While there are some people who advocate having a cluttered blog, the reality is that it can kill your blog – in more than one way. The clutter can be visible, or it can be behind the scenes…
Here’s a look at both, and what each can do to your blog:
1. Visible blog clutter:
Visible blog clutter includes advertisements, unnecessary graphics, and just “too many things going on”. Yes, having multiple banner ads can add some color to your blog. And yes, multiple graphics per post can help to brighten up a long, potentially boring blog post.
Unfortunately, two things happen:
a. The more ads you have, the less likely anyone will be to take action on them. Think of it like putting a kid in a candy store – the more options there are, the more difficult it is for the child to make a decision. If, however, you only offer him or her one treat and tell him or her to take it or leave it, the response is instantaneous.
The same goes on your blog – the more options you offer to any visitor, the less likely any of them will be to take some action. Yes, you may get more clicks on your ads – from people who are curious. But when you note how much work you have to put into it for every actual sale made, the figures might not look too good.
If, however, you focus all of your attention on getting people onto an email list first, and THEN selling to them repeatedly, the whole mathematical equation changes. Suddenly your effort versus reward ratio looks a whole lot better.
b. The more things you have going on (too many widgets), the more distractions there are – which will distract your visitors from taking a look at your opt-in offer.
More “stuff” slows your blog down. Fair enough, you want your blog to have some color. And graphics are essential to social engagement. However, the internet has turned people into impatient beings. If your blog doesn’t load quickly enough (read: a few seconds), they leave.
After all, there are a gazillion other blogs they can go and explore – so why would they worry about yours if it doesn’t open quickly?
Everything on your blog should have one of two aims – either it has to lead the visitor deeper into your blog (internal links, categories, archives, etc.), or it has to bring the person closer to signing up to your mailing list (or whatever the primary action is that you want them to take).
Everything else is a waste of space, and a distraction. It is extremely unlikely to make you more money than you would be able to make if you focus all of your efforts on one desired outcome.
2. Hidden blog clutter:
We all want our blogs to look great – and to have all of the bells and whistles that come with a “professional blog”.
You may be surprised to find that “professional blogs” use professional or business hosting, and often use a CDN (content delivery network).
For the average blogger who is just starting out, those expenses cannot be justified. Once again, you have to look at everything that can impact your blog’s loading speed.
a. Your theme – there are many free themes that look awesome and offer you an incredible range of theme options. Unfortunately, most of them are also quite draining on the resources usually associated with normal, shared hosting. Premium themes are often faster, simply because they don’t load unnecessary scripts.
Unfortunately, these come at a price.
b. Plugins – oh, these are just so tempting…
There are literally thousands to choose from in the WordPress database. You can do anything from showing random testimonials to telling the weather. You can have popups and opt-in forms in all possible locations. You can have social sharing buttons all over the place. You can do things with shortcodes, add widget areas, and do advanced SEO.
Once again, every front end plugin is another script that has to run when your blog loads. The more scripts that have to load, the slower your blog becomes. Period.
Try to find the optimal balance between functionality, page load speed and results. For instance – adding your opt-in form in more locations could improve the opt-in rate. But if it also slows your blog down, you will, in fact, get fewer opt-ins, simply because more people are leaving.
There is no right or wrong combination – except that it has to work for YOU. Some audiences will tolerate a slower blog, but others won’t. Consider your (hosting) resources, and experiment until you find the setup that works best for you – not only in terms of how quickly it loads, or conversion rates but in term of actual conversions per day.
Because THAT is the only metric that matters at the end of the day.
When your blog is slow to load, another thing happens:
Google notices the number of people leaving your blog before it loads – and classifies it as “a bad user experience”.
And THAT has a direct impact on your search results rankings – for ALL of the keywords that drive traffic to your blog.
So – depending on where your traffic comes from, you may need to pay close attention to that.
Recommended resource – test your blog speed here – and see what slows it down (if anything):