Common blogging mistakes: the topic re-visited

A blog is a diary, fine; but a blog is also a public space [except for private blogs] on the www. In the latter sense, blogs are a form of media, like newspapers. Therefore, blogs are expected to maintain minimum standards in terms of web ethics, design, content and updation.

We have numerous posts on how IndianTopBlogs scrutinises blogs for putting them in directories and ranks them as ‘Platinum Blogs’, so we won’t repeat the process here. We have also a number of posts on various quality aspects; in fact our ‘blogging tips’ section is full of tips on maintaining quality in different aspects of blogging. 

In this post, we give a list of practices / features that spoil the quality of a blog,  and we add to that our experience with Indian blogs that we've checked for the last nearly two years of blog ranking, reviews, showcase, etc.  

Major blogging mistakes

  • Poor navigability
  • Too many - and useless - widgets
  • Too long pages
  • Pages wider than about 1200 pixels
  • Blog’s top portion [=opening screen] full of links, advertisements and other stuff that is not the core content of the blog
  • No effort towards making the blog appealing [Does not apply to individual blogs on standard platforms provided by newspapers, community blogging platforms, etc.]
  • Experimentation that has badly hurt the blog’s looks, readability, navigation, etc
  • Too long lists of any type such as label list, blogroll, latest posts and popular posts
  • Not caring for checking entries in lists for their current status, and thus having lists with dead / sleeping  entries
  • Not having a link for comments or having a link that is difficult to find
  • Not responding to comments
  • Blogger fighting with commenters about critical comments
  • Copy-and-paste content presented as original analysis [Copy-and-paste is accepted within limits for critiquing or for illustration of a point  or as a listing.]
  • Many spelling mistakes; in the case of Hindi, too many matra problems
  • Writing long passages in Roman script when writing in a language that does not use Roman script
  • Too long paragraphs
  • Content that makes the website / blog slow [e.g. big photos and heavy video]
  • Unreadable text due to colour, font, size and contrast issues
  • Widgets bleeding out of columns; columns overlapping
  • Pop-ups [unless they carry a very important notice] and self-playing music [unless very much relevant to the theme, e.g. on a music or movie site]
  • Promotion of obscurantist thoughts
  • Inappropriate content [as defined by us in a post on selction criteria for blog directory updation]
  • Too much commercial content
  • Biased product reviews, that too without disclosure
  • Too many, too flashy advertisements; advertisements seeking unusual, unreasonable favours
  • Static websites and archival content sites in the garb of blogs
  • Not updating the blog for a long time [For ITB listings, not writing for two consecutive months in a span of a year  and being quiet for any three full months amounts to too infrequent blogging.]
  • Giving links that do not open
  • Too much bragging; I, I, I… and again I
  • Too many promotional badges or too many certificates from run-of-the-mill certifiers

 Relatively minor blogging issues

  • Not showing archives of old posts
  • Not giving contact email on the blog or keeping it too much hidden
  • Not using graphics and text-variation to break monotony of long text matter

Why do we like or dislike some aspects

During directory compilation and ranking of blogs, we do consider some other aspects. We reproduce them below as they might help bloggers analyse their blogs from some new angles.
  •  Too narrow a subject of the blog. It makes regular posting difficult as you will run out of matter and original thoughts. On the other hand, appropriately ‘niche’ subjects lend themselves to detailed analysis and also focused monetization. So, choosing subject with care helps, unless yours is a personal / all-encompassing blog.
  •  ITB has no issues with blogs that are not very popular. If they maintain quality, they rank higher than very popular blogs of poorer quality. Quality should rank higher than quantity, no?
  • We don’t give weightage to the number of comments received. However, we have problem when a blogger doesn’t acknowledge comments even once in many months. If you can’t respond to each and every comment, respond to them collectively.
  • ITB does not go by others’ ranking of blogs. Not to speak of certifications and accolades by other directories and critics, we are not swayed by Google PageRank, Alexa Rank, dmoz listing etc. At the same time, we advise that you submit your blog to dmoz, a free directory of good websites.
  • We don’t care whether a blog is over 5 years old or is there for only a year. [However, just to see that the blog is stable over a  reasonable period, we shortlist blogs that are at least six months old.] Many search engines do feel that your blog / website has a higher standing if it is running for a long time.
  • ITB doesn't hold very frequent blogs in higher esteem than those less frequent. So, a blog that comes out with 1-2 quality posts every month is better in our eyes than (i) a blog that updates once a day with copy-pasted content, (ii) a blog with mostly auto-updated content, and (iii) a blog that updated 30 times three months back and is not updating any more.
You may also like to visit these posts on IndianTopBlogs and of course all blogging tips if you have more time:
5 things most Indian bloggers tend to ignore
Ignore these 5 blogging basics at your peril
10 deadly flaws in blog posts: blogger's sins!
Review your website or blog yourself in a few minutes!

A blogroll on your blog

We are prompted to write this post on maintaining a blogroll on the blog as we’ve  found that quite a number of blogs carry a blogroll without applying their mind to its utility. (We are presently scrutinizing Hindi blogs for compiling the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs. We find that this tendency to have a blogroll at all costs is quite prevalent among Indian bloggers and even more among Hindi bloggers.)

Why a blogroll?

Blogroll is just a list of blogs (and other websites) that you display on your blog. A good blogroll should serve one or more of these purposes-
  • First and foremost, it should enrich your blog’s content by providing additional resources.
  • It should link your blog to good and relevant blogs over the www.
  • It should help build a community. If you put someone’s blog on your blogroll, he /she would put your blog too on their blog unless there is a reason for their not doing so.
  • It should get relevant back-links to your blog. When those in your blogroll link your blog on their blogs, your blog gets those many back-links. Back-links are a prized asset for a blog’s listing on search-pages.


How to put a good blogroll on the blog?

The blogroll can be placed in a sidebar, at the bottom of the blog or as a separate page that is linked from a tab anywhere on the blog (preferably on the menu-bar). You can also put a blogroll in your profile page.

The placing of the blogroll should go with the basic design of the blog. In a typical 2-column blog, a small blogroll fits very well in the sidebar. However, if the blogroll grows long, it is better placed in a separate page.

Blogroll can be put using a widget (in-built in the case of major platforms such as Blogger) or can be created manually by typing each entry individually. You can put just the URL or title of the linked blogs or can give some details about them; it depends upon the space available vis-à-vis size of the blogroll, and your personal preferences. 

Though manual lists need labor, and sometimes re-arranging entries, they give you the liberty to arrange entries according to their importance or relevance, put blogs into various categories, and even put them arbitrarily. You can also play with color and font size of individual or group entries.


Do’s and don’ts

  • Not all blogs require a blogroll, so don’t force yourself to have one only because a blog that you like has a blogroll.
  • When compiling a blogroll, do ask yourself whether it will serve a good purpose. Even if so, a blogroll should not spoil the design of the blog.

In our blogosphere surveys of Indian blogs, we have often come across many blogs with very long blogrolls, as if the blogger wanted to show off his / her range of links. Instead of serving the intended purpose, a poor-quality blogroll looks like a burden on the blog. It also shows the blogger in poor light, as an un-focused, scatter-brained , unprofessional person.
  • Keep only the blogs you really want to keep there. The criterion of selection of entries could be any: your friends’ / relatives’ blogs; blogs on related subjects; blogs by blogger friends; blogs and websites that you like your visitors to read because of their very high quality or because they complement your own content…
  • Check each entry for its link to the correct resource. Re-check links when you re-arrange entries later.
  • Remove ‘%20’ and such other html codes for special characters, which are not part of the URL but sometimes come in when you paste a link.
  • Keep only blogs that are regularly updated. Check the blogs every 3-4 months to see that they are not only alive but also are updated and have not become restricted to registered visitors.
  • Keep the blogroll small. In case you want to have a longer list, give it a separate name and put it separately (e.g. a small blogroll on the blog’s main page and a ‘list of blogs that I often visit’ on the profile page). 

How big is too big, you may ask. Depending on the subject and the space available (see the next point), we would recommend that the list is no bigger than 10-15 lines if it is in a sidebar. On a separate page or on the profile page too, 50 should be the extreme upper limit. Bigger than that would deserve to be called a directory, no?
  • Keep uniform the number of lines each entry takes. It should ideally be only one line or two [e.g first line gives URL and the second line a brief caption]. Shorten the expression in the link to fit in the width of the column where the blogroll is placed.
  • Arrange entries with some logic, even if you want to look random. The most popular way of listing blogs and websites in the blogroll is alphabetical. You can also list blogs / websites according to their importance or relevance – starting with the strongest. You can group them in sub-categories if you find a widget that has this feature; otherwise you will have to do that manually.
  • The blogroll should not pull the entire blog or the sidebar down the screen. For this reason, avoid putting a blogroll bigger than 5-7 lines or any other long list at the bottom of the blog.
  • Give each link in the list an expression that the viewers can easily associate with the linked blog or website (e.g. URL of the blog / title of the blog – but it’s likely to change over time / a relevant caption such as ‘Rita’s blog on her child’).