When I started this blog almost 11 months ago, I knew virtually nothing about blogging, Internet marketing, or social media. Today I can honestly say that I have completely mastered all three! OK fine, maybe I’m full of it, but I am doing my very best to learn as much as I possibly can.
The reason I spend so much time educating myself about the wonderful world inside the blogosphere is because this is going to be my ticket out of my job. It just might be yours as well…
If you’re reading this, there is a pretty good chance that you are unhappy in your current job and there is also a pretty good chance that you are looking to build an online business.
Blogging has become a HUGE business and if you’re one of 2 million people who have started a blog this year, you have probably noticed a few things:
- Most blogs are terrible. It’s not (always) their fault that their design looks like it was designed by a blind 3rd grader and written by that same 3rd grader.
- Information is everywhere and most of it is useless.
- It’s damn hard to make money online ( not talking about that ¢37 you made from Google AdSense last month).
Here’s the thing- I want to make money online, you want to make money online, and I want you to make money online. The problem lies in the fact that many people are unaware that their blogs are actually turning away readers and potential customers, not attracting them.
Clearly, that’s a problem…
The State Of The Blogosphere
There are a few main reasons that I wanted to write this post:
- Last month I posted a survey, in which I asked my readers 4 questions. Some of the responses indicated that you wanted more tips, ideas, and hacks for creating a popular and/or successful blog.
- Back in January I wrote a post called How To Stand Out In The Online World Of Average, which went into a little detail about how to get noticed, but today I wanted to take it a step further.
- This post was actually inspired in part by Ingrid’s post about her blogging pet peeves and I wanted to expand on her post and share some things that I feel might be holding you back from seeing the success you want.
So I’ve listed a number of reasons that people are either not interested, losing interest, or have lost interest in your blog.
I’m going to assume that you all know that shitty content is an obvious reason why nobody is sticking around your blog, so we’ll skip over that one.
Before I lay into all the reasons your blog is mildly terrible, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. This blog is to the Internet what Steve Jobs was to Apple. OK, maybe I’m still talking shit. Seriously, I don’t think I’m anything special here, I just happen to pay attention to detail and also to what people like and don’t like about blogs.
So, here’s my list of reason that people don’t come, stay, or return to your blog.
Incompatible Browser Configuration
One thing that many people overlook (or have no idea about) is that our blogs appear differently depending on the browser. For example, my comments have been coded to look a certain way in Firefox but look totally different (and worse) in Internet Explorer (damn you Microsoft!).
Make sure you check the major browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Chrome to make sure your widgets, customizations, styles, etc. look the same (or at least good).
I’ve seen a number of sites that look great in Firefox but when I visit them in IE, everything is jumbled and looks like shit. Even though IE is dying slowly, there are still millions of people who use it.
If you are having this problem and are clueless how to fix it, you can do some research and try to figure it out or you can do what I do; contact my web guy.
Annoying And/Or Irrelevant Share Bars
I understand the desire to have your readers share your content. It’s all part of getting noticed and building a blog. What I don’t get is when you have a share bar that is:
- Too big and bulky for your blog theme
- Covers part of your post and or/follows your posts as you are trying to read it. It’s like a stalker and it’s so incredibly annoying!!
- Includes a bunch of obscure social media sites like Ecademy.com and Plurk.com.
Here ‘s an idea: Why not just add some subtle reminders to share your post? Why annoy the hell out of us with your obnoxious bars?
Take a look at the share bar used (and created) by Glen from Viperchill.com. Clean, simple, and gets the job done.
This is perfectly acceptable if you are Pat Flynn or Brian Clark, but let’s face it, you aren’t (neither am I)! I’m not a big commenter to begin with (mainly because of time) and if I do take the time to leave a comment, I’d like to see it posted! I also want to interact with the author and other readers and that becomes a painful process when you have to wait 3 hours to see your comment posted.
What’s worse is when a new or obviously low traffic blog is using moderation. Why the hell for? Are you worried that 1 of the 2 comments you get will be spam? Is it too hard to manually delete it? If you are trying to build your community, and why wouldn’t you, why would you deter someone from leaving a comment? Get rid of it today.
I have no issue with people using ads to make money. Personally, I don’t like the look of them but that’s just my own preference.
What makes no sense is when low traffic blogs put them up. Do you know how much traffic you need to have to make significant income from them. A shitload! Ads are ugly, annoying, and tarnish your credibility (especially when they are completely irrelevant).
They are also grossly overused. Just because everyone seems to be doing it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good fit for your blog.
The other problem is that if someone does click on your ad, you have now lost a valuable reader to another site. You’ve worked so hard to get them to your site and now you’ve just sent them packing. All for a few cents.
This is when you have far too many categories in your header or sidebar (hopefully not both). This is the quickest way to confuse the shit out of your readers.
Do I want to read about happiness, sleep patterns, or motivation? Hey wait, I thought this was a financial website?!?
And what the hell are “musings”, “randomness”, and “brain candy” and why would I want to click on them to find out?
Make your categories clear and keep them to a minimum. People have enough on their minds without being overwhelmed with 22 different categories from which to choose.
Wasting Valuable Sidebar Space
Unless you want your blog to look like an episode of Hoarders, then I suggest you start doing a little clean up. This means looking at that eyesore of a sidebar and removing all things worthless. These would be:
- Meta boxes. There is no point here. (sorry Ingrid):)
- Ugly and useless widgets
- Blogrolls. Link to people’s posts in your posts if you like their stuff
- Redundant category lists
- Ads that are earning you no money
Try to use your space as effectively as possible. A few requirement should be:
- An email opt-in box with a free guide or valuable product. Make sure this is above the fold.
- A search bar (although I took mine off because the searches it did were useless and I couldn’t figure out why)
- Easy ways to connect with you on Twitter, Fabebook, YouTube, Flickr, Google +, etc.
- An about bio box with a photo or interesting video (I’m working on this one).
Take a look at these sidebars and you’ll see how effectively they are using their space:
- Sensophy.com. Jacob has a beautiful site and has a captivating sidebar. The way he uses colors and photos really draws the reader in.
- TheMiddleFingerProject.org. Ash knows her shit and is a master marketer. She uses her sidebar to promote her email list, engage with her readers, and sell her products. Simple and very effective.
- AdvancedRiskology.com. Tyler has a very unique theme and uses his sidebar to build his email newsletter list, sell his products, give away free products, and showcase the media attention he’s gotten.
I know many of you think that Pop Up Domination is the greatest invention since deep fried coke, but it’s not.
I don’t care how awesome your conversion rates are, it’s turning away tons of readers, including me. I’ve never opted into anyone’s list via a pop up.
Although there are plenty of examples of very attractive (and I’m sure successful) pop ups like Michael’s from IncomeDiary.com, it still annoys me every time. How about using a non intrusive email opt in below your header and at the bottom of every post? Stanford from PushingSocial.com does both and does them well.
3rd Person Bio’s
For many of us, blogs are a personal extension of ourselves and it blows my mind when I see that someone has written their About Page in the 3rd person. Why? Will people think better of you if they think you’re so successful that you don’t even have time to write your own personal intro?
Even if you had a professional write it for you (you didn’t), it still looks weird. Be personal. Connect with your readers. Tell us about you. Here’s an interesting article about our false belief that we aren’t as important as we think.
OK people, this is where I draw the line! If you’ve gotten past the 6th grade then you should have no problems spelling. Even if you suck at spelling there is this little thing called spell check that’s pretty simple to use.
I’ll admit that in my haste I have sent out a few posts with one or two spelling errors. That’s forgivable. However, when your post has a dozen spelling and grammatical errors and looks like you wrote it in the dark, that’s punishable by death!
What boggles my mind more than anything is why people can’t seem to understand the difference between ‘lose’ and ‘loose’. It’s so simple! Did you loose your keys? This doesn’t even look remotely correct and yet people do it embarrassingly often.
This is one of the fastest ways to lose (semi-intelligent) readers. Get you’re shit together and learn proper English already.
For those non-Americans who are struggling with the language, send an email to Mars Dorian and ask him how he mastered the language. You would never know that English isn’t his first language, (he is actually German), because his writing, punctuation, and grammar are spot on (and better than mine)!
Using A Free Domain
Nothing says “this is a hobby, not a business” more than having a .Wordpress or .Blogspot url. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with using a free host, but if you are trying to create a successful online business and you aren’t Seth Godin, then you really need to buy a domain name.
If you are truly serious about building an online business, you will need to invest in yourself at some point. This should be your first purchase. Your second should be anything that I sell (just kidding)..
Being An Arrogant Asshole
There’s a big difference between knowing you’re an arrogant asshole like Tucker Max and just being one.
Blogging is built on friendships and helping one other. If you are an arrogant bastard, you will have a very tough time creating a successful blog.
I recently had a relatively popular blogger email me an unsolicited guest post telling me all the great places he could be found and what he had accomplished. The post read like an autobiography, was dull, and not at all what I was looking for.
I sent him and email telling him so and explained why. I also told him his writing was not a good fit for my blog. A few weeks later I received a second email with an updated guest post saying ” I have taken to heart what you said and I trust that this article meets with your approval“.
Needless to say, I did not appreciate this email. I responded (as nicely as I could) by telling him that I found his emails to be pushy and arrogant and had no interest in his offer.
Another time, I had someone tell me that they didn’t want to take the time to write an actual post but would do a short video instead. That would have been fine with me until he said that I would need to pay him for it and then proceeded to give me a list of conditions than needed to be met in order for him to bestow the honor of having his post.
Let’s see, I’ll need a link at the top of the post, a link in your featured section, and it has to be “do-follow”. And please send my payment to my PayPal account as soon as possible.
WTF is wrong with people?
It should be perfectly obvious that if your eyes start to bleed when you first visit a website, there is a problem. I have seen so many eyesores online that I have to start questioning what people are thinking.
Is half the world color blind? Do they not care? Or do they actually think their blog looks good?
There are thousands of themes out there and many of them are free. As of today there are 1,420 free WordPress themes available to you (if you use WordPress of course). Surely you can find one that looks attractive.
If you want to pony up a few bucks (between $20-$60), you can get a beautiful custom theme. I would have put an affiliate link here but I couldn’t figure out how to set up the one for Theme Forest (where I got this theme).
Your blog should be inviting, pleasant to look at, and easy to navigate. There are way too many good websites out there and people will leave yours if it’s unattractive or looks messy. One of my favorites is SocialMediaExaminer.com. Beautiful design, simple interface, and wildly successful.
This is the first thing people will see when they visit your blog (unless you have one of those damn pop ups).
I’ve had plenty of crappy headers in my day and I realize now that it was hurting my traffic. My suggestion would be to pay someone to do a nice professional looking one for you. And by nice, I don’t mead some weird font and a clip art picture.
Check out Elance.com or just ask around on Twitter for referrals. Don’t try to do this yourself if you don’t know how. It will end up looking like shit and you don’t want shit do you?
If you’re tight on cash, check out Fiverr.com. Everything on there is $5 but be warned, you often get what you pay for. I’ve had some decent success with it, but not for design work.
This is where you as a blogger, need to stand out. You MUST be unique to catch the ultra short attention span of online readers.
Unfortunately, what we see instead is many bloggers following this path to failure:
- Buying a domain name that often is a poor choice. For example, if you want to become known as the expert in keeping rattlesnake as pets, don’t choose JamesX188.com as your domain. Think branding. If you don’t, you might very well regret it and you’ll be left with the choice of sticking with your shitty domain or losing everything you’ve built to rebrand with a new one.
- Either uses a hideous free theme or use a vastly overused WooTheme. ZZZZZZzzzzzz.
- Slaps up 2 to 6 banner ads in their sidebar. The usual suspects being, WooThemes, HostGator, BlueHost, Thesis, AWeber, etc. I actually promote a few of these as well because I use them, but they are on my resources page. Plastering up sidebar ads, especially when your blog is new, looks tacky and it’s sooooo boring. Remember, be unique! Although it’s rare, big money can be made this way. Just take a look at Pat Flynn’s income report!
- Starts writing the same things that everyone has already covered (I realize that pretty much everything has been covered, but at least do it better.) Plays it “safe” and doesn’t write how they really want to write for fear of offending people and/or losing readers. They don’t realize that personality is the key!
- Never finding their target audience or knowing what they want.
- Feeling lost and overloaded with information.
- Fading into blogger obscurity never to be read again………..
Don’t let this happen to you. If you are working a job that is making you miserable, you cannot let this be you! Find a way to become exceptional. Be the best at what you’re doing. Use your personality to build an incredible community. Ask people what they want.
OK, So Get To The Un-Sucking..
Now it’s time to take action. Get out there and start working on your blog or if you feel so inclined, you can hire me to do it for you!
There are two ways to take this post:
- If you’ve never been here before, you probably now think I’m the biggest blogging jerk you’ve ever met. You will then vow never to return here and proceed to spend 2 hours reading CuteLittleKittens.com.
- You understand that my sense of humor stems from my anger towards my job and I’m really just trying to get my points across in a unique and un-sucky way 🙂
If you care to share your thoughts or tell me that I’m way off base here, please leave me a comment.