Like many new bloggers I wanted my first blog to look amazing and have tons of bells and whistles.
For example, I installed a fancy slider that would display an image and snippet from a post, then fade out after a few seconds and “tease” the next post.
That was just the start of my fascination with plugins and other add-ons.
Before long my newly-created blog was as “busy” as a honeybee in a clover field – and I don’t mean “busy” as in having lots of visitors.
After a while I began to notice some things…
Even though they received hardly any “traffic” to speak of, my blog posts and pages were very slow to load. Even worse, they would freeze up and fail to load at all on occasion.
Luckily, I learned early on that bells and whistles are better suited to a model railroad than a blog.
Pages filled with flashing banners, autorun videos, jam-packed sidebars and other distractions can be pretty tempting as eye candy, but they usually perform poorly compared to their more simple and leaner competitors.
That’s why I recommend keeping your blog’s “features” to the bare minimum. Here are a few things to consider when building and maintaining a blog:
1 – Simple pages are more reader-friendly.
Things like flashing ads, informational widgets and other competing on-page elements can distract your readers and prevent them from concentrating on the actual content of the page.
If you take a good look at this blog you’ll notice that it’s a long way from being “fancy”. It’s actually pretty simple and lean as blogs go.
What you will find on every page is mostly simple text – the content that you came here to read.
Google and the other search engines don’t seem to care all that much for web pages that are more fluff than substance.
2 – Simple blogs are faster and more responsive.
Simple blogs load faster in web browsers than “busy” blogs, and fast page load times are essential for both good search engine rankings and the visitor’s user experience.
Google and the other major search engines now take page load times into account when ranking web pages in their search results. That means all other things being equal, the page (or blog post) that loads the fastest will rank the highest on search results pages.
And relative rankings make a huge difference in the amount of traffic a given post will receive from the search engines. In fact, if your post isn’t listed in the first few results it will receive just a tiny fraction of the amount of traffic received by the pages listed above it.
3 – Simple blogs are more secure.
Most of the add-ons to a blog require the use of plugins, and every plugin you install on your blog is yet another potential back door for hackers to burst through in order to deface your blog or even take control of it.
That’s why I recommend keeping the number of plugins you use on your blog to just the bare minimum required to make the blog function well and efficiently deliver its content to your readers.
4 – Simple blogs can earn more income for the blogger.
Many bloggers earn income from their blogs by placing ads on their pages or promoting products via affiliate links.
If you earn money from your blog, you’ll likely earn a lot more if you simplify your blog by removing unnecessary and distracting “extras” from its pages.
Several studies have proven that the fewer navigation options a reader has, the greater the likelihood that he/she will click on an ad or affiliate link. And I can tell you that my own personal experience has borne that out.
Why? Because there are fewer links or banners competing for mouse clicks.
Lets say you’ve written a product review that contains an affiliate link to the item’s sales page. If that’s the only link in the post and there aren’t a ton of other things on the page for the visitor to click on, there’s a much greater chance that the visitor will click on the affiliate link and (hopefully) purchase the item.
5 – Simple blogs are easier to maintain.
I can tell you from personal experience that “busy” blogs are a nightmare to debug when something goes wrong.
Is the problem caused by a glitch in a complicated theme? Is it the result of a conflict between two or more of your thirty-five plugins?
In a nutshell, a lean blog is a lot easier to keep running smoothly than a “busy” blog. And when (not IF) things go wrong, you’ll have a much easier time getting your blog back online if you don’t have half a million possible causes to wade through.
Bonus tip: This post explains how to automatically back up your blog on a daily basis with VaultPress, making it easy to quickly restore your blog the next time it goes down for some reason.
6 – Simple blogs are easier on the reader’s eyes.
Have you ever visited a website that was so “busy” that it literally gave you a headache? I have, and I make it a point to never return to those blogs again.
The key to success in blogging is creating an environment that encourages your visitors to come back again and again to see what’s new on your blog.
If your pages are so cluttered with bells and whistles that your visitors have a hard time concentrating on your content, they’ll be less likely to come back once they leave your blog.
I truly believe that simpler (and leaner) is better when it comes to writing a successful and well-maintained blog.
Some of the most successful blogs on the Internet don’t contain fancy gadgets or head-spinning widgets, yet the bloggers behind them are earning incredible monthly revenues from them. Just sayin’.