Right out of the gate, let me say this – in the 7+ years I’ve been blogging – this is one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written.  When you intitionally sit down to write a blog post who’s subtitle is “Why most blogs suck and why we don’t read them.” – a few things happen.  First, you risk coming across as an arrogant a-hole who runs a blog hosted on servers made out of gold.  Second, you all the sudden look around at your own blog and find yourself saying “Uhhhh…” and wondering who left the door open on the ‘healthy’ criticism refrigerator.  Third, you risk offending people.  I’m not here to offend people by any means.  If you are offending by this, feel free to go back to your blog with the #9eff00 background, the dancing banana, and the size 18 Comic Sans –  assume the everything is right with the world and don’t let us scare you.

I, undoubtedly, am an offender on some level of each one of these points I’m about to list.  I don’t pretend to not be with every single post.  It’s a blog – it’s organic – some days you just forget, you rant, you write like a 12 year old, or load 18 megabytes worth of photos into one post.

That being said, some might ask why write an article like this.  Good question.

Over the last 3 years I’ve had opportunities to teach on the subject of communication from a tech-centric point of view to a few nation-wide organizations.  Tech-centric meaning, we use technology to our advantage to communicate a specific message.  Every time I finish teaching, I walk away more and more convinced that simple things, especially when pertaining to a blog, can have huge advantages as far as effective communication is concerned.  On the same side of that coin, I can speak with some authority on the subject because, I, much like you, have been abused by blogs, bloggers, design, eye-ball melting backgrounds, marquees, pop-ups, adverts, and middle-aged house moms yelling at the internet for the better part of a decade.

So here we go:

Why most blogs suck and why we don’t read them
(in absolutely no order)

1.  The appearance of too much info – Please, please… notice what I said here.  Here is my point, the human brain does not see words, sentences, and paragraphs when scanning a blog – it sees time. We size up an article, weigh a whole bunch of factors, and decide if we can invest the time in reading even a single paragraph.  If it’s a huge paragraph – we move on, scroll down, click through – do anything but engage it. A smart blogger draws people into the text.  No more novel-length paragraphs…please.

Now What – Learn how to use bold, italics, lists, line spacing, typography, and most importantly of all – concise paragraphs with proper spacing to make your points.

2.  The actual design – I’m not going to say much on this other than it matters.  Research some basic design principles on your own.  Some points I will make are this: avoid dead links, make your RSS feeds easy to find, and be aware of what your site looks like in different web browsers (Though IE6 can suck an egg).  “I’m just a photographer, no a web designer, man!!” just isn’t flying anymore.

Now WhatResearch your options and think about the blogs you frequently read.  Check out sites like Webcreme, Themeforest, I love Typography – Google it…

3.  Slow load times – In 2001, PC Mag suggested that a website has only 4 seconds to capture someone’s attention.  I can hardly imagine that number changing over the last decade.  We hate waiting and when we have another option – which we do – we move on.  If your blog is 15 megabytes, loading a ton of scripts, has conflicting plugins, or for whatever reason is just SLOW – you are losing readers. PERIOD.

Now What – Export pictures for web, know how long your site takes to load, stop ignoring it, find caching solutions, use your ‘Read More’ tag to your advantage – again, Google it.

4. Talking like no one is listening. – Here’s the deal – our little Website Stat Trackers are great, but I get the feeling that many bloggers feel that if we aren’t getting consistent readership, it gives us the right to stop taking our writing and content seriously.  You might have 15 readers today, but the viral nature of the internet can instantaneously change that.  A bunch of old posts where you sound like a bitter 14 year old girl are going to hurt you – unless you are a 14 year old girl.

Now What – Figure out why you are posting in the first place, delete old posts, ignore the stats for a while – if its bad, start over completely

5.  Training your readers – This one could also be labeled “Consistency”.  Pavlov was no fool.  If you consistently do something your readers will start to uncontiously expect it.  Here’s why I used the word “train.”  For example, if every time you update your blog you send out an email blast, your readers will only visit your blog right after an email blast.  If you do an interesting interview with a photographer every Friday, people will come on Fridays.  You need to let people know there is stuff going on in the mean time without always TELLING them when to read.  People will start to visit because you have trained them, for example, that there are updates even when you don’t tell them about it.  Readers can be trained to expect consistency in graphic styles, creative writing styles, communication mediums, etc.  Too many curveballs and you start losing readers (and annoying them).  This is the hardest of the bunch because it’s a semi nebulous concept and isn’t the same for each blog/website.  It’s there though and covers a multitude of sins once your readers are “trained.”

Now What – Figure out what you’ve already trained your readers, do people only come when you tell them to, what do people expect.  Think about what YOU have been trained to expect from other websites.

6.  Relevancy – Make the content valuable to us or else it’s a waste of our time.  Listen, I know you just love that viral YouTube video that’s going around, but your photo blog is not the place for it – unless it’s relevant.  People expect, or have been trained to expect, relevant info from a photo blog.  Too much irrelevant information and people go somewhere else.  You aren’t necessarily a new’s aggregator either.

Now What – Check your blog for ‘tag consistency’ – too many tags can be an indicator of lost relevancy and vision, ask someone if your blog is relevant, ask yourself what is relevant on the blogs you visit

7.  Frequency – Listen to me – If you haven’t posted in three months your blog is dead and assuming you don’t have some freakishly loyal followers, your readers are all gone.  Back to the training your readers – consistent readers need to know there will be semi-consistent updates.  On the flipside, post every day and I guarantee your relevance takes a hit.  There is a balance.  To give an example of how interwoven frequency and training are, I tell people setting up a new blog to train their readers by consistently posting for up to two months before even thinking of not posting one week.

Now What See how often you blog and ask yourself if that would keep you coming back, notice the frequency of how often popular blogs post

8.  “Here’s some pictures, now leave me alone” – Hate this one.  You are a photographer but also a story teller, aren’t you?  Consistently throwing blog posts full of pictures at us is not going to keep us coming back in most circumstances.  Give your viewer something to read while those pictures are loading our else they aren’t going to stay for long.

Also, if you do work up the nerve to write some things about your images, please don’t tell us the obvious.  Hands down, the worst caption is the caption that tells us EXACTLY what we already know.  Every picture has a story behind it and every blog has a human behind it – show us that side or else we are going to start thinking someone taught a monkey how to use a camera and blog about it.

Now WhatLearn how to write compelling captions, words can undoubtedly give much deeper meaning to an image

9.  Don’t annoy people/No-Extras Please – Here’s what I’m saying: popups, adverts, marquees, RSS agrigators, splash screens, 800 sidebar widgets, animated .gifs, and those stupid bubbles that pop up with you hover over a link all annoy people who have used the internet for longer than 10 minutes in their entire life. If your Google Ads are paying you a 6-digit salary on your photoblog you might have an argument – if that’s not the case, please lose the trash.  We came to your site for what you can offer NOT to see a virtual digital billboard.

Now WhatSeriously, lose the trash.  Ask someone what is annoying or distracting to them on your blog

10.  Know thyself – This one is so important on so many levels.  First, know what images/vision you are trying to potray as a photographer and seriously consider only posting images that align with that.  Second, if you are a horrible writer, please find someone good at editing and actually use the tools available to you.  Knowing yourself clears things up for you to know what your reader is after.  If refines your vision, your relevancy, and the quality of your blog.  Third, there are lots of kinds of blogs – figure out what kind you want to be, what you can sustain, and how to go about doing that.

Having the ability to express your vision on a blog can be an great creative outlet as well as provide a photographer with future opportunities.  Unfortunately, photographers (me being one of them) are some of the worse offenders of many of these points.  Maybe it’s because we communicate with images that makes us lazy with our posts… who knows.  I just know that the first time I have to search someone’s website to find where the music is coming from is the last time I visit that website.


**I find it very ironic – this being one of my longest pieces – that usually one bit of advice I give people is to keep posts shorter rather than longer…such is life, right?