3 Blogging Resolutions Your Readers Will Thank You For

Putting reader experience above everything else is the new normal for blogs.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.

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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.


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32 Replies to “3 Blogging Resolutions Your Readers Will Thank You For”

  1. Susan, as a blind guy, I can’t thank you enough for acknowledging the accessibility challenges created by CAPTChAs. There are so many blogs with which I would absolutely love to engage, alas, the CAPTCHAs make it nearly, if not impossible. Another group that are also often effected by CAPTCHA difficulty are seniors who may be losing vision, but who don’t identify with the low vision/blind demographic. This is such a fast-growing segment that it would be a real shame to shut them out.

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    1. Hi Steve,
      So right. These tools were obviously created by fully sighted people. We bloggers should be prepared to sift out the few spam bot comments that make it through filters rather than force readers to prove they’re human.

      Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment.

      Like

  2. Dear Susan

    Thank you so much for your 3 tips on how to improve people’s blog experience. I am reflecting on how to make my website more functional so this is a big help. I do have a pop up domination but it can be deleted easily so I hope it’s not stopping commentors, if it is I can stop it popping up in the blog? X

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    1. Hi there! That’s great that you made the pop up easy to delete. Some of them are designed to be hard to figure out in the hopes that readers will spend more time reading the pop up message. You probably could take a look at the number of minutes guests are spending on the landing page. It’s normal that some click away within a couple of seconds (some land on our sites by accident) but your average stay should reflect sufficient time to read at least part of the post that pulled them in.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment.

      Like

  3. Love all three of your resolutions: connect, converse, relate. I just put that up on my bulletin board. I have one to add – ease of sharing. Most readers will love to share your content, but you have to make it easy for them.

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  4. Susan, you echo my thoughts so well. I love how you explain that social media is all about creating community. We must keep developing our blogs to give our readers a better experience possible – thank you x

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    1. Hi Heather –
      Thank you for sharing that creating community on social media is important to you. I think most of us feel that way but it’s always good to revisit the thought and refresh our commitment.

      I just went over and read your blog post on overcoming perfectionism. I truly enjoyed the video (and sent it out to my network on Twitter).

      Like

  5. Oh you captured my frustrations and my ideas so well. I joined a blogging reciprocal commenting site the other day and was so frustrated when first of all I couldn’t find where to comment.. then had to join or captcha – and it made me wonder why I tried. As opposed to blogs where I think they actually read my comments and build a relationship.

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    1. Hi Terry –

      I’m with you. And think of how much more difficult all of that is for people who don’t create blogs — the ones who just want to read them and get to know us. Thanks very much for taking the time to leave a comment here.

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  6. This is very useful advice. Indeed when I come across a pop-up on a blog, I’d have to be really invested in the topic, and have a sense the author has something valuable to say, otherwise I am a goner. It has happened I replied much after the fact when someone posted a comment, because I’d taken a hiatus from my blog. At least I replied in person, though late. Would you prefer that from an automated message saying you are away, but will respond in person when you are back? You’ve just encouraged me to log out of my blog and have a look to see if it is “reader friendly” enough. Thank you Susan!

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    1. Hi there!

      Personally, I’m never offended when a blogger takes a long time to respond. It just shows more of our human side. I do use autoresponders on my email account when I’m out of town — the trick is, though, that everyone who gets the auto message saying I’ll get back to them on my return will be expecting me to do that (because I just laid down a new promise).

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for taking the time to comment!

      Like

  7. I have spent a number of years tinkering online and this year by actually “engaging” with people rather than using autoresponders I am feeling better about my business practices and it is paying dividends. Definitely with you on the captchas too!

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  8. Susan,
    I am SO with you about those pop ups that jump up and hog the entire screen before I can even see what is in the website.
    I hadn’t heard, yet, that people are advising autoresponder emails to reply to people who comment on the website. But, really???
    This is a great blog post. Thank you for the pointers!

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    1. Hi Angie –

      You and I are on the same page as readers and as bloggers. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s the internet marketers who are telling bloggers they shouldn’t spend their time responding to comments. Thanks again for your help in figuring out that my site had some problems.

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  9. Happy New Year Susan. What a great use of resolutions. I have, on more than one occasion read an article, had difficulty sharing my thoughts and even though I felt I really had something worthwhile to contribute……have given up. The giant pop up seems insensitive to me too. It really feels like the experience no longer is about sharing with me, your reader, and I have been put off of a few sites for just those reasons. I do so hope that we are about to see a new focus on reader experience.

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    1. Hi Kate — I’m confident that we’re all learning to be more reader centric, it’s just that we have some old habits to break. I was just on your site today. It’s very easy to navigate and of course your posts are delightful. Happy new year!

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  10. Great points here. Something else I’ve noticed not necessarily on blogs but on apps. When you go to press say the “start” button once the app has loaded there is a few seconds delay before an ad pops up right over the “start” button. Basically the same amount of time it takes you to get your finger to the screen so before you know it you’ve unwillingly clicked on the advert. Makes me grrrr

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    1. Hi Steve – I know, it’s maddening. I think the devs need to test more before they release an app into the wild. They’re probably getting 1 star ratings that could have been avoided. Nice to see you here and have your viewpoint in the comments!

      Like

  11. Wow, I like the simply layout of your site and the clarity of your writing. Thanks for these suggestions Susan. Based on my self-evaluation, I believe i passed the test. As someone who has been on the Internet for awhile and know how to navigate most sites easily, it’s still so frustrating to have annoying popups and captchas, especially on mobile devices. If they frustrate me, I certainly don’t want to create that kind of experience for my readers 🙂

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  12. I totally agree with your advice, Susan. It makes me laugh out loud when I come to a site and a popup window asks me to evaluate the site I did not even have a chance to see yet. And yes, I am partially sighted and hate the captcha. And if there are audio capchas provided, they are very hard to understand, even with perfect hearing 🙂

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    1. Hi Karo – Thank you for bringing up the audio CAPTCHA. I had forgotten about that. I’ve tried using it on sites where I couldn’t get the visual version to work. It can be just as tough. Hopefully some of these practices will die out. Thanks so much for your comment.

      Like

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