Reader feedback is a blogger’s most important tool. By reading comments, emails and survey results pertaining to our blog, we’re receiving valuable information. Stats also provide a gold mine of information.
For the most part, the feedback received regarding the Freelance Writing Jobs blog network is extremely positive. However, that doesn’t mean the negative feedback we receive isn’t treated with the same respect. Every comment, every criticism and every stat is given the same consideration.
It’s from our regular survey and from reading feedback regarding this and other blogs that inspired today’s list. If you’re struggling with traffic or you can’t seem to get a regular community together, it may be folks are turned off by something at your blog. Maybe you can learn by some of my mistakes.
Here are some things blog turnoffs I learned over five years of blogging for and running Freelance Writing Jobs.
Disclosure: There are a lot of “I’s” in this post. I made it about me.That’s because I’m speaking about my experience as a blogger. I’m also sharing many personal anecdotes which I hope doesn’t turn into yet another turnoff. This blog has always been about sharing personal (rather than general) experiences.
I hope you’ll also share your experiences and let me know if you agree or disagree.
1. It has no defined purpose
Readers like to come to a blog and know what it’s about. They don’t want to have to search to see if there’s a theme and they don’t want to read a mishmash of ideas each day. They want to know a blog’s purpose. If it’s a personal blog, they expect varied thoughts. If there’s no indication of whether or not your blog is personal , or really what you’re going for, you’re going to lose some very confused readers. We can blog about anything we want. However, if your blog is just disorganized ramblings, it may not make it to the top of the rankings. I once had a blog that was supposed to be about the life of a work at home mom, but turned out to be anything but. It didn’t last long.
2. It doesn’t stay on topic
If your blog is about tomatoes but you spend too much time focusing on your two year old’s potty training, you’re going to lose some people. All bloggers go off topic now and again, and that’s kind of to be expected. When it happens on a regular basis your community might go to a competitor’s blog to learn all the stuff you’re not teaching. If you have trouble finding things to write about in your niche, it’s probably the wrong niche. If you write more about another topic, that’s probably the one you should be going for. All blogs have a niche. If you can’t stay true to your own, your readers won’t stick around.
3.It doesn’t teach
Sometimes blog posts hint at a point but never quite get to it. For example, if I’m going to write posts about freelance writing that talk about writing in a general way but never give you actual tips you can use, you really don’t have a reason to visit. If I wrote a post entitled “How to Land Your First Freelance Writing Job,” but gave a pep talk instead of actual practices to put into play, I’d be pandering to traffic, but I wouldn’t teach. My community would quickly realize that I didn’t have anything to offer. The people who come to this blog want me to help them to become successful freelance writers. They want to leave their office jobs and work at home full time. If I can’t share my methods, they’re going to call b.s. and move on.
4. It’s too negative
Rants are fun. They inspire discussion and bring in traffic. Ranty blog posts have dozens, if not hundreds of comments and everyone wants to weigh in. Who doesn’t love a good rant?
People who see them every day.
Hear me out on this one, I promise this won’t be another kumbaya. If you read this blog for the past few years you’ll know I’ve spoken out against places that offer residual income such as Examiner, Associated Content and eHow. You know that I think residual gigs are not my favorite way to earn an income and very few can make it work. However, my community didn’t appreciate my strong thoughts regarding this and I alienated many.
My community told me they don’t want my venom, they want me to share my tips. No one wants me to tell them I feel they’re making poor choices. So I stopped. I didn’t change my mind, instead I focused my passion on offering tips for success. Now, some of you might be thinking, “Why worry about those writers, they’re not who you’re speaking to anyway.” That’s where you’re wrong, they’re exactly who I’m reaching out to. This blog is for all freelance writers and if I can’t build a welcoming community for all, then I’m not achieving this blog’s goal. The negativity scared people away and that’s why I stopped.
5. It’s too positive
Too much positivity can also be a turnoff and I can speak from experience here too. After taking a vow of positivity this year, I received a flood of criticism. When you’re too positive people don’t feel you’re honestly presenting all sides of the issue. I totally get this. Being around a Perky Polly all day can get a little annoying. I’m not saying I’m going negative because I learned some very good lessons, but balance is always good. If I see something I don’t like, I’ll make it known but I’ll always try to be respectful about it. I don’t think that blogging is about being positive or negative, I think it’s about being human.
6. It’s misleading
Don’t you hate when a headline sucks you in but once you get to the blog post you realize it has no bearing on the headline? People don’t like to be misled. They want the drapes to match the carpet.
7. There’s no clear comment policy
Whenever I discuss a comment policy I receive cries of “censorship!” or “you don’t let people disagree!” Not true at all. I personally feel disagreement makes the world go ’round. However, I don’t believe in anarchy. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with a blogger as long as you’re respectful. When folks start attacking and cursing in the comments, I lose people. I hate “Oh you’re so wonderful and I agree” comments all the time. I enjoy lively discussion and I want comments with substance. “You’re a butthead and don’t know any better” isn’t a good rebuttal, though. If a blog’s comment section is a free for all with all sides hurtling insults, it keeps people away.
8. It’s sponsor driven
Whoa, Nellie. Just back the truck up. Where do I get off talking about sponsor driven blogs when I talk about my own sponsor every day?
Personally, I feel having an obvious sponsor kind of puts me in a perfect position to discuss it.
I can tell you from experience that having an prominent sponsor will turn some people off and drive them away. It can even cause rifts in the community. If you’re going to choose a sponsor make sure you really believe in said sponsor and it’s worth the loss in traffic. I make no bones about it, this blog is heavily monetized and until I can get more personal passive income projects off the ground, it’s going to be heavily monetized. Many other bloggers and community members don’t approve of or agree with this. Before you decide to heavily monetize your blog, remember what happened here.
9. It’s poorly written
I talk about my typos all the time, but a there’s more to a poorly written blog than typos. When words are constantly misspelled and sentences aren’t structured properly, folks notice. I’m called out all the time for not properly proofreading this blog. People notice. Trust me, they notice.
10. Every post is an attempt at link bait
I love writing lists. If you search around this blog, you’ll find tons of them. I don’t necessarily write them as linkbait, but more because I enjoy the list format and try to have a little fun with my writing. Because I make a lot of lists, I’ve been called out as a linkbait whore. I can totally see that. Now before I discuss why this is a turnoff, I want to say that I’m confused at why linkbait is such a terrible thing. I mean, don’t we want traffic and don’t we want other bloggers to link to us? I guess wanting it and being public about are two different things.
A blog’s community wants to feel intimate. They want to be like the small fan base that enjoyed a club band before landing a record contract and going Top 40. They want to feel as if we’re sharing tips and ideas, not looking for traffic and links. In all honesty, I do try and make every post here useful, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want others outside of this community to take notice, either.
I used to blog for me, but now I blog for the Freelance Writing Jobs community. Through their valuable feedback I know why they come here – and what keeps them away.
What does your community tell you? What are some of your blog turnoffs? Do you agree with the above?
Anne Wayman says
Deb, I get complaints about my typos too plus a few really helpful folks who gently point out my gaffs. Love those – they want to help, to see me succeed.
Another complaint I get from time-to-time is I don’t categorize the jobs I post enough… I think they want me to read their minds and figure out what writing jobs they want… when I explain the obvious, that the jobs are free and freelance, they usually either go away or keep looking but never admit it.
I blog for me as well as my community…
.-= Anne Wayman´s last blog ..Write A Great Proposal – Videos For Freelance Writers =-.
Deb Ng says
Anne, I categorize the job lists but now some people want me to make searchable lists. I’m not that talented.
My main thing is typos as well. And I also wonder if I’m too positive sometimes. Especially when it comes to writing reviews. I just get all excited and then write the review. I think maybe I should calm down and then write the review eh?
.-= Christopher´s last blog ..What An Attorney Can Teach Us About Having a USP =-.
Deb Ng says
I think positive reviews are fine as long as they’re honest. If you’re being positive just to receive free stuff, folks will start to question it eventually. Something I do sometimes is ask what I would think of me if I read my writing every day.
good question, I’ll keep that in mind. I also try to make to add what sucks about it too if there is anything.
.-= Christopher´s last blog ..What An Attorney Can Teach Us About Having a USP =-.
LOL! Carpet matching the drapes = hilarious!
Deb Ng says
I like to add little fun bits here and there to see who is paying attention. Glad to give you a giggle.
Darlene 'Dee' Bishop says
I love that statement! I’m terrible with the creative aspect of writing (I’m an old-school, trained journalist who was taught to “report the news—no more, and no less!”)… a great catch-phrase always appeals to me.
Lucy Smith says
People who comment on typos in a blog have far too much time on their hands.
Disclaimer: in my everyday life, I am a stickler for correct punctuation, grammar, and spelling, where I expect to see it. These things are important. I expect blogs to be informal, and as long as it makes sense and isn’t putting blatantly incorrect information out there, I don’t have a prbolem with the odd error (yes, that was intentional). Bloggers are human too.
.-= Lucy Smith´s last blog ..Tempting gadgetry =-.
Deb Ng says
I think it depends on the blog. Those of us who write writing blogs should probably be more careful with our usage. With that said, blogging is a more relaxed form of writing and people should just lighten up sometimes.
John Hewitt says
All true, and some sad. The need to “stay on topic” always messes with my rather freewheeling mind. So many things I would like to say, but so litle room to maneuver with my narrow little topic.
.-= John Hewitt´s last blog ..How to subsidize your freelance writing career with a (shudder) JOB =-.
Deb Ng says
It’s hard for ADD people to stay on topic. I have a ton of things I’d really like to talk about , none of them having to do with writing.
I just revamped my blog, and I really thought about what I wanted to focus on. As you said, I was talking about way too many things. It was definitely a turnoff to my readers. Thanks for the great post!
.-= Shevonne´s last blog ..March 5, 2010 Interesting Links =-.
I think these are great tips. I recently started my blog, so I’ll be bookmarking this article. I hadn’t thought specifically about teaching and linkbait issues until reading this list.
Brendan Thatcher says
This was a very insightful article. However, I don’t write about writing, and I have one blog that I have struggled to get any kind of audience for. I’m new to blogging, and am really getting into it for fun. One mistake I made was starting a blog, letting it die, marketing a new blog and just resurrecting the old blog. I get no readers now. What can a new blogger do to get readers?
.-= Brendan Thatcher´s last blog ..Jumper- The movie it could have been =-.
Good list. Thank you.
I have probably transgressed on all counts at one point on another. Now I’m thinking about my Sunday Morn Musings which are a free fall from my otherwise consistent topic (at least I think it is consistent). I notice though that my traffic has begun to pick up on Sundays – maybe its just a growing number of Sundayers, you know, who only like the freefall topics of my Sunday postings.
.-= Valentina´s last blog ..Sunday Morn Musings: Reading and Independent Thinking. =-.
I would love to see a blog post or three on blog comments and policies. I write about autism for about.com, and am finding it almost impossible to implement a policy that supports debate but says “no” to personal flaming.
How to describe a policy that says “it’s okay to disagree vehemently, so long as you don’t do it in a way that’s likely to inspire everyone else to defend themselves as individuals because you described them, by name, as jerks?”
My hope (sometimes fulfilled) is to allow every point of view and heated debate, while maintaining enough civility that people can stay on topic and avoid personal comments and jibes.
I agree with you on #4 that a number of writing sites are poor income producers unless you write for many of them at the same time. In fact I wrote an article in my blog about that very thing. You can access it at http://www.theseasonedwriter.com.
If people don’t like your advice about a certain subject, then fine. But calling it “venom” is way overboard. What they need to do is to get over it and grow up!
As a point of comparison: It’s hard to tell which way earns you more money; getting paid the full amount up front or writing for several sites and getting paid by page views, which I think is a stupid way to pay people. If some of the great classical composers of all time got paid based on the popularity of their compositions during their lifetime, as opposed to getting paid regularly, many of them would have died young and destitute. One classic example is J.S. Bach, whose compositions were all but forgotten until Felix Mendelssohn revived them nearly 100 years later! In time Bach became one of the greatest, if not the greatest, composer of all time! So much for page views payments!
There’s no use getting upset with what people say. Many of them spout off and they simply DON’T know what they are talking about.
Keep up the good work you are doing here. As someone who has been writing off and on for nearly 50 years, I do appreciate it!
As a counterpoint: I made a big pot of money on royalties for a project that would have made far less if it’d been written on a fee-only basis. And if About.com paid me by the page view, I’d be a wealthy woman today!
Buck Weber says
I have learned to just put up with typos on blogs I read, but they still interrupt the flow for me. BTW, there is a typo in #9, the one about typos. 😉
When I disagree with something you have written I don’t get upset but rather it will cause me to reexamine my view on the subject. What would be the point of me subscribing if I agreed 100 percent?
Keep up the good work and damn the typos!
.-= Buck Weber´s last blog ..How to Make and Save Money With Pallets =-.
Lorraine C. Ladish says
Thank you for the valuable insights!
I have to admit that I’m one who will decide not to go back to a blog because I saw something I didn’t like. This blog is no exception. Twice, I’ve told myself I was “never coming back” and obviously that didn’t really happen. The first time was because of some heated arguments over what job leads were being posted. The second time was during the whole ads issue.
Looking back, I realize that it was comments made by other people that ultimately cause me to run for the hills to get away from a blog. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose trust with a blog owner simply because some commenters plant niggling doubts in your mind. Unfortunately, that’s not something you would have much control over.
If I have a fallout with a friend, I have to get away from them awhile. I find I do the same with blogs. The issues that disturbed me before aren’t bothering me so much anymore and I can go back with a different frame of mind. At least that’s my experience anyway.
Angie J says
This is great info – but I have a question.
Seriously – people actually care if it’s monetized? I don’t – all I care about is the information it contains. The Internet has been flooded with so many ads that I don’t notice them any more… it’s easy to read around them.
RFID Reader says
Hello everyone thanks for
This is a very useful list of dos and don’ts. I am an absolute beginner at blogging and have written only one blog with positive feedback, however from very few people. I am not sure if the rest even read my blog! How do I get people to notice my blog so I get feedback good or bad?