There was a time when good content was the best way to differentiate your blog and build readership. That time is gone. Good content–instead of being a powerful differentiator–is now the minimum standard expected. For your blog to stand out from the crowd, you need to create a positive reader experience. This post points out three common blogging practices working against that goal. You may be surprised to know what they are.
We bloggers are so involved in the day-to-day business of content creation and publishing, we can easily forget that the eyeballs we’re after don’t necessarily approach internet sites with the same degree of fearless curiosity we have. If you want an eye-opening experience, log out of your blogging platform and critically assess your sites from the readers’ perspective. Even better, find someone who is less computer savvy than you are and watch them complete basic tasks on your site. Where do they become hesitant? Are they able to engage immediately with your content or is something getting in the way? Now ask them what questions they have about the site. I guarantee you will be amazed at what you learn.
And now, for my top three resolutions guaranteed to reduce reader frustration and increase engagement…
Reader-Centric Blogger Resolutions
1. I will deliver value before asking for something in return.
Pop ups that prevent readers from seeing what’s on the page until they respond to an extra message stop you from delivering promised value to your readers. Think of it this way: you’ve enticed a reader to click onto your site with a carefully thought out title or compelling content and then you reward them with an obnoxious pop up message unrelated to the post that got them to your site. Worse yet, they’re usually sales ads or a request for the reader to give up their email address — and you haven’t even delivered on the content promise that got them to click in the first place. In my opinion, that is really poor internet marketing. There are many sites that have learned this lesson the hard way and now place unobtrusive pop ups in the lower right corner of the screen. This encourages further engagement without screaming at readers. Let me also add that pop ups can be unpredictable and disastrous on mobile devices. If you’re going to use pop ups, please test them on various devices using Android, iOS and Windows platforms. Mobile traffic is growing exponentially and has to be part of the publishing decision.
2. I will make it easy for readers to start conversations.
Making readers create an account or pass a CAPTCHA test is discouraging to readers and is guaranteed to reduce comments. (Note: creating an account is not the same as asking them to sign in through a platform they already use, such as Facebook or Google.) I hate both but CAPTCHA is the clear winner when it comes to killing online conversations. You’ve seen them, I’m sure. You have to type one or two words that have been altered in ways that make them extremely difficult to see before your comment will be published. This is vexing for anyone with dyslexia or visual difficulties. But that’s not the worst of it. CAPTCHA assumes your readers are fake bots and forces them to prove their innocence. Same thing with those “click here to prove you’re human” radial buttons that I see everywhere. Ouch. Do you really want to say that to your audience? There are fantastic spam catchers available that make these practices unnecessary.
I learned about this one from two online communities I belong to. We share blog post links on designated days so that we can increase readership. Everyone’s big goal is gaining blog comments. When I look at all the trouble people report when attempting to leave blog comments, I’m staggered. If we–active and highly engaged bloggers–are having trouble leaving comments, what must it be like to be a casual blog reader who wants to leave their two cents? It makes me want to work even harder at making my blog an easy place to start conversations.
3. I will encourage real relationships.
If someone recommends that you save time by sending automated thank you emails to people who leave comments on your blog instead of responding to them — RUN !!! Social media is all about creating a community. A new follower or new comment on your blog are golden opportunities to get to know someone better. Two r-e-a-l-l-y bad things happen when you don’t engage with individuals who leave comments on your blog. First, visitors see that you’re not responding to commenters. Even if you’re the most generous, caring soul in the world, you will appear uncaring and cold. It’s as if you’re saying your time is worth more than that of your readers. That will not help your reputation as a friendly blogger — and it’s even worse if you’re in the business of providing advice to would-be bloggers and internet marketers. Second, by sending an automated email response to blog commenters, you’re letting everyone know that all you’re doing is building an email database. You’re not in it for the relationships. Web 2.0 and social media is all about 2-way conversations–and the public is very aware of this. How is sending me an automated “thank you for your message” anything less than a pretend response? The only way you could make it worse is to send an automated “thank you for your message” and include a sales pitch in the email. Ugh. I’m either going to unsubscribe, or if I want to be more stealthy, I’ll use an email filter to send your messages directly into a spam folder that gets deleted every 30 days.
There are an estimated 239 million active blogs according to a Snitchim.com article published last April. That’s a lot of choice for readers. Make your blog stand out by mercilessly looking for ways to improve the reader experience.
Thanks so much for reading. I appreciate you. Leave me a comment and I promise I will respond. Want to connect on a social media site? I’ve got several to choose from on my contact page.