Top 10 Design Mistakes of Bloggers

According to the list released today by usability guru Jakob Nielsen, I’m making several mistakes, including number 8:

8. Mixing Topics

If you publish on many different topics, you’re less likely to attract a loyal audience of high-value users. Busy people might visit a blog to read an entry about a topic that interests them. They’re unlikely to return, however, if their target topic appears only sporadically among a massive range of postings on other topics. The only people who read everything are those with too much time on their hands (a low-value demographic).

The more focused your content, the more focused your readers. That, again, makes you more influential within your niche. Specialized sites rule the Web, so aim tightly.

If you have the urge to speak out on, say, both American foreign policy and the business strategy of Internet telephony, establish two blogs. You can always interlink them when appropriate.

Sadly, Nielsen’s right: without a focused topic area I’m not going to attract hordes of readers (and hence lots of advertising revenue). And I’m never going to have a focused topic area, simply because I’m interested in too many different things. So if no one’s going to read my blog, why bother?

Actually it’s not so bleak. For one thing, you have to be mostly crazy to blog for the money. It’s unlikely you’ll generate much traffic, but even if you do, you’ll end up using more bandwidth, so you’ll have to pay more for hosting. Then your blog might end up like the car you had in high school: existing so you can make money to pay for its existence. Instead, serious bloggers write for the love of it. It doesn’t matter whether they have huge audiences.

Also, technology comes to the rescue. I may not have a specialist blog, but blog-readers can (and do) find topics of interest by looking for keywords in blog search engines like Technorati, Yahoo, or Google. I suspect that trend–of searching for articles of interest–will continue. Already, little of my news consumption starts from one place. My custom RSS feeds look for news stories about various topics of interest to me, or I’ll glance through the list of headlines from several news sources. So I predict that soon most readers of blogs, instead of reading just a few blogs regularly, will read numerous blogs via blog aggregators. Then being a specialist won’t be so important anymore.

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