Increasing your blog's appeal

| Monday, October 17, 2011
Today's Tune: Troublemaker

For those who don't know, my "day job" is web content editing and internet marketing. I do a lot of work with social media, websites, and blogs. After doing so for the last few years, I've learned a lot about what draws users to blogs in particular.

It's difficult to gain and keep blog followers. It's much easier to attract followers for short media (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook) because reading a short blurb is less of a commitment than an entire blog post. However, there are a number of ways to increase your blog's appeal and get people to come back for more.

First, the superficial fixes that make your blog look good and welcoming.

Make sure your blog is readable. Avoid busy backgrounds, text that is too bright or too light, text decorations, or funky fonts. They may seem quirky and fun, but they make your blog really difficult to read, and if people can't read, they won't bother following or coming back. Why would they?

Leave out all the extra bells and whistles. Appealing blogs have structure and look clean. Have you ever come across a blog that has 800 different widgets and awards and GIFs and doohickies in the sidebar? Don't do that. It's messy and distracts your readers from the important thing: your content. I know it's a lot of fun to post all the various cute blog awards you've won and widgets for all the groups you've joined over the years, but seriously, don't. It should be easy for visitors to find certain things in your sidebar, like your follow button, Twitter link, or contact info. Reserve the sidebar for the important stuff. If you absolutely must have those extras, put them beneath the important info.

Get rid of the automatic music player. We all love music. Believe me, I know. But not everyone likes YOUR music. There are few things more annoying than surfing to some blog on your lunch break at work and getting blasted with Ke$ha. Viewers will not approve. This is why I always post my "song of the day" as a link. If people would like to go listen, they can click and check it out. It's okay to have a music player on your blog if you really want it, but make sure you turn the auto-play off.

Simplify. Tying in to the "bells and whistles" point, it's best to keep your blog design simple and to the point. It should reflect your personality and your audience, but it should look clean and streamlined. Keep sidebar blurbs short. Make your links and contact information easy to find. Optimize images for the web so they don't take forever to load. Select an easy-to-read font in an easy-to-read color. Make sure things don't look too small or big or cramped or weird.

Now on to the other stuff.

Create consistent, interesting content. First, you need to find your niche. What is your blog about? Your writing journey? Book reviews? Advice? Humor? Make sure you know, and make sure your readers know. Readers come back when they have an idea of what they're going to get. Watch for which of your blog posts get the most hits and try to figure out why people are so interested in that topic.

Keep length consistent, as well. Most people don't want to read a giant wall of text. They want to spend a few minutes on your blog and then move on. Usually it's best to keep blog posts to 250-600 words. However, if you establish early and often that you tend to write a little longer, people will be aware of that. Just remain consistent.

Be sociable. I know I'm terrible at this when I get busy, but it's really important. Respond to people. Let them know you're listening and glad that they're reading. Visit their blogs when you can. Be a friend.

Keep a schedule. Whether that schedule is once a week, once a month, or every single day, make sure you keep up with it as best you can. People like knowing when to come back for more content. If you make them wait too long, they'll lost interest.

Share and link. If you have a blogger friend that you really like, link other people to their blog with a short explanation as to why you enjoy them. Ask people if they'd like to do guest spots. Link to articles, videos, and other content that you feel is relevant to your audience. Don't just talk about yourself all the time. Unless you are a super interesting person, it gets old pretty fast.

Have fun. It's really obvious when you come across a blogger who's blogging because they feel like they should, rather than actually enjoying it. If it's not fun for you, seriously, don't do it. There are better ways to spend your time. Blogging isn't for everyone, and that's okay.


{ Chantele Sedgwick } at: October 17, 2011 at 5:54 AM said...

Great advice! And I totally agree with the having fun thing. If you hate blogging, don't do it. We readers can tell if it's a chore to get a post up every day! ;)

{ Katy } at: October 17, 2011 at 6:33 AM said...

Smart advice! I'm totally on-board with every word of it... blogs that are simple, informative, brief, and graphic are so much more pleasant to visit. (Though, I'm probably guilty of a few too many widgets on mine!)

{ Mel Fowler } at: October 17, 2011 at 6:49 AM said...

I'm glad that you posted this. I've noticed that if I find a new blog and I can't read it or if it's too cluttered, then I don't usually want to follow them, unless they follow me. It's hard sometimes. I hope that everyone reads your post!

{ Matthew MacNish } at: October 17, 2011 at 7:39 AM said...

Great advice. I would only disagree on one point: consistent length. The length of my posts varies a lot, and it works fine for me.

Some topics deserve a longer discussion, and other can be brief.

Anyway, otherwise, you nailed it.

{ Steph Sinkhorn } at: October 17, 2011 at 7:42 AM said...

Yeah, there's room for some fudging in there, for sure ;) I think, really, as long as your consistent in your... inconsistency? It can also work, lol. As long as your readers know what they're getting with you, they're good.

{ Margo Lerwill } at: October 17, 2011 at 7:57 AM said...

Such great guidelines, but so hard to follow sometimes (for me, anyway). :)

{ TL Conway } at: October 17, 2011 at 9:31 AM said...

The timing here is uncanny. I was looking at my blog the other day, trying to make a list of things that can be improved to make it look more streamlined and easier to read.

Great tips--thank you for sharing.

{ KarenG } at: October 17, 2011 at 9:34 AM said...

Ha! We should have linked to each other's posts, because my recent one said pretty much this exact same thing! I love the look of your blog btw.

{ Emy Shin } at: October 17, 2011 at 4:50 PM said...

These are such great tips, Steph! I'm very much a minimalist when it comes to aesthetics -- and clean and simple blogs draw me in every time.

I've been terrible when it comes to blogging consistently, though, mainly because I haven't found my niche yet and hate to clog my blog with random posts. But I'll get there, hopefully.

{ Bobby Mathews } at: October 17, 2011 at 5:07 PM said...

I'm sending you an internet high-five, specifically because we share the same ideas about those friggin' automatic music players. i HATE those things.

{ Mindy McGinnis } at: October 17, 2011 at 6:16 PM said...

Yep. Agreed. I have a hard time reading blogs where it's very clear the blogger is just not into blogging. Gotta love it to do it.

{ Carol Riggs } at: October 17, 2011 at 8:17 PM said...

This is a great list!! I HATE auto-music players on blogs. For some reason they are also set to REALLY LOUD and I jump three feet in the air when they engage. Yikes. And blogs with 3 columns can quickly look overly busy. I like your word count suggestion too--I do NOT read overly long blogs. Who has time for that??

{ fairyhedgehog } at: October 20, 2011 at 11:37 PM said...

Great advice.

When I look at my most popular posts as judged by the number of comments, the one that comes up top is "Naked Women Reading". Oops! But the second one is "Things my grandmother used to say" followed by "Hedgehog Time". Maybe my followers expect me to be eclectic.

{ Affie - the kitteh of the opera } at: October 24, 2011 at 2:26 AM said...

Awesome post!

I'm also not a fan of automatic music players, a dozen widgets taking ages to load and 'text walls'.
As for me,I think I've finally found my niche and guess what that is? :D *cough* YA, Writing *cough*

I love your blog by the way!

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