So the following post is based off my time spent in the WordPress Reader which, in the past couple of years, total up to 15,000 blogs visited (average of 20 blogs per day).
And through that time, I’ve since developed a taste for the type of posts I’d click on and enjoy.
Here’s a quick disclaimer though: I’m just one person in a very small niche, particularly in writing and self-improvement. So take the following points with a grain of salt.
But also know that if you can attract—or repel—one person, you would probably be able to do so for the rest of the WordPress community, so keep that in mind as you scroll through the list!
1. Your titles suck
Let’s start with the most obvious thing: the title. I’m actually a pretty dumb person, which is why I like titles to spell out exactly what’s in your post.
One-worded titles such as Hi or Submerged do nothing for me, so I’ll just scroll right through. Numbers turn me off even more, because I’m generally wary of any posts that look like they’re part of a series. So titles like OLGA Says #257 will usually remain unclicked.
Do note that titles alone aren’t a make or break thing, since they work in tandem with the following points below. So all’s not lost if the title doesn’t do it for me. However, you could also screw up in other places, such as by…
2. Adding irrelevant (to me) tags
Believe it or not, tags play an important role in attracting a reader—or me, at least. They can actually make up for the aforementioned vague titles, or they could totally screw up a decent one.
So blog posts titled Learning To Survive or How To Forge Your Own Path may seem interesting at first glance, but if they’re accompanied by tags I’m not interested in, then I might give the post a pass.
What tags do I avoid?
Well, seeing as to how I’m on WordPress to have fun and not get into pissing contests, I typically steer clear of sensitive topics. So tags such as religion, politics, sexism, and social justice would reduce my desire to click.
I also typically forgo tags like fiction and poetry because I’d much rather connect with bloggers through their life stories, and I have zero knowledge on poetry.
That doesn’t mean that the tags above are bad. They just don’t interest me.
Moral of the story? Make sure your tags are relevant to the audience you want to attract.
3. Your first paragraphs are dodgy
Another element in putting forward your best foot on the Reader is your post introduction. If your titles and tags have been a miss, you could still attract my interest through a strong first paragraph.
In fact, I’ve been swayed quite a few times by introductions that had me enjoying the entire post—something I wouldn’t have done had I relied on titles and tags alone.
This is the equivalent of me taking a book off the shelf and reading the first chapter. Who knows what happens once I read your work? I don’t even know what I enjoy reading. If your words sing to me, they sing to me.
I don’t mean to sound judgemental (on second thought, this entire post is judgemental), but there are tons of posts on WordPress, and many more cropping up as we speak (4.4 million blog posts every day apparently), so don’t hate me for erring on the side of not clicking.
4. You use stocky stock photos
Don’t panic. I source my photos from stock websites—such as Unsplash—as well, so I totally get the struggle of finding the best images for your posts. But some people tend to use photos that are just… stockier… than others.
You know the ones I’m talking about—the illustrations of flowers or musical notes that look like they belong on a Geocities or Angelfire website. It’s almost as if you need a Nokia 3210 to answer the call from the nineties, where they ask you for their images back.
Then you have photos of professionals in suits looking like they had to hold their pose for three seconds too long, just like the stale smiles from your family gathering when your tech-challenged uncle couldn’t find the shutter button.
Weirdly enough, all that pales in comparison to not having a photo at all. Those posts tend to go unnoticed when I scroll through the Reader. So if you’re not a pics person, now would be a good time to start.
5. You don’t wanna chat
You’d think that disabling comments wouldn’t matter much when it comes to attracting an audience, but people like me browse the Reader to find new friends, so if I don’t see the comment logo at the bottom of your post, then I’m probably not clicking, even it seems interesting.
Because what do you want me to do? Clap my hands, here in Malaysia? Would you feel a tingle down your spine from my telepathic Like? I heard that people tend to sneeze when someone says something nice about them, so maybe I can utter a few praises to get you to sneeze over there in Arizona?
I mean, it’s your prerogative to include or exclude comments, but just know that it does affect your audience’s decision to visit your site, especially if they’re power users like me.
6. Your blog name is all business
To be fair, I never knew that blog names even mattered, but that’s until I started sensing a theme when it came to business websites.
Yeah, you’d think that having a blog named ‘Kramer Love Services’ or ‘Top Crypto Finance’ would draw your favourite clientele, and maybe that’s true, but I tend to avoid such blogs from the get go.
Maybe it’s just me, but I like the personal feel here on WordPress. I’m not here to look for random services from a stranger with two posts on their blog.
That doesn’t mean I won’t buy something off you to support you though. If you’ve written a novel, or have an interesting Patreon account, I would contribute to your cause. In fact, I have bought e-books from WordPress bloggers, but only because they seemed genuine.
Business websites on WordPress only seem to be concerned about sales and the products they have to offer though.
So yeah, that’s why I avoid blogs that look like affiliate marketers.
p.s. You know what’s the quickest way to my heart? A punny title.
7. You barely skim the surface
When you browse the Reader long enough, you start to notice patterns. And one pattern I recognise off the bat is a post from someone who just doesn’t care.
One such trope is the quote post. I click on an interesting quote, thinking that there’d be an article that follows it, but nope. That’s it. A quote.
Then there’s the platitude post that’s just common sense disguised as advice. Want to be more productive? Get more sleep. Want to lose weight? Eat less.
I must admit, I do publish my share of platitude posts, so I’m not exactly exempt from this sin right here. But if you’re going to tell me to sleep more, at least do it with a dash of your personality, instead of copy-pasting the advice straight from another website.
8. You make things hard for me
I’ve covered a lot of blogging’s best practices in another post so I won’t go in detail here, but if I land on your website and it seems like you’re hellbent on ruining my reading experience, then I’m going to bounce the hell outta there.
Common blunders include not using paragraphs, no subheadings, blasting me with offers, or leaving me unchanged at the end of the post.
You have to treat blogging like a business. If you want your audience to enjoy your work, you have to make it as easy as possible for them to consume it.
Here’s some good sauce
There are things that I enjoy stumbling across when browsing the Reader, so thank you if you already do these by default. Know that you’ve brightened a random Malaysian’s day through your kind deeds.
i. Asking a question at the end
Sometimes I really like a blog post, but when I get to the end, I feel like I can’t contribute. Maybe it’s because your post is super comprehensive, or maybe I don’t feel qualified enough to comment. But when I see a question though? That makes it so much easier to jump in and chat with you.
ii. Using personal photos
It doesn’t matter that your photos are grainy, or that they’re not professionally framed. Sometimes, that personal touch does set you apart from the WordPress sea of stock photos. I do try to use personal photos in my newsletter, so make sure to sign up and get your exclusive content!
iii. Using more than four photos
Building on the above point, did you know that the WordPress Reader previews posts differently when there are more than four photos? What this does is give readers a good idea on what your article is about, kinda like visual subheadings.
iv. Clean title punctuation
I know that the colon, quotation marks, and em dash help with clarity, but I find that clean titles are the easiest to process when scrolling the Reader for hours at a time. Thankfully, most titles are pretty straightforward.
v. Caring about the tiny details
Everything counts, and each little detail does conjure certain feelings in me. Don’t acknowledge comments and I’ll feel as though I’m in a hostile environment. That pretty website design doesn’t go unnoticed. And that custom copy at your Contact section (e.g. Stalk Me!) adds a spritz of flavour to the browsing experience, so thanks in advance for the hours of work you spent agonising over things like image alignment or your widget placement.
That’s just, like, my opinion, man
You know what I like to say: please don’t take any of these tips seriously. All the points you see above are tainted with the bias of my opinions.
But also remember that publishing your work on WordPress is a type of performance, and like watching random stand-up comedians on open mic night, I really want you to do well.
So keep on blogging, and keep on improving, and if I’ve never commented on your blog before, just know that it’s not because I didn’t click on it.
It’s because I haven’t.
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll enjoy the newsletter too. I send out exclusive content and the occasional (okay regular) platitude e-mail. And you get a free guide on how to grow your WordPress blog through the art of commenting too!