4 Reasons Your Blog is Broken (and How To Fix It)

by on 05/11/2009 • 13 Comments | Blogging

We need to talk. You have a problem. No one is commenting on your blog. Page views have flat lined. You’re not seeing any links. People are tweeting that your blog sucks. Or even worse, they’re looking at you funny when you mention you even have a blog. Because they forgot. When they unsubscribed 6 months ago.

I’ve cut way back on my blog reading, quite simply because the number of blogs worth reading has dropped. And I’m not talking about new blogs. I’m talking about established blogs. Blogs that were once useful industry leaders and have now let themselves go so entirely that they’re unrecognizable and the editors don’t seem to care. You know, blogs like TechCrunch.

If your blog is broken, do yourself a favor and fix it. Don’t leave it there to rot and die in public. Don’t be the Ask.com of blogging.

As Rae so bluntly tweeted on Friday, you’re not always the best person to evaluate the usefulness of your own blog. To you, it’s still pretty. However, you can’t argue numbers. If you’ve noticed that all the metrics you use to judge your blog are down, it’s time to pull it out of the gutter.

Luckily, most blogs can trace their brokenness down to Four Reasons For Suck:

The Blogger Loses Their Magic

This is hard, especially if you’re the blogger in question. But if you’ve noticed that the engagement level on your blog has dropped, you really need to pay attention to that. It’s the most important metric there is. Typically when we talk about bloggers with no magic we’re talking about new bloggers who haven’t yet found their groove. But established blogs can face the same type of blogger woes that new blogs can. In older blogs, this tends to happen for any number of reasons.

For example:

  • The blog expands and takes on more writers who don’t fit the established style
  • The blog starts having to adhere to new, more restrictive editorial controls
  • The original blogger gets tired/jaded/bitter and loses the spark that made him/her stand out
  • A new blogger is brought in to replace a blogger that left and simply can’t replicate the magic

Bloggers with no magic are easy to spot. It occurs within the first few lines of text when you either fall asleep at your laptop or your eyes start bleeding. If your blogger has lost his or her magic, you need to find the cause. A chained blogger will always fail.

If the chains were put there because of sensitive advertisers, then you have a hard decision to make in terms of what’s more important – your ad revenue or publishing a blog that people really care about.

If the chains are self-imposed because you found yourself with a blogger who doesn’t know how to blog, then you’re in an even worse spot. While it’s possible to make a novice blogger stronger, I don’t think it’s possible to turn a bad blogger into a good one. Meaning, in my opinion, you can’t teach someone to write with personality and passion. It’s either in them or it’s not. If you’ve hired someone who doesn’t know how tell a compelling story, my honest advice would be to replace them. Sorry.

If it’s simply a case of a burnt out blogger, then keep reading. The tips below may help them reignite that spark.

Your Content is Tired

Here’s a hint: If you’re not enjoying writing your blog content, your readers aren’t enjoying having to read it. One of the easiest ways to break your blog is to fall into the trap where you’re writing the same posts, year after year, for the same audience. That’s called a rut. Or marriage. We want a fairytale.

You probably can’t switch the core topic of your blog, but you can find ways to evolve and find the bigger circle. You can take the topic of your blog and then bump it out a layer. If your blog is about gardening, then slowly bump it up with “off-topic” posts about different forms of landscaping or lawn care. That’s how you increase the number of subjects you’re able to write about and make your blog more interesting to a wider range of people.

Stop reading the same 30 industry blogs as everyone else and add 50 more to it. Force yourself out of your comfort zone and your bubble. By exposing yourself to different voices you’re going to spice up your writing. Start writing different types of posts. If you typically write about industry news, work in some How Tos or some actionable advice. If your blog is mostly text-only, start creating some video posts. Make it sexy again.

You always want to be on the hunt for new readers. If you write a wedding blog, leave the wedding blog circle. Start writing posts for photographers, for those interested in catering marketing, for jilted brides, for event planners, etc. Adding these “off-topic” posts will open your blog up to an entirely new audience, while allowing you to also hold on and engage your current readers.

Regardless of what social media tells us, your readers don’t want to read the same post worded 12 different ways. If you want to unbreak your blog, you need to stop relying on the same, boring sources of content.

You’re Annoying the Hell Out of People Because There’s Too Much Self-Absorbed Noise and Not Even Signal.

TechCrunch, we hate you. We had our leader break it down for you, now either go fix yourself up or go home. And if you do exit stage, please take Sarah Lacy with you.

You Still Exist. No One Cares.

If no one is engaging with your blog and it’s not a blogger or content issue, it’s because you’ve managed to bork it all up and set yourself out on an island. Way to go.

Sometimes the best way to grow your blog is to leave your site. If people aren’t hanging out on your blog, find out where they are hanging out. If that’s on Twitter, then be on Twitter. Talk to them there and be a real person. Mention your blog but mention everyone else’s blog too. If your audience is showing up to a particular forum, then create a presence there. Create satellite communities for your brand all over the Web. It’s easy to sit in our little houses and expect people to come to us. However, the Field of Dreams concept to social media is a lie. You have to go find your readers.

If they’re hanging out on a competitors blog, I wouldn’t head over there to become their number one blog commenter, but I would create a post every few months on your blog that agrees/disagrees with something they said. By showing readers that you’re “like” that other blog they really like, you may get yourself on their radar.

More importantly, become part of your own community. If you want people to engage with your blog, then you need to engage with it first. You need to give them a reason to come back. You need to make them important and show them that you care. Reach out to that one person who is still commenting on your blog and make them an unofficial community manager. Reach out to them to help spark discussions on your Web site. If they’re a loyal commenter it means they care about your blog. Make them part of it.

People get emotionally attached to the blogs that read. That’s actually kind of the point. So when you let your blog die and don’t do everything in your power to fix it, it hurts. That’s right, your sucky blog hurts me. You don’t have that right. Fix it.

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

13 thoughts on “4 Reasons Your Blog is Broken (and How To Fix It)

  1. I’m becoming a fan of actually managing blog outreach carefully – and the cool thing is that this drives post quality up. Some bloggers need structure, like a checklist, or they lose track. Shiny objects fly by and all is lost.

    So I’m asking my SMM clients to make a spreadsheet from their favorite blogs with urls down the left column and dates are across the top. They put different letters in the cells for “commented”, “commented+linked”, and “continued” (when you write a post that responds to a post) ….and finally guest blogging or blogroll request. If they’re turned down they push it out a few months. Their RSS reader matches the spreadsheet, natch.

    Every blog you read has a human writing it, and they get a rise out of your participation especially when you add value (real value, which is hard.) So if you do that for a period of time (e.g. 8-10 weeks) then they’ll probably start to recognize you and you can become buds. Because you’re participating in their blog you can start writing down ideas for guest posts on their blog (this is the rightmost column in my spreadsheet.) Some blogs are just snobby, and you can pull those from the list based on their response. Sort spreadsheet by attitude and move on.

    This forces quality. If you don’t have the power to write at a high enough level to score guest posting, your own blog is probably teh fail too.

    I mean straight up. You don’t know me except for sharing a power strip at a conference. But if I’m coming in and helping you rock the Sphinn world, spawning new ideas or stretching the lifespan on your post into a good discussion, we’ll high five at SMX and before long we’re blogrolling each other. I’ll put you on my possible guest poster list and when vacation time comes around I’ll drop you a line to see if you have some ideas. It pushes me to do better on every post or leave it in drafts.

  2. Nice rant. We wonder why things aren’t happening and, well, it’s because nothing we say is very interesting. It just languishes in the middle when the things that tend to get our attetion are at the tips. We owe it to ourselves, our readers and our clients to push, every day.

    I say post once a week if that’s what it takes to create something interesting. Remember the old cliche, “It’s the economy, stupid!”? It’s the content, stupid, regardless of the form. There are bad TV commercials, blog posts, print ads, magazine articles, tweets, etc. In fact, most TV commercials, blog posts, print ads, magazine articles, tweets, etc., are bad. Only a few stand out. And those that do generally took some effort.

  3. You forgot the most important part: its full of text… no one like to read anymore. Which is why this post is just gonna get skimmed for headlines too ;)

  4. Scott: Do you mean blogger outreach as a genuine blogger or as part of a marketing effort? I’m going to hope you mean that latter and then give you a mental high five right now. We don’t need to wait for SMX. I can feel myself getting jaded with the quality of blogs and the lack of respect people approach them with. It’s draining me.

    Hamlton: That’s a great point. At old jobs I used to have to blog every day and it was not an enjoyable experience. Being able to blog a little less frequent has really changed my attitude towards the blog I’m writing for and, I hope, allowed me to create some better posts. Thanks for the comment. :)

    Kenny: I hate pictures. I hate having to put them in posts. I resent them. But I will try to be better. For you. :)

  5. I haven’t been blogging long enough (or good enough?) to be popular yet, so I’ve not experienced being broken either. But I bookmarked this post to return to in case I’m ever fortunate enough to have that problem!

  6. There was a bit of irony when I landed on this blog post – and found it unreadable. The “Helvetica Neue” font is messing things up. On Linux – both Konquoror and FireFox3 – the browser, not finding this font installed, does not progress down to the next font in the css list (Helvetica) but attempts to render the font anyways – and becomes almost unreadable. I’m also noting this on the Thesis site since this is a default font set (I too am a Thesis user). I tested this by removing the font via Firebug – and the page becomes instantly readable.

    I placed a screen shot of the sample rendering at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pbarnhart/3533434797/

    FYI – Opera is a bit better behaved and renders the page a bit better.

  7. Ok, this is me breaking out of the mold.

    Thanks for an insightful and true-to-the-core piece.

    I’ve been thinking about this recently, wondering who will be the next gen of bloggers and blog types. I’ve found myself growing weary of the “big boy” blogs. Even with guest postings and such, the content is overall kind of stale. As well, most of them rarely if ever respond to comments and there just is no sense of community because of that fact.

    I think I’ll subscribe to this one. I’m looking forward to it.

    Cheers

    George

  8. THIS is a fabulous post. I hope I don’t suck….geesh…made me take a look and see if people were still hanging with me and having fun on my blog. Sometimes I get carried away with an issue but because I have such a short attention span, I’m on to the next one really fast. Some find that it makes my blog inconsistent but I’m not writing a blog about Twitter or social media. Those are subject I like…but I have no issue writing about something completely (insane) different.

    I hate the fact that people get stuck in a rut or get bored with the blogging thing….I, too, have given up reading many blogs because they just repeat the same darned thing all day. I don’t care for Techcrunch but I do like Cap’n Crunch. So much more interesting………the back of the box always has something new.

    Kudos……..

  9. One must know that your blog must have a life. Well this article will be thanked by many who had their blogs and broken and eventually fix them.

  10. I think there is a definite fear of stepping out of the blogging comfort zone, when we have a niche with some followers there is an obligation or remain focused. As humans we must also consider the situation in which one topic consumes your attention and the tendency to rewrite about something already stated. Dead blogs are no fun to read and I like the suggestion of switching it up to various forms of blogging, maybe writing isn’t really the best way to portray your personality and video will really get people involved.
    Great insight, I completely agree.

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