I read a lot of blogs. From business to inspirational to news, hobbies and fun. So I’ve had a chance to ponder the head-scratchers that make me wonder if people actually pay attention to their blogs or if they’ve just thrown them out there because someone said “blog”- so they did.
But I’m busy, too, and I know sometimes small things can be overlooked or assumed as we rush off to attend our Pinterest boards or Facebook pages and answer some of those 542 emails in our inbox. So I made a list of things that I see (or don’t as the case may be) that can make the difference between “just another blog” and a really good blog.
The good news is that most of these things are small and if you spend a few minutes right now you can spruce yours up so it’s a traffic driver, lead generator, comment getter and all around enjoyable place to hang out and read.
Fix It #1: Author’s Bio
I’m truly perplexed by blogs that have no author attribution in the byline of the post and no author’s bio at the bottom.
Presumably your blog didn’t write itself (though if you’ve learned that trick, I want to hear about it!) So who are you?
When I read a post I want to know something about the person behind it. You know that whole “social” thing going on these days? Putting a face on your business and all that?
Even if you’re the sole author and it seems repetitive to put your name at the top and bottom of each post, include it anyway. I promise that your regular readers won’t shake their head in despair at your narcissism and first-time visitors will benefit from getting to know you and putting a person to your post.
Imagine starting a novel with no idea who the author is, or reading a business book with no reference to the qualifications or point of view of the author. If your blog is part of your business, make it legitimate by claiming it as your own and putting it in context for your readers so they know who you are and why they should listen to you.
Do this: tell people about your professional experience and qualifications then add a touch of personality by sharing a simple personal fact, like your affinity for chocolate covered bananas or your achievement as the highest scoring Tetris player on the east coast. Try not to make your bio a place to tout your business or company. Talk more about your role and your experience instead. And don’t bypass the fun stuff. You’re not a corporate drone.
PS: Don’t assume that because there’s an “About Me” page on your site that people will figure it out. If you’ve got a longer bio, then link to it from the snippet at the bottom of each post.
Fix It #2: Your Photo
As nice as a bio is, it doesn’t give the whole picture the way, well, a picture does. The missing author photo is almost as perplexing as the missing author bio.
There’s just no way you can hang onto that whole camera-shy thing anymore. Get a haircut, put on a nice shirt and smile. There’s always Photoshop if you really really really want to get rid of that one wrinkle.
It’s hard to be social with a noun. People want to see a face on your blog and connect with you, the person.
Not your cat. Not the super stylized cartoon version of you. You.
And I have more news for you: in spite of “big media’s” insistence on Photpshopping everyone to death, real people know that real people aren’t model-thin, perfectly coifed and perpetually young. Be the wrinkly, warty, bald person you are because that’s the one who’s inspiring.
Do this: take a natural, smiling photo of yourself. It doesn’t need to be a formal portrait and you don’t need to wear a tie or your best hat. Please resist cropping yourself out and pasting your silhouette onto your site. Unless there’s a naked drunk man in the background, the context of your photo will add personality and look better than the Photoshop halo or the perfectly elliptically-cropped shape of your head.
Fix It #3: Social Icons
If I find a great blog, I want more. “More” comes in the form of following on Twitter or Facebook, checking out your LinkedIn profile or G+ page and generally stalking you wherever you are.
And I mean that in the best way.
So give me a way to find you! Blogs with no social icons drive me nuts. Sometimes I’m motivated and I’ll Google you – it’s not like your social profiles can’t be found, so don’t give me any nonsense about privacy. Other times I roll my eyes and forget about it. And you’ve just lost an opportunity!
I understand the argument for keeping people on your blog instead of sending them off to another social account but there’s a difference between a half-page distraction asking people to visit your Facebook page and a small Facebook icon so people like me can find you when we want to.
Do this: add small social icons in the header, sidebar or footer of your site. Include everything – remember, not everyone uses or likes every social channel. G+ geeks may never visit you on Facebook but would talk to you all day on Google if you give them the chance.
Fix It #4: Share Buttons
You can’t read three headlines without finding one that tells you how to get more shares/comments on your blog. Personally, I’ve never met a blogger who doesn’t want or doesn’t care about getting people to share their posts.
So why wouldn’t you have a single tweet, like or plus button anywhere on your site?
Bloggers share content that will be enjoyable or helpful to their audience. Don’t you want to be in their queue?
Do this: install a plugin that gives people options to share on multiple social channels. “Tweet this” is great but if it’s your only option, you’re going to lose the 90% of the population that doesn’t use Twitter. On the other hand, don’t give too many options. You’ve seen those share bars that are about a mile long and you’ve barely heard of some of the things in it. Give some options, but not too many.
PS: Pay attention to where you place your buttons so they’re always accessible. The floating share buttons on the side of this blog are not accessible on mobile, so we’ve added a few at the bottom of each post, too. Nobody has ever written us hate mail about the repetition.
Fix It #5: RSS Feed
Here’s a fact: I will probably never subscribe to your email list. It’s not because I don’t like you. Actually, it’s because I do like you, and I know that if I get your email in my inbox, as much as I really want to read your post, I’m going to “save it for later”, get busy, and eventually delete it.
I get a whole lot of email so I’m super selective about which blogs I’ll sign up for. But here’s what I will do, without a second thought: subscribe to your RSS feed.
I subscribe to tons of blog feeds and read them every single day. It’s a double-edged sword, I know. You want the subscribers because you want to build a list so you can market. If that’s you, consider having a separate list just for marketing. I don’t mind getting a marketing email every few weeks, but a new email every day from your blog is a bit more than my brain can manage.
Do this: make it easy for people to follow your blog by setting up an RSS feed. You can build your own XML feed or use a simple service like Feedburner. Either way, give people that little orange icon that makes it easy for them to get and read your content. After all, isn’t that the point?
Fix It #6: Headings
Blog posts need headings. I don’t care how short your posts are, you need at least one heading. Worst case scenario, write an introduction and then use a heading to separate your main content.
Headings will make your content easily scannable and digestible. I admit, sometimes I don’t read long posts, but I always scan the headings for the part that most interests me. Sometimes I do read long posts, but I still scan headings to help me get oriented before I dig in.
But most importantly, use headings to identify segments of your post. Another thing that drives me nuts is when posts promise “6 ways to be awesome” and there isn’t a single heading or number in the entire post. The six things are just floating somewhere in endless blocks of text. When you started reading this post, I bet you expected nine headings! If there weren’t any, you’d probably be confused and may not have read this at all.
Do this: if you don’t currently use headings, start. And if you do, consider how helpful they are. Think of them as individual titles for your post sections and make them as interesting and meaningful as your post title. Give them a unique style so it’s obvious that they’re headings but don’t make them so big that they scream at me. And check your H1 and H2 settings… there should be a clear hierarchy and they should display properly when your headings break onto two lines.
Fix It #7: Underlining
I hate underlined text. Super hate it. Do you know why? Because in internet speak, underlining is a convention that indicates a link. If your post is full of text with underlines AND you have links with underlines I’m sending you the next bill from my therapist.
There’s another benefit to losing the underlines, which is that people won’t assume your underlines are underlines and miss your links. We’re past the days when underlining gave keywords superpowers in search engines. No matter how many times you underline that word, Google won’t care. But your visitors will.
Do this: if you want text to stand out, use other formatting options that won’t confuse the heck out of people. Try italics, bold, a bigger font size or different color. In fact, you don’t even need underlines on your links. A special link color or hover state is enough to clue your readers in. But if you make your links red, then don’t use red to designate non-link text. Links are special! Treat them that way.
Fix It #8: Errors
Typos happen. I’m fortunate enough that I have an avid reader in my dad who emails me two-point-five seconds after my post goes live to point out any typos. No matter how many times we proofread, sometimes our brains just hiccup and typos slip through. I’d like to say I have the luxury (and time!) to hire a proofreader but that’s not the reality for most bloggers.
However, there’s a difference between a typo and a complete lack of proofreading.
Sometimes I read blogs and wonder if the author even scanned their content or just banged it out two-fingered and hit “publish”.
Here’s a fact you may not want to hear: you may be able to build a small and loyal community of other two-fingered bloggers but you will never be taken seriously in your business or industry if your blog posts are filled with misspellings and outrageous grammar.
I don’t know about you, but if I visit a blog for the first time and the first post I read is full of typos, I don’t care how great the content is, I’m not going to read it. It’s just too distracting.
Do this: write your post at least one day in advance so that you can write it, put it down and then come back and give it a thorough proofreading. Sometimes when you know what you want to say, you can easily miss mistakes because your brain automatically fills in the blanks. Give yourself enough space so you can read it fresh with new eyes. Whatever you do, proofread at least once before you hit the publish button.
Fix It #9: Categories
Sometimes when I visit a blog, the first post on the page isn’t particularly relevant or interesting. But the topic is good, maybe I like the author’s style and I’m interested enough to read more. The first thing I do is look in the sidebar for tags, categories or more topics.
And I’m stunned when there isn’t a single one of those to be found. Your blog content doesn’t expire the moment you publish a new post. In fact, if you’re smart and serious about blogging, you’ll repurpose your content for days and years to come.
A blog is no different than a website in that it needs navigation to help people get around. That navigation comes in the form of categories. You don’t need a hundred of them but you need something. Unless you want to hide what you’ve written and guarantee yourself a 100% bounce rate, give readers as many ways as possible to access all of your content.
Do this: if you don’t currently have categories think about the themes that you write about and the most relevant groupings for your content. Even if you do use categories, reconsider how helpful they are to people. Clever category names are not as useful as their plain-Jane counterparts. Don’t assume people will just use your search bar. What will they search for? Turn those into category names.
PS: Some people use tag clouds. Unless you’re selective about tagging, these can get very messy and your “smaller” tags can be easily overlooked. Plus there’s been talk about leaking link juice through tags, so stick with a handful of good categories instead.
What do you think? Is there anything you can do to improve your blog right now? Any other blog mishaps that I’ve missed? Anything about this bog that drives you nuts? Let me know in the comments!
Join the discussion 34 Comments
Hi Carol Lynn,
Excellent tips here!
I must admit – I recently took off my author box because of a recent site redesign – I haven’t put it back (yet!)
Another thing that I am seeing a lot of is not responding to your own comments. I hate seeing a long string of blog comments and no author interaction – actually makes me sad because of all the missed opportunity just sitting there.
Thanks for the great tips!
Thanks Christine! And put that author bio back 🙂
I agree 100% on the comments. Makes you wonder why you should bother commenting at all if nobody is going to talk to you. I actually considered throwing that one in because it’s so important but then I thought that was more of a before-during-and-after lunch thing.
Thanks for your thoughts!
Nice list, Carol… and all are very important for attracting others using your blog. One thing I’ve noticed on some blogs recently that boggles my mind is that they seem to be making the Share buttons hard to find. Why? That would seem to be one thing you’d definitely want in front of your reader’s eyeballs!
I see the same thing. Weird! Sometimes I have to really look for those things and it makes you wonder what they’re thinking. Everyone wants their blog shared, right??
Great list! Thanks for posting. One thing i have been trying to get more and more of my clients to add to their author profiles is their rel-author tag and Google+ page. We’ve already seen good results from it!
Oh, that’s a great one! Thanks for adding to the list. You’re so right, especially now that Google is really pushing its products. It definitely pays!
Hmmm… I love this, Carol Lynn 🙂
I mean, I do all these already, so I have nothing major to implement
here, but I love it because it improves and beautifies the net.
Thank you, miss 😀
I know you’re a pro at blogging so I’m not worried about you! Maybe this will help push a few people in that direction. believe me I’ve seen some bad blogs. Not bad content, but who would stick around to read it?
Oops, I just got my hand slapped because there are two things on here that I do not do.
Since you visit my blog regularly you already know what those are. I don’t have an author box and I don’t have a list of categories. Let me tell you why.
I have Thesis and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to create an author box. Oh sure, I can so to Setting and use that Bio box there but it’s ugly and it shows up on my home page and it looks tacky. The plug-ins that have been suggested to me are also horrible and don’t allow me everything I want to include so I just don’t do it.
As for the categories, I prefer the Archive page myself. Sure, they probably should be grouped in categories but since I have so many, I think that on the sidebar is just an eye sore.
Everything else I have in place so I guess I’m good to go for he most part. Right? Do you still love me?
Haha, I will always love you Adrienne! That’s weird about the author box… you can’t add it under “users” under your account? I thought the bio box was a WordPress standard thing.
These were just a few things that make me crazy sometimes. In fact I was recently at one blog and I read a post and it was good so I wanted to read more, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to find another one! No categories, no archives, nothing at all. The only thing I could find was an arrow at the bottom of the page to go to the next/previous post. That’s nuts.
I’m sure there are more things! But i didn’t want anyone’s eyes to bleed after reading it 🙂
Guilty! I need an author box too! And Carol when you mention that you wanted to read “More” that is one of my pet peeves too! Sometimes it takes too long to figure it out…frustrating. As for Pictures, as long as you have a smile on your face I think you are ok!
I like pictures! I don’t even mind pictures that aren’t great as long as they exist. The worst is when people won’t put a photo anywhere. What are they hiding from??
Wow, Carol, As I started to read the first few lines of your post I got nervous. why? because I can confirm that your are a heck of a blog reader and read different types of blogs. Why? Well, because you are most definitely one of my most loyal readers and you have been in all my 3 blogs and still are regularly. So, bottom line, yes, I got nervous because for a minute or two I felt that you wrote this post for me as you’ve noticed all I do wrong. Fortunately as I kept reading I think I did OK. I do the occasional couple of words underlining, but I am aware of the fact that underlining online means link, so I keep it to a minimum. I do think that I have to review my bottom bios. Gosh, you know how to make people look at themselves, dear. Thanks for this post, Carol.
Hm, I think I see some sneaky subconscious stuff at work there, Sylviane. Now why would I be talking about you! The funny thing is a lot of these come from the same blog that I visited and I was so baffled by the complete lack of blog-ness that I had to write this. We all miss things, so it’s good to have a little reminder but no worries about doing everything wrong! In fact as I was writing this I thought wow, I really need to work on my bio! Sometimes I have to take my own advice. Ok, you can take a deep breath now – it wasn’t you!
Hi again Carol,
As a matter of fact I really need to work on my bio. Until I read your post I didn’t think it was really important, but I see it now. Thanks for the great advice, Carol 🙂
Hi Carol Lynn,
I need to do a lot (before lunch). I never seem to look back and fix things that I should be fixing in order to improve my blog. I am always just looking ahead, but sometimes it’s better to look back and see what I’ve got in order to improve (not just add new content).
My biggest challenge is the authors bio (and my about me page). I have been thinking of re-writing it for a long time, and it always seems to be the last thing I do (that means that I never get time to do it).
Thanks a lot for reminding me. I’m adding it to my list of things to do 🙂
Well I’m glad to inspire you! It’s hard to write that bio! It’s easier to keep writing blog posts than figure out what we want to say about ourselves in a few sentences. But it’s worth it. I love reading about what people do, where they’re coming from and get to know them.
Carol Lynn, My boss and I just had this conversation yesterday as we took a look at a few of our clients’ blog sites. Simple steps like you mentioned (categorizing, heading, share buttons) are EASY to do, and yet so valuable.
The other piece that I think individuals overlook is their personal brand, and the need for consistency within their branding. If you want to establish yourself as an expert, as a go-to individual within your field of knowledge, this is crucial! We encourage our clients to be real, be themselves, but also remember the message they want to convey.
Kristin, you’re so right, and the problem is that many people aren’t comfortable writing so they put things together that sound like what they **think** it should sound like rather than something that is an extension of themselves and their brand.
I think for a lot of people we get stuck in 8th grade English mentality and we want everything to sounds precise and formal so nobody red-inks it. The more people practice the better they get. Thanks for adding to the list, I might have to write a whole new blog post and call it “PS: here are the other 9 things you should do…”
Great info Carol Lynn. I’m including your article in my weekly round up of articles I want my customers to read.
I’m new to blogging (just since March) so I’m always happy to find new resources of information like your blog. I think I’m doing ok, but there’s always room for improvement.
I love the Tweet This button you use. Is that just a plug in you put on your site?
YES!! #3 regarding the social icons is a biggie for me. If I want to connect further, a lot of blogs still don’t have at least Facebook or Twitter icons and it’s frustrating because if I really want to connect, I have to go to FB/Twitter and search for them manually…and a lot of people won’t do that.
Here’s my other peeve: when people have Twitter buttons setup to share but don’t have their username as attribution…when I share your content, I’d like my followers to know who it came from because they may want to connect with the author too. If the content is real useful and I still want to share, I have to do what I mentioned above – find them manually and then RT….PAIN!!
Luckily yours did include your username so I could share this post easily and I thank you! 🙂
Your other pet peeve is also a big one for me. I always like to attribute the posts I’m sharing (I know that when people share mine, it’s nice to see my name in there!) And if they don’t have their name in the tweet… oh, and don’t bother to make it obvious how to find them on Twitter…. ugh! Sometimes I don’t bother sharing.
To be honest my name wasn’t always in there… I debated it back and forth because sometimes there are other writers here and then my name goes out with the post. Unfortunately there’s no way around it but in the end I decided better a name than none.
Super post Carol and I’m so with you on the typos! . On the other hand if the content is truly great, then i will be back and will add to Google Reader – I must have a chat with you about your author box and what you use to do that as I tried to do this a while ago and could not find anything that suited.
Thanks for a truly informative post,
I’m a big Google Reader fan. I subscribe to everything. It’s a great way to keep up with blogs without having to remember to go back – and cluttering up your inbox with a million subscriptions.
If you use WordPress, you should have an author bio box under your user account. Go to your account under “users” and look for the bio box. And also look for the checkbox that says “enable author box on user’s posts”. The photo is pulled from our Gravatars and that happens automatically though to be honest I’m not sure if that’s WordPress or the theme doing it, but check it out!
Thanks Lisa, I appreciate that! Glad you found some useful stuff here. Even after a couple of years blogging there are still things to improve – I find them every day!
The tweet button is a plugin called Tweetherder. It’s nice because you can actually make the text that shows up in your tweet be different than the text you highlight (in case you need to shorten anything).
Such great advice, Carol! One thing that really helps me to find errors is to preview what the post is going to look like when it’s published. For some reason I see more errors that way than when reading it in the dashboard.
I need to update my author bio box. It’s pretty decent when I guest post but I haven’t given a bio on my own blog.
I like the preview, too. It’s definitely easier to see it in context, plus you get a sense of the real layout, not the squished-in-a-box layout.
Now get to work on that bio!
these are great tips and I am guilty of some of these sins too, to be honest. What amazes me most on some people’s blogs is the complete absence of interaction and social media buttons. A blog is not an island, is it ?
Yeah, and if someone uses underlining, they haven’t understood yet what a link is.
Thanks for sharing your insights.
That’s the one that I never understand either. It seems like a pretty big oversight to forget your social buttons! I don’t know about them but I want my blog shared everywhere 🙂
Hey Carol Lynn,
I love these tips! You have a real knack for summing up & simplifying things that I think people avoid for fear of it being too complicated or difficult! I love your organizational skills and how you are able to help us get better organized by simply following along with your amazing and thorough lists!
On that note, I also wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award too! So congrats!! You absolutely deserve the nomination!
I have named you over at my blog, so make sure you go check it out and go on with your “bad” self! 😉
Hope your week’s off to a BANGING start!
For the what and who?!?!? Wow, I’m kind of blushing right now 🙂 I will totally check it out and thank you for the honor, that’s quite exciting!
Wow… Wow… Wow… Love ’em dear. Nice tips actually how we can improve our blogs. First things would be convenience, right? I like how you implied solution for each matter.
Anyway I’ve got a question ma’am 😉 You know, I’m always buggy, nah? I’m thinking about Author’s bio and linking to About page via sidebar. Do you think, that would be better alternative rather than displaying it under the post each time? 🙂
Further I’d like to add few things, if you don’t mind 😉 Do you?
+ Navigation is what I’m always aware of at blogs. It doesn’t matter how simple it is but ability to navigate easily matters for me. So I think it can be included here too.
+ What about a way to get feedback from users? Sometimes it may help out for bloggers to hear from their readers how well their site is doing 🙂
Great write up Carol 🙂
Have a successful week…
Hi Mayura, thanks for your ideas! It is important to have good navigation, otherwise your readers won’t know how to find more information. It’s also a great idea to get feedback. Comments are one way, but you can also have a contact form so people can get in touch with you personally. The more ways you can connect with people, the more likely they will be to become loyal readers when they get to know you as a person.
As for your question, I think a bio in the sidebar with a link to the About page is also a good idea. It will still be in a place that’s easy for people to read and find. When I go to a blog, I like to know something about the person writing. I like to get to know them a little. So as long as I can see that information quickly and easily, that’s ok! The sidebar is a good place. One of the nice things about the bio at the bottom is that if you have other people write (like guest posts) then you can put their bio under their post, too.
Thanks for your thoughts and you have a SUPER successful week!
Yey… That’s what I’m exactly thinking dear 🙂 I’ve had first guest post on my blog so I was confused about showing bio for ’em with mine. You know, I don’t wanna show both bios.
Thanks for your thoughts on that dear 😉 I’m on it.