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January 19th, 2011
8 min read
I just recently finished recording about 20 video blog evaluations for people (a bonus offer I had put out there that I was following through on). All in all, it took me probably close to 5 hours to record all of these videos. And, after doing so, I noticed something.
I’m seeing a LOT of the same mistakes being made over and over again.
This isn’t to say that there is only a single way to do things. Surely, there are probably people who would look at this very blog and disagree with some things (and that’s fine). But, my experience in this business speaks for something. Simply put, if you want to build traffic, keep traffic, and make money with a blog – there are certain things you want to not do.
So, after all of these reviews, I want to lay out what I believe are the most common mistakes – in no particular order.
#1 – Using Feedburner For Your “Email List”
I’m amazed how often I see Feedburner being used. Most of you probably know that I’m a big fan of Aweber. However, if you think that I recommend them simply for the affiliate commissions, think again.
Feedburner is not an email list service – they are an RSS feed service. They happen to allow people to subscribe to a feed via email, but this is not the same as a real email list. You cannot send anything to a Feedburner list which you don’t post on your blog. In fact, you can’t do ANYTHING with those email addresses other than send automatic digests of your posts. You can’t write custom emails, set up an autoresponder sequence, set up multiple lists, get any real stats – nothing.
No doubt, the reason so many bloggers use Feedburner is because they like the price tag – free. But, you get what you pay for, and it’ll be hard to build a real business based on freebie tools with essentially no capability. Aweber offers a $1 trial, and for what they provide, their fees are very reasonable. If you find it a huge budget buster, however, consider Mailchimp. They’re not as good as Aweber, in my opinion, and they don’t understand marketers like Aweber does, but you can get a free account for up to 1,000 subscribers and 6,000 emails per month. For a small list, Mailchimp blows the socks off of Feedburner.
You can export your Feedburner list and take it somewhere else. I recommend it.
#2 – Offering No Compelling Reason To Opt-In
I get a lot of people asking me how they can increase their opt-in rate, and too often I find that they’re offering no reason to opt in. In other words, I see calls to action like “Free tips”, “Get my newsletter”, “Get the latest updates” – blah blah blah. Often this is combined with boring opt-in forms with default submit buttons and no color whatsoever.
Of course, if you’re using Feedburner (shame on you), you have no choice in the matter because you can’t DO anything with it. But, if you want to build a real list, then give them a compelling reason to opt in. An ebook, with a cover image, and some text designed to make me WANT that e-book. THEN, maybe I’ll opt in. But, will I opt in for “free tips” or updates? Not in a million years.
I can only venture to think that most bloggers don’t do this because they think it is too hard to make an e-book. Yet, often, these same bloggers have blog posts coming out of their ears. If you’re in that boat, then get your priorities inline. Stop wrtiting so many blog posts and put that energy into an ebook. It is literally as simple as writing a Word doc and printing to PDF. It really isn’t that big a deal.
#3 – Packing WAY Too Much Crap On Screen
Tag clouds? Waste of space and hardly anybody actually uses them to navigate your blog.
Category lists? Few use them to navigate your blog. If the list is long, don’t display it. Just list categories under your blog post titles and NOT in your sidebar.
Archive dropdowns? People aren’t going to navigate your blog using a big, honker dropdown full of a bunch of months. Remove that ugly thing.
4 Billion banner ads? Seriously, if you’re going to run ads, try to keep the number of them reasonable. A large number of ads doesn’t increase your monetization.
Bloggers end up using their sidebars as the big catch-all. Don’t know where to put it? Throw it in the sidebar! It is like the blog’s nasty, cluttered garage and I see a lot of blogs need a spring cleaning.
#4 – Using Dark Background Colors
Simply put – the best way to display your content is black text on white background.
I’ve seen many blogs using white on black. One used black on purple. Another used black on blue. Just horrible color combinations for readability.
Not much more to say on this one. Just change your colors.
#5 – Showing Full Posts On The Homepage
I don’t believe it is smart to show full posts on your blog’s homepage. For one, it gives no reason for them to click on anything – and that’s what you WANT them to do. Secondly, it contributes to a high degree of clutter because all these plug-ins people use on their posts (like social sharing links) end up getting repeated OVER AND OVER AGAIN on the homepage.
Use excerpts rather than full posts. Give them a reason to click to read the rest of the post.
Now, when I say this, a lot of people might end up using the default excerpts that WordPress makes. That’s ugly and it often cuts off right in the middle of the sentence. But, in your post editing interface in WordPress, you have an excerpt field (right below the post body). Whatever you put in there will override the default excerpt. So, do it manually! Control your excerpt and word it in such a way that it is compelling and gets people to WANT to see the whole post.
#6 – Not Realizing What Your Goals Are And Designing Accordingly
Most blogs are designed by schizophrenics, or so it would seem. They’re simply not designed with any kind of a purpose in mind.
If you want people to opt into your list, then that’s your goal. You want to offer a compelling reason to opt-in (see above), then place that form into noticeable spots (below your posts, at the top of your sidebar). Yet, I see people who stuff their opt-ins into their sidebar, usually underneath their social media links and RSS feed links – and nowhere else.
If you have your opt-in in other places on your blog, you can get away with maybe having your opt-in form as the second thing on your sidebar. But, for most people, your social links and RSS feed are NOT high priority. So, why are they at the top of your sidebar?
Another example I’ve seen is people using their blog as a business site, yet burying their contact information on a contact page stuffed into the top menu. Again, if you’re a business site, your primary purpose is to GET LEADS. Your site should be designed to make that happen like greased lightning. Your phone number should be on EVERY page of your blog – big and noticeable. If you’re using an email list as a lead generator (and you should be), then your opt-in should be huge and obvious.
Figure out what you want people to do on your site, then design the blog so as to make their attention FLOW INTO THOSE THINGS.
#7 – Being Self-Focused And Not Audience-Focused
I evaluated many blogs which were not clear at all what they were about. There was no hook, and clearly no benefit. I, as a reader, had no idea what I would gain by reading that blog.
I think this is a result of the blogger being too focused on themselves, getting tunnel vision about their own blog, and assuming that the rest of the world sees it as you do.
This leads to things like using vague terms to describe something and it just doesn’t communicate. I also see some using tounge-in-cheek phrases as an attempt to be clever, but only they get it (nobody else does). When you, as the blogger, are writing those words, you are internally attaching certain emotions and motivations to those words, not realizing that your reader often does not share those same emotions or motivations. So, vague wording doesn’t do the trick.
Another thing I’ve seen is people using big, fancy words to try to sound sophisticated, but only succeeding in losing the reader in the process. People run away from words they don’t understand (just like you would put a book down if it used a lot of big words). You get high bounce rates that way.
Most bloggers start a blog with a desire to help people. In order to help them, you have to understand where they’re at emotionally and how they understand things. With that knowledge, you can tailor your communication so that it is UNDERSTOOD. Then, traffic goes up and your bounce rate goes down.
You get that knowledge by constant interaction and survey. If your audience isn’t yet big enough to do that internally, then go out on other sites where your target market hangs out and do it there.
A Wrap Up…
I’m going to be releasing all these blog evaluation videos over the coming days on my Youtube Channel. I’ll probably also have those videos here on my blog, too. In some of them, I had to give a little “tough love”. I want to help bloggers succeed and sometimes what I have to say might not be nice. It has to be that way if I’m going to really help. We all sometimes need that outside perspective.
What do you think of these 7 mistakes? Are you making them? Do you have any to add?