Tutorials + Blogging Tips - DEARSILLYBLOG

18 February 2015

6 Rules to Create Sizzling Blog Content

Having a blog with a great design is not enough if your goal is to be successful in the blogging industry.

People want CONTENT. Content that makes them raise their brows at the surprise and at how much they enjoy reading it. Are you giving people this type of content? If you are, then great! If you're not, check out these 6 rules to creating sizzling blog content that will fire up your traffic and popularity!

1. Length + Quality

Length is going to depend on what you blog about. In my blog there are posts that are extremely short, since they're tutorials and sometimes things are just that easy to get done. Though, my blogging posts are way longer and people often find these a lot more interesting than the shorter ones.

A statistics study has proven that longer posts have a higher level of engagement with the audience. They also tend to be shared a lot more and people use to quote them too. A good tip is for you to write at least 1500 words per post. Longer posts also take the top places in Google searches, which drives a lot more traffic to your blog.

2. Plan Your Sharing

You might think that writing a new blog post and throwing it out on Twitter or Facebook is all that it takes to have it noticed. Well, unfortunately it's never that easy.

It takes a lot more than simply tweeting or sharing a link for it to drive traffic into your blog. If you're on Twitter, learn how to use #hashtags effectively, and schedule your tweets so that your content is always flowing at a steady pace. You should also test the social networks where you share your content. Twitter and Google+ usually have higher engagement rates than Facebook, for example. This means that people will be more likely to read your articles if they're shared in these social networks.

3. Updating Posts

Posts that you've written three years ago are probably outdated. The information they have is now inaccurate and people who read them will be deceived or even notice that your content is not exactly what they're looking for.

Remember that everything you post online, will never vanish. It's always stored somewhere and eventually people will find it again years later. So make sure to update older posts to make them accurate and ready for new readers who might find them interesting.

Good thing about updating old posts is that they're going to be treated as new content! It's like you're writing a new blog post while you're, in fact, only making your blog even better and more efficient.

4. Visual is Key

I've included this on my post about annoying design mistakes and I can never say this enough: VISUAL, VISUAL, VISUAL!

I'm sure that you don't really enjoy reading an article that is all text with no breaks and nothing to distract your eyes for a while. It's boring, tiring, and only by looking at it, you lose interest and simply close the tab. You don't want people to close your blog's tab, do you? No. I guessed so.

Including gorgeous and professional blog graphics on your posts is the first thing you should think of before starting to write. The "cover" of your article is what will catch the readers' attention - along with the headline, of course.

5. Spy on Your Competition

Obviously, don't take this too literally. Spying is not cool. Though, make sure to check your competition's work! This will help you see how they're doing, gather some ideas and spice up your own work!
Although, do not tempt yourself to copy other people's stuff. Doing so will crush your credibility and your readers will quickly walk away from your blog.

6. You Familiar With Mobile?

It's the 21st century, y'all! Smartphones, tablets... ring a bell? Yes? And is your blog ready for them?

Most people nowadays don't even bother using a computer to stay updated about new content online. They simply use their smartphone or their tablet. Sounds all really easy until you realize that the way people see your blog on a computer is definitely not how they see it on a tablet or a smartphone.

Make sure that your blog is mobile friendly, aka responsive, and take over the mobile crowd!
Bottom line: Keep your content fresh. Keep your blog accessible to everyone, everywhere. Keep yourself updated about new trends!

10 February 2015

21 Annoying Design Mistakes You Need to Fix Right Now

Got a blog that people love? Share content that's useful and awesome? Kudos! Though bear in mind that it's not an excuse to have a terrible design.

Let's be real here, you've surely gone to a blog that had a design that made you cringe even though it was useful for you. How did that make you feel? Uh... Probably not very pleased and unwilling to stick around that blog for too long, right? Right.

Just put yourself in your readers' shoes and have a good look at your blog. Would you enjoy reading it if it wasn't yours? If the answer is no then you sure need to do something about it!

You want a blog that is functional and easy to use!

Have a look at these 21 typical design mistakes and make sure your blog has none of them!

1. Your homepage is confusing.

Keep this in mind: attention spans are short. Make sure that your homepage is clean and simple while having all information your readers need to figure out what you're all about, but don't give away everything at once!

How to fix it:
  • Cut off the jargon. Use words that everyone understands.
  • Keep the design clear. Blank space is not harmful - it helps the content be more easily read!
  • Make sure your navigation is always the same throughout your blog. Don't confuse people!
  • Include a link to your About page.
Remember that every element of your blog should have a reason to be the place it is. Don't spread things around without making sense!

2. Your navigation bar is exploding with links.

A good navigation bar is not equals to tons and tons of links. It means that it's neat and organized.

How to fix it:
Set a maximum number of links on your main navigation bar (usually located at the top of your blog). I'd say that about 7/8 is enough.
Make sure to sort these links in a way that only the most important ones are there. You can include links to the remaining ones in the pages that will be showcased on your navigation bar.

3. Your sidebar is full of useless widgets.

It usual to overcrowd your sidebar. You see something cute and you get it there. You see something that might be useful and you get it there. We've all done that.
But it's time for you to have a good look at your sidebar and start throwing some things out of it!

How to fix it:
Remove widgets that aren't that much needed and keep only the essentials. If you don't want to get rid of some of them, simply move them to your blog's footer or to your About page.

4. Your design doesn't speak out to your readers.

Whatever your content is about, you should make sure that your theme matches it. Imagine that you're running a music blog but your theme is too professional, as in corporate-looking. Your readers will get there and they won't even recognize the subject of your posts! Plus, they'll be bored.

How to fix it:
Taking inspiration from other blogs that have the same content as yours is not a crime. Gather some ideas and see how other people do it to make sure that you're not anywhere behind them and that you don't bore your readers with a lousy design!

5. The color scheme makes people's eyes bleed.

A lot of newbies find it nice to mix colors like using yellow on a blue background, or hot-pink on a red background, or purple text on a yellow background.

We've all seen blogs like this and the truth is: it doesn't look good at all! It makes me cry tears of blood, honestly.

Pretty sure you don't like the example on the right, hm?

How to fix it:
Limit the colors you use on your blog. It's alright to use about five/six colors as long as you know how to use them well. Pick a neutral background and match the colors wisely so that your readers' eyes don't fall off!
You can use Kuler to find great color palettes.

6. Your content is hard to scan.

This means that people can't easily know what you're talking about or can't read the different points in a post by simply scrolling down the page because your content is all stacked together.
The truth is, most people don't read unless they really have. People scan.

How to fix it:
Use visuals or subtitles to break your novel and make it more appealing and easy to read. I'm pretty sure that when you see a long text, your first reaction is to simply avoid it.
Ain't nobody got time fo' dat!

Here are some tips to improve your content:
  • Leave those fancy and elegant, unreadable fonts and use web safe fonts instead.
  • Use lists.
  • Use bold or italic to highlight important things.
  • Small fonts are a no-no. Make sure to use at least 13px fonts.
  • Be consistent on your font styling (size, color, spacing).

7. You use too many fonts.

Using too many different fonts make your blog look terrible and unprofessional. Plus it doesn't look good at all in any way. Have a look:

Do you really need it?

How to fix it:
Just like with the colors used on your blog, limit your fonts to about 2 or 3 and use them wisely! Set the headings with a font that you don't use anywhere else, a different front for "quotes" is a great idea too.

8. Is that a link?

Make your readers' life easier by making your links different from your text.

How to fix it:
Underline or bold your links. Adding a different color to them is also a good way to do it.

9. No social sharing buttons.

It's really irritating whenever a blogger says something like "if they like your content, they'll find a way to share it". Like, folks.. We all know that doesn't happen, and how hard is it to add some sharing buttons to your posts? It's your blog and you want it to be successful, right? That's not gonna happen if you don't let people share your work!

How to fix it:
If you're serious about blogging, then you really want the sharing buttons on your blog! These are usually located at the bottom of every post or on a floating bar beside them.

Need help with this? I can do it for you.
Don't forget to add your Twitter handle (@yourusername) to the Twitter sharing buttons, so that people give you credit when they share something from your blog!

10. Your social accounts are missing too.

If people like your blog, then they surely want to tell you about it. Let them find you!

How to fix it:
Add your social accounts somewhere visible, like on your blog's header or sidebar.

Need help with this? I can do it for you.

11. Contacting you is impossible.

Have you ever thought that someone is interested in making business with you but they can't because they have to spend almost half an hour looking for a way to contact you? You might be losing a huge opportunity there!

How to fix it:
Create a Contact page and make sure to add its link somewhere that people can find easily. I recommend having it on your main navigation bar and on the footer of your blog. Make sure to add at least two ways for people to get in touch. Your email address is the best way, but you can also add a phone number or a physical address in case someone wants to write to your company.

12. You're still using CAPTCHA.

That's really old-fashioned and nobody likes it. It makes people lose time with it and it's completely unnecessary.

I get it, you might be against bots and spam - who isn't? But are you really willing to put at risk your readers' experience based on a few comments that most of the times don't even get published because comment systems nowadays already filter them?

How to fix it:
Use alternatives, like a little checkbox like "Check to prove you're not a spammer/robot". Other comment systems that aren't your blog's native one are great options too. I'm using Disqus.

13. Your search box plays hide and seek.

The search box is the first thing most people look for when they land on a blog. This is what they use to look for something they can't find on their own and if yours isn't easy to find or if you don't have one at all, you're failing!

How to fix it:
Add a search box somewhere visible. Usually they go on the header or sidebar.

14. You don't care for old/broken links.

How annoying is it to find a link that at first is exactly what you need but then you find out that it's broken or doesn't exist anymore? Yeah, it's very annoying, so don't do that to your readers! It also bothers search engines a lot and it will affect the way traffic is led into your blog.

How to fix it:
Regularly check your links, whether they're external or internal (leading to other parts of your blog). Also make sure that they're well coded when you're making something new!
Use these tools to check your links:

15. Your images have poor quality.

If you don't have anything nice to show, then don't show nothing at all. Low quality images and graphics make your blog look cheap and amateur.

How to fix it:
Always use high-quality images. If you need to resize them, make sure to save them in their highest quality.
Never resize from small to big! It results in a blurry and pixelated image.

16. You use large and uncompressed images.

Having too many large and uncompressed images on your blog is nothing else but bad. Not only will it make your blog a lot slower, it also make search engines dislike it.

How to fix it:
Use Adobe Photoshop or PicResize to reduce the size of your images before uploading them to your blog.

17. Pop-ups everywhere.

Every link someone click generates a useless pop-up. Just don't. Balance the use of pop-ups or simply get rid of them.

18. You're using flash.

Not going to deny that flash is fancy, but it's not useful at all. It takes forever to load and your readers are looking for information, not a show.
Also, flash is not really friendly with other devices like smartphones and tablets.

How to fix it:
Remove flash and use video instead. Or use Slideshare if you want a presentation.

19. You autoplay music/video.

It's great that you like a song a lot and want to share it with your readers, but forcing them to listen to it is definitely not a good way to do it. Most people are already listening to their own music when they browse the web, and suddenly having a second track playing is very uncomfortable. Plus, it might scare people when your music/video starts playing.

Autoplaying music and videos is a sure way to upset people, so you might want to remove this. Unless you want your readers to leave your blog right after they get there.

20. Your blog can only be viewed in Internet Explorer.

Internet Explorer's days have passed. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are the new leaders of web browsing, and you should make sure that your blog can be viewed on them. Not forgetting Mac users and people who use smartphones and tablets!

How to fix it:
Use Screenfly to test how your blog look on other browsers, devices and resolutions. Hire a professional developer to make your blog cross-browser friendly, or buy a theme that is responsive. You can get these themes from ThemeForest.

21. Your blog is broken.

It happens that sometimes we break something when we're editing or adding new stuff to our blogs and websites, so you should make it a habit to check if there's something wrong with yours.

How to fix it:
Use The WEC Markup Validation service to catch your blog's errors and fix them.

Your turn: What are the things that really push your buttons when it comes to blog design?

08 February 2015

How-To: Play Animated GIFs Without a Browser [Win/Mac]

Along side with memes, animated gifs have earned their place amongst the most popular ways to express emotions and feelings throughout the internet. As an outcome, people tend to save some of these animated gifs into their own computers so they can have them for later. The downside of this is, computers aren't ready to play these images by default.

As you know, every time you open an animated gif, a browser will open so it can be played. This is annoying for lots of people - me included! But don't worry, I'll tell you how to play your awesome gifs without using your browser!

What are you using?

Download: Xee for Mac

!! Please let me know in case the files are down.
  • Step 1: Download and install Xee from the link above.
  • Step 2: Right-click on an animated gif. Any will do, we're only setting the default app to open them.
  • Step 3: Click on Get Info.
  • Step 4: Scroll down until you find Open with... and change it to Xee.

Download: GIFViewer

!! Please let me know in case the files are down.
  • Step 1: Download and install GIFViewer from the link above.
  • Step 2: Right-click on an animated gif. Any will do, we're only setting the default app to open them.
  • Step 3: Click on Properties.
  • Step 4: Click on Change.

  • Step 5: GIFViewer will most likely not be in the list, so scroll all the way down and click on More Options, then scroll all the way down again and click on Look for another app on this PC.

    If you find GIFViewer in the list, simply click it and then click on OK to apply the changes!

  • Step 5: Click on Windows (C:).

  • Step 6: Now head to Program Files (x86).
  • Step 7: Open GIF Viewer and select GIF Viewer (Application) from the list. Click Open.

  • Step 8: Now click on Apply and then OK.

GIFViewer will show you a warning box when a gif is opened. Simply click on Cancel when this shows up and you won't see the warning again.

And that's all it takes to play animated gifs without using browsers on Mac and Windows!
Sharing is caring! Don't forget to spread the word! Somebody else may find this useful too!

15 Mistakes Every Blogger Should Avoid to Get Popular

Most bloggers worry a lot about getting a new design, new tools, new content, in order to boost their blog's traffic and popularity. But they often forget about the things they're doing wrong.

There's definitely no harm in investing on your blog - at all! - but why not remove some things you're not doing well before adding anything else? This way you will be able to take more profit out of the new changes you make!

Check out these 15 common mistakes that bloggers make and give your blog - and yourself - the popularity and credibility it deserves!

1. No clear motivation for blogging.

I remember almost ten years ago that blogs were mainly personal journals and diaries where people shared their things, but today the definition of "blog" has changed completely! Now you can have a blog about whatever you like and even make it a business, so it's very important that you keep yourself motivated for blogging instead of making it a burden or an obligation.

How to avoid it:
Keep in mind why you want to blog. This will be a great help for you to shape up your content ideas and will improve everything about your blog's performance overall. It will also let your readers understand you better and it will be much easier for you to reach a new audience.

2. Relying on giveaways and other methods to attract readers.

Truth is everyone loves giveaways and free stuff, so of course you'll get more readers and subscribers if you do something like this. But will it last? No.
If you don't have a clear voice and give your readers a strong reason to stick with you, they'll eventually vanish and won't even recognize your blog's name after a while. Goodbye readers!

How to avoid it:
Apart from giving away free stuff, gift your readers with content that they'll want to always have on their bookmarks. Be useful, helpful, interesting!
It's better to have ten loyal readers who actually love and support your work, than a thousand of them who don't even know your name.

3. Posting trending stuff.

Let's make this clear: it's not a bad thing to post trending stuff! The thing is, you shouldn't post something about, let's say, fitness, while you're not exactly a gym person and rather be at your computer the whole day. That's not gonna work out - pun intended! - very well and your blog will quickly sink.

How to avoid it:
The best is really to post things that come naturally to you, something you're drawn to because you love it and not because everyone loves it. Staying truth to your passion will bring you much better results than if you follow the lead of everyone else.

4. You're obsessed with page views and numbers.

Let's face it, if the numbers are low, it means not that many people are reading what you do. But keep this in mind: big numbers doesn't mean loyalty!

What I mean is, you might get a few thousands of visitors because one of your posts was shared by a huge influencer, but if your overall content doesn't match it, those thousands will quickly fade in a matter of hours.

How to avoid it:
Stay true to what you do and to what kind of audience you're writing to. A reader will always be a reader, someone who loves what you do, and you shouldn't let them leave. Staying true to what you started with will make people stick to your blog and never leave you again!
If you're interested in working with a company or something of this kind, make sure they're interested on what you have to say and not what your statistics tell!

5. Not engaging with your readers.

As a blogger, you should always remember that your success comes from the people who read and share your content. These people also comment on your posts expressing their opinions and how much they loved what you wrote. Sometimes they also have questions and these are a bonus for you prove them that you're the helpful person they thought you were in the first place.
Don't let yourself forget them and make sure to reply to what they say!

How to avoid it:
If someone has a question, make sure to answer them! Also thank people for their support and kind words. Show your readers that you truly appreciate the time they spend on your blog.

6. Hunting for inspiration before writing posts.

Don't feel ashamed about it, not being inspired is normal and we've all been there. But something that you shouldn't do, is hunt for ideas before writing something for your blog.
Why? This will make you somehow "duplicate" someone's content, be it written or graphic. You want to keep your blog original, so make sure to have your rest day if you're not inspired to post something.

How to avoid it:
So you're in a great day and you're super inspired, you have about five or six ideas for new posts but that's a bit of a lot for one single day. What to do? Schedule your posts! This is a great way to keep your blog active even when you're not inspired to write new stuff.
If you're like me and write the posts on the same day as you publish them, make it a rule to not browse other sites while you're writing!

7. You're not "sharing the love".

Ask yourself: do you want people to share your content? Yes. So do other bloggers and this is your chance to show them that you love their work too! Good thing about sharing other people's work is that they will notice you and have a look at your own work as well, leading to more traffic and more shares of your content.

How to avoid it:
If you see an article worth sharing, do it! It doesn't matter if you do it through social media or on your own blog posts. You'll share valuable content while advertising your own, you'll get traffic and appreciation from it, your readers will have nice things to read and other bloggers will also be appreciated. Everyone wins!

8. Lack of networking.

Many bloggers achieved success without networking, but this happened before social media and great blogs came along. Today there are millions of blogs all over the world, thousands of great ones that everyone knows, with their content shared heavily throughout major social networks. Staying behind your blog will not be of much help to you, so make sure you network with other people.

How to avoid it:
If you live near any other bloggers, take advantage of this and meet up with them. Share your ideas, get to know them, read their stuff and tell them what you think about it. Eventually this will lead to a growth on your popularity. Remember that blogs are ran by people so you need to reach out for them!

9. Posting something just because.

This tends to happen more often if you have a strict blogging schedule and plan every post carefully, and try to post something new every x days. But sometimes you can't, whether because you're busy with something or because you simply forgot about it, so you'll run to post something quick and random as an excuse that you posted something. This is no good!

How to avoid it:
Ask someone to guest post on your blog so that your blog will only have fresh and valuable content, instead of some soft posts here and there.

10. The deadly comparison trap.

It happens to everyone. You see a great blog with awesome content and you start wondering why you can't be like them, while you probably share the same kind of stuff. Just remember that most famous blogs nowadays are ran by teams who spend thousands of dollars to keep their blogs running smoothly.

How to avoid it:
Focus on quality over quantity, and stay faithful to your blog! You're doing your best, remember? And things don't happen from one day to another, sometimes not even from one year to another! Stay on your own track, stop comparing yourself to others, love what you do, and you'll see the results of your effort.

11. You say "yes" to everything.

It's great to work with other people, especially when this means new experiences, knowledge and probably some kind of income - be it traffic or money. But be careful about what you say "yes" to. If you've got an offer from someone, take your time to evaluate who they are and whether you should work with them or not. People you work with will add a lot to your general popularity!

How to avoid it:
Before heading to some collaboration with someone, work hard to make sure you reach your goals of working with those you've always wanted to work with. Don't settle yourself for less just because it's "something". Keep in mind that you deserve everything you dream of and don't let yourself get comfortable with less than that!

12. Telling people to do something.

Face it, you don't own the truth and acting as if you do, will bring nothing to you but a bad image. Telling people to buy something or stop doing something is not professional and makes you sound as if you're convinced that you know better than everyone else.

How to avoid it:
Instead of telling people to do something, give them tips and alternative ways of doing something. They'll appreciate this a lot more than being told straight away that what they're doing is wrong.

13. Sponsored content feels artificial.

Sponsors are one of the best ways to get traffic and popularity, plus they pay out well! But sponsored content is also something that most people dislike. Why? It's usually scripted and pure acting!
Remember that your blog is a personal space, not an advertising company, and your readers want genuine content, not something that was written down and planned only to make some cash out of it.

How to avoid it:
Make sure to clarify that the post is sponsored. If you're reviewing a product, share your own experience instead of just making it look like it's a great thing that people should definitely have or try. Be honest with your readers if you want them to trust your word and hear what you have to say!

14. Ignoring user experience.

Making sure that your new design is great and easy to read is something that you surely do. But do you check how fast your blog loads? Do you check if there are pop-up ads on every link your readers click on?
Also, you shouldn't ignore how your blog looks on other platforms. Remember that colors look different on different devices, that people use mobile a lot nowadays.

How to avoid it:
A good way to fix this is by following yourself on your social networks and subscribing to your own newsletter so you can see your stuff from readers' perspective. This way you'll easily know what you should fix and improve.

15. You don't let your readers follow you.

Taking care of social accounts is not a big deal, unlike many people think when they add blogging to it. You don't need to be constantly updating your status or tweeting your content, you need to let your readers contact you and see who you are!

How to avoid it:
Make sure to add your social accounts' links to your blog, be it on the sidebar or at the bottom of every post together with your author description. This way people will know where to go if they want to talk to you or if they have any question that they rather ask directly to you.

What other mistakes do you think should be avoided?
Share them in the comments below!