Blog Optimization Made Simple: Remove The Junk

| | Optimization

Go to your website. You’re used to seeing it and you’re familiar with your own design. It’s easy to navigate and to you, you see nothing wrong with it. In fact, you’re so accustomed to it that you start to not notice the details. First time visitors however, do notice.

Look through your website. One of the questions you need to ask yourself is if some of the features or information is even necessary. Are your visitors clicking on all your links, looking at that graphic, or using all of websites features? If not, then why do you have it? Clutter may drive first-time visitors away. You want to feature what’s actually important on your website.

Never put something on your blog because you feel it looks good but adds no real value.

Heat Maps: Find out what’s REALLY being used

Ever wonder exactly what everyone is clicking on? What’s the most popular part of your website? There’s a few websites that tells you this information amazingly well. You can visualize exactly what’s being clicked on. You’re seeing in through the eyes of the visitor. If you’re not sure if that widget is actually being clicked on, this will help you. You might find yourself removing a part of the site and maybe working more on what’s being clicked on. My recommendation: Crazy Egg

Remove Useless Widgets

Does your widget displaying your latest 5 tweets really have a use? Have you ever went to a blog to see someones latest Tweets? I don’t. I find it completely useless to have a widget displaying the latest tweets. A normal Twitter follow button is enough. Save the resources and space.

More useless widgets/images include the Alexa ranking image and the PageRank image. Your readers don’t care if you’re a PR3 or a PR6.

You Lose by Adding Awards Won

You’ve won the Best Travel Blog by a random website that’s in no way even relevant to travel. Most of these fake awards are trying to game the system by having you linking to their website in a widget. They also make it all so easy by providing you the exact code to put on your website. If you won an Oscar or Emmy, now that’s something to show for. If you didn’t, delete the email and widget. I once won Best Information About Cruises on Art of Backpacking. I’ve never published an article about cruises.

Top Blogs Ranking

I’m talking about those little tiny images (usually 80 x 15 in pixels). The websites require you to add their code/image to be ranked on their website. The only people who actually go through these are other bloggers. It’s added code to your website that’s unnecessary. It does nothing useful for your website. Instead, list yourself on Technorati and get displayed on other blogs that might rank you (the manual way). They don’t need you do anything besides keep building good content.

Tag Clouds

A clutter of random words with different fonts all mixed within a box. I can’t see how this is helpful for any user. It’s messy, unorganized, and defeats the purpose of having a friendly easy to follow blog. Remove it. It helps no one and rarely will you ever have anyone clicking on it.

Recent Comments Widget

How useful is this really to your reader to read a 100-word except of on your blogs recent comment? It adds no real value and the excerpt is usually far too short to ever get the real meaning of the entire comment. Remove it.

Latest Images on Flickr

I’ve seen a lot of themes that come with this feature automatically as a widget. This might be useful for someone that’s very active on Flickr and wants to display their Flickr images just as much as their main blog. When a user clicks on your Flickr thumbnail, it’ll take them away from your blog. Do you want that? How useful is it really to give your readers a thumbnail overlook of your latest images on Flickr? I display photos in my articles anyway so for me personally, I have no use for it.

Links to other bloggers

Supporting other bloggers is a great idea. I definitely support that. What you don’t need however is to display it on every single page of your site. Instead, for those interested, make a separate page of bloggers you support and remove it from the sidebar.

Simplify Your Categories

Keep your category count as low as you can while still being as relevant as possible. Categories are an important part of the blog but they are often left and forgotten. Each category should be seen as a separate important page that should draw in your readers to find more information.

For example, you might have a category called Middle East then under that you’ll have another category called Iraq. In your Iraq category, you might have only one article. Instead of forcing WordPress to create a whole new page and have a new entry in your database, why not just leave it in your Middle East category? When the time comes when you have dozens of articles about Iraq, that’s when you should start thinking of creating a separate category.

Removing the above has an added benefit!

By doing what I mentioned above, you’re making the user experience friendlier by creating a website that’s easy to navigate and find the information that’s important. As a bonus however, you’re also increasing your website speed times. A faster website will increase your website rankings and your readers might even stick around longer.


Recent Comments

  • Great round up of tips here! I definitely need to take the time to simplify our categories… I think we’ve got a few dozen, LOL 🙂

    • Oh no! It would definitely help if you cut some of it down. It’ll improve your SEO as well.

  • Excellent post! We admit we were guilty of having the awards listed on our site. When we did our redesign we took them down. Now we have an image in our footer stating “As Seen On” instead, I think it is much classier now:) Also, streamlining our categories was another great thing we did. Our site is running faster than ever now getting rid of all the junk.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Nice! Well the “As Seen On” is different and could help. A good idea to have it as one image and have it as a nicely organized image. Those are way better than the fake awards that websites are handing out like candy.

  • We’re always up for “minimize and simplify” strategies! Great recommendations above. We agree with the tag cloud removal – we’re removing it from ours 🙂 As for the awards etc… we started a page called “As featured on…” and that’s where we put the awards, links etc…

  • Thanks do much for sharing this. Indeed… In theory I’d like to be minimalist… But the reality is that I continue to add stuff because I think… ‘Who knows’…
    Yours is excellent advice so… You know what… I0m going to remove straight forward all useless items (or at least attempt to…) 🙂

  • I love it. I have this bookmarked (gosh, I sound like a bot)
    But I really do. It’s just that I can’t do this right now, but will definitely do a couple of the things on the list – might have to streamline the categories as well!

  • Many of these things could find a home on a separate page. I have a full page of links and another page of press mentions, but I don’t put it all on the sidebar.

    Once people realize that page speed can actually increase page views, they will have a greater incentive to get rid of all the crap.

  • You’ve got a lot of great tips here, but I’d add one more:

    Test.

    With navigation links, for example, there’s no way to know what constitutes “too many” and what’s “too few” unless you experiment with different combinations and see how users interact with your site. (If your audience consists of regular readers, you won’t have as much freedom to experiment as you would if most of your readers were first-time visitors arriving through search. Still, even some testing is better than none.)

    • Yeah and that’s exactly what the heat-map shows you on Crazy Egg. I tested exactly what users are clicking on and made changes according to that.

  • Cool. Just took action on 2 suggestions. Listing on technorati and Crazy Egg. I’ve been trying to keep my site somewhat clean yet still have character, but I know it could be a lot more efficient.

  • Great suggestions – I had a well known company email me once saying that if I did a guest post for them, they would give me a badge to display on my website. I emailed back saying that I did not want the badge. They then replied that they can not accept my guest post unless I display their badge. WTF!

  • totally agree on all the award things. they look so tacky.
    time for a bit of a rework on the blog!

  • Really good tips! Will have a closer look at my blog now… 🙂

  • These are some great tips. I’ve gotten a couple of those awards but never bothered to put them up. I also just removed the recent comments from a sidebar widget, but I kept the recent and popular posts. I’m going to try and check crazy egg more regularly to see what’s working and what’s not.

    • Recent and Popular is good. I’d say keep those.

  • We’re doing a big redesign at the moment and the tags and tabs are the last job – I think we’ve left it until last on purpose! Such a task because the main thing we have in mind is that the blog has to be a useful resource. Just a question: Am I right in thinking you have to disclose to your readers if you’re using Crazy Egg or any of the others?
    Julia

    • That’s a good question. User interaction is recorded using Google Analytics anyway and that’s not disclosed. CrazyEgg just visualizes what Google Analytics shows anyway.

  • Wow, a lot of points here to consider. Heat maps are a great way to see where people click and where people don’t ever go. It will help eradicate the clutter – as you said. However, I have found many of these heat map sites give you limited capability and no real use unless you sign up for a fee, after which the value is also questionable. I think it’s okay to check it now and then but should boggle you too much. With sales widgets etc., I look at the ROI. If after a month or so there’s no sale. Remove it.

  • Great tips! I am going to check out my site on a heat map right now….

  • Great point about the twitter stream, I never care about it on anyone else’s site so why have it on mine.

  • Yikes, I have a few changes to make… I appreciate the frankness, makes a ton of sense to me.

    stay adventurous, Craig

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