Taking a fresh look at your blog from an outsider’s point of view.
If you were a visitor to your blog, would you want to read it?
It sounds like an odd question, but think about it for a moment. Is your blog something that you would like to read if you hadn’t seen all the content before?
Hopefully the answer is “yes!”
The reason I’m asking is because it’s really hard to write things that you don’t find interesting. You might have to do it for a job – I wrote plenty of documents in past jobs that didn’t get me excited – (strategy delivery action plan anyone?) but when it comes to your own blog, people will be able to tell whether you’re passionate and feel excited about the content.
I’m sure there have been articles that you clicked on because of an interesting headline, but then you clicked away after a couple of seconds. Why is that? I’d say there are two groups of reasons.
Mistakes or a bad user experience
The first reasons are that there is something wrong with it. Different things will bug different people. Maybe there are lots of mistakes in the writing and that puts you off. I’m not talking about grammar so much, but if it looks as though someone hasn’t given it a once-over before publishing, and dashed it out, leaving lots of typing errors in, I find it really distracting.
Maybe there is too much clutter to make it an easy reading experience.
Maybe the in-your-face pop-up drove you crazy!
Maybe there was an exciting title, but the content didn’t live up to it. Nobody loves clickbait.
Maybe the article is exactly the same as a bunch of other articles on the topic, and the blogger didn’t do anything unique to make it their own.
The list goes on, but they are generally things that can be fixed, and probably should be fixed so that readers don’t click away.
Then there are the other, more personal things. These aren’t mistakes, but they’re about personal choice. They’re what makes you stand out from the crowd, and because of this, some people will be drawn to your blog because of them, whereas others will click on by. They aren’t bad things – but it’s good if you can be consistent with them so you give a clear message about what kind of vibe you are going for. How will you do this using your language/layout/images/choice of topics?
I like something to read, so a couple of lines of text with a bunch of photos doesn’t do it for me, whereas other people might fall asleep halfway through some of the articles that I enjoy because there’s too much detail for them.
I can’t stand football, but some of my friends hunt out articles about sport.
I love dogs, but most of the time I don’t want to read about cats (sorry cat lovers – one or two articles won’t make me run for it, but a whole blog on them wouldn’t be my first choice of reading material!.
As someone who is blind, content will always be king over images for me, but I know people who will stop reading if they don’t like the blog design or lack of photos.
If every product is amaaazing and every post feels like an ad or promotion, it somehow doesn’t feel real, and that’s a turn-off for me. I’d much rather someone say why they didn’t like something once in a while or that something just wasn’t their thing.
Whilst everyone can work to improve their writing style and presentation, these are more personal things. You can’t please everyone, and trying to please everyone will just give you a headache and make your blog blend into the noise of the hundreds of other blogs out there because there’s nothing that makes it stand out!
Take a look at your blog through the eyes of a visitor
So, if you want to get a better understanding of what’s important to you as a reader, why not make a list of things that make you really want to read a blog, and things that make you click away after a few seconds and never return? Some of them will be just basic good practice for running a blog, but some of them will be more specific and based on your personal likes and dislikes.
Once you’ve got your list, think of how it applies to your blog.
Do you unintentionally do any of the things that would make you click away as a reader?
Let’s take my ideas. I try not to do any of the generic things that I think are bad practice because if they wind me up, I don’t want to do the same to my readers. So no annoying pop-ups or ads scattered throughout the text. I can’t say I’ll never make a mistake, but I do read through the posts and check them before hitting publish.
It gets a bit less clear-cut when it comes to the personal stuff. I do write the kind of longer posts that I like to read. Partly because I have a lot to say, and partly because I’m looking for like-minded people.
I don’t write about cats or football, partly because they don’t interest me, but also because I would have nothing to say and it would be a bit of a rubbish article!
I try to come up with ideas that other people haven’t covered before, but I could do more to write posts with more of my own feelings or personal experiences in them, otherwise it can sound a bit generic. When you’ve previously worked in a job that encourages you to not put yourself in the centre of your writing, you have to develop new skills for blogging.
I like reading empties and favourites posts, but if I get 10 posts in my reading queue called “January favourites”, I might get a bit bored – so I’ve been experimenting with the titles. Such as November favourites – bloggers, body lotion and bunny ears! or 15 November empties – lots of handcream and a disappointing panda. Just something a bit different.
I like book posts, but never write them. That’s going to change!
People seem to like my disability posts, but I don’t find them the most exciting to write, because writing about my every-day life is kind of old news for me, whereas to the reader they’re often something new. So I combine it with things that I love –blindness + make-up tips or the accessibility of online shopping for someone who can’t use a mouse.
Sometimes it can help to do a year top 10 post to see which ones people are interacting with more. It’s tough if the posts people most enjoy reading aren’t the type that you most enjoy writing – and it’s definitely not good to just write for others without thinking about what you want to talk about. It’s your blog after all! But if you want to take the blog in a certain direction, give some thought to where people who like that type of content or share that interest may be hanging out. It might be that there’s nothing wrong with the content, it’s just not getting in front of the right people!
It’s good to try out new ideas to see whether they work – then you can carry on with them if you enjoy them and readers are engaging, or keep it to a short series if you run out of steam or the idea doesn’t work for some reason.
If you try to look at your blog and think about the things that you don’t enjoy on other blogs, it might help you to identify things you could do to make your own posts better, and improve the experience for long-time or new readers.
You could also think about some words or phrases that describe how you want your blog to be seen or remembered, and then see how some of your trusted readers describe it. Do the two sets of words match up? If not, what can you do about it?
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