Sometimes in marketing, the things that seem to ‘work’ – the things that get you more clicks, clients or cash – have a big downside that limits their effectiveness in the long run.
That downside is this: They’re really annoying.
TV and radio ads are a prime example. Sure, they can be effective, but mostly people hate them because they’re interrupting what they actually came to watch or listen to. The result? As soon as people find an alternative, they’re gone. In this case, the internet came along and content without ads has begun to dominate (think watching TV online or downloading podcasts, not to mention the popularity of ad blockers).
The same is true for annoying practices on websites. You can try them, and they might work to an extent, or work for a while. But ultimately you’re making your site harder for people to use, annoying the heck out of your readers and losing the trust of your audience.
And in the age of the internet, user experience rules. There’s a whole lot of choice out there, so if you’re making things difficult for people, they can most likely leave your site and find something better. I’ve seen websites whose content I love do some of the things below, and although it didn’t immediately stop me from going to their site, it definitely did tarnish my relationship with their brand. I couldn’t help it; after a while, I just liked them less.
Not to mention, Google tends to penalise sites that annoy their users. Think of sites that stuff keywords into the copy so it reads terribly, or add so many links into the text that it’s basically one long list of blue hyperlinks. Things that annoy users are often bad for SEO.
Sure, Google may not currently be penalising you for the annoying website habits below, but if you’re doing something that’s irritating to your audience, it’s entirely possible that a future algorithm update will obliterate your search traffic. On the other hand, give people a great experience and they’ll happily enjoy your content and support what you do – and Google will love you too.
One note: Yep, the annoying tactics below are popular because they often work. So I’m not going to tell you to avoid them altogether (I love things that work!) But what I am saying is, you shouldn’t do something just because it ‘works’, if it’s at the expense of your audience. Almost always, there are ways to get the same result in a way that isn’t annoying. Try putting your people ahead of your marketing tactics and offering something truly useful.
Here are three annoying blog mistakes to avoid, plus ideas for what to do instead.
1. Making people give you their email address with every single blog post, for no good reason
Email lists are all the rage. And by now, most bloggers have figured out they can get more email addresses by addingcontent upgrades to every blog they write.
It’s effective, yes. But do it the wrong way and your email list will be full of people who are rolling their eyes and muttering their way through the subscription process. You don’t want to welcome people to your list like that, do you? Not to mention, they’re more likely to quickly unsubscribe.
So what’s the wrong way to do it? Here are a few examples.
Let’s say that part-way through this blog post I let you know I had a FOURTH way that you might be annoying your audience, and you could get it by giving me your email address, confirming your email, and then downloading that fourth tip (in a HANDY PDF FORMAT!) That would be a whole lotta effort for something that should really just be here on the page, right? But I see bloggers do this exact thing.
Another wrong way to do it: Putting your most useful content into a pdf, then writing a blog post that doesn’t actually offer any useful information, but just talks generally about the topic and then tells you to cough up your email address if you want to get the good stuff. This means you’re wasting your reader’s time; they have to read the useless blog post, and then download the info they were looking for in the first place, which takes a lot longer than if it were just there in the blog post.
What to do instead:
Make sure your content upgrades are really worth the effort. Don’t make people download a pdf of something that may as well be in the blog post itself. The pdfs they download should be the kind of thing they’ll want to print out and/or save for later (e.g. checklists or worksheets). Since they’re going to want to 1) write on it and/or 2) refer to it again and again, it’s worth downloading and is actually more convenient than having the same information in the blog post.
2. Pop-ups that interrupt your reading
Just the other day I was cruising the internet looking for a recipe to cook for dinner. The problem was, it took three times as long as it should have because I couldn’t visit any site without an obnoxiously large pop-up obliterating the content I came there to read.
The thing is, I’d only just arrived on their websites when those pop-ups assaulted me. I had no idea who the blogger in question was, so I wasn’t about to give them my email address. (The worst is when the only way to exit the pop-up is by finding a tiny, transparent ‘x’ floating in the corner.) So by the time I got to the actual recipe that I’d come looking for, it didn’t matter how great the recipe was. Yeah, I’d use it to make the meal, but I kind of hated the website and would go out of my way not to return.
(Update: A few weeks after this post was published, Google announced it will be penalising ‘intrusive’ mobile pop-ups from 2017. Now a whole lotta bloggers and business owners will be re-working their websites. But what’s better is to just not be annoying in the first place. That way, it doesn’t matter what Google does, you just focus on creating a good user experience that your audience will love.)
What to do instead:
Use a more discreet pop-up that doesn’t cover the whole screen (on mobile, you should generally disable your pop-up because the screen is smaller). Or, have your pop-up only appear when people request it by clicking a link or button that mentions your content upgrade. (Surprisingly this can be even more effective, in the sense that they’re more likely to fill in the form once they click the link. That’s because they requested it, rather than having it shoved in their face). If you must have a pop-up that obliterates the screen, set it to appear when the person goes to leave the webpage. That way, you won’t be interrupting them while they’re reading your awesome content.
3. Free ebooks for Africa
Don’t get me wrong; I love a good ebook. Well, I love a great ebook. But most of them aren’t great at all, they’re average, or they’re simply regurgitated information in a fancy font. And like most people, I don’t have time to download and read that many ebooks.
So before you offer an ebook, ask yourself some important questions:
- Is this worth downloading, or would it work better as a blog post or web page?
- Is this something so awesome that people will want to save and refer to it more than once?
- Is this useful enough that people will pass it on to others?
- Am I saying something different, or providing a fresh take on the topic, or am I really just rehashing information I read elsewhere?
What to do instead:
If you decide that your ebook actually wouldn’t be worth downloading (10 points for honesty!) take heart. Rather than spending weeks or months writing a whole book, you can whip up an interactive guide of some sort (something that the reader will literally use, like a template they can fill in or a worksheet that guides them towards some worthy goal). It will take you less time, while also being more useful to your audience that an ebook they already know they won’t read. Or, offer a free email or video course instead, so the information comes to them in manageable chunks they’ll actually have time to read or watch.