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Top 10 Tips for driving traffic AWAY from your website

Exit websiteGone are the days of marquees, animated gifs and embedded midi files (thank God) but there are still things that people do that drive others crazy.

Since I am (still) working on my “redesign” for Binary Moon I thought I would look into what stops people from reading blogs. More specifically I was looking for reasons people would stop visiting a site, or worse, close it as soon as it loads.

The Tips

These tips are ranked in my personal order of preference, but I’m sure there are others I’ve missed so please do let me know in the comments if there’s anything I’ve missed.

  1. Snap.com previews. Snap.com offer a way to add “previews” to external websites you link to on your pages. By previews I mean tiny screenshots that pop up on mouse over. In my mind they offer no value to visitors whatsoever. All they do is slow down the page load, and get in the way of the content I actually want to read. There is a way to remove them but it relies on cookies in your browser, this seems cumbersome to me so I used the Adblock Firefox extension to block their entire domain. No Snap.com for me thank you very much. And thankfully, I’m not the only person who dislikes them – Lorelle, and many others have the same opinions.
  2. Advertising Excess More and more sites are relying on advertising for making money on their sites. Advertising itself isn’t bad and when used in an appropriate way can work wonders, but forcing half a page of ads, which pushes your content below the fold, I think you have to ask yourself if you’ve gone a step too far. Darren Hoyt recently wrote a piece on excessive advertising at ABC Chicago
  3. Overlay/ Expandable Ads A cross between Snap.com and Advertising Excess, these ads tend not too appear on blogs as much as they do on larger commercial websites. They are essentially adverts that are designed to disrupt your browsing experience – they either appear on top of the site content, requiring a click to remove, or they expand when place your mouse over the ad. Both of these ad types get in the way of reading the site you are visiting and both ruin the experience for me. A healthy dose of AdBlock soon sorts them out.
  4. Inline ads This is the last of the ad related dislikes… I promise :) Inline ads are the double underlined text links you see in some blog articles. They are links that are not inserted by the article author and link popular words to external advertisers sites. Like snap.com links they often add popup information blocking the content on the page but more importantly they mislead people. If you don’t know what the double underline means then there is a good chance you will click on the link because of the misunderstanding that the link is endorsed by the post author.
  5. Del.icio.us, Twitter etc in rss feed. I think Del.icio.us is a very nice app and regularly use it to save bookmarks, and a tasteful sidebar widget displaying your latest links is fine, even including them in your posts is fine. The issue is when there is no way for me to subscribe to a feed that does not feature them. I visit your site for your content, not links to other peoples. I have even gone so far as to email blog authors I like asking them to create a feed I can use that does not include these things.
  6. Bad Navigation Most blogs have a fairly obvious list of pages on their site but occasionally they miss things such as not linking the header to the homepage (which is surely a standard by now isn’t it?). In one case I even saw a website that had no navigation on internal pages. I don’t know if this was intentional or a css bug but it sure was frustrating.
  7. No archives Many blogs use templates freely downloaded from the web and these generally include an archives listing somewhere, so it’s not a big problem for them, but I find it very annoying when websites don’t have an easy to find archive system. This is something I feel is quite weak here, on Binary Moon, I have an archive page but I intend to add more ways for people to traverse older posts.
  8. Tiny/ low contrast text Small fonts and low contrast designs can look lovely. However more often they are simply a nightmare for people to use. It’s not just people with vision impairments who have issues either. If a visitors monitor is calibrated differently to yours (which is quite likely) then there’s a good chance they can’t view the text either.
  9. Long lines of text are a readability nightmare. Have you ever read a line of text and then gone to the next line only to read the same thing again because you lost your place? I have… and it sucks. Fewer words per line makes things easier to read. Similarly spacing between lines should be nice and comfortable, so that the lines are easy to distinguish.
  10. No individual post information The big one here is the date. I like to know when things are written, for technical sites (giving tutorials etc) it’s not that much of a problem, but often time sensitive content is written and it’s very useful to know when. Other data that annoys me when it’s missing is who wrote the post (most important on multi author blogs) and what categories the article was posted in – so I can find similar content.

To sum up the list – the thing that will drive me away from your site is blocking access to the content I want to read.

I’m confident I won’t make any of the mistakes above in my design update, but is there anything else I should do to improve my site, and to stop people from leaving.

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66 Comments »

  1. Great message, I was thinking of what I would never put on my website while reading these and each bullet I chuckled to myself “Oh yea, never!” — haha. I mainly hate the Snap ads and how if you roll over them they sometimes lag and then don’t go away for a few seconds. Annoying.

  2. Michael – Snap is one of the biggest i have issues with. Closely followed by the various advertising issues. The rest are more forgiveable, if still annoying.

  3. Good points all around. Regarding #2, the funny thing is, if you were an alien visiting from another planet and witnessed the shitshow that is ABC Chicago, you might think those ads were intentionally positioned there like security guards, hired either to strong-arm you away from the page or simply deter anyone from finding the content. The page creators and advertisers have surely considered the exact opposite effect their approach has on users…right?

    Re: Snap Previews, I had a conversation with their Product VP awhile back and after I mentioned that there should be ways to harness their product without the annoying popovers, he kind of seemed to understand. I doubt they’re unaware of all the negative feedback; maybe they’ll take it into consideration and do something more useful with the technology before services like WebSnapr allow developers to beat them to it.

  4. I dislike links that cannot be easily recognized from a paragraph of text. I don’t have much time to hover over texts that I think should be links to find out whether they are links in the first place.

    And imagine the inconvenience this poses to a blog reader who is visually-impaired!

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  6. Darren – I saw the thing you had with Snap. To be fair they have improved their service in light of user feedback, but it hasn’t solved the problem of what is really a dodgy idea to start with.

    Tivo – hoorah – some good has been accomplished :)

    Pelf – Good point. I hate that one as well.

    Rhys – looking at your site now I would say your ads have been incorporated pretty well. It’s a shame your earnings went down but I would say that the user experience on your site should be higher so you will hopefully build up your userbase so that you earn more in the long term.

  7. Ben – Yes, that’s what I hope. I have been blogging for 5 years and only really been making money for 1 of them, so I have no problem blogging not to make money :)

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  9. I have to agree on Snap.com previews. Snap.com.
    I tried it on one site and load time went up, and Snaps pop ups kept coming up when I did not want them.

    Snap was soon removed from site.

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  11. Haha, great title brought me in to read the article and I’m very glad I did.

    And I thought I was the only one irritated by #5 and #6 (Twitter/Delicious injected in feed and Logo not linking to homepage)! Thank god there’s another voice of reason out there. I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve unsubscribed from just because they injected their feed with Delicious links….they’re great once in a while (a weekly speedlink post, perhaps), but not everyday!

    As for Snap Previews…I used to have them on my site and removed them only because they were slowing down the site (and I’m already on a relatively slow host). I actually find them useful, especially for Wikipedia or RSS links…I wish you could enable them for everything *but* the default screenshots (ie. only serve the new “Shots,” including Wikipedia, Flickr, Youtube, etc). Alternatively, Snap might be smart to release a client-side version…so people who want them can have them on every site they visit. If implemented well, I might be interested.

    Anyhow thanks for a great article!

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  14. Very vaild points, but not #10
    If you are not into breaking news skip the date, otherwise people will ignore your still accurate articles just because they think they are “yesterdays news”.

  15. Tad – I disagree. If you come to a site via a search engine you may feel the need to comment on a story and if the date is not visible then you will have no idea if the story is still relevant or not so en up commenting on something that is, sometimes years, out of date.

    Of course – you’re welcome to disagree as well – that’s the beauty of tha interwebs :)

  16. Yeah i have to agree with Ben on this one, having the date on a document is very important even if it “is” yesterdays news. There’s alot of times when people are actively searching for old news or something from a specific timeframe.

    Also:

    11. Bloated and image heavy web pages that take forever to render. There’s nothing worse then a 180kb webpage that consist of 2 paragraphs of text and the rest is bloat.

    KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid, is becoming increasingly important with the amount of mobile devices accessing the internet every day.

    12. Cross Browser Compliance, when sites are designed for IE and render poorly in other browsers ie FireFox, you are really doing yourself alot of harm given the increasing market share.

    BTW Ben, what are you going to do with BM’s current design when you bring in the new one? I really love this layout.

    Carly,

  17. Carly – good extra points there

    Regarding the site design… I wonder if people will be disappointed when they see it. It’s an evolution of the current design so will be initially very similar. When I talk about design I mean more about features (IA, navigation etc) rather than aesthetics. I’ve kept a very close look to this theme, although have tweaked and tidied up all round.

  18. Sure, you have a blog with the narrow focus of just providing text to read, so you can promote users cheating websites out of much-needed advertising revenue by blocking ads with Adblock.

    Heaven help you if you ever run a website offering actual entertainment, like videos and other multimedia, and the server farms that requires. Stuff like that requires an actual revenue stream, don’t you know.

    People like you, begging for a free lunch, are hilarious. If you had your way, we’d still be user Gopher!

  19. Jerke – If you had read around my site you would see that this is not my only website. I work for a very large gaming site, and I run a games blog, both use advertising for making money. I am well aware of the contradictions. I even have ads on this site.

    What you seem to have missed is that I am not against advertising, I am against excessive/ invasive advertising that prevents people from getting to the content they want to see.

    I see plenty of ads when I browse the internet, the ones I block are the ones that get in the way/ annoy me.

  20. “I wonder if people will be disappointed when they see it. It’s an evolution of the current design so will be initially very similar.”

    Nah i’m sure they won’t be dissapointed if it’s styled off this design, you can’t go wrong really. I thought you may of being doing a complete re-design… And i was going to find out what trash can you were throwing this one in :-D

    Jerke, there’s a difference between generating a refenue from your site/blog to cover costs and maybe a bit of pocket money but it’s another thing all together to try and “milk it for all it’s worth”.

    If you do this you’re setting yourself up for failure, people will stop coming when a site’s usability or asthetics are compromised due to excessive advertising.

    What Ben has done here with the time based advertising is very well thought out and a great approach. No visitor wants to feel like their only purpose is to make money for the webmaster.

    When i had to re-download the Google Toolbar/Firefox on this machine i purposely came here to get it from Bens link. If you plaster your site like an infomercial, the only thing i’ll click is the back button.

    Carly,

  21. Well, I have to admit that I sometimes like these Snap Previews. Not in the text though. It would be nice one could decide wether they apply or not. For example: there won’t be any in the text, so readers don’t get distracted. But using a link list at the bottom of the post – there they can be useful.

    just my 2 cents. :)

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  23. i’m a bit surprised by the archive thing. I have archives, but it’s right up there with my commenting guidelines as pages with the least traffic. Archives are important for journals, but not for blogs. people will generally browse tags or search, or occassionally use post-to-post navigation, but that’s all.

  24. I hate when folks have music that you cannot turn off – arrrgghhh! Hate, hate, hate it. I don’t always mind the music, just give me a way to turn it off without having to fudge with my speakers all the time.

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  26. I put up a text link ad to some marketing site. My wife saw it and called me a whore. I sat there, and then agreed with her and took it off.
    I also agree about inlinks. I will never, ever do that to my readers.

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  29. Wow, embedded midis and marquees – I remember those days!

    I dislike websites that have a dark background with some sort of brightly coloured text on – so difficult to read. I also hate sites that have every sort of cutsie plugin thing going; “I have been listening to..,” “books I have read this year,” “my top 10 friends” etc. It makes websites look like a myspace or facebook pages. Not cool.

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  31. Oh the dreaded snap previews lol. I can’t understand why that site got so big… one that really bothers me is when there is a site that i visit often and i want to find an old article, but there isnt a search field. I think it is essential for when someone can only remember some keywords in the article that they are able to type them in and find the article. Good write up though

  32. Good call on all of the above. Although I don’t know what you mean about Delicious and Twitter in RSS – does that mean that they put a list of their recent bookmarks in their RSS feed?

    p.s. I adore how your comment form has darker text for the box in focus! Really nice design over all.

    p.p.s. Re:your note below the comment form; I never used my real name with people I don’t know or in relation to my website, don’t be offended by my use of screen name. :)

  33. Yes, I agree that advertising is a big turn off on both blogs and websites because so many make it so obvious they only exist for the advertising revenue, rather like some newspapers and magazines!

    There is a fine line between too much and just enough! How does one ever define that line? Obviously better to have less than more.

    My blog has currently way too much as I am experimenting with the overall design and what I want and eventually don’t want.

    Best of all, I see my ads as an extremely valuable reader resource. I myself have discovered many excellent links through my adsense links (I just paste the domain into my browser rather than click on the ad) and I try to provide the same resource through my banner advertising.

    But ultimately I want to advertise the goods and services that I myself use daily and find to be top value. Then the ads come into their own because each will have a separate posting where I highlight the benefits I enjoy from that product, rather in the manner of a letter of endorsement.

    Which will boost the clicks on my ads, but much more importantly really provide my marketing blog readers with information by which they can make an educated purchasing decision. “This works for me, it may well work for you” type of sales strategy.

    The other thing about ads is they provide an outgoing link. Can this enhance my blog’s search engine ranking? To be honest, I am not sure. Perhaps someone knows more about this angle? Feel free to comment or email me! :)

  34. there is graet stuff here to read. Think I just have to come beck sometime later today to take it all in. Thanks for a goos job!

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