The truth is, most people’s blogs leak worse than the Deepwater Horizon leak in the Gulf. You’re not leaking oil (obviously), but what you’re leaking is attention units.
The biggest commodity online today is ATTENTION. So, if we break it down into a measurable pseudo-quantity we’ll just call “attention units”, we can then look at our blogs from that perspective.
Our blogs are supposed to be magnets for attention units. And once attention units are being flowed at the blog, the blog should funnel them efficiently. Not bounce them off or waste them. If you’re leaking attention units, it is a waste.
So, our goal is to attract as many attention units as we can, and KEEP them once we’ve got them. In this post, I’m going to look specifically at the leak points and how to plug them. We’re going to “top kill” the hell out of those leaks, and we’re going to put BP to shame in the process (which wouldn’t be very hard, given the circumstances).
The Bounce Rate
One of the major blog leak points takes place before you even have much of a chance. A new visitor comes to your blog, says “meh”, and immediately leaves. In other words, they “bounce”.
The percentage of overall traffic that bounces is what is called your bounce rate. The game is to reduce that bounce rate. It is quite typical to see bounce rates over 50% with blogs, and this isn’t anything to be concerned about. However, if you start getting into the 70+% range, you might want to look into it.
The main thing to keep in mind with bounce rate is that it is natural. The reality is that not everybody who arrives on your blog fits your target audience. If that is the case, you WANT them to leave. However, if they do fit your target audience profile, you want them to quickly see that the blog offers something of value.
So, how can we minimize this leak?
- Have a clear byline in your blog’s header. It isn’t enough just to have a logo. You need to have a brandable phrase which clearly tells what the blog is about. Avoid being “tongue in cheek” with your byline at the expense of it not being clear to new arrivals. Just because it makes sense to you doesn’t mean it makes sense to others. The byline of this blog is “Confessions of a Six Figure Blogger”, which clearly shows that this blog is about blogging for money.
- Simplify the homepage. When you give new arrivals too many options, they’ll often just leave. It might seem counter-intuitive. A newbie might think that lots of stuff means “busy site so it must be cool”. Well, no. You need to practice the motto, “Don’t make me think.” 🙂 Most blogs have too much on the homepage (including my own, in fact). Try reducing the clutter, and instead drawing the eyeballs into a primary target (such as a list opt-in). Hint: I have some design adjustments to this blog in mind which will execute this strategy. 😉
- Show related posts on single post pages. Many people will arrive on your blog on one of your posts, not your homepage. So, the goal here is to get them to do something else once they’ve read your article. Related posts are a great way to do it. Place them at the end of your post to give them a place to go once they’ve finished reading. There are a number of plug-ins out there for this, however the one I’m using is Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.
- Make your About page interesting and easy to find. My own stats and testing constantly show that the About page is one of the more popular pages on the blog for new arrivals. It is valuable real estate. So, make sure it is visible and easy to find. Secondly, make your about page interesting. In other words, don’t just make it some factual piece of boredom like a resume or an encyclopedia entry. Make it HUMAN. Tell a story. Treat it like a sales letter – for you.
- Make your text scannable. Readers are lazy. If they see a big, justified blog of text, they will just leave. Instead, structure your posts to use a lot of small paragraphs, bullet points, headers, etc. They should be able to quickly scan a post and get the point.
- Use professional images in your posts. Large, professional images really help with the professionalism of the blog. And that makes people stick around. I suggest getting an account with Istockphoto, buying some credits, and using it. You don’t need to go crazy with it, but if you are posting a nice feature post to your blog, it is worth the couple bucks for a nice image for it.
Once you have people on your blog, reading your posts, there are still points of leakage and wasted opportunities. Let’s fix ‘em.
- Optimize your money posts. Most blogs have certain posts which, for one reason or the other, excel in terms of traffic and end up being major, long-term traffic magnets. I call these “money posts”. If you have money posts on your blog, you should strongly consider treating them differently than your other posts. They’re like homepages in and of themselves! Check out this post on how to leverage your money posts.
- Subscribe options on your About Page. I just looked and I’m not even doing this! (Shame on me). The About page, as I said above, is high-traffic real estate. If done right, it serves as a sort of sales letter for you and your blog. So, right there on the about page, give people options to get onto your mailing list, RSS feed, etc. Just makes sense, right? 🙂
- Promote your OWN products. I understand that, for many bloggers, the idea of having your own stuff to sell seems like a daunting task. But, let’s look at it from a leakage standpoint… When you have ads on your site, each one is an invitation for your reader to LEAVE your site. Hello?! At least when you promote your own stuff, you’re keeping them within your empire.
- Relevant offers during the subscription process. When somebody opts into your mailing list, you can think of that as a sale even though no money is changing hands. They’ve just decided you’re worth their time. So, present relevant additional options to them. On the page where you tell them to confirm their email, tell them “while they’re waiting” they can follow you on Twitter, fan you up on Facebook, etc. On the page they see after they’ve confirmed their email, present additional relevant offers. Display your ebook(s), your products, etc. This is a PRIME time to get your reader to do things because they’re very receptive at that point.
- Relevant calls to action on posts. You should always give people something to do after reading a post. It could be reading another post, getting onto your list, or even buying a relevant affiliate product. And if you can keep it relevant, all the better. For instance, if I have a blog post about building an email list, a call to action to refer them to Aweber makes a lot of sense. Or if you have multiple e-books, give them an opt-in for the most relevant e-book to the post they just read.
- Collecting email addresses on comments. People are using their email address when they post a comment on your blog. Why not give them a one-click option to get onto your list? This is a perfect opportunity to do it because, by commenting, they’ve proven they’re an engaged reader. My recommendation for this is Action Comments, however it only works if you’re using the built-in comment system. Unfortunately for me, I’m using Disqus.
The Key Is… Step Into Your Reader’s Shoes
Underlying all of these “top kill” techniques above for your blog is the simple necessity of thinking like your reader.
As bloggers, it is far too easy to have tunnel vision with your own blog. After all, it is your pride and joy. You think it is good, but for some reason it may not be resonating with your audience. And that can be reflected in your bounce rate.
You need to get really good at looking at your site from an outside perspective. Where are your readers coming from? What mindset are they in when they arrive? What are they looking for? How do they interact with your blog?
You’ve got some tools to employ to help you figure this stuff out:
- Surveys. Use them. Find out what your users need and want, and as much as possible, have them tell you this in their own words. I recommend SurveyMonkey or Google Spreadsheets.
- Analytics. You absolutely HAVE to use a robust statistics package on your blog. To not do this just leaves everything to guesswork. My personal recommendations are Google Analytics and GetClicky.
- Click Testing. I recommend using a tool like Crazyegg to run some click tracking tests. This will determine where their attention goes. You might also want to check out Attention Wizard, which can do visual attention prediction. With UserTesting.com, you can get real, live people to interact with your site and give you feedback.
You owe it to yourself to take the time to really fine tune your blog and plug the leaks. To do that takes data, and the tools above will help you get that information.
With that, happy leak plugging! Let’s hope you have better success than BP. (ugghhh)