Bloggers blog for various reasons, but one thing in common is that they want others to come and read what they have to say. (There is absolutely no reason to publish a blog if you want to keep the contents to yourself.) Why not make that experience as welcoming as possible?
I don't know about you, but the last thing I want is to have new visitors come by and then leave in a huff because they could not find what they were looking for. And if they came in via an established link from somewhere else, it's even worse because that says while I might be successful at bringing in new traffic, I suck at keeping it!
With that in mind, here are five things that could potentially make a visitor run away from your blog...
No Link to Complete Archives
Are you ashamed of your previous posts? Are they so uninteresting that you'd rather they not be read? If that's not the case, why can't I access them? I mean, really, if I'm already at your blog and willing to spend more time, give me a link to your archives! Related post, popular post and random post widgets and tags — assuming you have them — are not enough if I'm looking for something from a particular time period.
SOLUTION: Add the "Blog Archive" gadget to your blog. It doesn't have to dominate your landscape, either. On the Blogger platform, it can be set to appear totally unobtrusively; my drop down list format takes up just a half inch of vertical space when not in use.
|There is ALWAYS room for your archives...|
No Helpful Internal Links
Okay, so I read a post that says you'll be back next time with more details about this project. So I click on the link to get to the next post. But the post is about something else entirely. Now I have no real way to find "the rest of the story". I get that things sometimes interfere with scheduling and plans, but in a case like this, it would be helpful to have an internal link to that "next time" — whenever it actually turned out to be.
SOLUTION: It's potentially time-consuming if you're a frequent blogger, but it's still a good idea to go back to older posts and provide links to "continued" content. Yes, the post may show up via your related posts widget (again, assuming you have one), but it may not. I make a note to myself whenever I upload a post that includes a reference to a future posting. When that "future" posting is finally up, I go back to the original post and include a link to it. Smooth sailing for the reader who comes upon it months (or years) later.
|I went back and added this link to a follow-up post...|
I should take this opportunity to mention that adding links to older topics is always a good idea too. Studies have shown that people tend to click on links that appear in context with what they are reading... like this one (as opposed to links on a menu or sidebar). Take advantage of this behaviour! If you happen to make a reference to some past project of yours, link to that post; if you write about something that reminds you of something you've written about in the past, link to it.
Not Providing a Deep Link
I've come to your blog because I found a picture of some project of yours that interests me on some other site. However, it turns out the link is to your home page, which is currently displaying totally unrelated content. Not helpful. If you are calling attention to a specific post, always link out with the precise address of that exact post or page.
"Not Found" Pages/Posts
That being said, having your home page appear is better than getting a disappointing 404 screen... or nothing. If you have posts/pages that have been removed, you should redirect their links to your home page instead of having them show up with a broken link message.
I will give you an example from a popular website that should know better: Sew4Home. For some reason, they changed the name of the post that originally introduced their origami ribbon coin purse when they reposted the project. My blog post about that project linked to the old page and until I brought it to their attention, it led to a blank screen.
SOLUTION: On Blogger, you can set your home page (or any other page for that matter) as the default landing page for any post/page that no longer exists by filling out the Errors and redirections section under Settings, Search preferences.
|Adding a custom redirect...|
No Search Button
So despite all of the above, I am still here at your blog and thinking that, hmm, maybe I'll just search for the content I'm looking for. But no such luck... because you don't have a search button. I can hear Homer Simpson in my head going, "Doh!"
SOLUTION: Add the "Search Box" gadget to your layout! It takes up almost no space but adds so much functionality!
|A search box provides so much functionality for so little space!|
To wrap up all this negativity, I need to remind myself that bloggers generally deserve bouquets rather than brickbats. That's why I originally wrote my "Thank Your Favourite Bloggers Day" post. The above was just meant as some tongue-in-cheek advice for bloggers to help them provide an enjoyable user experience.
After all, unlike strategic or over placement of ads to promote clicking (which, by the way, is getting way too irksome but is done very purposefully by the blog owner, so is another topic in itself), I think most blogs exhibiting the above irritations suffer from them honestly; i.e., their owners are unaware of the full ramifications.
That having been said, I feel compelled to reiterate that the frustration on my end is very real if a blog has more than one of the above issues!
Have you ever gone to a blog looking for something great that you just weren't able to find?