Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Avoid these 4 common blogging errors and watch your results quickly improve

When business bloggers come to me for advice on how to make their blog more valuable, there are 4 tips I seem to give more than any others. Here they are, for those of you who want their blog to deliver better results. I hope you find them useful.

Get readable

No matter how valuable your content is, it will fail to achieve anything like it’s full potential, if it’s too hard for people to read. The 2 most common readability issues I see, are font size and column width.

Many sites use very small font sizes, which are just too small to be easily read. This is a fast way to lose readers, needlessly. There’s nothing to gain from using tiny fonts, which are almost impossible to read on anything smaller than a 22 inch monitor. The reason every popular website uses a readable font size, is they know the importance of having the main content comfortable to read on smaller screens.

For reference, this blog uses a Arial as my font, set at 16px.

Similarly, studies have shown that people find it a lot easier to read narrower columns of content, than wide columns. Many popular child themes fail to take this into account, which is why there are so many W–I–D–E column layouts out there.

In my own testing, I discovered that once I go beyond 95 characters across (including spaces) in a blog post, fewer people read through the whole page. Many people say you should stick below 75 characters, but using a large clear font, as I do, you should be perfectly fine up to around the 95 character mark.

If your current child theme doesn’t make it easy for you to reduce the content column width, either learn how to code it, pay someone to code it or use the theme I use here, which gives you 100% control over fonts and columns with the click of a mouse. It’s called Headway and that is NOT an affiliate link – It’s just an amazing piece of software that gives you the control you need, over your blog.

Have a call to action at the bottom of your content

If someone has just read all the way down to the bottom of a page or post, it’s because they were interested in the content. It engaged them. It earned their attention and their time. You now have an interested person, whose eyes are right at the bottom of your post.

THAT is the point where you should ask them to take action!

I use that approach here and it works extremely well, generating leads and inquiries all day, every day. Just remember to keep the call to action short and link directly to the conversion page. This may be a page that sells your products or services. It could be a newsletter sign-up page or maybe a link to subscribe to your blog via RSS. You decide what you want your readers to do, then put that call to action right where interested eyes will see it.

Don’t write anything just to publish something

This one goes against the traditional idea that you MUST publish something every day, even on days where you have nothing worth sharing. Despite what many people think, I don’t publish posts here every day. I usually publish 4 or 5 times a week on this blog, only very occasionally 7 times a week.

I use no blogging schedule other than this: If I have something useful to share here, I publish it. Useful is the key word.

I do recommend you publish at least once a week on a business blog(twice is better), if you want your blog to remain on your reader’s radar. However, there are no prizes for publishing anything, just so you can publish something. If you have something useful to say, share it. If you can’t find anything useful to say at least once a week, spend more time listening to the needs and opportunities of your marketplace and write about that. Keep informed of the latest news and trends affecting your marketplace, and write about that.

NOTE: This article has some great tips on how to write useful content.

Make your work easy to share

The content on Jim’s Marketing Blog is easy for people to share. There is a small Twitter and Google+ button at the top and bottom of each post. These are easily the most powerful drivers of share traffic here, so they get prominence. At the bottom of each post, I use the oddly named Twitter, Facebook social share plugin – which actually gives access to Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+ too. I also recommend sharethis, which gives easy access to over 30 different sharing platforms and allows you to make your preferred ones more prominent (see below).

I have tested a ‘floating share button’, which attaches itself to the side of the screen and follows the page, so your share icons are always in the reader’s view. This was very effective, for those who could see it. The challenge was that many people told me that they couldn’t see it. It wasn’t visible on many tablet devices or any phone I tested it on. It was also invisible on some smaller resolution netbooks. There may be a way around this visibility issue, which you might like to share with a comment.

If you do use this type of sharing system on your site, I suggest also adding a traditional sharethis or addthis set of icons to the foot of your posts, though this can look a little like overkill.

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35 Comments

  1. Definitely, great blog content doesn’t have legs. Making the content on your blog easily shareable is extremely important. Most importantly, when SEO and social media are getting intrinsically intertwined, you can never ignore the ‘shareability’ factor.

    Thanks for pointing out mistakes that are quite common with most of the bloggers.

  2. This is a very good list.

    I would add the problem with child themes, where people now use the exact theme as their favorite blogger and this use HIS branding on their own site.

    If you have to use a child theme, for goodness sake change it a little. It’s impossible to get noticed when your site looks identical to thousands of others.

    • You make a very good point, Margo.

      It’s hard to stand out or be taken seriously, if you are using an exact copy of a child theme used on thousands of other sites.

      A little customisation can make a big difference.

  3. Great info as usual Jim. I did not realize about the column width. It also cannot be stressed enough about font size. No good if you can’t read the tiny print!

    • Hi Lisa. The column width really makes a big difference, which is why so many single column blogs are very hard to read.

      Tiny fonts on over wide columns is the worst.

  4. I’m with Margo – I hate sites using child themes with no customization.

    Seeing a lot of chrisbrogan.com clone child themes and it’s embarrasing. Business owners literally using the exact same everything as Brogan and failing to have any brand or originality.

    • Hi Gareth. As you may or may not know, Chris is my favourite writer and I like the theme he has on his blog.

      I have seen a couple of exact clones, as you call them. These were from very small businesses and maybe, their readership may not be aware of Chris’ work?

      That said, an exact copy of a widely used child theme can make the site look great, but identical to thousands of other sites. It’s hard enough to stand out as it is.

      A little custom code can make a big difference.

  5. Just as it’s beneficial to make large blocks of text easier to read by narrowing the column width and upping the font, you should also break up it with images and headers and lists.

    Good formatting eases reader immersion. You want your readers to immerse themselves in the knowledge within your content, not be challenged by its presentation.

  6. I would also add that I find it VERY difficult to read a blog which has light text on a dark background.

    Particularly if the font is also small!

  7. Great points, pun not intended, on font sizes. This is why my blog has utilized a 16-point Corbel font for the past two years or so. It’s frustrating when I visit blogs or other websites and manually increase the screen zoom so I can read it without squinting or getting closer to the screen.

    • You’ve always had very clear typography, Ari.

      Your point about having to zoom in to read content is a good one. I bet the people with those sites have no idea, how many readers they lose or how unreadable their typography is.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • Thanks. I’ve heard similar about the floating vertical share buttons as I have on my site now. But it was a while ago, so only brought it back last week.

        • Hi Ari. I tested them here for 2 weeks and found around 5% increase in shares as opposed to ‘regular’ buttons.

          The challenge is that many devices simply can’t see them, so those people have a lot of work to do, to share the content. As a result, many people who regulary share my work via the iPad, iPhone, android or netbooks stopped sharing.

          The quality of those shares was high, so what I gained with a 5% increase in people who shared, I lost (and then some) because many regulars were unable to see any share options.

          Let me know how you get on, sir.

          • You could compromise as I do — by implementing both a floating bar and static buttons. I’m using buttons for only Twitter, Facebook, and Google+; and the floater has those and more.

  8. He shoots he scores…Another great guide for blogs. Most of what I would add to that list takes place once he hit publish and that is sharing it in social media. Thanks again Jim on a nice article!

  9. I’d say it is better to write one high quality posts a week than 3 to 4 low quality ones just for the sake of having something to publish. Additionally, because people are so used to skim reading online nowadays, I try to break up my content into easy to digest small paragraphs so the reader doesn’t feel too overwhelmed and bounce.

  10. Great value you have. Thank you for the valuable insights.

    I’m missing the call to action in my blog. Thank you for the reminder. I’m going to add it into my post.

  11. Martin Pickering

    March 12, 2012 at 21:35

    You have an errant apostrophe in: ‘it will fail to achieve anything like it’s full potential’.

  12. Shorter sentences are always better. If you can drop unnecessary words (I’m looking at you ‘that’), do so. Make every word count.

    Write out a looooong version of your idea, then start whittling it down to use as few words as possible to express the same idea.

    Break up your post with an image. Put a call to action below the image (use red text). Make your image a call to action (add text and hyperlink).

    Use an inline text box to highlight something–breaks up monotony, and grabs readers attention.

    Place links to other articles you’ve written in your post. If they’ve got nowhere else to go, say hello to high bounce rates.

  13. Hey Jim,

    I was fascinated to read your comments about the ideal column width! Thx for sharing that info.

    I’m curious to know if you’ve done any research on the ideal LENGTH of a post? (Number of lines of text and/or number of paragraphs…) I wonder if there’s a common point at which most people stop reading — even when the column widths are just 95 characters?

    • Hi Cynthia and welcome to the blog. That’s a great question.

      In my experience, if you are writing for people rather than search engines, shorter posts do much better than longer posts. Many people are reading posts on the phones, which is uncomfortable if the post is long. People are also busy and have short attention spans – meaning they will not wade through huge posts.

      According to SEO experts, you need to write longer posts (500 words plus) to keep Google happy, but I have fond this to be totally bogus.

      For what it’s worth, I get a huge amount of traffic from Google every day and yet I write exclusively for people. Many of my posts are little more than 100 words. Most are fewer than 300 words. According to SEO gurus, this shouldn’t work, yet it very clearly does; with this site ranking on page one, world wide, for some extremely valuable marketing related search terms (including the 2 word term: marketing blogs)

      I hope that helps, Cynthia.

  14. Useful info, Jim. Here’s another mistake I see a lot of people make: they write to the wrong audience. What’s insidious about this is that you don’t necessarily lose readers, but you do get the wrong ones.

    Most often people end up writing for their peers instead of their customers. You need to be a thought leader in your niche and be known and respected. But unless you’re reaching your customers with content/products/services that matter to them, there’s no thought leadership, anyway.

  15. great article, as usual:) I have my screen set at 125% zoom (gettin old you see lol) and I can never see those floating icon things, and when I can they usually cover the text I’m tring to read – it’s an instant click away for me.

    Love the point about blogging only when you have something to say, fillers are a waste of time as even the blogger themselves will rarely promote their own post when they know it has no value.

    And on that point, it’s amazing how many bloggers complain of no traffic and they aren’t even so much as liking their own work – promote the cr*p out of each and every article you publish if you want traffic people!

    • Hi, Lisa. It always amazes me when people write in small fonts, ignorant to the huge barrier they place on reading their material. If if you have good vision or have corrected vision, it’s less comfortable to read small text.

      Thanks for the feedback.

  16. I would add: Put a search function on your blog if you can. I write a series of articles on vintage and antique items, and I realized that if someone lands on the home page they may not be able to find what they were looking for without being able to search the site.

    Also, be PATIENT! For the first month or so my antiques blog got few hits. But now it’s gaining audience every day. It takes a while for the search engines to find it – and it can take a while for people to share with their contacts.

  17. I agree heartily with everything in the article! Again and again Jim nails it right on with his extremely informative posts on marketing. And I also agree that Headway is an amazing product to create websites with and if you want to learn how to use it go sign up for Headway101 – Corey Freeman’s website. That girl is a fricken superhero of Headway training!

    I hope you all don’t mind me plugging my guru’s – a workday doesn’t go by without consulting Jim, Headway and Corey.

  18. I’d go along with all 4 of those points because it’s exactly what I try to do in regard to my sites.
    However, I do differ on your choice of Arial as a font-family. The reason I say that is that it is purely a Microsoft font that is not available on all devices.
    In my view, it is essential to always specify a default font-family. That generally means either serif, sans-serif or monospace.

    Great suggestions for ways to better blogging overall though.

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