Do you have a blog? If so, you have roughly 30 seconds to convince me to subscribe. I approach blogs like I do a new novel. I read a page, and in that short amount of time I decide if I want to keep reading. In those critical moments I’m considering many factors. Do I connect with the narrator, the setting, the story? Does the prose delight me? How does the book feel in my hands? Do I want to know more? Most of what I need to know is discernible from that very first page, and the same goes for blogs.
I consider myself a good audience. As a rule I’m patient, forgiving, and interested. I want to be inspired, entertained, and informed by you. I love leaving comments and engaging in conversations. I enjoy supporting bloggers, especially those, like me, who are just a little less famous than the Seth Godins and Chris Brogans of the world. But despite my best intentions, the demands of my day require that I be selective about the blogs I follow.
Though I’m fairly new to the blogosphere (reading and writing), I’ve explored enough blogs to formulate some thoughts about the factors that influence my decision to subscribe or pass. Keep in mind that these are only my preferences, not recommendations or guidelines. Follow them at your peril.
Here’s a list of the things I look for in blogs:
1) Awesome content. This goes without saying, so I won’t spend too much time here. Great, well-written content will keep me coming back to your blog, above all else. Decent content might keep me coming back if some of these other factors are in place.
2) Welcoming and easy to read format. I’m referring to the fonts, graphics, and colors on your blog, not how well-written your posts are (see #1 for that). I do most of my blog reading through Google Reader, but my first visit is always directly to the blog’s website. Make that first visit count by having the newest content on the first page, an easy way to navigate through posts, a title or a description of the theme or purpose of the blog, and readable fonts (dark fonts on light backgrounds preferred).
3) Information about YOU. Blogs are written by people, and I like to know something about those people. It’s unlikely that I’ll subscribe to a blog that doesn’t have some sort of author profile or About page. It can be brief, but tell me something about you, something I can cling to in the swirling sea of the blogosphere. And please tell me your first name. I don’t want to follow a blog whose author is a shadowy, unnamed figure — let’s keep that to the fantasy novels.
4) Pictures, audio, and/or videos. I like to read good writing, but I also enjoy different forms of media. Pictures are a plus. Videos are fun too. Podcasts? Yea, maybe once in a while. Although, if your blog is all audio/video, chances are I won’t follow it. I won’t get out the headphones and un-mute my computer for every one of your posts.
5) Optimization for RSS Readers. If I’m reading your blog regularly, I’ll be viewing it through Google Reader. This means you should know how your blog looks and behaves in Reader. I beg you to make sure your entire post comes up in Reader. There’s nothing more annoying to me than having to follow a link out of Reader to finish reading a post. I’m not inclined to follow a blog that requires me to do that for every post (unless I really like you).
6) An easy way to subscribe. Add the cute little RSS icon to your homepage. If you make me hunt for it, I might lose interest. I’d rather spend my 30 seconds enjoying your well-written posts instead of trying to figure out how to subscribe.
7) A regular and consistent posting schedule. This is my “Goldilocks Rule.” I get overwhelmed by bloggers that post too frequently, and I lose interest in bloggers that post too infrequently. I prefer a posting schedule that falls into the “just right” category. For me, this means 1-3 posts a week. Obviously, a regular schedule isn’t always possible, and I’m willing to be patient with deviations and inconsistencies, but too many, and I may unsubscribe.
I really do want to become a faithful reader of your blog, and the list above will encourage me to subscribe. If you have something meaningful to say, of course.
What factors do you consider when evaluating blogs? Would love to hear your thoughts.