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The 12 Biggest Problems With Your Blogs

Articles about blogging tipsSedition.com’s “The 12 biggest problems with your blog” is a brilliant summary of the most commonly found problems, and distractions, on many blogs.

Here are some highlights that had me dancing around the room so much, they bear some repeating:

12) The banner graphic. Regular visitors don’t need 18% of the page space taken up by “MY NAME IS MUDD” or whatever clever bit sums you up as a person. They’d rather have the room to read…

11) Bad opinions. I am a fan of opinions wherever original thought lurks behind them. No one is a fan of the political opinions of a 22-year-old who doesn’t know who was President before Clinton, that we have an electoral college, and that both parties live off of corporate quid pro quo and filthy Political Action Committee money…

9) Proofing you’re grammer spelling. I know “its” and “their” and “comprise” and such are not always automatically typed correctly or used where they belong. Make an effort. It makes you look smart…

7) Wishy-washy hyperbole. If your writing is full of “in my opinion,” “probably,” “it seems to me,” and “it just might turn out,” then you are clearly unconvinced of your own ideas. Don’t waste everyone else’s time with your stream of consciousness angst…

5) Comments. I didn’t come to your site to see how many friends you have who don’t know what a spellchecker is. The percentage of comments worth reading is a generous 4%. So if I suffer through 24 “Don’t you know Jesus died for you, asshole” and “That’s a good one, let me bore you for 8 paragraphs with how I would’ve done it,” I might get to one comment worth reading…

3) Frequency over quality. No one needs to be told it’s Christmas or that you’re on vacation or that the bar was smoky. And while we’re at it, if you need an icon to show what mood you’re in, your writing might not be ready to share with the world…

2) Repetitious redundancy. If it’s been linked at 100 other sites and discussed by writers you know have better points to make than you do, don’t clog up Google’s caches with one more page saying, “Look what I just read on the Drudge Report along with 2 million other people today.”

The sound you hear in the background of your computer right now is applause. Yep, this is brilliant stuff said very brilliantly. Sparkling.

I’ll let you check out the article to get to point number one. I hate to be totally redundant. ;-)

I started to think about what would be on my top 12 biggest problems with your blogs list. I agree so much with this list, let’s see how I can be original with my own list.

  1. Too Many Gizmos and Gadgets: Once you figure out how easy it is to add crap to your blog, you reach that phase of wanting everything and thinking everything is essential to have. This includes polls, asides, showcasing most recent comments, mood graphics, what music I am listening to right now, weather reports, geographic locations and maps, tag clouds (heat maps) everywhere or before content, and anything that blinks, dances, clicks, or whirls. Get past that phase now.
  2. Lack of Topic Focus: I visit specific blogs for specific information. When you come here you expect to read about WordPress and blogging, and that is the meal that I serve. If you are blogging about your life, then blog about your life and leave computer talk and movie reviews elsewhere. Stay on topic and become the expert on that topic, whatever it is.
  3. Give Me a Reason to Return: I really think that bloggers don’t concentrate on this aspect enough. You want an audience badly yet you do little to provide us with a reason to return. Tease us with upcoming stories, give us quality content, and give us a reason to return to learn more.
  4. Original versus Redundant: As pointed out above, if it makes the top of Digg or Slashdot, the odds are that everyone is writing about the same thing, so just give your audience a pointer to it if you have to, but I’d rather see your perspective and opinion on the subject in addition to the heads-up. Tell me why you think this is important and how this information impacted your life and decisions, then I’ll really be interested in it and have more information.
  5. Comment Obsessed: I’m so tired of seeing blogs with Most Recent Comments highlighted on the front page or all pages. As mentioned above, most comments are totally useless, especially gossipy babble that adds absolutely nothing to your blog other than to make you feel good because someone responded. Most Recent Comments clutters things up. Unless you are running a bulletin board, chat, or other communication service, no one cares who said what except you.
  6. Stealing Content is Illegal: I’m so thrilled that you like what I have written. LEAVE IT ON MY BLOG and point to it from yours. Don’t copy. Do not copy my entire post. Do not think you are doing me or anyone else a favor by stealing my content and putting it on your blog, even with my name and a link. Don’t do it. Got it? Same applies to everyone else. If you love what they wrote, tell the world why you love it and provide a link and excerpt in a blockquote, but leave the original where it is. Are you sure you got it? Good. I’ve found too many blogs stealing content and showcasing it as it is theirs. Write your own crap, leave ours alone.
  7. Learn to Write and Learn to Spell: I’ve gone on and on about this before, but honestly, it seems that it can’t be said enough. Spell checking is easy, so do it. Blogging offers you a chance to constantly work at your writing, improving it as you go along. If you aren’t improving your writing, or English or whatever language you are blogging in, over time, then you will lose your audience.
  8. Eye R a Gr8 Blogger: Cutesy shortcuts in the language and Leet Speak is fine for children, but obnoxious for anyone who somehow graduated from high school. Stop it.
  9. Teach Me: I love a good opinion, but I like learning things more often. Unless you are an amazingly gifted commentator, satirist, and editorialist with the gift of gab and opinion, then teach us. Tell us how to do things better, or worse. Tell us something we should know or shouldn’t know. Let us sit at the feet of your blog and absorb your knowledge, oh, wise one.
  10. Be Personal Without Being Personal: Sedition.com said we don’t need a graphic to tell us what mood you are in. Exactly right. Nor do we need to know what music you were listening to at the moment you wrote whatever you wrote. Unless you are selling the music, and you are writing about the music you are listening to, we’re really not interested. We want to know about you, the blogger, your expertise and perspective, but we don’t want to know that you just had a cup of coffee or went to the toilet or anything else along that kind of personal and private information unless the topic at hand is the coffee or public restroom.
  11. Make Me Think: The biggest problem I see with most blogs is the lack of interaction with the audience, and you get that interaction by getting your audience to stop and think about what you are saying, why you are saying it, and get them to respond on whether or not what you are saying is a good thing or totally nuts. If your blogging has a purpose, then make sure I know what your purpose is and then make me think about it. If you can stop me in my daily, rush around tracks and make me think, you’ve got a fan, and I’ve got a reason to come back.
  12. Help Me Visit Your Blog: And the number one problem I find with blogs is lack of good site navigation. The premiere WordPress Theme, Kubrick, started a trend that made me crazy. The blog post page (single post view) features no site navigation other than next and previous posts. No sidebar, no recent posts, no most popular posts, no categories, no Pages, no tags, nothing. Unfortunately, a lot of Themes are now based upon Kubrick, spreading this flaw all over the web.
    When I arrive on your Kubrick-based blog from a search engines, I’m landing there because that post came up in the search results. If I want to look around and see what else might be of help, and find out more about the author and this blog, the only way is to go to the front page which offers this information is by clicking the header or blog title. That’s not much help.
    Help the visitor move around on your blog, find the information they need, and find out what you are all about and what you have to say on all your subjects.

So, do you have a top 12 list of problems you have found with blogs? Let’s hear what your list is so we can all learn what not to do, and then what to do, and how to do it better.

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26 Comments

  1. Posted January 26, 2006 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Well, I still have my recent comments and what not. Though I have shiften my focus to not caring about what audience I gather but just what I would want to share to the people out there, whoever bothers to read it.

    As a personal blog and the occassional WordPress information posts, the ony thing I have on my side is the accessibility and navigational ease that I put into the blog design. The sidebar expands and collapses and there are related posts on each post to make sure people tend to visit past posts.

    Hopefully my writing skills are good enough that even mundane day to day things don’t seem so boring to the reader. I agree with what you said though…anyone can pull a reader to their blog with fancy titles and good tags. Not many people can keep them reading day after day right after that.

    That’s the trick to it.

  2. Posted January 26, 2006 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Your ubiquity is unnerving, Lorelle. Not 30 minutes after leaving your Camera on the road site, I find you in the No. 2 position by googling “wordpress designers”.

    Your #1 is certainly the most tempting mistake to make when one first starts tinkering with the code of a shiny new blog. I am fighting hard to resist it, but sometimes that GeoLoc map is so tempting.

    I’m wondering whether your eight translate buttons don’t come under this category. The actual translations are often more amusing than useful. For example, in French, Sedition.com’s #11, comes out as “Je suis un ventilateur des avis” – jus’ blowin’ in the wind …

    I’d add nausea-inducing colour schemes to the list. Primary colours are a starting point. Learn to blend and find harmony. Pre-school taught me everything I need to know.

  3. Posted January 26, 2006 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    On a tangent which will seem like a non-sequitur–

    I am half-done rewriting my own journal (oh, all right! blog) software. This time I’m writing it with the intent to share the code (the previous two versions were too messy and inflexible for that).

    It’s not that I don’t like WordPress (or several other nice packages). I do and use it for a couple of projects. Using my own code has advantages, including a big resume bullet.

    To make a long story short, and it’s not too late for that, you are a WordPress maven.

    Would you please do a semi-follow-up post on

    The 5 (or even 10) things WordPress got right and should never change
    AND
    The 5 (or …) things WordPress should have done differently

    Besides being valuable to me it might help frame a discussion or two in the future development of WP.

    Your adoring adored,
    -Ashley

  4. Posted January 26, 2006 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    I too try to keep my blog layouts simple and easy to navigate.

    It’s ok, and indeed good, to repost someone’s post as long as you a) just quote a few imporant points then b) add your own. That’s how memes spread. But reposting entire posts (esp. w/out links back) is Evil.

  5. Posted January 26, 2006 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Ashley: Thanks for the kind words and interesting idea. I’ve written some about this on my main site’s WordPress category, but not as you suggested. I’ll have to do some thinking about this. Good challenge. Thanks.

    Ria: Thanks for the nice words, and the translate buttons on this blog could definitely come under useless wizbang, but they were a test to push the capabilities of the Links Manager under WordPress.com and they ended up being really popular. This is an educational blog not just a promotional one, so they serve as good lessons of what is possible.

    bobmorris: I totally agree about reposting entire posts. VERY EVIL.

  6. Posted January 27, 2006 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    You hit it right on the nail. While most people don’t like admit it, plenty of the blogs out there really suck! I’m usually a nice guy but that’s the absolute truth. Try to find a truely original post on the “Latest Posts” section on the dashboard.

    BTW, don’t you notice that almost all of the blogs on wordpress.com are related to web 2.0 or something of the sort? One of my main problems is that I can’t find anything interesting to read. You know it’s bad when you have to read about Crochets.

    Thank you Lorelle

  7. Posted January 27, 2006 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    Yo Lorelle :-)
    once again – you have made some great points.
    As the blogosphere become less and less geek-a-fied I think there will be a lesser inclination to add every wizz-bang gadget – until then – many bloggers are geekish by definition and have a tendency to add these things.
    Of particular note, the comment about navigation and Kubrik! Didn’t notice that myself, but NOW – it is driving me crazy! Amazing how we look and don’t see until someone points it out :-O
    Lastly – spelling! With all the spell-check plug-ins, extensions available; no excuse! (Madly checking own spelling…)

  8. Posted January 27, 2006 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Michael: If most people on WordPress.com are talking about Web 2.0, I haven’t found many of them, though there are a few. Most of them aren’t experts so I don’t pay attention. But I have written about what some people do with their WordPress.com blogs and will be writing more soon. There is a lot of variety, but a lot of the variety is not in English so I’m missing out on a lot of it without good translation (the text is in question marks so I’m not even sure of the language in order to try to translate it.) As WordPress.com grows, there will be more diversity. The geeks got in first ;-) so we get geek interested stuff first.

    There are really good reads, and sees, around WordPress.com, but without a directory, its hit and miss. Try searching for keywords using:

    keywords site:wordpress.com

    to see what interesting stuff comes up.

    Tack: Glad I could help with the Kubrik navigation. It makes me nuts. It’s such a wonderful layout yet this flaw makes it worthless to me. The number one question (other than installation) on the WordPress Support Forums for ages was how to add or remove the sidebar, and most wanted it back in.

  9. Posted January 27, 2006 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle:
    Actually that’s one thing that I really like about your blog. You have those crafty little translate buttons on the side of your page. I thought that was really cool. I’m really curious to see what those Chinese guys are up to.

    About the web 2.0 stuff. I guess I’m just a little bit jealous since I don’t know any code. Ah what can I say? I just don’t see much structure in the wordpress.com community. The forums are great but I’m looking forward to more group interaction. Like 9rules I guess.

  10. Posted January 30, 2006 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Wow. I really take issue with your #1 and here is why:

    Though you may not appreciate “gadgets and gizmos”, many people spend a great deal of time creating those, and their site is their showcase. For example, take a look at Paul Neave’s blog @ http://www.neave.com. Yes, there is a blog there, and yes it’s chock full of toys. Paul is a uniquely creative young man and his blog is far more interesting and inspiring than any of the blogs you have listed under your “Displays Brilliance” header.

    Not everyone needs whitespace.

  11. Posted January 30, 2006 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Whoo, if you notice, I didn’t say I didn’t appreciate “gadgets and gizmos” but TOO MANY gadgets and gizmos. Well designed gadgets and gizmos accent or help a web page. Useless ones that whirl and click and distract from the intension of the page are that: useless. And annoying. If the site is about the whirling and clicking, whirl and click away.

    I would never crush creativity, only ignorance. ;-)

    Remember, the intension of the site is its content. Distract the reader from the content and you’ve now lost focus.

  12. Posted February 11, 2006 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I review blogs submitted to a web directory. There are thousands of them to get through. Most are pretty half assed or by the time I actually get to them they have been abandoned. But, the worst thing is a blog without some kind of description or about me section. When you review a hundred blogs at a sitting you can’t call them all “Joe’s personal blog”. It’s tedious and boring and uninspiring. But, my brain can only come up with a good 20 descriptions before I just stop caring.

    When I read blogs for myself I look for a description too. I want to know who they are before I start reading their posts. What do they like, where are they from, what do I have in common with them…?

  13. Posted February 11, 2006 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Excellent point! Especially from your perspective.

    We often forget that others are reading, reviewing, and judging what we are writing in order to write about it. By not providing adequate information or clues about what the blog is about, what’s its purpose is, and so on, we are cutting ourselves off at the waist.

    Thanks for pointing that out, Laura.

  14. Thomas
    Posted February 25, 2006 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle great post as always. Many times I write about items that are “stories in progress” but it seems like there is no defined way to alert readers to updates other than to create a whole new post. I’m very much against adding useless posts to blogs because it clutters things up so what do you suggest?

  15. Posted February 25, 2006 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Thomas, very good question, and timely. In a few days I will have an article on this site coming out on this very topic called Do You Update Posts or Post Updates?. Stayed tuned for this next week to answer your question and participate in the discussion on this really important topic.

    To address the issue of “stories in progress”, if you are talking about a series of stories, then you can link them together by manually providing links at the bottom of each post to help people follow the story line. But that’s not what you are talking about, I think.

    You mean that you have a story, and then you find out new information and you want to update the post, right? That’s part of what I’ll be writing about. Stay tuned!

  16. Posted June 3, 2006 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting and helpful points for newbies and experienced alike. Thank you. This topic however reminds me of the time when websites were still new and everyone was getting one or thought they had to get one. We had the spinning buttons and gizmos and the blinking arrows and it wasn’t too long before they were termed “bad, bad and very bad”.Then we had the web “gurus”. Web sites evolved. Blogging is still evolving and people are going to make mistakes along the way, but hopefully this will add to learning how to do things better or differently over time. I hope those who’ve been blogging a while will remember this – keep sharing the benefits of their expertise with us yet not be overly focused on the “problems” with some blogs.

  17. Posted June 11, 2006 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Very good points here. One thing that I feel compelled to mention is regarding #6, about quoting from other bloggers’ posts. I sometimes do this; I don’t lift the entire post but use a blockquote with a link to the post as you suggest, but I used to simply provide a link and what happened more often than not was that the blogger would pull up stakes and kill his/her blog, leaving me with a dead link and no memory of what I had liked about that post. I now make sure to copy the segment(s) that stopped me in my tracks so that I can revisit it later, even after the blogger has faded away. I don’t find this offensive when others do it with my writing, either, as long as it’s properly credited and linked. It’s a way of “freezing” a moment in the ever-shifting, ever-changing internet.

  18. Posted June 11, 2006 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Diana:

    What you talk about is called Fair Use, not using the whole content but excerpts to make your point with credit to the source. No problems with that in the law. I mention this in point 6. This is different from content theft, copyright infringements, and violations. Excerpts under Fair Use are found everywhere and totally acceptable, for reasons you offer so beautifully.

    Thanks.

  19. Posted July 9, 2007 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,
    On the one hand you advocate downplaying comments by not having a “recent comments” spot on the sidebar, and say that most comments are totally useless, but on the other you say the biggest problem with most blogs is lack of interaction with the audience, and that you get that interaction (…) by getting readers to respond to what you are saying. In other words, by commenting! I think it validates your audience participation by at least having a recent comments box in the sidebar. That may be why wordpress recently started to include wordpress users’ avatars in them.
    - ian in hamburg

  20. Posted July 9, 2007 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Letters:

    You would think. :D Actually, there is no evidence that a list of “Cool”, “I needed this”, “Good point” and “I’m going to tell my friends” in the sidebar has increased comments on a blog. It certainly adds to the clutter.

    There is anecdotal evidence that young bloggers get more comments when they post comment competitions, Plugins which list the highest commenters on their blog, but not on “adult” professional style blogs.

    The avatar is fun for all the kids, but it also serves to develop a blog’s brand through graphics. These are included in a variety of ways including on comments. Alone they do not encourage comments.

    The point is: how to encourage comments.

    That comes from content. How you write, what you write, and how you interact and set a standard for comments on your blog helps to build the interactivity. Not the gimmicks. If you write something worthy of comments, people will comment. If you don’t, they won’t comment no matter how many gizmos and tricks you display.

  21. Posted July 10, 2007 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    I like all these suggestions (though I don’t follow all of them). But, “in my opinion”, the bottom line is that it’s all about content. If you have content worth reading whenever the blogger posts, then it doesn’t matter if there are too many gadgets or the header is too big.

  22. Posted July 10, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    You are right that the bottom line is content, content, content. No argument on that one. However, it has been proven time and again that if anything gets between the reader and the content, the reader is gone, the content ignored.

  23. Bruce
    Posted November 17, 2007 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    The irony of ironies is that your own #9 “Problem with Blogs”, that concerns rechecking and proofreading for grammar mistakes, ITSELF contains one. “Your” is the descriptive possessive. “You’re” is a contraction form for “You are”.

    You illustrate the very problem many people have with blogging in the first place, that blogs mascarade as useful information but end up really being idle chatter.

    Take that to you’re bank.

    Bruce

  24. Posted January 8, 2008 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    This is very good advice. …….and you are totally right about the gadgets on your page. I did that. I have downsized quite a lot now. One day, not long ago, I looked at my page and thought, it’s too much. Too many widgets, and gadgets, that no one probably even liked and probably kept people away, like they were screaming stay, Stay, ..AWAAAAY.

  25. Posted January 8, 2008 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I like this blog. How can I subscribe to my email?

  26. Posted January 8, 2008 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    @ shea:

    To “subscribe” to this blog, add it to your feed reader.


19 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] One of the best educations you can get on blogging, building traffic and earning a few buck from blogging can be found at Darren Rowse’s Problogger site. You can literally spend days there learning how to blog. If you have any questions about how to increase your traffic this is the first place to go. Again, Darren has taught me so much it’s hard to pinpoint specific post but here are two that I’ve bookmarked because they inspire me; 18 Lessons I’ve Learnt About Blogging and (Another) Day in the Life of a Problogger. Thank you Darren! Last, but not at all least, is someone who isn’t as well known as the above bloggers, (I could be wrong), but who deserves to be, Lorelle VanFossen. When I thought to thank all the bloggers who helped me get started; Lorelle is the first who comes to mind. She is the most thorough, thoughtful and prolific teacher of all things about blogging and WordPress that I’ve have come across on the Net. Her two main areas of focus are improving blog traffic and blog quality (e.g. the writing). Lorelle cares more about the quality of blogs than anyone else does. For example, in the article The 12 Biggest Problems with Your Blogs, Lorelle taught me that my site had poor navigation since my single post view had no site navigation other than the next and previous posts. A seemingly small tweak to your site to fix something like this will help your readers stay longer. Another great example of what Lorelle teaches is The Top Ten Clues That You Are an Amateur Blogger. Thank you Lorelle! [...]

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  7. [...] Lorelle, the “Queen of WordPress”, created a no nonsense list titled: “The 12 Biggest Problems With Your Blog” [...]

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