Learning From Blithering Idiot Blog Readers

Filed as Features on June 25, 2007 8:17 am

Preparing recently for a presentation before a group of business women who do not know much about blogging, I ran across a mass printed memo note pad I’d saved many years ago. In an interesting way, it describes blogging and the occasional blog reader:

The above material has been thoughtfully considered, astutely worded and meticulously edited and states clearly and concisely all pertinent information. Should there be any difficulty in clearly understanding any part of this message, its intent or its purpose, then there is every reason to believe that you are a blithering idiot.

The Blithering Idiot Blog Readers

While there are, admittedly, plenty of blithering idiot bloggers, and I’m not naming names, there are also plenty of blithering idiot blog readers. While a sensitive subject, it is my job as a blog educator to teach bloggers how to blog, as well as teach blog readers how to read and understand blogs.

Case in point, I was woken up this morning at 5:30 by a man calling to ask me if I dealt in RV salvage. Huh?

A few years ago, I wrote an article on RV parts, manuals, surplus, and salvage locations for Taking Your Camera on the Road, an appropriate subject as we are always looking for parts and pieces for our now well-traveled and middle-aged trailer.

He was, to say the least, rather put off to find he’d called another website that didn’t deal with salvage. He’d probably awoken two or three before me. Before he could hang up, I asked him what he was looking for and how he was looking. He wanted a motor home engine and thought like a mechanic, using “salvage” in his keywords. I told him to look up “used motor home engines” and the specific make and model rather than salvage to get his answer. He hung up happier. I hung up tired and miffed.

The caller dug deep enough into my blog to find my phone number, which means he must have spent some time reading as you have to scroll through information about us (“We live on the road and travel a lot so we don’t respond quickly to emails and phone messages…”) to get to our phone number. On the way, he passed categories, recent articles, and most popular articles from among more than 1500 blog posts and references that say very little about RV repair, maintenance, or parts and pieces other than from an experiential level (damn, another story about blowing a tire), not expertise. Not once during his few minutes to track down our phone number would he have seen anything to indicate we were a buyer and seller of RV parts, pieces, or salvage.

One blog post does not make an expert. Before considering anyone an expert in anything, it pays to investigate before placing a call, don’t you think?

Blog readers and web searchers must understand that unless you find more than one article on the same subject on a blog, the odds are that the writer isn’t an expert but just a writer writing on the subject.

Learning Lessons from Blithering Idiot Blog Readers

Was the fault totally his? Maybe, maybe not. Understanding what visitors see when they visit your blog helps you understand how they might be misled into thinking your blog is about something it isn’t. It also helps you understand how to convince them your blog is about what they need to know.

If this person had been paying attention, they would have read “Taking Your Camera on the Road” at the top of every post on the blog. Clearly, that has nothing to do with salvage, but it made me wonder about how the blog title is set within its design to properly showcase the subject of the blog.

If my blog were titled “Lorelle’s Blog”, how would anyone know what my blog was about? How would they get the information they need to make that determination? What’s the evidence on your blog?

What messages are your blog sending readers? Look at everything on your blog, every design element and word. Do all of these speak loudly for your blog and its purpose?

Each of these clues you give your blog readers helps to establish your blog’s identity, it’s purpose. The more blatant and obvious they are, supported by subtle hints, the less likely you are to get phone calls early in the morning and subjects you know nothing about.

Web and blog designers rant on and on about the importance of matching design and design elements with content, and this is the main reason: The faster a visiting reader gets the point of your blog, the faster they know whether or not you have the information they need.

Here are some other lessons we can learn from blithering idiot blog readers who may wake you up early in the morning some day:

  • Does Your Blog Shout Your Purpose: Make your blog purpose and intent clear from the moment they arrive on every page of your blog.
  • Do Your Graphic Images Reflect Your Blog Purpose: Every image on your blog, even the lines and bullets, from within your posts and within your blog’s design, tell your reader something about who you are and what you blog about. Consider each one carefully for the message they are sending to readers.
  • Your About Page is About You and Your Blog: From the first paragraph of your About Page, readers should have a good understanding of what your blog is about and the content and help they can find within. Make sure you give them enough information to make the connection using clear and understandable words not jargon. Don’t assume they can read between the lines.
  • Define How, Why, and When They Can Contact You: On your Contact page, make sure you specify how you are to be contacted as well as what questions you can and cannot answer for them. If you will accept phone calls within a specific time of day, tell them, including the time zone and your location to help them plan. Make your Contact page be a bit of your About page so they understand who you are and why they should contact you. If you are not the source or don’t want to be, tell them and give them information on how to contact those who can help.
  • Check Your Keywords and Search Terms Everywhere: The words you use in your blog title, URL/domain name, tagline (subtitle), sidebar, links, post titles, and within your post content, all define your blogging purpose, subject matter, and expertise. Make each one count in each spot.
  • Make Each First Paragraph Count: The opening paragraph or two of each blog post needs to clearly define the purpose of your post and reinforce the purpose of your blog. The first 120 works or less is what is seen on the front page of your blog if you are using excerpts, in your feeds if you are using excerpts or they are reading post excerpts, on other feed aggregators, and on search engine search results. Make each word count to help the reader know what this post and blog is about by inference.
  • Post Categories Are Search Terms: Make sure your post categories are terms people use to search. In WordPress, categories are automatically tags. Technorati lists them for those searching by tags. If you want your posts found, make sure the categories are words used to search for your subject matter.
  • Why Aren’t You On The Top of the Search Results? If you blog about a salvage yard, why is my blog post at the top of the search engine search results? Could it be that search engines can’t tell that it’s obvious your post is more important to the subject than mine? Examine the search terms and keywords you used to write your posts and make sure you sprinkle enough of them through every blog post to ensure your expert blog posts get to the top of the expert list, pushing mine down the list.
  • If You Are the Expert, Is It Obvious? If you are the expert on a subject, do you have the body of work to back up your expertise? Or has your blog writing been scattered lately, covering slightly or unrelated topics? If you are an expert and want to establish your online reputation accordingly, make sure your blog content and design proves it.
  • Never Assume It’s Clear to Readers: Be blatant. Never assume anything on your blog gives enough information to help a reader understand what your blog is about and what services you offer, if you do. Make sure that the entire blog, from design to content, paints a clear portrait of what you do, how you do it, why you do it, and why they should return to you, the expert.

Without a doubt, much of the blame rests upon the blog reader. Honestly, if you write a funny post about your toilet overflowing, would you expect to get phone calls at any hour in the day asking for your plumbing advice? As a reader of blogs, you have a responsibility to make a good assessment of the writer’s qualifications before you wake them early in the morning for expert advice.

Still, it is part of our responsibility as bloggers to help our readers understand what we blog about. If your blog is clearly defined and establishes you as an expert in that area, then the phone calls you get at 5:30 in the morning might bring money and fame to your door. Otherwise, the caller will be unhappy they wasted a long distance phone call on a blithering idiot blogger and you’ll be pissed off at the blithering idiot blog reader.

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  1. By Hans posted on June 25, 2007 at 9:31 am
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    LOL, kind of amusing and annoying story at the same time.

    That’s why I like linking to others’ post in mine when I haven’t covered on something in great details. It’s kind of sending them elsewhere to find more information if they have not found the one they are looking for on mine.

    I also think that one should put a small about me description in the sidebar just to let people know about the blog’s purpose, whether it’s just about mindless musing, ramblings, jokes,etc so that people don’t take things too seriously and consider one a plumber lol(that was funny too)

    Reply

  2. By Darnell Clayton posted on June 25, 2007 at 11:24 am
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    Great post Lorelle! But I do have a quick question for you.

    On one of my blogs, I focus on a subject…or rather a site owned by Google.

    Although the blog’s whole purpose is around the Google product, some people keep confusing me as a Google engineer despite the fact that I’ve written several times that I do not work for Google and even have a disclaimer on my blog.

    It’s gotten to the point where people have digged up my number to call about certain issues (in foreign countries nonetheless!)

    In that scenario, how do I end the confusion?

    Reply

  3. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on June 25, 2007 at 1:05 pm
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    Oh, welcome to my world, Darnell.

    If your whole blog is focused on a product that you have no personal investment in, other than as a blogging topic, you are now an expert in that subject and will get contacted and linked to as an expert. Welcome to the world of being an expert.

    On your contact page, about page, and so on, as described in the article, make sure you put a “disclaimer” that clarifies that you do not work for, nor represent or are affiliated with Google. Add that these are your views and opinions on the subject, then specify when and for what they are to contact you for.

    If you are willing to expand your blog into a consultancy on the Google subject, that’s potential income and a reason people should contact you. But if you don’t want contact, make it VERY CLEAR.

    The truly blithering idiots will still call you at 4 in the morning, but the volume of attempts will drop. Just make sure it’s clear EVERYWHERE on your blog.

    Or find something else to blog about.

    I wish I was kidding on that last statement.

    Reply

  4. By J. Angelo Racoma posted on June 25, 2007 at 2:46 pm
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    Happens to me all the time. :D I get a lot of comments (and sometimes private emails) from people who think I represent the companies that I write about. What’s even worse is that there are people who respond to those comments who also think the same.

    Reply

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