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5 Things That Make Your Readers Scramble

November 29, 2007

running blog
Photo by Pensiero.

I’ve come across a lot of blogs in the time I’ve been in this business, and while many of them are great, quite a few aren’t. There are some qualities a blog can have that causes no one to want to read it and everyone to run away shielding their eyes. What if your blog has one of those lethal qualities, preventing you from success?

1. You Have Poor Writing Quality. If you’re going to run a website, you need to be able to write, and that is that. You need to capitalize words that need to be capitalized, spell words correctly, and use proper grammar and punctuation where required. Proofreading is always essential – even the best of us make mistakes! If this is a quality you are struggling with, I recommend that you read 10 Tips to Writing a Successful Blog Post.

2. You Sport An Ugly Design. Your design is what makes that essential first impression. If I come across your blog and think it looks ugly, I won’t torture my eyes – instead, I’ll just click right off of your page. Even the most fantastic content in the world will be ignored if it’s presented in a hideous fashion.

There are a lot of things that can make a blog ugly. Mainly, you want it to be organized and not too cluttered (learn how to unclutter your sidebar). You want the visitors to be able to navigate and find what they are looking for easily, and you want nice fonts and colors that complement each other and your site’s theme. Instead of going for intense rainbow colors, try to pick one or two complementing shades for your design and work with them. Instead of using ten different font types, try a couple throughout your blog. Go for balance.

3. You Show Too Many Ads. If a site has more advertisements than their content, I’ll be scrambling FAST. You don’t want a lot of ads, and you want to make the ads you DO have at least look nice. Make sure what you are advertising is relevant to your site, first thing. I see so many newbie blogs with all kinds of affiliate banners for dating sites and things like that – it won’t you earn you money and it won’t do your readers any favors. So ditch a lot of your ads if you have overflow, and make the remaining ones have nice, blending colors. Make them feel like a part of your design! If you have trouble in this area, read Don’t Cram Your Blog With Ads.

4. You Keep Distance From The Readers. I like a blog where the author replies to the comments I make and sends me emails when I have questions or concerns. I like a blog where the author gives back to the blogging community and invites interaction within their articles. Yes, I do like a blogger that is community involved. If you keep a distance from your readers and don’t talk to them, listen to what they have to say, and help them out, then they will maintain a very far distance from your site as well!

5. You Are Boring And Uninteresting. If you don’t offer something unique, why should someone read your blog? Let’s say your site is about training dogs to do tricks – there are thousands of sites like that out there. If the others are more interesting than yours and offer unique services or something that sets them apart, what reason would a person have to read your blog? That’s right – THEY WOULDN’T! Strive to make your site better than the others.

Yes, I could list dozens more reasons on how you can make your readers scramble, but I think you get the point. Look at other sites out there that are successful and see what qualities they posess that you do not. After you identify what you’re doing wrong, you can work on fixing it!

So make sure your style and quality of writing is up to par, that you have a nice design, not too many ads, maintain good relationships with your readers, and have something unique to offer. Also try to be consistent with your posting, provide breaking news first, and make sure the important elements of your blog are easily accessible. Try to limit the errors that arise on your site, and when they do happen, work quickly to fix them. I look forward to hearing any tips you have to offer in the comments! :)

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19 Responses to “5 Things That Make Your Readers Scramble”

  1. Adino on November 29th, 2007 4:52 am

    *whisper* Pssst Tay… Point 1 should read “You need to capitalize…”

    Great tips btw.. keep them coming!

  2. Matthew Griffin on November 29th, 2007 9:04 am

    #1 is the one I think we encounter the most in the blogosphere. Blogging has ushured in a wonderful new world of self-publishing but sometimes it’s just plain embarrassing.

  3. Frank C on November 29th, 2007 11:51 am

    Most WordPress blogs are a relief after looking at the ugliness that is MySpace. Then again, most blogs don’t hold up well against professionally designed sites.

  4. Heath on November 29th, 2007 12:59 pm

    All great ideas. I think many people get too worried about not posting frequently enough, and forget that as long as they have something interesting and thoughtful to say, people will likely read it and participate in discussion.

    I don’t always post every day, and sometimes I fret about it, but I’m also not a fan of those people who post multiple times in a day. I just went through a feed that has on average 8-10 posts per day. I just get tired of it. The more posts per day, the less thoughtful they seem to be.

    Make it genuine and relevant and not too long, and I’ll likely enjoy it :).

  5. Forrest on November 29th, 2007 3:24 pm

    Unfortunately I’m guilty of #2 on my main site. A graphic designer, I’m not. It’s strange and ironic, seeing as how I’m a decent photographer, but I couldn’t draw a stick figure to save my life … and I also couldn’t design a half decent looking page. Luckily my blog doesn’t suffer from this, as someone else made the template.

    But I can’t agree more about the quality of writing. I spend more time on this than anything else, mostly because it’s such a pet peeve of mine, to be irritated by bad writing.

  6. Tay on November 29th, 2007 5:25 pm

    @Adino – Thanks. I proofread this post three times but since I wrote it at four in the morning I guess anything could have slipped by! ;)

    @Heath – I’m with you – quality over quantity. I try to post everyday, except for maybe a couple days a week where I might skip. I’m also subscribed to a blog that has so many posts a day that I can’t keep up, and if I haven’t checked my reader in a few days I just will mark their feed as “all read” and not even bother. When the quantity increases, the quality decreases!

    @Forrest – Don’t feel bad, I’m not too great at design either. I took a free template and then just mainly tweaked it to my liking and created the header image. :)

  7. minyak lintah on November 29th, 2007 5:30 pm

    I definitely have to work on the “1. You Have Poor Writing Quality.”

  8. Steven Snell on November 29th, 2007 6:54 pm

    Good points Tay. I think partial feeds often send subscribers away . Personally I really don’t like them.

  9. Tay on November 30th, 2007 1:05 am

    Steven, I hate partial feeds as well. Most bloggers use them to get their subscribers to visit the site as well and increase the pageviews, but often times that is the reason people subscribe: they’d rather view the content in a reader than the actual blog. Personally, I find it annoying and I’m also just pretty lazy. ;)

  10. Tim E. on November 30th, 2007 8:20 am

    Thanks for not using intense rainbow colors! It’s too early in the morning for a headache.

  11. Forrest on November 30th, 2007 2:47 pm

    Minyak; Mark Twain learned to write by being an editor, and reading a lot of really bad writing. He was one of the best. I’d rather learn to write compellingly by reading good writing … but either way, I think it’s a skill you pick up like a sponge, more or less without trying.

    Steven & Tay; I don’t suppose I could talk you into elaborating on the partial vs full feed question? I use partial feeds myself, not to ‘force’ visitors to come to my site instead of using an RSS reader, but because every post I make is scraped onto 10+ splogs within hours. Even while Google doesn’t seem to respect any of these, most aren’t even indexed, I don’t like the idea that I might ultimately wind up competing against my own content…?

    Also, mine is … I hate to say “it’s a special site” because that makes me sound conceited. But it’s a photo blog, the imagery is as important as the story in each post. I haven’t looked into WP’s RSS code, but how involved would it be to put the images into the feed?

  12. Lin on November 30th, 2007 3:41 pm

    Very good points Tay. Just last night my daughter was reading one of my latest posts and she found a typo error I somehow missed. I think I’ll hire her before hitting “Publish”! ;)

  13. Weekly Links - November 30th << Vandelay Website Design on November 30th, 2007 5:50 pm

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  14. chipseo on November 30th, 2007 7:04 pm

    Well, I think you could have stopped at your first point…

    If you’re going to run a website, you need to be able to write, and that is that.

    If you can’t write, you can learn how, but at least proof. It is time consuming and I know I have some hidden typos in my posts somewhere but I think it is very important to not have words spelled wrong at least.

    Great post. Scott

  15. Zhuoshi on November 30th, 2007 8:07 pm

    I really like this list. I think I’m making mistake #1. I have trouble putting thoughts into words plus the fact that I am not a native English speaker so my sentence structures are grammatically incorrect.

  16. Tay on December 1st, 2007 1:31 am

    @Forrest – That’s very true, you DON’T want to be ruined by your own content. I know that personally whenever I am subscribed to a site that uses partial feeds, I find it very annoying and almost always unsubscribe. In all honesty, people online are usually quite lazy and they like logging onto their reader and being able to skim through posts and read only what they like. If it’s a partial feed, they might not even get the full gist of a post before the “preview” is over, and it might seem a bit disruptive to have to click to their site to find out if they actually want to read the entire post or not.

    At least, that’s how I feel about it. But like you said, you definitely don’t want your full posts always scraped. If you think partial feeds work for you and don’t bother your readers, then keep using them – you can run a poll or ask on your blog if you want to know what people think.

    As for editing your feed, I’m not too sure. How many characters of a post are in your partial feeds? If your images are within the character limit, then they should appear naturally. If not, I’m not certain.

    @Lin – That’s great! If you can have someone else to proofread for you besides yourself, that’s even better – two opinions are better than one! :)

    @Scott – Thanks for your comment. Yes, I’ve noticed after running this blog my writing definitely has gotten better over time. I make less mistakes in writing than I did in the beginning. I do think it is an aquired skill, but a person has to be determined to learn and practice. And I agree, proofreading is essential – I didn’t do in the beginning but now I do it everytime.

    @Zhuoshi – Thank you! Don’t worry; just keep writing and practice and over time you will definitely improve. It sounds to me like you’re already a very good writer, but remember: the more you write, the better and easier it gets. :)

  17. Forrest on December 3rd, 2007 4:26 pm

    Well that’s good to know – that the images should just come out in the feed of their own accord! I actually break the posts at least a few paragraphs in. I’ll have to look into the code to see whether and how this is actually working.

    PS – Thanks for posting this. As somebody with plenty of technical knowledge in general but is new to the blogosphere, this is very helpful.

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