Bilingual Stop Sign, Ottawa

I love reading blogs. Seriously, I do. And I don’t “force” myself to follow blogs I’m not interested in just out of politeness. If I leave a comment, it is because I have something to say. If I added your blog to my feed, it’s because I enjoy it.

From time to time, I scout the web for new interesting blogs related to travel, photography, life abroad—the kind of topics I’m into. For instance, I check Expat Blog to see what’s new. I read the blog description and open it in a new tab to take a look.

Will I subscribe to the feed? Maybe. But definitely not if your blog has one or more of these “blog turn-offs”.

What’s the focus, exactly?

Most people start a blog for a reason, and that reason usually becomes the main theme of the blog. For instance, I started a blog because I wanted to share my experience immigrating to Canada.

As time goes by, most people don’t stay 100% on topic. New sub-themes are developed. For instance, I got into photography, I still love traveling and I’m interested in immigration topics. This is what categories are for—to organize your sub-themes.

Now, sub-themes should be somewhat related to the main theme and you’re not supposed to have hundreds of them. Well, some blogs have and it’s pretty annoying. For instance, I recently subscribed to a blog because I read a couple of articles on living in Montreal. But then, the blog switched to OS systems, YouTube videos and cars. Err… no thanks, I unsubscribed. Same goes with blogs endlessly reposting videos and memes. You need some original content!

Grammar, people, grammar!

Many bloggers are not native English speakers but choose to write in English, including me. I’m sure I make my share of grammatical mistakes and I often wonder what I sound like to a native speaker. To make sure reading my articles is as painless as possible, I use spell-check and I review and proofread everything. So what if the occasional mistake slips through? I’m pretty confident you understand me, right?

Yet, some bloggers, even native speakers, choose to ignore the fundamentals of language, like paragraphs and punctuation. I don’t know how you feel about it but I have a lot of problem reading huge blocks of text when there isn’t a single punctuation mark, including caps. You want people to read you? Then make it easy for them.

Too much ads, no content

Like I recently wrote, I do monetize my blog. I have a few ads, hopefully relevant and non-intrusive. Most of us do have some kind of advertising program going on. After all, blogging takes time and energy and we are offering a service.

That said, I don’t think blinding your readers with ads is wise. I personally stay away from any blog that uses pop-ups. I simply hate when a website disables the back button to force you to stay on that page—it’s a cheap trick. And if you start having more sponsored posts than genuine articles, don’t expect me to tag along. I want to read article from a real person, not corporate speak.

Am I talking to a wall?

Blogging is about interacting, and bloggers should never forget that their success depends on readers. If a reader made an effort to add to the discussion, please acknowledge it. No one is perfect and, like I said before, I reply to all comments but it sometimes takes me a little bit of time, and occasionally a comment slips through. If the number of comments is overwhelming, some blogger chose to “talk” to their readers in a follow-up article.

It doesn’t matter how you do it, but please, do acknowledge your readers. There is nothing worst than talking to a wall. In short, don’t encourage comments if you don’t care about them.

Wow, that’s some bad design!

Blog design is a personal choice. You simply can’t please everyone—some like it minimalistic some like to make a bold statement, some blogs put a lot of effort into design and others use standard templates and themes. That’s fine!

Now, you still want to make sure users can actually read your blog. For instance, I’d love people to realize that green font on black background equals headache. That the dozen of widgets you stacked at the bottom of your page make my browser crash. That I really don’t want some music to start automatically when I open your blog.

What are your blog turn-offs? What makes you click the “unsubscribe” button?

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  1. Nigel August 27, 2011 at 8:44 am

    I keep being afraid if my geek posts keep scaring people away. Then I realize that’s the audience I write to :DHeh, I was afraid if my geekism turned off

    I think you’ve caught almost all my irks. The only other reason I unsubscribe is when people force me to click through to their website to read the entire post. Huge turn off for me.

    1. Zhu August 27, 2011 at 11:06 pm

      Your blog is a niche, I must admit I can’t really comment because this is not my field at all! That said, I’m sure you have an audience and I enjoy your more “basic” posts that newbies like me can understand.

  2. Katherina August 27, 2011 at 8:52 am

    First of all – after reading your post, I’m flattered! I hope this means that I’m doing things right 🙂
    For me, design is definitely important – I don’t ask bloggers to have an original design and great html/css knowledge (because, well, I don’t have it either!), but it really turns off to land on a blog that you can’t naviate through easily – where you have to search hard where you can post a comment, or don’t really know where to go if you wantto read more about a subjct.
    This said, I have the same problem if there is no punctuation or capital letters and no paragraphs. It’s too hard to follow the argument!!

    1. Zhu August 27, 2011 at 11:07 pm

      I like your blog, you take great pictures and you’re a traveler!

      I totally agree with you when it comes to design. Blogs have to be easy to navigate, user experience matters.

  3. Nisha August 27, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Good points, Zhu.
    I would like to add one point & that is same as Nigel’s. If a blogger provides short feed for his/her posts then it’s a huge turn-off for me. I first request them to provide full feed and wait for a few more posts, then unsubscribe if it is still in short feed.

    As far as commenting on a ‘wall’ or commenting on every post is concerned, I have a different view. I am not that rigid.

    It has many reasons and at times I myself am not able to do it.

    — I do not comment on a post if my comment won’t add value to it or the subject doesn’t interests me.

    — If I comment on a blog & I don’t get a reply, I can understand. It happens many times. Some don’t reply, some take time but it won’t be a reason to unsubscribe that blog because I found it to be good enough to subscribe & read. 🙂

    — I travel extensively & during that time it is difficult to reply to comments on my blog or visit others’. I read blogs through reader and even if I want to comment, at times I can’t.

    — Same goes for replying to comments on my blog. I mark them for future actions. Sometimes I get to reply to these comments or blogposts of others after weeks!
    And I am sure people don’t unsubscribe me for this reason because they know sooner or later I’ll.

    Also, before my travel starts, I schedule series of posts for publishing at regular interval. Obviously these posts don’t have my reply till I come back or am free to do so.

    Do you have any suggestion/advice to tackle this situation?

    1. Zhu August 27, 2011 at 11:09 pm

      It’s a tough one!

      When I travel, if I’m able to post, I usually take the time to reply to comments at the same time. Yes, I may be late but I try my best to do it. That’s priority #2 after uploading new pictures and writing new articles. I can’t follow blogs though, and I don’t usually comment much when I’m away. This is something I do at home.

      I think as long as your readers understand you’re often on the road (after all, you do have a travel blog!) they will understand. They are exceptions to the “must reply to comments” rule!

  4. Jeruen August 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Haha, for me, I get turned off when I leave comments that are definitely meant to be answered, such as follow-up questions and such, and yet the blog owner doesn’t respond to them. I usually chalk up the first non-response to an innocent mistake, but when it happens again, or when other comments AFTER MINE have responses, and yet mine doesn’t, then I get discouraged and unsubscribe.

    I don’t have a lot of readers of my blog, I guess I am fine with that. There are only a few people who leave comments, but then again, I would like to think that I write for myself, and not for my audience. Or maybe that is just me being a sour grape.

    1. Zhu August 27, 2011 at 11:11 pm

      I totally understand what you mean. Some comments call for a follow-up and a reply. I’m not talking about these “I love that!” type of comments (which are nice too, mind you) though. If the writer has a pattern of never replying, well, I get discouraged and certainly won’t bother leaving further comments.

  5. Cynthia August 27, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Guilty of #1 😀

    I actually hate when people post too often!

    1. Zhu August 27, 2011 at 11:12 pm

      Same here! I tend to unsubscribe from blogs with several articles a day because I can’t keep up. Plus, the quality is often pretty low. If you need to blog about each and every moment of your day, use Twitter!

  6. kyh August 27, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    pretty much my peeves too! i hate blogs that are dressed all over in hot pink/neon colours/bright yellow/colours that make u cringe, overdone glitters, and fonts that dont match the background; blogs that have tiny pics/oversized pics or all texts and no pics at all!

    and i dislike cam-whoring blogs as well as those filled with emo and narcissistic entries. and ones that are splashed with non-strategically positioned ads!

    my faves are blogs that touch on expat life, travel, culture, food, and humorous topics. 🙂

    1. Zhu August 27, 2011 at 11:14 pm

      I hear you!

      I think pretty much everybody tends to “overdo” blog design at first because it’s fun to play with widget and HTML. But it’s a phase for 99% of bloggers… thanks God! I hate when people have super long signatures in forum as well. I mean, who care about your birthday, your upcoming holidays etc.??

  7. barbara August 28, 2011 at 4:05 am

    Bonjour Zhu,

    Pet peeves on the blogs; I have tons!

    I hate this “all ad” blogs, even if I knox that it someone’s income. But, it is not a real blog. A real blog is a personal and unique experience that includes sharing.
    I hate coming to a page and practically jumping out of my seat with a surprise musical ambiance… Weird color combinations or very dark colors on a page also strain my eyes.

    On a practical level, I do value writing structure and clarity. I know that I am not perfect, but I am trying my best. Use spellcheck, at least and at least do one good read before publishing.

    1. Zhu August 29, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      Musical ambiance is a huge pet peeve of mine because I hate being surprised like that, especially when they are people around or when I’m in a public place. Because of that, I always mute the sound on my computer.

      Like you, I value structure and clarity. I think it’s obvious when someone cares about his/her blog, you see efforts put into it.

      Thank you for your feedback!

  8. Laurel August 30, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Great list, these are also turn offs for me as well. I think I would also add too text heavy. I read a lot of blogs and if I see a post is really long (i.e. over a 1000 words) with not many photos I’m not likely to keep reading unless it’s really interesting, just due to time restrictions.

    1. Zhu August 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      That’s a good point!

      I usually avoid long rambles because some people just like to hear themselves speak. Sometimes I get frustrated because articles are too short and I’d love to read more because the writer is so good!

      I was guilty of writing too much too. I now limit the posts to 500-700 words.

  9. Gail at Large August 30, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    I’ve unsubscribed from blogs that have too much navel-gazing, too much swearing (where it overshadowed the content), or really not much to say. Basically, what turns me off in real life conversation.

    I’m terrible about replying to comments, unless I have a strong response to a comment or if there’s a direct question. It feels sometimes too much like I must have the last word if I respond to everything, and I’m not like that in person. I like to let other people speak and just listen.

  10. Max Coutinho August 31, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Hey Zhu,

    “What are your blog turn-offs? What makes you click the “unsub­scribe” button?”

    Like you I dislike the music that turns on as soon as you load the blog – it’s a no-no. Bad grammar is also a turn-off (I used to read one, Brazilian, that was dreadfully written and then the author’s mum would post articles saying how well her kid wrote and how special her kid’s blog was etc…super freudian and creepy – I stopped going there). Too much ad is also a no-no.

    All the rest is fine (since I never encounter a blog with black background and green font lol). So far, I managed to stay off the unsubscription button….

    Super post!


    1. Zhu August 31, 2011 at 3:59 pm

      I don’t unsubscribe often but I do look for new reads and that’s when the “turn offs” come from. Some blogs are very hard to read, because of the grammar/spelling or because of the design and that’s very unfortunate.

  11. manan September 5, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Hello! I read your post. I am curious to hear your criticisms about my website. Would you care to take a look and provide some inputs? I definitely agree with you about the designs of the website/blog. How much is too much or too little? Hope to hear from you! 🙂 cheers!


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