Top 12 Ways to Repel Your Readers
I'm not only an avid blog reader, I'm also a pretty prolific commenter (not quite in the league with A, but who is?). Let me share with you some of my pet peeves, the annoyances that mar an otherwise brilliant space. Here's a check list, in no particular order, so that you can visit your own blog as a visitor and evaluate yourself.
❏ 1. You put your comment link only at the top of your post.
But I finish reading at the bottom. It's when I finish reading what you say that I want to open up a box for what I have to say. Don't make me scroll back up to find and click on "Comment."
❏ 2. You have no subscribe button.
So I like you and I want to keep reading you, but you don't give me a way to do so. Add a Subscribe button.
For Blogger, Layout ==> Add a Gadget ==> Subscription Links. For Wordpress, search for “how to add subscribe button on wordpress [your blog's theme].”
You might even offer more than one way to subscribe. On WordPress.org you can add a plugin like Share and Follow to add another subscribe option along the side of the screen (customizable). Or make your own subscribe button (and add in other ways to follow you, too).
❏ 3. You have captcha on.
Captcha, also known as word verfication, is the bane of a commenter's existence. Do you have it on? Do you know that you don't have it on? When was the last time you left yourself a comment? Go on, do it now.
Captcha is a tool that addresses a spam problem, though some use it thinking it prevents mean comments and trolls (it doesn't -- if your problem is mean comments or trolls, turn on comment moderation rather than captcha.). When you have on captcha or word verification, you are telling your wannabe commenters that you place more value on your time in sorting through spam more than you do your readers' time in leaving you comments. Which is fine if you actually do, but then you don't get to complain for not having enough comments.
Instead, try Akisment (WordPress) or a simple word captcha or read this post. Subjecting your readers to Blogger's twisty-word and blurry image captcha is an especially egregious sin, according to many readers.
Good captcha (on LifeNut).
You can make some trade-offs with various Blogger settings. You can control who can comment (disallowing anonymous comments), and you can stipulate in which circumstances comments will be held for moderation. See that third setting? CHOOSE NO.
To see more about the devastating effects captcha can have on readers -- AND to see how to turn it off in Blogger -- AND to get your own anti-captcha button -- visit this hilarious post at Clay Baboons.
❏ 4. and ❏ 5. You have realllllly long paragraphs. And I can't find the main point of your post.
This is where I admit that I scan blogs. I scan to see if something catches my interest during the scanning and merits a more in-depth look. If you have long paragraphs, I have trouble scanning. If I can't quickly pick up the main point of your post, I am tempted to quickly end the scan. Be clear and concise before you hit publish. If you can't say what your main point is, your reader won't be able to get it, either.
❏ 6. You center your text throughout.
This effect was designed to highlight a portion of text, but some use it for all their text. The eye can't follow and the brain can't process as well as with left justification. It's like writing in all caps or all italics. It's good in small measure but not for the totality of your post (unless it's poetry).
❏ 7. You serve up tiny light print on dark background.
Unless you're writing exclusively for people who have never had to memorize all their important phone numbers (only 7-digits each!) and who still have young eyes, consider switching to a light background, dark type and a normal-sized font. Remember that your readers may have eyes older than your own.
❏ 8. You offer no way to search your blog.
Not "search for your blog" but "search your blog." Maybe I remember reading about something on your blog and then want to link to your post as I'm writing my own. But I can't find it because all I have is a keyword or a guess at the month you posted it. Give me a search box. Do an Internet search for "how to put a search box on [your platform] blog."
❏ 9. You make me scroll forever to get to the bottom.
People like to see the bottom of your blog. We like to peek at the footers to see what goodies you might have down there. If you write long posts, arrange to have no more than 3 on a page. If you write shorter posts, have no more than 4 on a page.
❏ 10. You surprise me with music and I have to opt out of it.
Like captcha, this one has been moaned about by people even more peeved than I. For those who occasionally read blogs surreptitiously (*whistling*), maybe on a smartphone while cuddling a dozing child, maybe on an iPad during a particularly dull work meeting, this one really chafes. Don't do it.
❏ 11. You have weird fonts. Papyrus and Comic Sans are meant to be used for headlines and emphasis, not body text. Some would even talk you down from that. See #6.
❏ 12. You give me no easy way to share. I love your post! I want to tell everyone about it, via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google Plus! But I look all around. I check the top of your post, I check the bottom of your post. I'm hot to share, but my desire rapidly cools if you don't give me an easy way to do it. If you're on Blogger, go to Layout ==> BlogPosts ==> Show Share Buttons.
If you're on Wordpress, try a customizable plugin such as Shareaholic.
These points are the roadblocks in an otherwise smooth ride you offer your readers when they find and read your blog. How easy and enjoyable can you make the experience for them?
There are my dirty dozen. What pet peeves might you add to the list?
Lori Lavender Luz writes regularly at LavenderLuz.com about parenting and living mindfully. Her book, written with her daughter's first mom and titled The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013) is available on Amazon. She lives in Denver and on Twitter she's @LavLuz.