Blogging is hard.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it. There are always new challenges to overcome, especially if you’re trying to grow and change as internet culture shifts seemingly on a weekly basis.
I’ve almost been blogging for 10 years. It took about five of those years to realize what I was doing wasn’t really working. Even today, I’m constantly aware of the topics I cover — and the ways I cover them — depending on what I believe my audience does, and does not, want to read.
Still, that can’t fully prevent every blogger’s worst nightmare: Losing subscribers. Sometimes, it’s one or two. Other times, it’s an alarming amount of accounts. You don’t always know the cause. And that can make you wonder, “What the heck did I do wrong?”
I think a lot about this. Every time I lose a follower, I get paranoid that I’ve done an unforgivable thing (anxiety is awesome!). That’s usually not the case. Over the years, I’ve developed a list of “turnoffs” I’ve noticed in my own reading and writing within the blogosphere.
Here are the turnoffs that, often, send readers straight for that “unfollow” button.
Staying consistent, as a blogger, is one of my biggest recommendations for newbies and vets alike. A lot of people don’t agree that it’s important — publish whenever you want, it doesn’t matter, they say! I’m not so sure. It’s OK if you couldn’t care less, but there’s this thing called trust. An audience wants to know you’re reliable — otherwise, can they even take your advice or information seriously?
I like to think of publishing schedules like TV lineups. Without having to look it up, I know a new Grey’s Anatomy episode will start playing at 7 p.m. every Thursday on-season. I would be flustered if this did not happen. Similarly, if a blog publishes every Tuesday and Thursday at noon, that’s when I’m going to expect it to be up. If it isn’t — and never is — that just bothers me. There’s a reason I publish daily at the exact same time (with the very occasional delay). I don’t know if any of you really care about that, but I have to assume at least some people appreciate it.
This one might seem obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning. You pretty much know bad writing when you see it … unless it’s your own. Chances are, if you’ve been blogging for a long time, this won’t be a problem for you. But you never know. If you’re trying to make a point, and it’s just not coming together, sometimes it’s worth spending more time on something before hitting publish.
I’m personally pretty forgiving when a blogger doesn’t use perfect English, because I understand English isn’t everyone’s first language and I try not to let that cloud the experience. But I still need to be able to get the point and read through a post without cringing because it’s a train wreck made of words. How do you know if your writing isn’t good? I’d suggest comparing it to other published content in your niche. (If anyone out there has any further advice on that subject, feel free to leave a comment!)
Most of the time, when people stumble upon blogs at random, it’s because they’re looking for a specific type of information. If I published a blog post, for example, titled, “10 Ways to Write a Book In 100 Days,” a reader would expect to find information explaining exactly how to accomplish this task.
If I started talking about a family vacation or my dog in the middle of that post, it’d merit a bounce. And I’d deserve it. People don’t want useless tangents and a heavy focus on you. They want to be told how to make their lives better in some way. They want to be helped.
One of the most important aspects of any publishing project is building trust with your audience. This means that you need to follow through with everything you say you’re going to do, at least to the best of your ability. Sometimes, I see bloggers constantly apologizing for not providing what they promised, and it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. At all.
I personally get annoyed when a blogger constantly says they’re going to start doing something and then consistently doesn’t do it. Or, they make me expect something from a post or email signup and the results don’t match my expectations. This is one reason “clickbait” as it’s most widely understood does not work as a long-term publishing strategy. You cannot deceive people. They will walk away.
These are just the elements that I pay attention to most when reading other blogs (and keeping up with my own, of course). I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this.
What keeps you coming back to a blog? What makes you stop reading or unsubscribe from a blogger’s content, even if you’ve been reading it for awhile? If you’ve built up a solid readership over the years, how did you go about building trust — and how do you maintain it still today?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.