Whew! It feels like we blinked and all of the sudden it became March 2016. And time moves even more quickly when it comes to the online media landscape. Things go from trendy to the trash in no time (like those jelly sandals you HAD to have in 6th grade). So before you catch yourself getting behind, take a look to see if you're still implementing these five out-of-date blogging practices. Take our advice and go from 2000-and-late to DAMN DANIEL (if you haven’t seen that vine, you have to). 

RSS Subscribe PopUps

Reader enters site, site loads, 1..2..3…DO YOU WANT TO FOLLOW MY SITE? *blocks the content your reader wants to see.* Email should most definitely remain a part of your content distribution strategy and building email lists definitely matters. But there are more modern and sleek ways to go about collecting subscribers:

  1. Think native. The trend in marketing nowadays is to organically grow your subscribers through inbound leads. Good news is you already have great content. Next, think of unique ways to capitalize on that once you have your readers' attention.
  2. Put a subscription box in your header, sidebar or at the bottom of a specific post. The CTA should feel natural and ideally should come with some kind of reward. For example, your recipe for "the perfect chocolate cake" could have "enter your email address to receive my free ebook on cake decorating, delivered directly to your inbox!"
  3. Use HelloBar or MailMunch, two awesome plugins that work as a reminder to follow your blog, download your ebook, or sign up for a newsletter, without interrupting your user experience. See what we mean on one of our partner sites, I'm Bored Let's Go.

Cutesy Logos or Predictable Branding

I recently found myself switching back and forth between two tabs, because two blogs had similar names, the exact same caricature used in their logos, and used the same fonts. I honestly had to check back and forth many times--had one site rebranded? Was it one blogger with two sites? Nope; two distinct bloggers had simply ended up with almost identical brands. If your readers can not identify your site from a similar blog, you risk losing traffic to your competitor or, worse, readers don't even realize your sites aren't one in the same.

Be purposeful with your branding, especially if you plan to get into blogging for the long haul:

  1. Think about the tenants that guide your blog. They might be things like healthy meals, cooking with the family, or stylish presentation. Then always be working to communicate that with your style. 
  2. Make sure you end up with something that's uniquely YOU. Over the past five-or-so years, marketing is leaning more and more towards storytelling. Your personal brand, if it's going to pack a punch, needs to have a narrative, and not one that you borrow from anyone else.
  3. Copy someone else's brand and you become a commodity. Millennials, especially, crave the utmost authenticity from the influencers they follow.

Packing Your Sidebar With Useless Plugins

Your sidebar is valuable real estate. There are so many things you can put there, from your Instagram feed to advertisements. So, why are we still seeing tag clouds everywhere? Not to mention, every plugin you leave installed on your site makes your site slower and could even leave you vulnerable to malware.

Instead, use your sidebar (if you have one) for the following:

  1. Create a section for your most popular recipes. While tag clouds or archive listings used to redirect users to more content, added analytics and design features websites have nowadays mean you can make these recommendations more robust. Use photos, if possible, or even adjust your featured content based on upcoming holidays.
  2. Introduce yourself. Many bloggers already do this, but if we return to the importance of authenticity, why not use your sidebar to share a quick blurb about yourself along with a headshot?
  3. Think about your #1 KPI for the month. Maybe you're building pageviews (then link to other content on your site), maybe you're trying to build your Instagram footprint (put a feed in your sidebar) or perhaps earnings are your top priority (make space for ads and promote your ebook in this space). 

Twitter Autoresponders 

There's a reason that young people are talking about ~slidin into the Twitter DMs.~ That's because private messages on any social media channel are significant and intimate. By automating your response, you negate all of the fuzzy feelings that people associate with DMs. If you are still sending a automatic “thank you” DM to every person who follows you, your followers are not fooled. 

  1. If you want to get some positive Twitter karma, thank new followers with a tweet so that their name gets out to your followers. Even that's a bit outdated, though. The best thing is simply to interact with your new followers' tweets. 
  2. While we're at it, avoid follow sprees too. Any Twitter user can see right through a follower with tens of thousands of "following." And with apps like Crowdfire, unfollows get tracked and reciprocated. Again, the lesson is keep it authentic!

Center-Aligned Text

Take a look at some of your favorite blogs. What do you like? What don’t you like? We do this all the time when we give advice to bloggers. We notice what plugins everyone is using, themes, font and types of photos. As a final tidbit for this post, we'll make a design suggection: stay away from centered font. 

though this may look pretty,

reading directions 

and ingredient lists

that are centered

can be difficult

  1. Simplicity speaks volumes, as do design choices that speak to the function of your site. When a reader lands on your page make it easy for them to read your ingredient list and instructions. We suggest using a plugin! 
  2. Keep an eye on design trends--usually innovative media companies are at the forefront of cool design choices. Get inspired by sites like Digg or Medium. And keep an eye out for the next big thing to inform your decisions.
  3. Remember that it's almost impossible to keep up with the latest design trends, and indulging in too many fads never works. But don't be afraid to think outside of the "blog" box. Just because something comes to mind when you think of a "blog" doesn't mean you need to stick to that!

Photo via Wandeleur

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