Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Who Cares What You Think?

In reading numerous blogs and newsletters, in a meager attempt to stay on top of this ever-darting profession, I find the material falling into one of three categories:

Love it
Take it or leave it
Rubs me wrong

Everyone strives for the top level. Most fall in the second. A few plop in the bottom. Some just don't understand what it takes to write a post that snags readers. The writing makes you wonder if they even care about the reader.

What are blog turn offs?

1. Big blocks of plain copy.
Someone who reads many posts per day becomes trained to scan for highlights. The headlines and bullets capture attention, telling the reader whether or not the post is worth the effort. And yes...reading a long piece on a computer screen is an effort. A post over 400 words is always subject to question, and if no items break up the post, it runs a higher chance of being skipped/deleted/forgotten. Bullets can make the reader return to the top and start reading. Make them count big time.

2. No pictures.
Sure, we're adults and actually read books without pictures, but blogs are another story. There are too many free photo sites out there (not to mention your own camera) not to insert images to accent and break up the words. Online readers have short attention spans, and pictures rejuvenate that attention. Pictures are like the bullets - sticky notes for readers.

3. "I think"
Experienced bloggers, those who blog for income or have acquired a five-figure readership, understand that the blog isn't about them. It's about delivering to the reader. I recently read a short blog of around 500 words and counted seven examples of "I think." While a blogger can express opinion, being so bold as to say "I think" is almost challenging in its use. Synonyms to "I think" are "personally" (we know who's writing the post, for goodness sake), "like I said" (ditto personally), and "I thought." Using first person isn't as easy as it seems. Speak to/educate/draw in the reader. Don't lecture. These words make the blog all about you instead of the reader.

4. Sickly headline
The top headline is a hook. Some readers don't venture further than what shows up in their email's subject line. If the headline is milk-toast, the content most likely is, too. It's only a few words. Make them tight. Don't write them as an afterthought. It's like sending your manuscript to an editor with a cover sheet that says, "Read This." Um, no?

Blog gurus go into a lot more detail about writing the proper post, but these four general flaws make or break most blogs. Take your time. Just because a blog is short, doesn't make it a piece of cake. Your readers (or lack thereof) will prove that truth.


Sarah Tokeley said...

I'm guilty of at least a couple of these! My blog is only a few months old so I console myself that I'm learning on the job :)

Anonymous said...

My thoughts are that this really depends on the blog. Some are meant more to teach and others are more about opinion. I have a blog where I run it more like a column, no pictures and lots of 'I think', but it is meant to be that way, sort of like a column in a newspaper. I once read somewhere that with blogs, anything goes.

Kathleen@so much to say said...

On the other hand, I find highlighted text, text boxes, and italicized lines to be annoying to read, very gimmicky. A list can be bold-faced, like yours is, because it makes sense. But just throwing in random highlighting/boldface/italicization/text boxes just to break up an otherwise smooth read is a huge turnoff for me. I subscribe to very few blogs whose authors do those things.

Diva Jefferson said...

I agree that blogs should be focused on readers, but your opinion does matter and it goes a long way in terms of content. Here's hoping my blog gains more readership. :)

Glenda Beall said...

I think there are many kinds of blogs, and I read different kinds. Perhaps many writers are looking for help, advice, etc.

I find your blog, Hope, to be very easy to read and good looking.

Hope Clark said...

Hey, you guys. Where are your blog urls?