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Three Problems that Make Me Leave Your Blog in Three Seconds

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

“Wow that’s an interesting looking title you’ve got there, I think I’ll check out that blog.”

That’s what I think. But three seconds later I’m gone, never to return again.

Despite racking your brains for amazing titles, composing literary marvels to dazzle your readers, and spending hours on your blog’s design, you still lost me. In this post I’m going to show you three serious problems that’ll make me leave your blog in three seconds (or less). Be very careful to fix these if they’re present on your site.

I need to open this post by reiterating a simple truth. It is a truth that applies to all businesses, not just blogs. And that truth is:

One loyal reader is worth thousands of one-time visitors

It’s true that one loyal reader (or customer) is worth more than thousands of one-time visitors. One loyal reader will do more for your blog than thousands of one-offs will.

Think about it for a second. Who is it that leaves comments, links to you on their own blogs, talks about you to their friends, Diggs and Stumbles your latest posts, and, eventually, buys whatever products you sell from your blog?

It’s the loyal guys. It isn’t the thousands of mindless drones who just sit there clicking Stumble, Stumble, Stumble, all day long and not interacting with the pages they land on. It’s your loyal readers. Sure, there are some exceptions like affiliate and product websites where you’re just sending super-targeted traffic to the landing page. But we’re talking about blogs, and on blogs, it’s the community that matters.

The three mistakes I’ll explain here will kill your chances of gaining loyal readers. Even if you answer readers’ questions and create content that will help enrich their lives, you are going to lose them if these silly little mistakes appear on your blog. If they do, fix them as soon as possible.

Three problems that make me leave your blog in three seconds

Let’s get into the bulk of the post and sort out these injuries that are crippling your blog. And as always, if you have others that I’ve missed, please leave a comment—your advice might help someone take their blog to the next level.

Problem 1: Lack of comments

One of the first things I do on a blog is check out how many comments there are. A lack of comments instantly turns me off, because I consider comments to be a good metric for determining how useful the articles are. If my initial scan turns up lots of “0 comments” notices, I almost always just close the window.

In my first ProBlogger guest post, on how to make your blog addictive, I talked about social proof and the fact that people need to see that other people are involved on a blog before they themselves get involved. Human beings really don’t like being first—it’s too scary.

How can you fix it?
How can you get more comments on your posts? I talked a little bit about that in my article on blog commenting, but here are a few extra ideas.

  • Change the default “0 comments” text.
    The first thing you should do is change that horrid default text that says “0 comments” to something more interesting and engaging. On Blog Tyrant posts where there are zero comments, the note reads, “Leave a comment, handsome.” That’s much more personal than “0 comments.” To change this text on your blog, just go to your Main Index Template file in your template editor, find the section called php comments_popup_link, and change the relevant areas. I also change the other text in that section, so instead of saying 5 Comments it says 5 Intelligent Opinions.
  • Ask for comments.
    The next thing you need to do is specifically ask for comments. Design your articles in such a way that they really encourage people to leave comments and share their thoughts. This has a lot to do with not answering all their questions in the post itself, but can also mean putting a question in the title or the first paragraph of your post. There is a danger here, however, as if you constantly ask for comments, and no one leaves any, you’ll start to look even more lonely.
  • Create a “buddy” group.
    This is something I used to do years and years ago, and it worked quite well. Find a group of blogs in your niche that don’t get many comments, and send them an email explaining that you’ll leave comments on their posts if they’ll do the same for you. It works really well.

If you’ve been blogging for a long time now, and you still aren’t getting many comments, it might be time to ask some hard questions. In my post on why blogging is a waste of time, I touched on the issue that many bloggers are afraid to ask: are you sure blogging is the best career path for you? Most of the time, however, you can fix a lack of comments with a few little changes here and there. But make sure you do, because “0 comments” looks horrid.

Problem 2: A butchered theme

The second thing that makes me leave your blog super-fast is when your template or theme is ugly, hard to navigate, and has been tweaked so much that it no longer works correctly. If I had a dollar for every time I visited a blog that had been tweaked to the point of looking terrible, I’d be as rich as Bill Gates. The reason I find this so offensive is because it shows that you don’t really care about your users’ experience.

Image credit: duerschi

One of the ways you can make it in the blogosphere is by appearing bigger than you are until you actually get there. And part of that is having a slick theme that functions perfectly for your readers. A lot of experts say that the content is the only thing that matters, but I personally think that’s garbage. I’m sure there are hundreds of excellent articles out there that I haven’t read because the site was too hard to get around, or too ugly to take seriously.

How can I fix it?
Because this issue of an ugly theme covers so many different areas of your blog, I want to offer a few broad suggestions that might help you.

  • Get a custom theme designed.
    The first thing that I’ll tell anyone who is going to take their blog to the next level is to get a custom theme designed for it. This is an amazing way to brand your blog and make it unique. However, I’m aware that it’s quite expensive and probably not an option for most beginner bloggers. If you fall into that category, move on to the next point.
  • At least get a logo designed.
    Big corporate logos that need to represent a brand can cost tens of thousands of dollars. We aren’t there yet. Go to Google and type in “cheap logos” and spend $30 to $100 getting a pretty simple logo made for your blog. It won’t change your world, but it will help your readers take you a bit more seriously.
  • Choose a simple, clean, and mostly white theme.
    The next option is to choose a theme that’s very simple, clean, and mostly white. Forget about black backgrounds and swirling colors everywhere, white is what people are used to reading on, and anything else is upsetting to the eyes. Your theme should be content-focused and really simple; don’t distract your readers with too much other than elements that are going to get them to subscribe or read more content.
  • Don’t edit it yourself unless you make it perfect.
    WordPress is fantastic because it lets you add plugins and edit the theme to add social media icons and other things to your blog. The problem is that people edit the template themselves and end up making it look like a pre-school painting. Unless you know how to make the spacing and graphics work well together, please don’t edit it. Go to Rent a Coder and hire someone with knowledge to do it for a few dollars.

Take the time to present your content in a beautiful and easily navigable way. Don’t clutter the eye, and definitely make sure any additions that you make to the design enhance your blog branding.  It is very important that you appear as professional as possible.

Problem 3: No original ideas

The last problem is probably the most serious, and unfortunately it’s the hardest one to solve. When a blog has nothing new to offer, readers can smell it a mile off. In fact, by a quick glance of the front page you can usually tell whether or not you are going to find something new on a blog. And if there’s nothing new to read, the window gets closed pretty fast.

Let’s be clear about something here. You don’t need to have some amazing new idea like Stuff White People Like. That whole concept is totally original and something that I’ve never seen before.

What you need to do is present your work in a different way from your competitors; you need to differentiate yourself from them. Go and have a look at your blog and ask yourself why a visitor would read your content over another blogger’s. Unless you can think of some solid reasons as to why your offering’s different, you aren’t going to retain me.

How do I fix it?
Fixing this problem can be hard if you didn’t start your blog with some original elements. That being said, there are some things you can to do differentiate yourself as you go along.

  • Find an angle.
    Everything you write about should have an angle. Even if you’re writing about a topic that has been done to death, you can still usually find a semi-unique angle to present it from. That angle needs to percolate through your blog and change the way you write titles, opening paragraphs, draw conclusions, and so on.
  • Brand yourself differently.
    Closely related to the angle idea is the idea of branding yourself differently. People usually think that branding is just having a different logo, but it’s so much more than that. It is how your blog is perceived by others and where it is positioned in the market. Take Subway as an example. This brand is positioned as the only healthy option in the fast food industry, and as a result it’s killing this market space. The branding is all centered around why Subway is a healthy choice and will help you lose weight. Make sure you brand your blog in a way that promotes your angle and helps readers to perceive you as different and valuable.
  • Find out what others aren’t doing.
    One way I find ideas for blog posts is to go to the major websites in my niche, look at their most popular posts, and see what they did—but also what they didn’t do. If you can identify something that’s missing, and tap into that, you’ll usually get people interested. This is even more likely if you realize that what the blogger has written about is incomplete or incorrect, and you can challenge them on it. I think one reason my blog post on selling a blog went to the front page of Delicious.com and got picked up by newspapers is because it didn’t hold anything back—a lot of the other articles out there seemed to not quite show you the whole process. That is now a theme on my blog: share everything.

There really aren’t any original ideas out there. People have been thinking for a very long time now, and chances are that if we think of something, someone else has already thought it. The task, then, is to present your ideas in an original way or make it seem like you are different from the next blog. Unless you can do that, people will have no reason to stay on your blog, or come back once they’ve left.

What do you think?

What makes you leave a blog super-fast? Is it the design? Is it the grammar mistakes? Or is it that you just feel like you’ve seen it all before?

The Blog Tyrant has sold several blogs for large sums of money and earns a living by relying solely on the Internet. His blog is all about helping you dominate your blog and your blog’s niche, and only includes strategies that he has tried on his own websites. Follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his feed for all the juice.

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Comments

  1. Ken says:

    By the logic of your first point, if the blog has just been published, and you happen to be one of the first readers, then you won’t comment on it. A bit silly, really.

  2. liz says:

    Very nicely put! The zero comments links are quite blaring, aren’t they? I do think we all should concentrate more on unique content, just as you have done here.

    Thanks a bunch for the good read!

  3. Abe says:

    I agree with the commenters saying grammar and spelling. If you can’t edit your own posts to make them readable, it indirectly makes me think that whatever point you’re trying to make is based on flawed logic.

    The number of comments doesn’t draw me in at all, especially since they’re often buried below advertisements, sharing links, and all manner of nonsense.

  4. You make good points, Abe, especially about the Comments being buried beneath miscellaneous you-name-it.” Personally I don’t look at how many comments have been made on other blogs so I’m going to stop sweating it with mine.

    Cynthia Briggs
    Cookbook Author

  5. Taniel says:

    hey Darren. Im kind of new to your site but i just love this site. Bookmarked posts and subscribed via email. I have a white theme for my blog but i don’t know if it looks good. It’s a new blog like 10 days but my traffic isnt so bad but i plan to extend it. I even have a poll regarding the issue up on my site which was before located at the bottom and now I put it at the top. Can you tell me if the theme is too boring. Maybe you guys up there can help????

  6. Dawn says:

    Thank you for this article. I just started a blog recently and definitely see where l need to improve, especially the 0 comments.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Great help for a new blogger. I’ve implemented the 0 comments change and will now look at implementing the other items.

  8. chris says:

    I think my downfall is the comments part, I only seem to get spam comments so maybe I will try out that buddy system you mentioned.

  9. If the blog is hard to navigate i don`t waste my time on it. Simply go back to google. On the other hand i can live with no comments and bad design.

  10. Ardorm says:

    Oh, thank you so much for this article! From now on, I will definitely work on turning “0 comments” to “100 comments” ;-)

  11. Phil jones says:

    Thanks -I found this very useful and will amend my comments section and look around for some associated bloggers to encourage reciprocal commenting

    I wonder if you’d agree about thanking commentators? There is a high profile business advisor in my network and I’ve commented on her blog 4 times – these are still the only comments on her blog and hasn’t acknowledged this aaarrrgggghhhh!

    Drives me mad :-)

  12. Raevyn says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your expertise. Blogging is a big, new, scary world for me and I appreciate those like you who are willing to try and help make it a positive experience.

  13. I don’t know why, but blogs that do not have a logo that is linked to their homepage bother me immensely. Kind of like blogtyrant.com. I am so used to getting back to the home page by clicking on the logo, when I can’t I usually leave. It seems painful to have to search for the home button or link.

    This is probably just me though.

  14. Mike says:

    Great post, definitely agree that a custom theme and unique angle are what keep me reading.

  15. This is very revealing. So much to start working on right away, sometimes I just feel overwhelmed by the amount of undone things on my blog …I guess it’s just a never ending learning process.

    I tried changing the “No Comment” on my blog by tweaking the comments PHP codes since my template didn’t have any comment code on the main index files, but nothing worked.

    Also, I would like my comments to show on top or below each article on my home page and not only below the article page, any suggestions?

  16. Gabrielle says:

    Slow Loading Blogs – I mostly look at photography related blogs, however, if it takes forever for their blog to completely load, I will leave the blog. I think most of the time the photographer hasn’t resized their photos or have too many posts on the page.

    Free Blogs – I am usually hesistant because these also load slowly. I just take a paid-for blog more seriously I guess !

    Black Backgrounds – I hate them and so does my eyes !

    Advertisements – too many drive me crazy and away I go !

    Then vs. Than – I can’t stand when people don’t use these two words correctly !

  17. chip says:

    this article and the 150+ comments that follow it should be “retitled to 150 self-important a$$hats you don’t need to have a successful blog.” if anything, the comments here show exactly why posts like this don’t mean very much. Nearly every comment, and even the article itself says “I” as in “I will leave your blog if” followed by a pet peeve.

    I’ll leave if a blog has the wrong color
    I’ll leave if a blog has the wrong theme
    I’ll leave if there aren’t enough comments
    I’ll leave if there is a grammar mistake
    I’ll leave if you try to sell something
    I’ll leave if you show a picture of your kids

    Seriously, there is no pleasing you people. If you are going to leave because I don’t have enough comments, the comma is in the wrong place or you don’t like the color of the blog or the font, then you aren’t really a reader – you’re a critic.

    a quick scan of the links shows a series of blogs that all fall prey to at least one of the faults listed in the article or the comments.

    ya know what I think? I you’re tilting at windmills. Blogger “types” may care about crap like this but blogger types aren’t users.

    I’m going to go over to my earth-toned, low comment, semi-unique content adventure travel blog and make another post so that my 60 or so subscribers can see the picture of the day, share it with a friend, and have a better week than they would have otherwise.

    the rest of you can kiss my bike.

  18. Annette says:

    I really like your post…the thing that keeps me run away from a blog or a website is a poor desing, as you said you can have wonderfull contend but if it does not looks nice, or you dont have any grafics or something that is interesting to look at most of the times I dont feel like reading it.
    Ad the other thing is to much publicity, I run really fast.

  19. Very, very helpful post. You confirmed a couple of suspicions I had on my own blog. Specifically, I’ve been concerned that the colors on my blog are too dark and could turn people off. I also love the idea of changing the “0 comments” graphic. Those two suggestions alone are worth the price of admission. Thanks!

  20. I run theme blogs, have many readers because I provide a certain kind of information in two languages.

    When I read another blog, I don’t concentrate on the comments. Many times there are two people commenting and receiving responses from the blogger. Thus you can make it to 50 comments but only three people are communicating. Many readers just don’t like to comment.

    What turns me off is a blog loading for ages. A blog with too many ads and groups of bloggers sticking together, writing each other comments and have nothing but a boring content.

  21. How do you change the “0 comments” text? Where in the code do I change that?

  22. Ranu says:

    So I’m a weird reader then because when I read an article that has thousand comments and all contain unnecessary debate, it would turn me off. In fact, I don’t really care how many comments that an article has..
    I’ve been visited several mega blogs that have “0 comment” on their articles because I think not all readers feel it something necessary to leave any comment….
    Just take example, I have been visiting problogger for several times, but not always leave a comment because there are already too many comments and I think it’s not necessary…

  23. Kenneth says:

    I tend to be quite a bit more forgiving on the ’0 comments’ thing, but like many others here, I am a serious curmudgeon when it comes to grammar, punctuation & spelling. I do ask that any blogger anticipating repeat visits from me at minimum be able to string together a cogent thought and be able to present it intelligently.

    What I agree with you most on is finding an angle. What makes me hit the ‘close tab’ faster than anything is finding a blog description reading, “This is a blog about life, finding happiness, digital typography, religious secularism, my boyfriend, SQL Database Management….oh yeah, and cats. I love cats too.” I understand that you may want to keep your family abreast of what’s new in your life and Facebook’s ‘What’s On Your Mind’ doesn’t give you enough character-count to wind up your thoughts. But I don’t have the time to sift through 50 pieces I could care less about to find one I do.

    A blog that isn’t focused is probably my greatest pet-peeve.

  24. Raj says:

    I like the idea of finding other blogs with the same niche as ours and asking them to make comments on your blog providing the same service back to them.

  25. Darwin says:

    I find this post and the comments really helpful. I would also prefer to stay on blogs with active visitors and commenters, and with interactive features like polls or surveys.

  26. Tracey says:

    I’m in the middle of designing a multi-author site, and one of the challenges has been white space when dealing with a number of different people doing the writing. I can design in whitespace, but if they don’t use the tools provided to get whitespace in the articles, it does tend to look rather dense.

    The site also has comments turned off by default, but so is the ’0 comments’.

    Working on the typography. And only taking authors by invitation, so we can be sure of getting people who know good grammar and spelling and how to write well!

    Thanks for the great article.

  27. Ben says:

    The point about comments is a valid one, that’s one of the hardest things for new blogs to achieve.

  28. Great tip about the default comment text. I do try to entice readers to interact with my blog via commenting however i do wonder whether there is a tool for discussion to be used on blogs other than commenting?

  29. Blog Tyrant says:

    Hey guys.

    Just to touch on the comment issue again. My point is not to say that all blogs with low comments are bad. All I’m saying is that it is often an indicator to people of success.

    Some people need the social proof of many comments before interacting with a site. I write about this more here:

    http://www.blogtyrant.com/how-i-sold-a-blog-for-20000-in-8-months/

    Thanks so much for the feedback guys.

    Tyrant

  30. Kathryn Sias says:

    I love the challenges that blogging brings. It depends on the audience, as in any writing, you are careful to write in the style that the reader will enjoy. I wonder at times if it’s professional to use too many lol’s, or ttyl’s, as so many persons do not appreciate that writing style. The market is becoming hugely hard to understand. When I try to evaluate whatever target market I’m going after, it becomes essential to do a focus group poll to start. I usually send 100 polls to my closest friends and family who give me their own ideas. Yes, go ahead and write for your life, but you better research it before you do, and you better write in a style that the bulk of your readers will enjoy.

  31. Expatana says:

    Excellent post altogether. The comments show helpful patterns in how readers see blogs. What makes me click out fast?

    - Poor grammar and spelling, and poor writing in general. If writing isn’t your forte, get help so your own expertise looks totally professional.

    - Slow loading. My computer just passed its 7th birthday and is slow to begin with.

    - Poor design. These comments prove that matters a lot. If it looks too busy, amateurish or cheap, like bad writing I can’t take your message seriously. Content is king and design is queen.

    - Too many ads in places that interrupt my reading. I don’t mind ads if they’re relevant, but don’t bombard me.

    - Pop-ups. Any. Even in my favorite niches, I hate them.

    - Music. Any. I love it but I don’t visit blogs to hear it unless that’s the niche.

    - A requirement to sign in/register before commenting. As for the number of comments, I understand that new blogs are empty at first and will read on if it’s put together well. But I can see how, after a while, an active community just naturally attracts more.

  32. Castor says:

    Let’s face it, most of you saying that the number of comments is irrelevant are saying so only because your blogs don’t get any. Sure, there is new blogs out there and a few high-volume blogs out there don’t have all that many comments because they post constantly but for the vast majority of weblogs out there, the number of comments is a good indicator of how active a blog is.

    The best way of getting comments is to comment regularly on other blogs of your niche. There is no shortcut to it. You can go and change “0 Comments” to “say something dummy” but at the end of the day, that doesn’t do anything.

  33. Deeba says:

    I love the way this went, and agree all the way. Mindless and endless nonsensical banter about you and your family is a put off too. Grammar, bad word usage. too much SEO stuffed into a post, no jest … all are put offs for me. On the other hand, a totally impersonal, to the point post somehow doesn’t offer me connect. I like to know my readers, personally to an extent, I want to know how they feel, where they’ve been, what’s changing in their lives. Twitter is a great extension to blogging. I love the banter there, and carry my relationships from there to my blog.
    Blog design and WP are still an uphill task for me. One day, I shall overcome my CSS phobia, and accept that ‘code is poetry’!

  34. Deeba says:

    Sorry I’m back…but as code isn’t poetry yet, I can’t find the comment pop up thingy in my redesigned blog. Sigh … will have to wait for help, but it’s gonna play on my mind! Thank you for the direction!

  35. Blog Tyrant says:

    @Deeba what’s the problem?

  36. George Angus says:

    Well, you got two of them right but comments? You can’t be serious. Suppose you were one of the first people to get to the post?
    Using a lack of comments as criteria for bailing is short sighted to say the least.
    So only the big boy blogs are worthy of your attention? Everyone has to start somewhere.
    Rubbish, says I.

    George

    • Blog Tyrant says:

      Hi George.

      I don’t like it either but it seems to hold water.

      I am not saying that being the first to leave a comment is the cause of this problem. I am saying if there is a trend of 0 comments all throughout the blog. It goes to social proof – people are more likely to interact if there are others going before them.

      Hope that helps.

  37. Laura says:

    Out of curiosity, in Blogger, where to you go to change the “0 Comments” setting? I’m really afraid to mess with my template html.

  38. Blog Tyrant says:

    Hi guys.

    I did a video to show you how to change that 0 comments WordPress text. Hope it helps.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ3L5jGhOqM

    Tyrant.

Trackbacks

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