Are You Puzzling Your Visitors/Readers? Check List

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.

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!

Innocent mistake:
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.

20 Tips To Optimize Your HomePage

Everybody talks about optimizing the website as a whole, but it is of equal importance to optimize this single, most important page – HomePage (face of your website).

For almost all the websites, the most ranked and visited page is its homepage. So optimizing it makes a lot of sense. If you feel the same, then continue reading..

Here are some of the aspects that you can tweak, inorder to optimize your homepage:

1. Do not show full article on your homepage. If you are showing 10 full articles on your homepage, then it will take a lot of time to load.
And from users perspective, they may not have the patience to scroll down and digg your website looking for good content. Internet is full of information overload and they may just leave your website and go somewhere else.

On the downside, people need to do an extra click to get to the content, if you start showing post excerpts.

2. If you are showing only excerpts on your homepage, then try to limit it to 8 or 10 post excerpts. If you show 20 to 25 post excerpts on your homepage, then the user experience will again be bad.

3. Use less images on your homepage.: Images consume most of the bandwidth. Images can be used wisely to grab the attention, but if we do not take that extra care to optimize the image, then we will surely have to pay for that latter. It would be better to avoid more images on the homepage.

4. Use less advertisements on your homepage or no advertisement on your home page: The best example for this is Google. is the simplest and most used search engine in the world and still it doesn’t have a ad on its homepage. Get a clue from it.


5. Optimize all the images that you are showing on your homepage, using some image optimization tools.

6. As far as possible, try avoiding if-else programs on your homepage. Ex:- Showing one ad to facebook visitors and other for Search Engine visitors and another for people coming from Twitter!

7. Remove the widgets and badges from the homepage. Retain only the most important.

8. Avoid animated contents from your homepage, inorder to speedup the load time of your pages and to not divert the attention of your reader, from the beginning.

9. Choose a proper webhost, with good uptime, speed of servers and support.

10. Make use of custom Excerpt option in WordPress and make the excerpts on your homepage more meaningful. Create enthusiasm or the need to read more situation to someone who reads the excerpts on your homepage!

11. You can lessen the ads on the homepage and put link or banner to your own interesting articles or categories of articles. This will give the user more options to navigate. And you can engage your reader for more time, showcasing good articles.

12. Remove the digg, tweetmeme and other buttons from the article excerpts. Show them only on the full post, if necessary.

13. Use labels: Label all the things properly on your homepage. Ex: Recent articles, Popular posts etc, for better user experience. Visitors must not feel, as if they have landed in a wild forest!

14. Test your optimized homepage: Testing is the only way to go. Big internet companies like Google rely only on its continuous testing. But Google, Yahoo, Microsoft has a lot of employees for testing. Now how can you do testing with your website/blog? Most of the times, owner of the blog gets blind to many components on the blog, like, the widgets, labeling, etc. So it is a good practice to arrange a party for your friends(who don’t know about your blog) and tell them to surf and give feed back about 2 or 3 websites(one of which is yours!). Keep doing it once in a while. Do not over do it. You may just endup in testing and may forget the main element of the blog, which is content.

15. Menu bar: Most surfers are used to the menu bar placed at the top, than on the sidebar. So it must be clearly placed in a prominent position and do not mix it with your categories and other stuffs.

16. Show navigation menu or main menu both in the header as well as in the footer.

17. Make sure to have “Popular Articles” or “Recommended Articles” list on the homepage. So that first time visitors know where to look at, for the best contents on your blog. And with the best content, they are more likely to stick to your blog.

18. Show your subscriber count or Twitter follower count as a social proof, if you have some significant numbers.

19. As far as possible avoid flash contents from homepage. You may annoy and drag your readers out of your blog even before they read any of your stuffs!

20. Make your website/blog logo clickable and link it to your homepage.

Please share your optimization tips with us. So that everyone of us can improve our website/blogs.