In a heartbeat a reader analyzes your blog looking for a reason to leave. Brutal right? Well, since most of us are overwhelmed by information, we have set our filters to “reject”. We are just too busy to decipher nonsense.
If your blog makes it through the checklist, then your post will be given another second for review. And so it goes until the reader leaves your blog a new fan or just another blip on your traffic report.
I call this subconscious checklist, the Golden Thread.
How I Stumbled Across the Golden Thread
As you may know, I’m reviewing a number of reader’s blogs. It’s usually simple to diagnose what’s wrong with an unsuccessful blog. It can be the wrong audience, bad topic, poor headlines, or other mistakes. But one day I ran across a blog that did everything right but still was struggling. I read and reread the blog for an hour before the Golden Thread popped out at me.
The Golden Thread has 4 elements. Every blog has these elements. Most bloggers mistakenly focus on each element separately. In the end, the elements seem to fit but actually present a cluttered, dysfunctional blog that confuses the reader.
Every struggling blog violated the Golden Thread.
Intrigued, I re-examined my blogging heroes. Sure enough they all had an intact and consistent Golden thread going through each of the 4 elements. I took a closer look at Pushing Social and realized that I had 3 out of 4 correct. I quickly corrected my oversight and watched my performance metrics immediately improve.
So, What is The Golden Thread?
The Golden Thread is a consistency test with 4 elements. Fail one and your reader questions your professionalism. Fail two and your reader leaves.
The test starts in the browser bar:
The Blog url should be descriptive and distinctive. The URL gives the first clue about what the reader will see next. For example, www.MariSmith.com shouts that her site is a personal brand. Everything you read is filtered by her unique perspective. So you aren’t shocked when you get to the name of the blog…
Let’s continue with MariSmith.com. The name of the blog matches the URL. This simple consistency assures the reader that they are in the right place. This may seem obvious but many bloggers use their name in their URL and then name their blog something completely different. This may seem minor, but get this wrong and your reader is left wondering, “Who am I listening to here?”
Next your reader’s eyes wander to your header. Professional, clean, and consistent graphics leaves a good first impression. The reader assumes that they are dealing with a successful, conscientious person that cares about making their visit enjoyable. A cluttered header, with grainy graphics, janky fonts, and other distractions reminds the reader of a poorly stocked and dark retail store. Most likely they’ll head for the “back” button.
Your navigation bar shows how you think about your subject. It also describes your blog’s priorities. In 2011, many bloggers began using the “New Here?” link in their navigation to help first-time visitors orient themselves. I am a fan of this approach because it demonstrates your commitment to your reader’s experience. Taking the process one step further, top blogs create topic buckets that pull together similar blog posts into one area. They often use landing pages to describe the topic with links to specific posts.
Taken together, these four areas create the Golden Thread. If each piece is well done and consistent with each other, the reader will feel that they have found a safe and exciting place to continue their browsing.
A Little Homework
Use the golden thread to test your blog. How are you doing? What do you plan to fix first? Do you think the Golden Thread affects your blog’s success?