Common blog problems

my thoughts on the 'Dear Blogger' letter

Dave Child has recently written a very good post on how to lose visitors. Written from the view point of a dissatisfied reader it addresses some areas in which I too have found some blogs lacking.

I do have to admit though feeling a little bit smug after reading it as the points raised are those I had thought about quite alot when starting my own blog and hopefully I've avoided the pitfalls he mentions, well you can judge that yourselves ;)

I suggest you head over to Dave's blog first and read his post so you know the kind of things that I will be talking about in my post/reply (forewarned is forearmed!), oh and while you're there check out his fantastic cheatsheets

Feed Contents

Like Dave I also consume alot of different RSS feeds so I know their importance. Because of this I wanted to ensure that I provided suitable feeds for all sections of my site. I didn't want anyone to have to wade through my del.icio.us links when all they were interested in was my blog posts and vica-versa.

Because of this I have a Feeds & Subscriptions page which lists the available feeds (including blends). In total there are 7 different feeds covering every option I could think of that people might want. Posts only, posts & comments, my links only, my links & subscriptions & network and so on.

We hear time and time again how content is king. But I believe strongly that content delivery is very important as well. If people can't access your content in the way they want then no matter how good it is, you will turn some people away.

Author Information

Who cares who is writing the blog as long as they write good content, right? Wrong!
One of the first things I do when coming across a new blog is to look at the About page

I don't mind if it is simply a picture and a quick half paragraph about the site owner. I don't want/need to see a full CV or their life history just a few lines letting me know who they are and a little bit about them. I feel it helps you connect with the author a little bit more and to be honest I am more likely to retain a subscription to a blog where I feel like I know a little about the person than 1 where I know nothing.

I am aware that my own about page isn't the most detailed but I hope it does provide even a limited insight into who I am.
I do however have plans to expand it into more of a datastream similar to Emily Chang's but that will reside on aaron.bassett.name

Post Titles

Even forgetting about your subscribers for a minute having descriptive post titles makes sense from a SEO perspective as well.

My post titles directly corespond to the url of the post and the title of the page which are 2 very important elements when it comes to SEO optimization.
So not only do they help your subscriber judge quickly if a post is going to be of interest to them but it can also help google etc decide what keywords you should be ranked for.

Greed

This is a heavily discussed area for some bloggers, with some people even turning their blog into their main income source. I never had such grand designs for my blog. I'm well aware that most blogs make very little or no income for their authors.

But blogging can become an expensive past-time, and the costs tend to increase in proportion to how popular you are (more visitors = more bandwith)
So I can understand that people want to make some money back from their investment. As you might have noticed I even run a few ads on here as well as affiliate links to Amazon.

But I still feel strongly that ads should not take away from the content, that's why I have made mine as unobtrusive as possible (and probably why I make no money of them ;))

Originality

If I think a link is good or might be useful at a later date it goes in my del.icio.us If I think a link is brilliant then I might post about it. But how to avoid the lack of content that Dave talks about? Well in my eyes its pretty simple. If you think a link is so fantastic that it requires highlighting on your blog then tell your readers why.

I like to think this the way I approached my post on Tobie Langel's post, a fistful of dollars. Ok so I didn't do a complete walk-through of the code (Tobie had already done that) I simply provided an overview of why I felt his post deserved more than just another entry in my del.icio.us account and a couple of tags.

I've used this kind of approach a few times on my blog, and although the stats say they aren't the most popular posts I haven't had any complaints from my few subscribers either :)

Before I move on from this topic I just want to quickly mention another way of dealing with these kind of posts. Elliot Swan has a nice way of informing subscribers that a post is simply a recommended link by marking each one with 'Snippet' in the title. That way you can tell that it is not a complete post without actually opening it.

Communication

I hate it when I ask a question or give feedback in a comment on someone's blog only to have it ignored. I took the time to type out a comment why can't the post author take the time to reply?
This is why (along with common courtesy) that I try to answer all/any comments and emails. Someone took the time to write to me so I should repay the favor. Admittedly there are times when it might take me a few days to reply. But I try to reply at some point. (normally quite quickly).

As well as replying I also make a point of visiting every commentors website, and have come across some great sites by doing this. Most of the people who visit Foobr are going to be from the same industry as myself, so chances are their website will reflect this.

My pet peeves

After reading Dave's post there are a few other issues that I have come across which I feel should be added to his letter, so treat these as a p.s on his Dear Blogger letter :)

Hidden or missing RSS

I've visited a blog, I like the blog, I want to subscribe to the blog, I can't find the RSS link, I'm getting annoyed at the blog, I leave the blog without subscribing.

This is probably my own biggest pet peeve when it comes to blogs. I know it must have an RSS feed. Every blog has an RSS feed, right!? So where is it? If Firefox doesn't automatically detect it, or if I can't find it on the page easily then I'll just leave without subscribing.

More details after the jump

Ok some people might find this minor but to me it is huge!
Its like Chinese water torture, a minor little thing which over a space of time becomes huge and fills you with dread.

First of all it should be changed from "after the jump" to "after the bloody great big Flash ad" because that is always what follows one of these messages. Secondly its not after the jump its right there on my screen as I have a resolution bigger than 1024×768!

Comment blackhole

So I submitted a comment and get the 'comment awaiting moderation' message, thats cool everyone has their own ways to combat spam. And I know my comment isn't spam. Maybe I disagree with what the author wrote, but I took the time to put together a well written comment explaining why I disagreed or what I felt was wrong. So it will pass moderation, just got to wait a while, no big deal.

So I come back in a couple of hrs - no comment, so the author is busy..or in a different timezone and is still asleep thats grand I can wait
A day later I might check again, but still no comment. Guess the author is really busy?
Ok so it's now a week later and my comment has yet to pass moderation. I start to get a little worried about the author. Maybe he's fallen in the shower and is lying dying on his bathroom floor..is there any contact information on his site, maybe I can contact the local emergency services in his area and get help. Then it dawns on me the author is fine, he has just rejected my comment and hasn't had the decency to let me know.

I can understand why you wouldn't want to post someone else's opinion on your site when it is different to your own, I don't agree with it but I can understand it. But please at least let them know rather than having them sitting around wondering what happened to their comment.

Anything I missed?

If you have any other pet peeves about blogs, this one or others…lets hear them! :)

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