Ok, this new blogger initiative is going around and I decided I’d give you my stupid advice. Because, you know, I know things. At least about the technical setup of the blog. About content? Community building? HAR HAR.
In no particular order:
A Blog Description
A first time reader isn’t going to scroll back to your intro post where you’ve laid out your introduction – especially if your blog is a few months old. And a reader visiting for the first time doesn’t want to dig through pages of posts just to see if he or she is interested in the subject matter.
For example, I play SWTOR but not TERA. If you’ve been in the TERA beta or something, your front page might have 4 posts about TERA, and I’ll assume it’s a TERA blog, and move on. If your blog description states that you write about multiple mmo’s, including WOW, SWTOR, TERA, and Hello Kitty Online, I might subscribe. The more specific you are about what you intend to cover, the better.
Your posts are listed chronologically, but that might not be the best way for a new reader to sort through your past posts. There has to be a way to find things without just going page-by-page.
A search box is an absolute must. The rest is up to you. I recommend having clear categories so people can find what they are interested in quickly. Also, highlight your “important posts.” If you made a post that is a GUIDE to something, and is a resource that someone would want to find again, consider adding a link to it in your sidebar or on the top menu. If you have multiple guides, you might create an index page for all the guides.
Commenting – Make It Easy
Guys, especially you using Blogger, listen up. People want to be able to comment without being logged in to anything. Name + email address should suffice. There have been times that I’ve written up a whole damn comment only to discover that I can’t post it without logging in to google + (which I don’t have), wordpress (which I don’t have, being self-hosted), or a variety of other things I also don’t have. Your commenters aren’t going to sign up for a new service just to comment on your blog.
Now, spam. I know that if people can comment with only a name and email address, you open yourself up to more spam. However, start with the least intrusive spam protection measures first. See if you GET spam. If you just can’t get rid of it, then maybe you’ll need to use a CAPTCHA, but that kind of thing is a last resort. Remember, people are lazy. If it takes extra steps, they’ll just hit the back button. Or become enraged if they fill out the captcha wrong and the comment gets EATEN.
Another point – make sure people can subscribe to comments by email, so they can see if someone later posts a comment on an article they already commented on. This is pretty much built in to blogger and wordpress.com, but for self-hosted, you might need a plugin.
A Nice FULL Feed – Do Not Truncate
I know you want people to come to your site for precious hits or advertising (more on this later), but truncated feeds are not the answer to getting more traffic. Many people read in a feed reader, and don’t want to click through – or can’t if they’re behind a firewall. They’ll just move on without reading your article or, worse, unsubscribe completely (that’s what I do). The big sites can get away with truncating and not losing readers, but if you’re just starting out, you need to make your blog as accessible as possible.
Story time: After drafting this part, I discovered that another site was “scraping” my content – republishing my articles in full from my feed. I sent a copyright notice, and the scraped articles were taken down, after the site owner suggested that I truncate my feeds to prevent this from happening in the future. It is true that truncating feed makes it more difficult for scraper sites, but it also makes it more difficult for readers. I decided to keep publishing a full feed, and just keep a “cease and desist” letter handy. If you’re reading this in a feed reader, you’ll see a big obnoxious footer on my feed that makes it very obvious that if it’s published on another site, it’s scraped. That’s my solution instead of a truncated feed.
Ads? In My Blog?
Ads are annoying and break up the flow of navigating your blog. I’m not talking about ads on wordpress.com hosted blogs, that you don’t control (although paying to remove them wouldn’t hurt). I’m talking about ads that you choose to put on your site to make money for hosting or whatnot.
Yes, you get money when people view or click on the ad, but if you drive away people with those ads, that means fewer views and clicks. So examine how much money you are spending on your blog, how much you are earning from ads, and whether it’s worth it.
Now, ads in the feed… don’t even get me started. Nothing will make me unsubscribe faster – big blog or little blog. I get that people need to recoup costs. But they need to get that I won’t be one of their readers (and maybe others feel like I do).
You need to have contact information SOMEWHERE on your blog. It can be on your profile page, or on your sidebar – wherever. But you need it. I recommend making a separate gmail account for your blogging persona for privacy reasons. I would also recommend not listing your email address in the standard way, but rather as blahblah [at] blahblah [dot] com, to avoid spam engines finding you. Or create an image with the text of your email address, with a signature generator or plain old MSpaint.
There are legitimate reasons someone would want to contact you outside the comments section. Story time: A guy whose blog I read had accidentally turned off comments. I wanted to tell him, but – surprise – I couldn’t comment. Don’t be that guy.
Read Your Own Stuff As A Reader
What does that mean? It means that if something is WRONG from a reader’s point of view, you might not notice it as a logged-in person. Log completely out of your blog. Make sure you can comment. Make sure you can subscribe to comments by email.
Subscribe to your own feed and by email. If something is wrong, you’ll be the first to know about it.