6 Common Slip-Ups that Make Your
Blog Look Bad

image of washing machine

Your readers are starved for time, which unfortunately means there’s no time to give you lovingly detailed critiques about why they don’t like your blog.

People aren’t finding what they’re looking for on your website, and they’re leaving without a trace.

What’s going wrong? Why don’t they like what they see on your site?

You can’t know the definitive answer because nobody’s giving you feedback. You’re getting nowhere fast, and no one is offering you the slightest clue as to where you’ve gone astray.

Let’s right this ship by correcting a few common but profound content slip-ups, right now …

But I’m doing everything right!

Get over the idea that all you need is to be “discovered.” You’re not a neglected genius patiently awaiting your dutiful fame. Jon Morrow eloquently puts it this way:

… you’re not waiting on the world. The world is waiting on you.

The world is remarkably patient.

If you never get your act together, it will gladly wait on you until the end of time. Should your success never arrive, there are scores of other blogs that will serve its needs nicely.

To put it straight — the world is waiting on you, but it doesn’t need you.

I’m going to assume you read Copyblogger regularly.

You’re not doing everything wrong. If anything, you’re doing nearly everything right.

I’ve found six slip-ups that are crushing any chances you ever had of readers taking your blog seriously. These six mistakes are actively keeping your blog from growing.

A single mistake from the list below won’t doom your blog, but when you combine all six, they can create a perfect storm of online failure.

1. Your headline size is too small

You’ve learned that your headlines’ substance is extremely important. But you still haven’t figured out that they need to stand out on your blog.

Make them bigger.

Here at Copyblogger the headlines are at 30 pixels. You could even jump off the deep end and make them really big.

You almost can’t go too big when it comes to headlines.

2. Your photos look like they were taken with a broken iPod

You’re better off using no photos than using bad ones. Strong imagery takes your great content and makes it even stronger.

Unless you’re fiendishly handy at finding the 1% worth using (hint, it takes a lot of time and a very good eye), Flickr isn’t good enough. Try iStockPhoto or DreamsTime.

If you don’t feel like shucking out the bucks for premium pics, try the free gallery at DreamsTime.

Graphics play an incredibly important role — because they create an instant emotional impression, they can make or break an article.

Use something absolutely astounding, or use nothing at all.

3. Your email opt-in form is award-winningly ugly

In my opinion, the default Feedburner signup form doesn’t work. It doesn’t match the rest of your site and very few use it.

You shouldn’t be using Feedburner for your email list anyway (Feedburner is great for RSS, but not email.) If you’re doing this for more than a hobby, you should invest in a professional email service such as Aweber or MailChimp.

But don’t stop there.

You’ve got to customize your opt-in form. See how pretty the form on this site looks? People adore it and they sign up all the time.

It’s hard to overestimate the conversion gap between an ugly opt-in form and a beautiful one. It may seem like a small issue to you, but you’re losing readers — and customers — if you ignore this tip.

4. You’re invisibly whimpering for a subscription instead of confidently insisting on it

Place your signup form at the very top of your site.

Read the comments on this article. I persuaded a “mommy blogger” to move her subscription form to the top of her sidebar — and she’s getting many more subscribers now.

This works. Do it.

5. Your About page is lame

Log into your Google Analytics (or Woopra, if you’re into real time analytics) and look at your top pages.

I guarantee your About page gets a lot of traffic — right behind your home page, perhaps.

Why do you suppose everybody’s going there? Because they want to know what the blog is about, and they want to get to know you.

They want to see the face behind the blog. People use your About page to decide if they’ll subscribe or not. Ideally, you’ll want to let them know that you know what you’re talking about. Readers also like to be assured you’re human.

Assure them.

6. You’re unnecessarily reminding everyone how stale your articles are

How are you making everything look really old on your site?

You’ve got the publish date in your URL, and right under the headline.

Early on, I decided to remove every single date on my blog, including the comments.

As a result, when folks read something I wrote months ago, they feel it’s absolutely relevant to them. Since it doesn’t look like they’re joining the conversation late, they feel okay leaving a comment too.

I’m constantly getting comments on months-old articles because I don’t have the date showing how “stale” the page is.

If a post looks like you wrote it this morning, for all practical purposes you did, and people will treat it as such.

Perception is reality.

Come on Martyn, you know I can’t do that

Some of these will be simple to put into place for virtually anyone with a blog.

But if you’re not too web-savvy, some might be a little trickier to figure out.

Well as it happens, Joseph Wesley and I will be helping folks with that at a brand new site called Blog Tweaks. In fact, we’re dedicated to improving your blog from the ground up.

If you’re hoping to take your digital real estate to the next level, you need to make at least a modest investment in quality solutions. Don’t forget — Brian Clark spent $1,000 on design when he started Copyblogger — before the site was making any money.

Take a writing challenge for a shot at a free blog tweak

To prove we’re not a couple of greedy nickel-squeezers, I’m going to fix a blog for free.

Well, not completely free. You’re going to have to participate in a writing challenge. Nothing serious, just a little exercise proving you’re worth your salt. (As a Copyblogger reader, let’s face it, you have an unfair advantage, right?)

Click here for the details. The best writer wins and gets some free blog tweaks. The rest get their article in an eBook that’ll go viral, so in a sense they win too. Heh.

What are you waiting for? Let’s get started.

About the Author: Martyn Chamberlin is an entrepreneur who blogs about copywriting and digital marketing at Two Hour Blogger. You should follow him on Twitter here.

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Comments

  1. I’m a big proponent of point #4. If you want someone to sign up for your newsletter you have to make it easy for them to do so! That sign up form should get the prime real estate on your site page.

  2. The jerk who wrote this article clearly didn’t know what he was talking about…

    • Low opinion of yourself? LOL

      Martyn, I think you make some great points.

      A lot of it is being agressive. You have to put it out there.

      Another good idea is not to be shy about putting up your “best links”. If you have a few that do particularly well, or have highly actionable information make sure they are prominently linked, either in “about me” or somewhere on the homepage.

      You want readers to be able to find your very best stuff very easily.

      In the age of short attention spans, you have to throw the stuff you want the readers to see/do right at them…or they are gone.

    • How do you turn off the dates in posting and comments? I want to do this for my company blog. (Self-hosted word press).

      • Ok this isn’t the professional solution, but try this. In the CSS, say:


        .date, .commentmetadata {
        display: none;
        }

        The exact code differs from theme to theme, but that’s the gist of how to do it without having to edit the actual guts of your WordPress theme.

    • Ah, don’t be so hard on him. I think he did an outstanding job. Nicely put together!

  3. re: point #3 – for a while I was pretty happy with my opt in form but it is clearly a disaster… I recently put together one for another client which I’m really happy with so we’ll see how it shakes out. all your points were well taken. thanks!

    • Martyn makes a good point with #3: how your e-mail opt-in form looks matters. You want it to inspire confidence and make people want to subscribe. Styling it to look better can make that happen. Good luck with your forms!

  4. I’ve been waiting for a service like “Blog Tweaks” for a long time. Most of the work I need done is about simple changes that would take me hourse to figure out but would be easy for a designer/developer.

    I look forward to checking out your services.

  5. Awesome tips.

    Does removing the dates really affect perception that much? I thought about doing it to my blog, which is still in the infant phase, but really wasn’t sure since I thought people like time frames.

    • It depends. If you’re writing time-sensitive stuff like news or technology, you might want a date. But for most niches it’s generally a good idea to leave the date out of your URLs and headlines. Taking the date out of comments is a controversial decision, but I’m personally finding it to yield me much better results.

      • I adore (and do) all of your tips EXCEPT the date stripping.

        One of my biggest pet peeves when reading a blog is not being able to see when it was written. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s old – if I like it enough to comment, I’m going to do that either way. However, one of the first things I always look for is the date. And if I don’t see it, I usually pass the info off as less relevant and simply move on.

        Why? I have no idea.

        I just know I do that, so I would hate for anyone to do that with me. My biggest rule of thumb with my blog: Don’t do a single thing on it just because someone else does (or tells me to). If it doesn’t mesh with the way I, personally, enjoy blog reading, it’s not going to work for me.

        • That’s exactly why I personally advocate removing dates.

          If I’m a fitness blogger and I have a really great technique for, say, a great breakfast to fuel workouts, why would I want readers to dismiss it just because I wrote it 4 years ago? It’s still a great breakfast to fuel workouts. It’s always going to be a great breakfast to fuel workouts.

          Like it or not, many (maybe most) readers unconsciously dismiss “outdated” content even if it’s purely evergreen.

          I do hear what you’re saying about “Do unto others,” and I applaud that, but I also don’t believe in hiding your best work under a bushel.

          I’ll ask you — does the lack of dates on Copyblogger bug you? I ask because as a reader, before I came on board, I actually never noticed it.

          • I noticed, Sonia. Then again, I read Copyblogger every single day AND go back to popular articles from time to time. :)
            I’ve actually wanted to ask you guys about the dates because as a reader, I kinda think like Leslie. No doubt many of the content here are timelessly relevant, but if I’m not sure when an article is published, I get second thoughts about participating (commenting, linking, etc).

          • Actually, I get Copyblogger via email and have for about six months now, and I’m one of those icky people who rarely clicks on links to see the site, unless I’m particularly moved about a topic enough to comment on it. :)

            But to answer your question – yes. It’s bugged me to no end. And it was one reason why it took me several visits to the site to feel like I wanted to subscribe to an email feed.

            Once I read a few articles that were absolutely brilliant, engaging, and something I knew I’d want – regardless of WHEN they were written – I subscribed.

            SO … content is king. Always. Dates have little relevance at all, IMHO, except to establish either the illusion of timelessness by stripping them or complete disclosure (which encourages trust) to a post by leaving them there. But in the end, none of it really matters if you’re writing good stuff.

          • Yes, the lack of dates on Copyblogger and everywhere else bugs me. I want to know when things were written.

        • I agree with Leslie.

          I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across articles with no date when the date of publication is completely relevant to the information.

          In internet marketing, trends change, tools change, software changes. If I’m looking for the best tool to use for a specific task and I come across your article talking about how good so and so product is, how do I know it’s current? Maybe bigger and better tools have come out since then.

          There’s only one reason to remove dates and that is to HIDE information from your visitors. For me, it destroys your credibility – especially if you go so far as to remove the dates from comments too.

          • I love what Sonia just said above – “I’ll ask you — does the lack of dates on Copyblogger bug you? I ask because as a reader, before I came on board, I actually never noticed it.”

            Jeff, thousands of people visit my site but I’ve never gotten a complaint about there being no dates. All I ever hear is, “My, this site is so nice and clean. How did you do it?”

          • For a blog that talks about specific tech tools (or anything where most of the information is time-sensitive), I agree with you, use dates.

            But a blog like this one, where 95% of the content is about underlying principles, the advice & information don’t change the way that technology tools do.

        • @Leslie

          Huh?? Copyblogger doesn’t have dates? Does that mean you are annoyed here?

        • Amen, Leslie!

          For many, many blogs, leaving the date off an article is simply irresponsible. Knowledge advances, techniques change, software is updated and new products come to market.

          If your blog is about something truly timeless, like writing or speaking, then maybe the information is also timeless. But even something like a fitness blog needs dates, as techniques change. Physiological and nutritional knowledge grows and what constitutes good advice changes. For software and gadgets, dates are an absolute must.

          Even better, the blogger could revisit old posts and update them, or write new ones and delete the old ones.

          The workaround is to look at the dates on comments, which can indicate a minimum age for the article. I’ve yet to see comments without dates.

          • I write a UK legal blog – I think it is critical that I have the date on it. Laws change and something written in 2007 may not apply in 2011 if the law has changed. The date is very much part of the blog.

      • I think it depends on the content. If it’s time sensitive, the date needs to be there. But if it isn’t time sensitive, you might want to remove it.

        I just left this comment for a while to check out your sites. I read your post on why you left Facebook, too. I’ve been see-sawing the idea of leaving Facebook, myself. In your post, you mentioned that you had to “hack the system” to really delete your profile. How did you do that? Can you share the deets?

        • Just google “how to permanently delete Facebook” and you’ll find out. It’s not really “hacking” the system, but you won’t learn how from Facebook itself.

  6. I like the idea behind #6, but as someone who has had that permalink structure in place for a couple of years, how do I change it without a negative impact in the search engines?

    • If you change your permalink structure, it’ll mess up search engines for a week or two, but once Google re-indexes your site you’ll be good to go. If you wanted to get fancy, you could implement some Apache 301 redirects during that timeframe.

      • Actually this will hose your site from an SEO perspective because your backlinks will no longer be valid and I do not recommend doing this!!! Think about it, your backlinks are the primary element that Google uses to gauge the authority of your site. If you lose all of your backlinks, you are back to square one (or zero in this case like a brand new site with no link juice).

        I would only change your permalinks for new or young sites. I do agree that removing the dates from the permalink structure is a good idea for those young sites. If you want a good model, look at copyblogger. It is http://www.websitename.com/title-of-article In wordpress last time I checked this was done by using /%postname%/ but Martyn can verify that.

        • Yes Tim, it’s /%postname%/ and I always change my client sites to that structure.

          Backlinks aren’t a problem. That’s the whole reason Al Gore invented 301 redirects.

          • If that’s true then why don’t big name blogs like http://www.problogger.net change their permalink structure? Hint: it’s not because they don’t agree with your premise about making the URL shorter ;)

          • It’s because the information at Problogger grows outdated. The blogging tools used in 2006 don’t cut the mustard anymore, and he doesn’t want newbies stumbling across the archives and reading that MySpace is where it’s at, without knowing the conversation occurred half a decade ago.

            Don’t forget, Digital Photography School (another Darren site) has the cleaner structure since the content is evergreen.

        • You could try “Permalinks Moved Permanently” plugin as well. The author claims,

          “When permalink isn’t found, this checks if a post with the requested slug exists somewhere else on your blog”

  7. Great tips, although it still drives me bananas when posts don’t have dates on them.

    • Sarah Cairncross :

      I changed from using just category to include the date because of this article – linked to from WordPress info about Permalinks http://ottopress.com/2010/category-in-permalinks-considered-harmful/

      So now I’m a bit confused… does excluding the date slow things down or not?

      • I like #2, and not just because I have photos for sale there ;-)

        The date thing looks to have caused a fuss. But I would always recommend removing it from the URL. The URL is there to be human friendly and help with SEO. Including the date doesn’t help with either of these. And from an SEO point of view could dilute URLs effectiveness.

        You can use a plugin called W3 Total Cache (or try Super Cache) for WordPress. This will do far more to speed up your site. And should be mandatory for most blogs.

        Total Cache was written by the guys at Mashable, so they know what they’re doing…

        If you’re really worried you could include the blog ID and post name to help speed things up… It looks like this if you want it:

        /%post_id%/%postname%/

        There are many plugins out there that will resolve the issue of changing your link structure. Because if you don’t it can harm your SEO as @Tim says. Yoast recommends this one:

        http://urbangiraffe.com/plugins/redirection/

        Enjoy!

  8. This post made me laugh. In a good way. Think Steve’s comment sums it up: You’ve got to be borderline cocky.
    if you want to make any kind of headway in this game.

    Thanks.

  9. Really interesting points. I’m going to have to think about the date issue–right now they are right at the top of the page and I don’t like that at all. I’ve never thought about the email issue. I’m a hobby blogger but my blog is doing quite well and I think I need to start taking it a bit more seriously.

    • Hi Jessica, your blog looks great. It’s really true that the e-mail opt-in form should be at the very top of the site. There’s a reason that Copyblogger does it that way.

      Good luck in your blogging journey. Let us know if you have any questions. We’d be happy to help in any way that we can.

  10. Good stuff — I agree strongly with number 4 and think it applies to even more of your site. If ANY of your site is award winningly ugly it’s likely to scare visitors away. I know some sites that aren’t as high quality as competitors yet are just more attractively designed making visitors more inclined to stay. Appearance is important.

    • Nicky, you’re totally right. Attention spans on the internet are very short. A good design and layout can be the difference between getting your content read and people leaving. Making sure your site isn’t ugly or cluttered makes a big difference.

  11. Good points, can’t agree more with #5…. I follow quite a few links to blogs each day from tweets, facebook or other blogs. I’ll scan the article linked, scan the about page and MAYBE the home page. I give it less than 60 seconds (usually much less) to decide if I subscribe or not. Not having a picture or some real information on the about page definitely lowers the chances too.

    Dating blog posts is also an issue for me. I want to know how recent the content is… Finding an article like “Best Twitter Clients” written in 2007 is not that helpful. It doesn’t have to be front and centre but I want to be able to find it to evaluate the content.

    I realize that some stuff is “evergreen” but it still needs a date somewhere, IMHO.

  12. Damn, I’m six for six.

  13. Along with too-small headlines, I’ll also add subheads that aren’t styled to be sufficiently different from the body copy. They can’t break your copy up if they’re almost exactly the same size as the main text.

    I am a Flickr fan (In fact, I’ve often found much better stuff there than at iPhoto) but it does take a lot of time and you have to be able to know a killer image when you see one. But there are some photographers there who are crazy talented. I used a lot of Flickr over at Remarkable Communication, but I essentially never use them here at CB, the flavor is different. Flickr can be great if you’re looking for imagery as art — iStock communicates professionalism and polish.

  14. I’ve been working on readability and visual appeal lately. If the headline is 30px, what size do you recommend for the text? What about the line height?

    I’m also on the fence about the dates. I like reading blogs with dates, but that might not be the best way to get more readers on my blog…

    Lots of great tips to consider. Thanks!

    • Most blogs that use Arial font (Copyblogger, Chris Brogan, Problogger, etc.) do well with a font size of 14px. As far as line height goes, I like 24px. Here at Copyblogger it’s a bit less than that, so it’s up to you.

    • I personally think that most blogs use too small a body font. You want someone who’s older than 14 to be able to read it.

  15. Great tips here. What’s the best way to get a good looking opt in box?

    • Well, the coolest way is by joining my clients and paying the bucks. :)

      Or, you could join my writing challenge and hope you win.

      I’m also thinking about doing a free video tutorial on how to customize Feedburner, Aweber, and Mailchimp forms in CSS. Would this be helpful to you?

      • That would be very helpful. I’m always struggling with Mailchimp. So far the result has not been bad but I definitely would like to learn how to tweak the opt in

  16. There are some good freebie images at photoxpress.com ,too. You can only download a few a day, but that works for many bloggers.

    jen

  17. Thank you, I am personally very frustrated with my high bounce rate. I will try changing the looks and I really liked what you said about the pictures and the date. I have removed the date from all my articles.

  18. These are very good tips. I payed a lot of attention when you mentioned about the date of your blog post. This is pretty clever and I will use it on my blog posts because I tend to forget to post regularly and I don’t want people thinking that I am not active with my blog.

  19. Funny thing is, I didn’t notice an email signup until you mentioned it. Since the whole site design is clean and simplified in black, white, and red, and the giant black box is placed to the right, my eyes glossed over it. Also there’s an ad for WordPress directly below it in the same colors.

    The Internet has trained me to assume that less valuable information and ads are to the right in a column. I notice there are no links at all at the bottom of the page (the black part showing the copyright), where I usually look for a backup line of navigation and links like Contact.

    Looks like I need to retrain my brain to look at every part of a page for important info!

  20. Marty – I’ve got to disagree with your thoughts on Flickr not being good enough.

    Here’s the thing about always using iStock or even most free stock photography websites…those images are going to show up all over the place – if not the photos – then the models in those photos. That’s because everyone uses them.

    It’s true that there is a lot of crappy photography on Flickr – but you can also find some cool original stuff, as well as images that look more natural.

    I’ve seen the iStock models and graphics we use on our money site all over the place – billboards, product packaging, other websites, junk mail.

    As for our blog – a friend of mine who works for a media production company assumed I was getting people to pose and actually took my own shots. Then he noticed a more professional-looking stock image that his company also used in a promo campaign for a client.

    I think you’re absolutely right about finding quality images for your blog. But don’t completely rule out Flickr – there actually is some good shiznit on there under the CC license. In the end, I’m sure the right image to choose is completely dependent on the content.

    • By the way — here are two good stock photo sites I use that let you publish photos on your blog for free as long as you provide a link/credit to the photographer.

      http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
      http://www.sxc.hu/

      Whatever you do – don’t try to get away with using iStock photos you did not pay for. You may accidentally do it by grabbing pics from a Google Image search and not even realize it. iStock will come after you, and charge you up the wazoo. It happened to my sister-in-law.

    • I love how Sonia put it – “Flickr can be great if you’re looking for imagery as art — iStock communicates professionalism and polish.” It’s hard to get that polish from Flickr.

      The photos I buy from Dreamstime aren’t models. The photo on my latest post is three apples in a patch of grass – it’s been purchased a mere 7 times (if I remember correctly). Basically, I stumbled on a gem that you won’t see elsewhere.

      If being unique is the concern, you’re not going to get that from Creative Commons. You may have to hire a model to pose for you. :)

      • iStock does not communicate professionalism and polish. It communicates apathy.

        iStock doesn’t have enough barriers to entry, so the talent pool there ain’t much better than flickr. And those photos have been used so much, they’ve become cliche. Most of them are cliche to begin with, relying on tired symbolism like “two hands shaking” or “internet represented by a giant globe”. When I see iStock photography, I don’t think “professional.” I think “spam.”

        Find a different stock photography website, and use discretion when picking images. Better yet: Make your own graphics, for the love of god!

        iStock: Barely one step above clip art.

        (The photography is one of my pet peeves about Copyblogger.)

    • It also depends on your topic and on the types of images you want.

      Individual items floating on white background? (We use a ton of these on CB.) You’ll find great ones on iStock — almost anything you can think of, from a gorilla to types of food to nuts and bolts. You almost never see them on Flickr.

      You bring up a good point — IMO about 90% of stock photography with models is pretty bad. Although I’ve definitely found good stuff. But I dearly wish there was a “no skank” filter on iStock photo at times.

      If you haunt Flickr, you sometimes find photographers you can go to again and again. There’s a woman in Japan who does the most breathtaking floral photography — beats any stock I’ve seen, including super spendy stuff on Corbis or Getty. And a guy named Steve who does gorgeous shots of people all over the world, which theoretically is a problem because you don’t have a model release, but in real life I don’t think you’re ever going to have a hassle with it.

      I love images and I’ll spend those hours to geek out and find something perfect, but I think Martyn’s right, most bloggers won’t. :) And I think too many people spend about 10 minutes to find something that sort of illustrates their point, slap it up, and call it a day.

    • One more point on that (hm, I definitely spend too much time thinking about this) — on sites like iStock, GO PAST PAGE ONE of the results. There actually are images there that haven’t been used a trillion times.

      • Oh I’m glad I’m not the only one that does this! If I see “1,452 downloads” I get a sick feeling in my gut. It has to be fresh and rare.

        Pictures are extremely important. It’s okay to spend time on this stuff. :)

  21. This is a great post–it is the small things, aggregated together that kill a potentially good blog (or website for that matter). The optin look is a big one, you could have a compelling offer but if the visual isn’t compelling, you’re dead in the water.

  22. Nice post — some excellent ideas.

    I’m still torn on removing the dates …

    How is it done? Is there a plug-in for it? I did a quick search on WordPress and found one plug-in, but it wasn’t tested with the current version of WP.

    thanks,
    Paul

  23. I think have target=”_blank” in the a href tag on your embedded links is important too. Maybe not the typically blog reader, I find that when researching, I tend to surf a stream of consciousness which admittedly results in way too may browsers open, each with too many tabs making it more challenging to get back to the post that I clicked out off three clicks ago. Why loose the visitor when they continue moving forward through following clicks with such an easy fix unless the goal is to purposely divert traffic?

    Totally agree with the images can add tremendous value in reinforcing a message or just making the overall post more astectically pleasing, thus more inviting to the reader.

    Good images sourced from a blog post in the thumbnails of shares can drive click through rates on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and others that source thumbnails from images in the blog post.

  24. Copyblogger is largely directed at those with control over a site and blog. Have you given any thought to directing a product at help those who sell online but chose to not run their own site (i.e., Etsyians)?

    • Anyone who’s trying to make an online business who doesn’t have their own site has more problems than Wesley and I are capable of solving.

    • We have directed at you for at least 3 years. We’ve said stop being a digital sharecropper and run your own site.

    • I agree with Martyn and Brian. Running a site is so inexpensive and easy, there’s no reason not to run it yourself. Once you do, you build equity that you can’t get from sharecropping on someone else’s site.

    • For some inspiration, check out John Unger. It isn’t easy to build a brand for art on your own, but the rewards are great — both financial and in personal satisfaction.

      I’m sure there are some very smart people out there teaching artists & craftspeople how to do better marketing on Etsy. But what happens if Etsy changes their policies and all of your marketing gets hosed? (This seems to happen about every five minutes on Facebook.) What happens if Etsy is sold to another company that makes decisions that hurt your business?

      None of this is to bash Etsy, which as a consumer I think is wonderful. But if I was a seller on Etsy (or eBay, or any other site that I felt had me locked in), I’d be working hard on establishing my own identity and brand so I could stand confidently with or without them.

      Control your own business. Don’t let another company (including Google) have the say over whether your business lives or dies. Use them, but don’t be slaves to them.

  25. I was guilty of the first one (headline size is too small), the other things I got right.

    Corrected my headlines. Thanks!

  26. LOVE this article. However I feel dates do have a place.

    I have a decorating blog and it would be pretty confusing to read about my kitchen before when it’s been done for years. :)

    Not to mention when you’re trying to find tweaks to your blog such as in Blogger. They’ve changed their templates and you have NO idea how often I come across outdated tutorials that no longer help.

    Donna

  27. This article has some valid points to it. I will look into implementing some of them into my blog.

  28. Good advice except for one point in number 2… with which I respectfully disagree.

    You’re correct that good imagery is important. However… stock photos do not equal good imagery, so the advice given is contradictory.

    Stock photos is the number 1 mistake many websites make. People notice pictures first, and overused stock imagery kills differentiation. Invisible handshakes, vector images of blue people, transparant whiteboards, skycrapers and happy fun office workers… all these kill websites.

    This is an extreme, I admit. But yet I’m not convinced that randomly taken images can ever communicate your brand with the precision a custom image can. Take the photos yourself, draw them, or hire an artist. Otherwise… don’t use them.

    Now I expect to annoy people with this statement, but it’s a standard I believe in.

    • Ha – just read through the comments. Seems I ranted a little late. :)

      So I will add this – a specific problem with stock imagery is that it makes a blog look like an explosion in a paint factory. Every single image on a site should use the same colours, and they should all reinforce the core idea that differentiates your brand from everyone else.

      Professional imagery is important. But too many overlook colour choice, and I feel stock imagery in general – even Flikr images, dilute your brand too much.

    • I agree with you about the images!

    • That’s a high standard, but at the end of the day, I have to ask myself if that’s really the best use of a business owner’s time.

      Obviously, if your business is photography or anything having to do with design, the answer may well be yes. Otherwise, each of us will need to decide for ourselves the best ROI on our time.

      • I actually save time the way I do it. I just ask an artist friend to draw a picture. Takes 5 minutes to draft a brief and 5 minutes to photoshop and upload. Then I counterbalance the ‘art’ look with a custom professional font.

        I agree with you about ensuring what the time, but there are always creative solutions. :)

        That said – my specialty is in differentiating law firms, which is quite a task. Anything I can use to achieve differentiation is good. I just posted an article which explored how images of lawyers on websites cause visitors to assume ‘just a random law firm’.

        Other businesses may not have this problem, as they may be more free of regulations and be able to stand apart in other ways.

        So yes Sonia, you’re right – context is important. :)

  29. This is good basic stuff and the comments are great. I will use these tips . . . Thanks

  30. Thanks for these 6 great tips Martin! I’m guilty of a few of them. Going to fix it asap!

  31. I’m afraid to say I think I am failing on pretty much every point you have mentioned (apart from my headline size being too small). :(

  32. This is a useful set of guidelines to a prospective blogger provided he or she has grasp of the computer technology, e.g. graphics.

  33. A super post! Thanks!

    Well, you are right on with BlogTweaks! And the need for such a service. It would really be helpful to have a developer or some developer experience to manage a blog or website when using free blogger and web software.

    I was shocked when I ran my BaffinPaddler http://baffinpaddler.blogspot.com/ and WritersBlogque http://writersblogque.blogspot.com/ URL’s through the W3C Validator to check if I had good code. I had hundreds of errors and warnings and I don’t know how to fix them.

    I still get traffic every day from around the world on my BaffinPaddler blog, but it does make me wonder if the code that the Blogger html editor spits out is hurting my web stats.

    I don’t worry about the dates on my blog posts. I think keeping the dates there is a motivator for you to say, “Hey, it’s time for another post.” I also like to keep the dates as a record of when I published something, and I think readers appreciate that too. That’s part of what a blog is about. Otherwise, you have a website, not a blog. People follow a blogger, but visit a website.

    Also, my BaffinPaddler blog is topic and subject based. People find my past blog posts using relevant keywords, and image searches.

    I am amazed when a simple post I wrote a year ago still gets stats every day, or every week. And when I see this, I go back into that same post and look at it again with an eye for optimizing it even more for both the web visitor and the Search Engines (SEO). If I improve that “old” post to make it more interesting and more content rich for the reader, the Search Engine rewards me too. I add more review to the post using more relevant keywords, I link out to something relevant to the topic, I add more images and name my image files using relevant keywords. Then I watch that same “old” blog post triple in visits every week, or more.

    Of course, I’m a Copyblogger fan. Copyblogger is the site that got me started and gave me confidence to get online. I recommend it to everyone. Thanks for being there!

    Cheers!

    About 90% of the visitors to my BaffinPaddler blog come in from images – even though my images are pretty simple and come from a snap-n-shoot, as I can’t haul around a big professional camera on a sea kayak with wind and waves sometimes splashing the camera.

    My blog rule is to have an image for every post. My stats are small. I don’t get huge traffic, but I get good traffic.

    My blog that gets almost no traffic is the one that gets me the contracts that pay. http://writersblogque.blogspot.com/ It is my online writer’s studio where I park what I find useful for me as a Web writer and what I learn along the way. I may get one visitor who is a recruiter. They go on my About page http://writersblogque.blogspot.com/p/about-writersblogque.html and contact me the next day, and I’ve got a paid contract. http://writersblogque.blogspot.com/p/about-writersblogque.html.

  34. I really like the idea of dropping dates. especially relevant when the content is not topical.

  35. So when Johnny writes the wrapup, he needs to mention a few things.

    1. I’ve gotten well over a thousand visitors from this article, including solid customers
    2. I’ve gotten 44 entries to the contest, including Seth Godin
    3. We won’t discuss the email subscriptions, that’s top secret

  36. Great advice!

  37. I 100% agree with first 5 points but dont you think that removing the date will give the Readers that the content which we posted 3 years back is still the most relevant although in the field of technology something new is happening everyday. As we havent included these new innovations in our post, we are giving a false sense of security to our readers.
    I thought over this point for a long time and eventually decided to include the date in my posts.

  38. I like #6…

    I recently had a blog redesign and noticed that my blogmistress left the dates off the posts. And a part of me panicked… because if I wrote something that was very 2008 I wanted the date to be on that so people would understand the prehistoric nature of the information (especially if it was a post about Twitter or Facebook 2008)

    But you put forth a good argument in #6 to keep the dates off and the content relevant. I gave a talk recently at Cal State Fullerton (Fullerton, CA) and referenced some of my 2008 and 2009 social media related posts and they were still very relevant because I have always focused on the strategy to get more visibility than the tactic or app of the week.

    :-)
    Nancy

    • If you write some content that is time sensitive and some that isn’t, you could always start the time sensitive ones with the date in italics as the first line. That way you can make both strategies work.

  39. Your article motivated me to review the print sizes of headlines and headers on both of my blogs, and I’ve made some minor changes. I need to look into a couple of other things you’ve mentioned, as well, so your thoughts are good. I do disagree, though, with leaving the posts dateless. I become irritated whenever I read an article that I suspect may be dated and cannot confirm one way or another its currency. Thanks for the tips!

  40. Love the tip on removing the date. The only problem is that doesn’t apply to every blog. We write about latest trends in social media and looking at a post from a year ago is useless. Depends what type of blog you have I guess. Something like this one works perfect as your content is mostly about copy and is always timesless

  41. Interesting debate over whether or not to include the post date in the header. Like many of the commenters here, my eye naturally seeks out the date to see how fresh the content is. I guess that’s probably the whole purpose in not showing it – to negate this natural impulse we have.

    Still, I somehow feel cheated when I go to comment on a post and find out that it’s a year old. It’s like showing up to your senior prom on the wrong night. You’re all dressed up but the party is long over. If the content is still relevant and useful then I’d probably get over it. Weird what hang ups we readers can have, no? :)

  42. I am going to fix #1 RIGHT NOW! I stare at my own blog so much that I become blind to things like this! Thanks

  43. Hi Martyn

    Great headline, every blogger reading that instantly thought, please don’t let me be making any of those 6 mistakes.

    Unfortunately I am guilty of a few of them, so will need to do some fixing of my own.

    Thanks for the informative post. You have defniitely give me something helpful to work with.

    Cheers
    Thea

  44. Hmm, I have been thinking of point #6 for a while. But i never look at it like how you did. I think it’s not a bad idea to sort of make things “new” to visitors, so they feel like they haven’t missed out. I do notice that old posts do get left behind and new posts do get read more often because of the dates.

  45. I knew the power of imagery, but I didn’t give it much thought until you said “broken iPod,” which brought a certain image to my mind. Also, you comment about e-mail sign-up is so true. If I have to scroll down to find it, I’ll lose interest. And I think I need to change my about page. Let me know that now.

  46. I don’t like blogs without posts date. For food recipes site it can be ok, but if it site about blogging or seo the date it so important. As something posted 5 years ago will be outdated and irrelevant today.

  47. Great tips! I am a huge proponent of number six! It’s interesting to me, that when I wrote an article just about removing dates from posts, the overwhelming response was negative. I was told by several commenters that they refuse to read articles without dates. Of course, they were reading and responding to my dateless posts, so I don’t know how to gauge those comments. :-)

    Thanks for the other five suggestions as well.

  48. Great post. Thanks for all the tips. I’ve been considering starting my own blog so I’ve been doing a lot of reading online. Couple of months ago, I stumbled upon a blog that has no pictures, no headlines to speak of, no email form (either that or I cannot find it), does not beg for subscribers, yet it has had about 75000 page views. Was also written about in a local newspaper. The grammar sucks, the English is actually broken, so it all boiled down to the content.

    All this blogger is doing is following the golden rule of copyblogger, that content is King. It does not matter how you say it, or how you format it, if you have something interesting to say, people will come back. Take a look.
    http://dubaisally.blogspot.com. Would love your thoughts on this.

  49. wow, no dates, eh? that’s amazingly insightful! crazy!!! I’m totally going to do that!