet another window can be problematic for those of us that read a lot every day. These “peeves” definitely do not deter me from reading them, but it does slow me down, and sometimes I’m not inclined to comment if my time is at a premium. Also, responding to comments is always a plus for readers, so it’s nice if the author has time to acknowledge a comment.
That said, I feel that on reflection, my blog probably falls sort in some of the areas you have mentioned, so I will be doing some evaluation over the next couple of days. Let me know, if you have time, some of your thoughts about mine in re improvements.
BTW, I think yours is as close to perfect as you can come, when using pre-templated formats. Congrats, and thanks for your great ideas!
@Paula – I’ve debated with changing my settings so that the whole post is sent by email. I think with either you still have to click through to the site to leave comments.
I agree with your other peeves, hard to find comment boxes are a pain and author response is a huge plus.
Thanks for the kind words, there are so many things that I would like to do to continue to improve the blog, new pages to add, links to update – it’s like the work never ends!
As for your blog, I’ve always liked the general layout so don’t go and change everything because of me!
I try to focus on writing-oriented blogs and one peeve I have are the whine-a-thons that seem to frequently come up – I don’t want to read about other writers’ procrastination excuses…… when they write about moving on, yup, I’m with them, but if they get stuck in “woe is me” land, I’m done.
@Pam – agreed! I read other writing blogs to learn and grow, reading about other procrastinators doesn’t help with that.
For sure on the second one. I might see an intriguing post title, but if I can’t figure out why the subject is under discussion or why the person is blogging, I probably won’t be back.
I guess appearance is a matter of taste. My blog might look a bit cluttered to some, but my old theme, which was much cleaner and plain, drew criticism for being “lifeless.”
@oldancestor – although there is a lot going on in your sidebars all of it is stuff that should be there. Compared to many of the other blogs I screened it looks and reads clean. I wouldn’t worry about it.
Yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head. My pet peeve is not getting replies to my comments from the initial blogger. I love the community of blogging but if I bother to leave a comment, I’d like the blogger to acknowledge it.
@clarbojahn – I agree, if we take time to leave a comment – especially a thoughtful one – the initial blogger really should take a minute to respond. I’m guilty of taking too long to reply to my comments mostly because I don’t do it right as I read them.
I agree with you 100% on #1 and #4. If I can’t read it or maneuver around easily, I’m gone.
I’m a bit more flexible on identity, subject matter, and frequency.
Thanks, Jodi! You’re blog is always a treat to read.
@nrhatch – You’re welcome! May I say – your blog is a great example of a good layout. I only wish there was a comment link at the bottom of your posts instead of the post so I don’t have to scroll all the way back up!
I’m not sure I follow you.
If you’re on my home page, you can scroll through complete posts. The comments and comment box are not visible to save space. If there was a comment box at the bottom of the scroll, WP wouldn’t know where to send the comment.
As soon as you click on the title of a post that interests you, the comments and the comment box open up at the bottom of the post, just like on your blog.
Am I missing something?
On other blogs, the home page only has the synopsis of each post. To read posts, or see the comments, you have to click on the title and go to the article itself. I sometimes tire of that. I’d rather scroll through all the new posts at once and then decide which, if any, to comment on.
Sorry, I wasn’t clear – it should have read “instead of the top” not “instead of the post”
On your blog when you are on the main feed where there are multiple posts the comment link (not the box) appears under the title of the post instead of at the end of the post. This means when I finish reading the post and want to comment I have to scroll back up to the post title to click on the link. Some themes do it this way and some have the link at the end of each individual post.
It’s a trivial thing, but something to think about.
Don’t forget that some of us might be spastic with computers and don’t know how to manipulate the appearance and layout to the fullest extent possible.
Not me, of course.
I actually downloaded the font package months ago and have the password and all that, but the link leads nowhere and I still haven’t figured it out.
Why couldn’t I have been born interested in computers?
If we were all into computers who would flip the burgers… ?
Gotcha. I actually like the set up on my blog.
If I hit February Archives on SLTW: all February posts open up and can be read at once by scrolling down. One button shopping. If someone wants to comment, they do have to click on the title, or the comment button, but if they just want to scroll through and read posts, it’s easy.
In contrast, if I click February Archives on your blog, all I see is the titles of the posts ~ to read or comment, I have to click on each individual title in order to actually see what you said. Click a post, read it, go back to the archive list, click on the next, etc.. That’s a lot of button pushing, especially if I don’t want to comment on all of them.
Rik’s set up on UhW is similar to your, with the title and a short synopsis showing, but no way to scroll through all the posts on a given day at the touch of a single button.
Your set up (and Rik’s) probably increases your page views though. Someone could come to my blog, click on the Home page and then scroll through and read 100 posts at once and it would be recorded solely as “1” page view. With your set up, they would have to click on 100 separate posts and it would count as 100 page views. 😀
Thanks for this. Sometimes our peripheral view is a little narrow–and it’s good to have someone shine a little more perspective across our path. Your points have me considering making more changes. 🙂
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