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Friday, November 10, 2006

What made a blog stand out?

Yesterday, I reviewed the G’s. It will be some time before you see another nablo review by me. I’m not scheduled to reappear until much later in the month. Lovely volunteers will be covering the other categories. That doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to visit… or periodically mention someone that is worth a visit!

In the last 10 days I have seen at least 520 blogs from the 0 – G bloggers. This number does not include the favorites I have that I visit at least once every day or every other day - many of them are in my sidebar. This also does not count the blogs I see with the randomizer, which I use just to surf through participants, some of you I’ve already seen and some of you are new to me. That number also does not count the blogs I visit that are my Absolute Write buddies. I think it’s a safe estimate to say that in the last 10 days I have been to at least 700 blogs.

I wanted to share with you my thoughts, opinions and observations. This is just what I think, if you don’t agree… good, now you can go make your own post completely disagreeing with me.

First, by a huge landslide, women are the more active and predominate individuals that actively blog, and gauging from my own experiences, more active participants. I.e. They comment more often, they respond to comments made by guests, and they mention comments or reference comments in their posts. Deduct from this what you will… I just think it’s an interesting observation.

Let’s begin with the blog basics:

Title: How important is it? Under the circumstances, I was visiting everyone regardless of title, style or theme. On a regular day, if I’m presented with a list of random blogs that I don’t know about, the title is what will catch my attention. If I’m given the option between: Melissa’s Blog and Adventures of a Word Nerd in Dairyland, which do you think gets my click? A title isn’t necessary, mandatory or even worth stressing over. There are BAZILLIONS of blogs. If you want random visitors you may want a title that makes your blog sound more interesting. If this blog is your personal diary and you really don’t care how many random folks visit, be happy with whatever you choose to name it, whether it’s a simple title like A Journal, Blog This, or something catchier like Colon Cancer Sucks Ass - a title that tells you what it’s going to be about, and is definitely attention grabbing.

Layout or the “look and feel” of your blog: To me I’m pretty neutral about layouts. I certainly like seeing different structures and layouts for blogs. I’ve seen some that were wonderfully unique and easy to navigate. I’ve seen some that are way too crowded or busy… or it was a real pain in my ass to navigate through. I like a little color. I like to see images of some kind, even if the “images” are buttons or badges, or gifs. You don’t have to flood your blog with photographs to make it visually appealing to your visitors. I am not fond of blogs that have annoyingly bright colors or blogs that have font that is squished or the font color is difficult to see. If I click on a blog and have to squint or blink from the brightness, I’ll be clicking right on out in less than a second. It may be clever, but if you want your reader to stay, make it pleasant for them to be there.

I saw some amazing blog layouts that really impressed me either by design or features… there were others that were just the BARE basics of a blogger or livejournal layout. Those were fine too! Maybe not as visually “spicy” but some of those templates are nice and comfortable. As a reader, you know where everything is and exactly how the blog will work. It’s like coming home and pulling on your most comfortable pair of jeans… may not make you look like a million bucks, but damn, you are comfortable!

Header: I separate header from layout because even if you keep a basic layout template you often have the ability to create a header. If you aren’t that experienced with coding, adding a header is still a fairly simple process that gives you the ability to personalize the first thing visitors see when they visit. (At least in blogger and some of the other common blog tools) If I see a basic header with just a title, I won’t click away, but if your header is unique, you’ll catch my attention faster and it may be easier for me to remember you. You can do a google search for header help on the particular blog tool you use, and frequently you'll find a few places that tell you exactly how to change the code or make the edits.

Ads and Side Bars: Personally, I like either one side bar or one side bar on each side of the main content column. I’ve seen some blogs that have two sidebars on the left side or two sidebars on the right side… I don’t particularly like that layout, but that’s just my personal preference. I enjoy seeing what people put in their side bars… and I don’t mind seeing ads. Now, let me clarify. Some ads at the top or ads at the bottom or ads on the side are fine with me… ads that come between each blog post or that are in the middle of a blog post annoy me. I certainly like seeing banners to other interesting sites and tools. I think banners and links are great ways to make your blog more interesting for visitors. Not only can they enjoy your content… they can see what you like and they can jump on over. There are some blogs that I’ve added to my favorites simply because I use that blog as a jumping board to other spots they’ve noted that I like. It’s easier to favorite one blog that has a dozen links I like, than to favorite those dozen sites. Warning: Everything in moderation. This should be the guiding principle for advertisements and links/banners/buttons, etc. If you want to have 50 billion ads… then change your message to: “Hi, this is a catalog that I’m going to periodically add personal thoughts to… please begin your shopping experience by clicking on one of the thousand ads and banners I’ve put here for you.”

Interactive Material: Another little favorite of mine is when someone has a post with a little interactive event, like a quiz or survey… or they’ve got a banner on their sidebar to go someplace to find an interactive item. Sprinkling some periodic posts with this gives your reader something to “learn” about you and something they can do to “learn” about themselves. However, the same warning applies here… everything in moderation. One or two in a month in posts or on the side bar is nice… 20 is not.

Tune in later… I’ll talk about what is really the most important part of your blog. Content.



Blogger doahleigh said...

This is a very nice essay on blogs. New bloggers should read this before they get started. Good lessons. Good job!

1:56 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

700 blogs??

Man, I admire you. I was trying to hit as many Thursday Thirteeners as I could yesterday; I doubt I made 100 before I petered out.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

I will be reading and learning.

I think you may have hooked one that otherwise wouldnt have found you.


7:34 PM  

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