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How to Lose a Reader in Ten Seconds

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I’ll admit it. I can be a completely girl-girl sometimes. I like dressing up and doing my hair. I like a good shopping trip, especially if shoes or purses are involved. And yes, I like the occasional chick flick. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is one of my favorites.

In the movie, the main character writes for a women’s magazine decides to write an article about everything women do wrong when trying to snag a boyfriend. Of course, hilarity ensues when she puts her theories to the test and tries to drive a new guy away (who has unbeknownst to her recently made a bet that he can make a relationship work).

Sometimes, I feel like we’re all like the women in the movie – we’re actively trying to drive readers away. Forget ten days…if you’re not careful, you will lose readers in ten seconds.

Goodbye, readers...

We’ve been talking a lot about bounce rate here at BlogWorld recently, including compiling a list of links about bounce rate. One of the points several bloggers have made is that bounce rate is more significant if readers are only staying on the site for a few seconds (as opposed to remaining on your site for several minutes, taking the time to read a post). So what are you doing wrong? Well, I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but here are a few things that will make me leave a blog in under ten seconds:

  • Being smacked across the face with a pop-up

The great pop-up debate will likely rage on for decades to come. I’m currently not using them on my site, but I do understand why some people do. Whether you use pop-ups or not isn’t the point though – it’s about how you use them, if you make that choice.

If you smack me with a pop-up two seconds after arriving on your site, I’m probably going to click the back button pretty quickly. It definitely makes me trust your content less, since it seems like you’re just trying to sell me something, so even if I do get through the pop-up, I might click the back button pretty quickly unless your content is amazing. If you’re going to use pop-ups give me some time to like your blog first. Time your pop-ups well!

  • Content that doesn’t match the promise

Your regular readers aren’t going anywhere. They already love you. But to convince new readers to stay, you have to have great content. This goes beyond simply writing valuable content. You have to right valuable content that people want.

If I’m new to your blog, I’ve probably arrived there one of two ways – through a link or through a search engine. I click a link when the title looks interesting, and I visit via a search engine when your content looks like it might match with what I want to know. If I get to your blog and the content doesn’t meet my expectations, I’m going to leave. So:

  1. Make sure your content delivers on what your headline promises. Link bait is fine, but the content has to actually be good if you want people to stay on your site. (More on that here.)
  2. Look at the search terms people are using to find your blog. Are your posts actually covering the most popular terms or are some of your posts accidentally optimized for random keywords? (A good example: I once wrote a post called The Blog Sneetches, and sometimes people arrive at that post using the search term “sneetches” – which is probably not what they want!)

When I’m looking for specific information and I don’t get it, I’m going to leave pretty quickly.

  • You regurgitate content I’ve already read.

It’s important to write posts that are helpful for beginners in your niche, but if you’re basically rewriting what’s already been said, an reader with experience in your niche is going to leave pretty quickly. Personally, I think the best way to solve this problem is make sure you have some posts specifically for newbies (and named as such, like the beginner’s guide to bloggers basics I wrote) and some posts that answer specific questions (again, clearly titled), but then also write posts that are filled with original opinions, thoughts on news stories in your industry, personal experiences, and other things that your readers can’t find at any other site. The more original you are, the better.

I think a lot of the other things that make me leave quickly are more personal preferences than anything else. For example, I don’t like to see posts written by “admin.” What about you – what will make you leave a site quickly?

Allison Boyer freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She also runs the food blog The PinterTest Kitchen with her mom and sister. You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (@allison_boyer) or contact her at allisonmboyer@gmail.com.


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  • bdorman264

    One thing is for certain; there are plenty of choices and if I am new to your site there will have to be something that makes it sticky for me. The other HUGE turnoff for me is lack of replies to a comment (mine in particular). I see people bemoan the fact they have no traffic and I want to say ‘duh’….unless you are so big like Jenny Lawson getting over 4500 comments on a post, take the time to acknowledge your readers, and even Jenny does that in her own way.

    • allison_boyer

      @bdorman264 I’m of the opinion that bloggers shouldn’t have to reply to every single comment. I hate seeing comments that are nothing more than “thanks” or “good idea” or whatever. I like when there’s actual discussion going on. But I do agree with you that if none of their comments have a reply, it’s a turn off. Part of being a good blogger is the follow-up discussion.

    • blogworld

      @bdorman264 I admire how some bloggers seem to be able to answer every single comment well. Like Alli says “thanks for commenting” posts seem annoying to me, but I am curious what you think about that Bill?

      Is that all you need to feel like the blogger appreciated you taking the time to leave a comment or does their reply need to be deeper than that?

      Back in 2005 before we had these great comment platforms like Livefyre I used to email my commenters to tell them thank you, let them know I had replied to their comments and ask them to come back anytime.

      People seemed to really appreciate and even be surprised by that.

      Given your tweet taking us to task for not responding more frequently to comments here, I think its funny we are having this discussion now =p.

      I know I already told you this via DM but thank you Bill for pointing out something we were doing wrong. It was a huge benefit to us. It really wasn’t intentional. Being a multi author blog, we needed to direct comments to each blog post to the authors of those posts. For whatever reason that wasn’t happening so the bloggers didn’t know they were getting comments and the editor thought the bloggers were responding.

      Who knows how long it would have taken us to figure out that problem if you hadn’t pointed it out. Thanks again for that 8).

      • bdorman264

        @blogworld I view blogging as an engagement platform; unless your writing is so incredibly fantastic and for some reason you think you are above replying to comments, what’s the point? Go write a book or magazine article if you don’t want feedback and interaction.

        Yes, I know it’s time consuming and sometimes replying takes away from doing other things or visiting other blogs; but for now, I’m still a big proponent in replying to comments. If someone has taken the time to come by my place I want to express my appreciation and I can do that by replying to comments.

        Personally, I would be ok w/ just a ‘thanks for commenting’ because at least I will know it was read. If I got the same reply every time then it wouldn’t seem sincere and I would lose interest.

        Thanks for reaching out.

        • JudyDunn

          @bdorman264 @blogworld I’m on the other end of the spectrum on the comments issue. I feel that if a reader took time to think about my post and write a thoughtful comment, the least I can do is not only recognize it, but have something to say about the ideas they have shared. Of course, my highest number of comments on a post so far has just been 150, so maybe I’ll change my mind if I start getting thousands. : )

          The only readers I don’t respond to are the, “Great post” people because, really, what is there to say to that?

  • Socialarc

    @JulianaP16 Thanks for sharing!

  • moneyandrisk

    The #1 guarantee to shoot me out of a website instantly is music/noise. I’m conditioned to immediately backtrack if I hear anything. I think my reflex is less than 1 second.

    Content is pretty important to me as well. I’m busy and very strapped for time (aside from the blogging demands). I only allot myself X amount of time for random reading. Unless it’s unique or make me think, I don’t stay. There’s so much “curated” (i.e. stolen material) all over the web that you see the same thing repeated ad nauseum.

    • allison_boyer

      @moneyandrisk AH MUSIC! I think that one is so offensive that I’ve blocked it from my mind that it even happens. :-p I such rewrite this post and just put “DO NOT USE MUSIC!”

      I also find that it’s not only stolen material that is a problem, but just basic unoriginal content. I get it that not every post is going to be a game changer in your niche, but if all you do is rewrite a news story in your own words with no added analysis or opinion of your own, I’m going to be bored. Like you, I only have a little time for reading each day, so I give that time to original content. I already read industry news on Mashable, so unless it’s an exclusive, you’re going to have to do something else to make me stay.

    • Rick

      especially if your sounds is turned up on our computer! I hate when that happens.

  • CAL_Living

    Disgusted: when I am looking for a link to view your newsletter style and content, and cannot find it 🙁 or when I decide that your content is valuable but can not find the “Subscribe to Newsletter” button….

    OR forcing me with a pop up to join now, before proceeding into your site… NO, NO, NO… let me decide if I like you and your content first… U Know what I mean.

    • allison_boyer

      @CAL_Living Well, I don’t think that EVERY blog needs a newsletter…but it is definitely annoying when you like content and can’t figure out how to stay connected with the author, whether that’s through a newsletter, other kind of email list, social media, etc. It always amazes me when people don’t post these links/buttons clearly at the bottom of a post or on the sidebar. I hate having to search for things buried on an about page.

    • Rick

      So many top bloggers love those pop up banners but I am with you Cal, I HATE HATE HATE THEM!

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