I subscribe to hundreds of RSS feeds, and read them religiously. According to Google Reader’s statistics, I read about 200 items per day out of over 700 posted to all of those feeds. As you might expect, I’ve got some strong feelings about blogs and news sites after reading that much.
So this message is aimed at all of you content providers out there: Fix your darn blogs and feeds so I won’t be so grumpy anymore!
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- Use full-text RSS feeds! If you’re still cutting off your posts after a few sentences, you’re losing my readership. I hardly ever click through on two-line feed items, and I feel burned when I even bother to subscribe to these. Half the time the heading and excerpt promise more than the article delivers anyway. Switch to a full-text feed so I can read your content right there in Google Reader without clicking through to see your interstitial ads for every post. I promise I will visit and comment if you have valuable things to say. What’s that? I hear you boo-hooing that you will lose readership, visitors, and AdSense revenue? You’re wrong. The best audience is an engaged audience, and readers of your feed are the most engaged folks you will find. They’re also a tiny TINY minority of readers (about 11% last I heard) compared to real search engine and referral-driven traffic. You’re only going to increase loyalty by switching to full-text feeds, whereas your refusal to syndicate more than 11 words is likely to drive people like me away.
- No more me-too posts! Here’s a hint: If one of your peers already posted pretty much all you have to say on a topic, then don’t post at all. If you’re a worthwhile writer, there has to be a unique angle you can use for any story. Get your own voice! Bonus hint: Make sure you are reading your peers’ blogs so you know what they are saying, too! And a link back to them wouldn’t hurt either!
- Don’t write about your stats! I don’t care about your monthly readership stats or AdSense revenues. Unless your blog happens to be about AdSense or search engine optimization, that is…
- Kill the ads! Face it: You’re not getting rich with banner ads on your blog. Yes, I admit that I do run a few AdSense ads on my blog pages. Although the payout is tiny, it’s enough to keep the lights on. But I don’t force ads on everyone all the time – I use Ozh’ excellent Who Sees Ads plugin for WordPress so only search engine visitors see my banners. And I will never pollute my feeds with ads: Treat your (very few) subscribers like the loyal friends they are instead of trying to make a dime from their clicks. And yeah, a dime is about all you are making from your blog anyway, right?
- Trim the fat! Are you illustrating your articles with 300k high-definition PNG images? Unless you’re a photographer or graphic designer, do us all a favor and limit your inline images to about 300 pixels wide. I know it’s non-free and all, but JPEG speeds up load times! And do you really need to embed flash animations, auto-playing YouTube clips, and other such junk? I’ll happily click through if I care. Keep the number of illustrations down, too. If the vertical space of your post is more than half graphics (especially cheesy Excel charts) you need to refocus it before you lose your readers.
- Edit and format your writing! If I can’t read your post, I won’t read your post. Start by turning on spell check. Then learn the basic rules of grammar. You may be a computer genius, but I’m not going to put up with incorrect homonyms and eggcorns forever! Perhaps consider learning what a paragraph is, and even create some yourself. You can still use bulleted and numbered lists, but how about some context and headings to assist the reader?
- Quit moving around! If you’re blogging, you should control your own destiny: Have your own domain name, your own install of WordPress, and your own feed URL. It’s hard for me to take “whoever.typepad.com” seriously, especially when, three months after I subscribe, he moves his feed to “whoever.blogger.com” and makes me re-subscribe. Often, I’ll just unsubscribe and forget him. Don’t want this to happen? Register your own domain name for your blog, set up a hosting account and install WordPress (it’s the best, hands down), and don’t bother me. While you’re at it, private-label your feedburner feed so you can take that with you when you move around, too.
- Make commenting easier! Comment spam is a fact of life. Despite using Akismet, Bad Behavior, and clever tricks, I got more comments from spammers than actual readers on my blog. Then I heard that, although I added OpenID, commenting was still too hard. So I switched to Disqus for blog comments to try to make life easier, and have had a much better time of it since. If you’re still using native commenting, you’re missing out on a lot of readers who would like to comment but won’t jump through hoops to do it. Bonus hint: Use BackType to follow comments on other blogs, too!
- Let me contact you! Everyone should have their real name and contact information prominently available on their blog. If you’re covering topics that intersect with work, you should disclose your employer, too. If you want to engage your readers, add in a link to your LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook account, too. But don’t go crazy – no one needs to connect to you in 800 places. That’s what FriendFeed is for!
Finally, here’s a bonus tip: No more top-ten lists! You’ll probably get to number nine and run out of things to say anyway!