The topic of website failure is not the most popular one out there, and especially if we’re talking about our own failure! That being said, it is still kind of important though. We should all get familiar with at least some of the common paths to failure, just so we can learn how to avoid them.
In the first part of this mini-series, we discussed some common technical issues that can kill your blog overnight. Those issues are something you need to be ready for in advance, or else solving them later on when they finally do occur can turn out to be rather stressful. In this part, we’re looking into the issues with the way you’re publishing your content. In comparison to the technical stuff, the problems described here will continue killing your blog slowly and gradually, one step at a time.
5. Showcasing negative social proof
This really amazes me, but for some reason, bloggers keep installing those big sets of social media share buttons all over their sites (multiple buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and so on) only to have them display all zeros. Like this:
What does this tell you? Here’s a hint: It tells you that the page you’re reading is unpopular. And continuing that thought, it also tells you that you probably shouldn’t be wasting time reading it either. Don’t get me wrong, I think that social media buttons are awesome. They provide the easiest way for your visitors to share your content. But you need to use them the right way if you want them to help you grow your blog instead of harming your efforts through negative social proof. Two solutions:
- Use a social media sharing plugin that doesn’t show the numbers at all (like Smart Layers by AddThis).
- Use a social media sharing plugin that displays the numbers only when they reach a given set threshold (like Social Share Starter).
6. Using tags and categories randomly
In its core, categories and tags are meant to make navigating around your content easier. In other words, you should only use categories and tags to help your readers understand what a given post is about. Categories are very general in nature. I actually encourage you to create only a handful of categories for your blog, and then assign your blog posts to just one category each. For instance, if your blog is about cooking, the categories can be: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
With tags, it’s a bit more complicated. One of the best reader-friendly approaches I’ve found is to treat them like a list of topics that your post is about. For example, let’s say there’s a post titled “Top 10 Ways to Market Your Business Online.” The title itself doesn’t give away much regarding the actual contents. However, if you see that it’s tagged with “Facebook, Twitter, email marketing, local SEO” then it’s a whole different story. You get a very clear insight regarding the range of the topics that await inside. Here’s a set of guidelines you can use whenever tagging your posts:
- Go through your post, pick the individual topics it discusses, use them as tags.
- Stick to general terms. Just like in the example above (“Facebook, Twitter, email marketing, local SEO”).
- Don’t treat tags as an SEO tool, and don’t use multi-word key phrases (keywords) as tags.
- Don’t repeat the same tag using multiple alternatives all having the same meaning. Example: “Facebook advice, Facebook tips, Facebook tricks.”
Note. To make working with tags easier, feel free to check out a plugin like Automatic Post Tagger. It allows you to set a fixed list of tags, and then analyzes every post you publish and assigns the tags automatically. This is extra handy.
7. Being inconsistent with content length
Just for the sake of it, let’s say you’re a New York Times subscriber. How would you feel if one week, the newspaper was 20 pages long, the next week 200 pages long, and the week after that 56 pages long? Wouldn’t it be confusing? This is exactly what your readers feel when you’re being inconsistent with your content length. If you are consistent, on the other hand, your readers always know what to expect when they see a new headline. And in this case, being predictable only works in your favor.
8. Focusing on monetization way too early
Well, when I say “way too early” what I actually mean is “hoping to make full-time income way too early.” Setting up some monetization channels right up front is a good habit in itself. That way, you’re letting your readers know that the blog can possibly become a for-profit venture at some point, so you’re less likely to experience any backlash when you roll out other monetization methods later on.
But the part that many people get wrong is blasting their blogs with AdSense section on top of AdSense section, so it seems that the actual content doesn’t even play the main role on the page. I encourage you to take a different route. Set up only one small AdSense block somewhere on your WordPress blog if you want to (you can do so with a simple Text Widget – just place your AdSense code there). Don’t treat it as a surefire way to blog profits, but as something that gets your readers used to some form of monetization. That’s all.
9. Not enabling yourself to make money via consulting or direct client work
Something you may be thinking right now is why is this guy spending so much time talking about various money-related stuff. I mean, is it really that important to your blog’s well-being? Well, as it turns out, it is. Let me put it this way. I’ve never met anyone who’s abandoned their blog because of a technical issue, but I’ve come across tens of people who did so because they could no longer keep investing in the blog with no return on the horizon. Whether we like it or not, money matters. Advertising – mentioned in the previous point – is one of the most popular methods to make money with a blog, and it’s a prime example of a passive income stream – something that makes you money without any active work on your part.
But there’s also the other side of the coin – active income. In other words, offering your expertise and time in exchange for money. Building your brand and reputation up to a point where you will have a constant stream of clients begging to hire you can and will take a lot of time, but as they say … the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best is today. So start now. Set up a “Hire Me” page – similar to an “About” page, but geared at convincing a prospective client on why they’d want to hire you. A good “Hire Me” page should consist of these elements:
- a good headline that encourages people to reach out to you,
- a list of services you offer,
- some social proof (the number of comments/shares you’re getting),
- a contact form.
Also, feel free to bookmark this page. It’s a set of proposal resources, e-books, templates and other education that will help you deal with new clients, pitch them on your ideas and ultimately secure a gig.
10. Not having an email list
“For a lot of site owners, over 75% of visitors probably won’t even give your site another look in.”
It’s just the way it is on the web. There’s simply too much distraction going on everywhere for people to stick around for long. However, one of the few effective ways to get them back is to have an email subscription option. When someone subscribes, they get on your newsletter list, at which point you can let them know via email every time you publish a new article. It will effectively get a percentage of those people back to your site. Luckily for everybody, these days, setting up a newsletter is rather simple. We wrote about this topic at least two times not that long ago: here and here. Feel free to review these posts to get the full how-to.
Which is the deadliest?
So now that we’ve gone through the whole list of 10 steps, let’s take a minute to try and pick the biggest blog killer of them all. What’s your opinion? Is it any of the technical issues? Or maybe you’re more like me and think that not making any money from the blog for a long period of time is even more deadly? Either way, feel free to share in the comments, and more importantly, also feel free to not make any of these mistakes on your blog.