This is exactly what comes to my mind when I visit a website/blog which is filled with many “call to action!” – Are You Trying To Puzzle ?
For example, there are many News websites and entertainment websites which are so confusing that, we bloggers can observe them and take advantage of it, by not doing such things on our blog.
Some of the puzzling things
1. Display half a page or so – ads!, and some dozens of sponsored links above the fold.
Displaying a lot of coupon codes/discount coupons of various products(which may be invalid), to gain search engine visitors to those keywords.
2. Some 15 to 20 social media widgets – for you, to inform your friends, family and their dog about the website.
And some more widgets to join their fan clubs – 1 fan club is a good idea. 2 is ok. Anything above 3 or 4 is a bad idea.
3. Some flash ads and animated .gif banners.
4. Few pop ups and pop under and not to forget text link ads(like kontera – which you may see on our blog too! , Infolinks etc).
5. And its quite common that, they will be having many CPM ads on their site, and so they need us to refresh the pages and visit various pages on their site – and its easy, break the single article into two(or even more) and link to it at the bottom of the first article, and link back to the 1st page from the 2nd page, so on.
6. Having a pop up, asking you to signup for a news letter – and the popup having no exit option!
7. Some audio/video(some time, sponsored audio/video), auto-playing! and the visitor searching all the open tabs for the possible culprit(to shut-it-down).
8. One or the other contest going on, and you participating in it with half a mind, because the prize is so valuable but you haven’t seen them announcing a winner. When announced, there will be no clue about the winners existence.
9. And a funny thing – I saw a Twitter widget integrated on one of the famous entertainment site, which shows the recent tweets of some one at their office. I thought, they want to give some real time entertainment news to their visitors. But when I observed it closely, all the previous tweets from almost months were tweeted by some bot(automatic tweets!), and most tweets were out of topic. Ex:- I increased my Twitter followers by using this service, check them out. bla bla bla.
10. And what else or what not ? ha…they also have some syndicated contents!
Even though they have all these puzzling things around, not all News/Entertainment sites are useless. There are sites, which have good quality content. But the thing is, they forget their main product. The basic element that they wanted to sell you. That is their content or any of their own product, say a DVD or CD or their magazine.
But when the ad revenue or the other benefits get bigger then their main product they may get distracted and may start puzzling their readers with more of what makes them profitable, for the time being.
Smart Planning and Execution:
I have seen some people not displaying any ads or banners on their site for many years, and finally they release their own product – they take time to bring up a exclusive, quality product, while building a group of target audience. Once the product is launched, some people will surly talk about it on their websites, forums etc.
Similarly when a already messy site adds one more mess to its sidebar, who cares about it? And so the site owner will continue with the puzzling act of make money, instead of concentrating on their product.
Are You A Big Brand or a Celebrity?
It was completely different, if you were already a big brand or a celebrity. People will be mentally connected to you and will bare the inconvenience and do the things which you want them to do! But if you are like most of us, then you will have to think from users perspective.
But then, Some Facts..
Also know the fact that, many of these news/entertainment sites have got premium publisher accounts. That means they earn a major share in the total earnings they generate, unlike the usual 50 – 50 or 30 – 50 or 60 – 50 ratios. Some ad networks even pay 80% to their premium publishers. Because if they can retain some key players, they are sure to retain their loyal followers too. But such sites will have multiple posters and many many many posts in their archive.
Blogs with single author or 2 or 3 authors will have a hard time building such a site. Instead, you can concentrate on building a community around the blog, who can stick around longer. So, you may have to stop puzzling your readers and build the community, authority, trust around your blog/brand.
The final take from this post is:
1. If you have any widgets/banner on your sidebar, then take some time now itself and remove them.
2. I believe, you have some call to action to your visitors. Like news letter signup, buy this button for your product etc. Focus on the main thing(s), rather than wanting your visitors to do all the things which you expect them to do.
3. Avoid forcing your visitors to take certain actions. Let them choose what they want to do and what they don’t.
4. Teach your visitors whats on your blog. Ex:- Twitter had a video explaining what Twitter is all about. Similarly, some people write and educate their readers about things like – What is RSS. What are the bubble links that they are seeing when they hover over certain words – intext ads etc.
5. Label the things properly: Label the things like, subscription form, Search form, News letter form, recent links, popular links, Sponsored link, advertisements etc.
6. choose a good niche and try to be on topic as far as possible. Think, what if your favorite politics blog suddenly started writing only about entertainment and traveling!
7. Let the design of your blog be simple and well structured. And load before your visitor forgets, what he was looking for!
8. Do some testing and know which widgets your visitors use frequently to share the content on your blog. Retain such things and remove the rest.
You may earn a dollar more today by puzzling/confusing/misleading your visitor, but remember, with that intention, you might have already missed a big opportunity. Better late then not, you can take action now and never miss an opportunity in the future.
What do you think of sites which try to puzzle visitors/readers. I have left point, 9, 10 empty. Would love to know your experience, in the comment section.