Here’s the situation: Your buddy sends you a link to check out, you get to the blog post and after glancing at the layout you immediately question the validity of the blog (and your friend). On occasion I have left a post thinking it was created by some autoblogging process, and then realized it only looked that way and was actually written by a human.
Text ads out of control, color combinations that hurt to look at, no social sharing links (or TOO many!) and images that barely have any connection to the text.
These mistakes can make a visitor run for the proverbial hills. A visitor to your blog is making a decision about your worth within a few seconds, sometimes nanoseconds.
Find out whether you’re making simple but crucial mistakes that turn readers away…
1. Text Isn’t Reader-Friendly
This one gets me every time: endless lines of text.
Use the four line rule for paragraphs instead of sentence after uninterrupted sentence with no break in sight. Our eyes reach the end of the sentence line and have to jump back to the left to start the next and this gets harder with the addition of more lines in a paragraph.
Don’t let paragraphs get bloated; shorten your text into easily-digested chunks. Pull quotes are another good way to extract some information from the text and make it more prominent and eye catching to the reader. Since most readers usually scan, it’s important to provide them with some focus to the more important parts of the article.
Remember how users read on the web… they don’t!
This all goes for blog post headlines, too. The Goldilocks rule: Not too short, not too long, but just the right size. If you want readers to share and retweet your posts, don’t use long headlines that might as well be opening paragraphs. Short and sweet.
2. Overuse of Pop-Up Ads
Some advertising in a blog may be necessary, and I don’t mind people selling things, but being obtrusive about it can get on your nerves. Don’t make pop-up ads interrupt the flow of reading the content on your blog.
3. Distracting Color Combinations
Don’t make the color of the font clash with the background color. Whenever I encounter a site with white text on a black background it gives me this optical distortion. It makes me question whether or not I should continue on reading at all.
Think of books and magazines: the majority is black text on a white background which is considered the best color combination’s to use for readability, ease of use, and reduced eye strain.
Legibility depends on high contrast between foreground and background, so black-and-white is the safest bet. I am constantly reminding myself of the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
4. Too Many Social Share Buttons
Use the specific social sharing buttons that your user demographics are active on. Don’t use the all-encompassing “Share/Save” button where users have to hover over and click on what sites they want to share.
Instead, download the official share buttons (i.e. Twitter, Linkedin, Google +, Facebook, etc) from the site itself. Make it as easy as possible for users to share your content in the least clicks possible. Placing social share buttons front and center on the top and bottom of every post is ideal.
5. Cheesy Stock Photography
Most stock photos are very bland and generic. This is their nature – the more generic, the broader the audience. It’s too easy to use bad stock photography…instead, be original.
Whenever possible, I suggest a quick photo shoot over pre-used stock photography, but this isn’t always the most feasible solution with budgets and timelines.
In that case, I will do my best to use stock photography in a fashion that doesn’t make it look so “stocked”. However, if you own a restaurant and you’re using stock photos of gourmet hamburgers and saying they are your own you are doing a disservice to your potential customers.
When your product or service is very specific, you may need to do a photo shoot.
Don’t use the “hottest” or “most popular” search category features to choose a photo. I’ve seen (you probably have, too) the same business photo on so many sites and blogs that it’s lost the original representation of “business” and now conjures up “overused stock photo cliche”.
Try to work the image into the site or article by manipulating or changing it in some way, a simple crop can go a long way.
6. Forgetting About Rich Media
People like visuals. We go to museums and galleries, watch movies and take photos a lot. Rich media can compliment your text and improve the overall reader experience.
Video and interactive media are very effective ways to spark an emotion and gain stickiness to your blog.
Rich media (anything that has motion, audio, interaction, and is activated either by a user’s action, referrer, browser information, or time), can be fun and effective — making it something the user will want to see and share. It can attract and hold the attention of a higher percentage of users for a longer period of time.
Just be sure that accessibility is not an issue, various formats require special plugins or abilities that many users don’t often have installed.
7. Updating Too Little (Or Too Much)
Again, The Goldilocks Zone is where you should reside (so far it’s been good enough for our planet). You need to be on a consistent publishing schedule.
If there are long gaps between posts your readers may take your blog too lightly if they check on a regular basis looking for new interesting posts. Conversely, if you update too much with content that is sub-par and just filler, your readers will question the worthiness of your blog and it will come off more like spam.
8. Wrong Date in the Footer
Is your blog stuck in 2009?
Not updating the year in the footer of your post signals to visitors that no one’s maintaining the site. This is an easy mistake many bloggers overlook; you probably remembered to change this the first year you had your site, but may have forgotten to update it in quite a while (it may even have been years ago…).
Add this code into your footer’s copyright statement where you want the year to appear, and it will automatically update the year every January 1:
<?php echo date(“Y”); ?>
9. Using the “Uncategorized” Category
At some point, everyone forgets to choose a category before hitting “publish.” This not only makes the blogger (and in turn, the blog) look careless, but also hurts your site structure.
Instead, change the “Uncategorized” category to something else, such as “Other” or “General” (and don’t forget to change the slug, too). This will keep your blog looking legit and it will CYA when you do slip up and forget to choose a category.
10. Ignoring Layout
Layout and composition are the fundamentals for aesthetics. If it doesn’t look or feel pleasing to the reader from a design or user experience perspective, they may find the material isn’t worthy and leave. Don’t bombard the users senses and put everything you can design into the layout, instead embrace white or empty space in your composition.
White space allows the eye “breathing” room; it establishes a flow and hierarchy for information to follow. Since you only have a few seconds to impress new readers, it’s critical to make your layout welcoming and professional.
11. Not Responding to Reader Comments
Responding to a comment a human made on your blog shows that you value the community and respect the readers time and input. Conversations build relationships, it’s human nature.
Be open and encourage divergent opinions, just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t always mean that one side is wrong or right. It just means you have different opinions. Not every difference of opinion is a blog troll.
You only have a few seconds to capture a blog visitor’s attention and there are so many factors that make a new reader decide whether or not to stick around. No matter how strong your message is, the above mistakes can get in the way of a good reader experience.
By eliminating distractions, making your posts visually appealing and easy to read, and paying attention to the small details that can hurt your blog’s reputation, you can ensure your readers view your blog as credible and they’ll continue coming back.
What do you think? Tell us, what mistakes can a blog lose credibility?