Nine things that bug me about internet publishing

In this guest post, Salli Jokinen highlights nine things she thinks online publishers should stop doing.

After 15 years of surfing the internet, I would like to highlight some of the negative trends that, in my opinion, are taking internet publishing in the wrong direction.

Not publishing dates in blog posts

Many Internet marketers are guilty of this. They do not publish dates anywhere on their blog posts, and when an unsuspecting surfer looking for specific information lands on their page, they have no idea how old the actual information is.

Hiding the date in blog posts is usually done because Google favours fresh content and writers do not want their posts being forgotten in cyberspace. That is all good, until the information in the post becomes outdated. This happens more often than one would expect, and a post dating even less than a year back can already contain old content.

This is irritating for a person looking for specific information. I cannot help but wonder what sort of an impression a blog like this leaves on the visitor if they end up wasting time reading old content.

Writing blog posts by numbers

Also very common among internet marketers. They know what type of content is popular online and produce corresponding material. If you are like me and subscribe to multiple marketers’ RSS feeds, you might have noticed that the majority of posts consist mainly of top 10 lists and how-tos.

This ties in with the fact that many blog posts have obviously been published merely for the sake of posting something. They are thin in content and state facts that are already known to everyone, and don’t contribute much to the discussion. It is also quite obvious that these posts are geared more towards search engines than anything, as an attempt to have fresh content on their website.

It is understandable that a catchy headline is a must when writing blog posts and it is nice to have new content on the website on a regular basis, but what about the actual visitors who come to the blog? Do they get anything out of it? Personally, I have found that when looking for tips and help, forums have become the number one source to go to for good advice.

Infographics with no real value

I assume everyone has by now come to know that infographics are very popular, or at least were popular. The best infographics gather a plethora of sources of data together and present it in a visually interesting way. The last few years have seen the rise of infographics that are relatively poor in content and visually messy, with the main intention behind these being the promotion of a company.

Providing actual useful data in a visually interesting way would establish the creators as knowledgeable in their field rather than as mere promoters trying to take advantage of the latest marketing trend.

Hiding email addresses

This is one of the big no-nos that many businesses are guilty of. The internet has opened great new ways for businesses to market themselves and most of them have happily embraced them, broadcasting their newest offers on their social media channels and sending out newsletters via email.

The internet is supposed to facilitate communication between people. If a business does not feature email addresses on their website and accepts telephone calls only, they are not abiding by one of the core principles of the internet and can come off as pre-historic.

A website that looks too impersonal

Ever come across a website that looks too slick? Many of the modern websites have an overly smooth look with their cookie cutter templates, chrome buttons and overuse of stock photos. Although these websites have a certain look of professionalism to them, they also lack the human touch.

The danger with having a website like this is that the business can come over looking like a scam. If there is no evidence of real people working for the business, e.g. photos of employees or conversational copy, the visitors are likely to turn to someone else.

Linking to too many internal pages

When writing up content for your blog, it is good SEO practice to link to some other relevant posts on your website. However, some people go overboard with this wishing to reference multiple posts without giving a short summary in the actual post for the reader. There is one place on the internet where this sort of linking is acceptable, even encouraged, and that is Wikipedia.

The worst offenders are the writers who like to include a minimum of 10 links to their 300 word blog post, with the posts in question consequently becoming quite distracting and irritating to read.

Copy that links through to another post should contain a gist of the other post’s content, so that the reader only need click on it if they want more in-depth information.

Breaking an article into multiple pages

Businesses are still trying to find reliable revenue sources online. Especially media publications. This has prompted websites to break up their content on to multiple pages so there’s more space for ads. Imagine clicking through a top 100 list of the cutest cats with only one photo per page.

Some of the better websites I have visited initially break the articles on to several pages, but also give the visitor the option to view the article on a single page.

Video autoplay

Having an animated person talking to you as soon as you visit a website is, at long last, a thing from the past. I am glad it was a mere fad, akin to the midi music that played on Geocities sites in the 90s. That was until website owners decided to start playing their videos automatically.

On many occasions, I have almost had a heart attack while surfing the web when the speakers on my computer have blasted an ad without warning, leaving me desperately trying to find the offending website from a sea of open tabs.

It is understandable from a marketer’s point of view to want to be assertive to get people’s attention. But is force feeding them video really the right way to do this? Auto-play videos are like flashing banner ads, only much louder. Most likely, many are also aware that banner ads do not work and are considered annoying by the majority of surfers. What makes these videos any better?

Tweeting links to your old blog posts

There are two rules to tweeting; 1) one should go to Twitter for breaking content and 2) one should not over-promote oneself on Twitter.

I have noticed people on Twitter who exclusively link to their own blog posts, which is bad enough. No one likes a non-stop self-promoter. But what’s worse is that much of the tweeted content can be over a year old.

Of course everyone wants to get as much traffic to their blog as possible. But I suggest perhaps stopping the insistent quest for blog traffic. Otherwise it looks spammy.

Lolcats

This one is pretty subjective, but as I am not exactly the biggest fan of cats, it’s also one of the more annoying trends.

People online enjoy combining amusing photos of these aforementioned fur balls and ‘Cheezburgerise’ them with clever captions. This phenomenon has gone as far as launching a TV show and an exhibition about these cutesy pictures.

It is pretty difficult being anti-cat online, but I hope Lolcats (except perhaps for the Grumpy Cat) become a dead trend soon.

Having listed many of the things that bother me about the online world, I must confess that I am not entirely innocent myself. At times, I’ve engaged in some of the behaviour described above. But I do find myself missing the olden days when the internet was more innocent – and I was less cynical.

Salli Jokinen is digital marketing manager at Melbourne creative studio Yoke

Comments


  1. Ben
    21 Feb 13
    11:27 am

  2. So when you say writing blog posts by numbers, you mean like ones called “Nine Things that Bug Me About Internet Publishing”?

  3. Robin Hicks
    21 Feb 13
    11:28 am

  4. Hi Ben,

    In fairness to Salli, we wrote the headline – which admittedly is at odds with that very point. Her original headline was ‘Things I would change in the online world’.

    Cheers,
    Robin – Mumbrella

  5. Liz
    21 Feb 13
    11:55 am

  6. ‘Hiding email addresses’ – reckon this one could be extended to include those sites with a contact form.

    Hey, if I’m interested, I want to email you direct, using my mail program and including my sig file and associated social media links – I don’t want to have to explain myself to a blank form. Also, you don’t get to find out as much about me from a message submitted via a form.

    Contact forms are like brick walls for me.

  7. cj
    21 Feb 13
    1:41 pm

  8. Regarding hiding of email addresses: this is primarily an anti-spam measure.

    Any email address displayed anywhere on any public web site (or even hidden in the HTML page code) is going to be “harvested” and added to spam lists so you get a bazillion spams. Sadly, this means most businesses, and most savvy individuals, do not publish email addresses anywhere.

    Obfuscating your address by displaying it (for example) as “someone [at] somewhere [dot] com” won’t work – the harvester programs know these tricks.

    Don’t blame the company / blog – blame the spammer scum.

  9. cj
    21 Feb 13
    1:42 pm

  10. * do not publish email addresses anywhere ONLINE, that is…

  11. cj
    21 Feb 13
    1:47 pm

  12. Totally agree with the multiple pages thing – extremely annoying and offers the user NO benefit.

    Auto-play video (or audio, for that matter) is unforgivable. Some sites are not quite as bad as others, in that they at least check that the window or tab is active (i.e. “in front”) before playing. But really, I’m getting sick of clicking “Don’t play” on the SMH site, for example. Even YouTube annoys me – I should be able to open a dozen videos in different tabs so they can all start buffering, without having them all start playing. (I should check – there may be a preference somewhere on YouTube to turn auto-play off…?)

    Offer video – if I want to play it, I will.

  13. Peter Jones
    21 Feb 13
    1:54 pm

  14. I thought this article was written by a Year 8 schoolgirl. Reads as if teacher instructed “no less than 100 words”

  15. Peter Jones
    21 Feb 13
    1:55 pm

  16. 1000 words

  17. Dave
    21 Feb 13
    2:00 pm

  18. Agree about hiding email addresses and with Liz about forms. In the course of a business day, I often want to contact a radio station directly. Most of these ‘communicators’ do not have an email contact. Many have the bland forms Liz complains about.

    In other words, they so filter the means to contact them that we just don’t. We avoid them, and go away. They successfully send out the message ‘go away, don’t bother us’. We just take our money elsewhere.

    It’s a common corporate practice so we simply avoid dealing with them, and focus on real people willing to communicate in person. Simple.

  19. Oscar
    21 Feb 13
    2:32 pm

  20. Salli you are spot on !

    Can you tell Fairfax about their autoplay videos?. Drives me batty and even mores so when it’s a video that repeats what is in the article.

  21. Me
    21 Feb 13
    3:07 pm

  22. “Video autoplay”

    Dare I promte adblockplus on this site, but it can be tuned quite nicely to block these.

    Cheers,
    Me

  23. Ricki
    21 Feb 13
    4:49 pm

  24. You iz rong about LOLCATS.

    IZ DOING IT RONG!

  25. Mike
    21 Feb 13
    6:57 pm

  26. Oscar, if you register with Fairfax, and create a login, you can switch off autoplay on all Fairfax sites.

    You’re welcome!

    :-)

  27. Me
    21 Feb 13
    10:40 pm

  28. @Mike

    Welcome to what? Getting datamined out your wazoo?

    Just use adblockplus, it’s much more secure and banishes all those pesky 3rd party cookies Fairfax sites stuff onto your system.

    You’re welcome ;)

  29. Liz
    21 Feb 13
    10:43 pm

  30. CJ – incidentally, I have a simple mailto javascript that allows an email address to appear on a page, but breaks the address up, in the page code, in a way that makes it pretty hard for spammers to harvest – been using it on sites for years, with very little spam resulting.

    Here it is, in the interests of sharing:

    <!– Begin
    user = "INSERT_FIRST_PART_OF_EMAIL";
    site = "INSERT_DOMAIN.com.au";
    document.write('‘);
    document.write(user + ‘@’ + site + ‘
    ‘);
    // End –>

  31. Liz
    21 Feb 13
    10:45 pm

  32. …re the above, Mumbrella’s system seems to have automatically removed the opening and closing tags of the javascript, alas……

  33. Monika
    21 Feb 13
    10:56 pm

  34. Agree with Dave that hiding emails prevents …erm…contact. What’s worse is when there are no telephone numbers, so you can’t speak to a real person. if they don’t have a number they don;t get my business.

  35. Maria
    21 Feb 13
    11:17 pm

  36. Wit observations. Congrats for the article.Certain.

  37. GeneralColin
    22 Feb 13
    10:32 pm

  38. Me – I use Adblockplus but didn’t know it could kill autoplay videos. How do I configure it to do that?

  39. Craig
    23 Feb 13
    5:17 am

  40. All the tactics outlined continue to work – so an equally valid title for this article would be ‘Nine techniques to increase your online traffic’.

    So long as there are people in this world willing to fall for the same old gags, those gags won’t go away.

    What would have been nice to see in this piece is some critical examination of whether these online tactics are failing or succeeding or how readers could help reduce their prevalence.

    What I dislike about the Internet is that it promotes laziness – lower quality analysis, writing, editing, publishing, reading and commenting. Solve that and many of the content issues detailed in this piece go away.

  41. BJ
    25 Feb 13
    8:03 am

  42. For 5 mins it felt like 2003!

    You know, you could have actually broken up this post into 10 different posts, each with 9 other do’s and don’ts.

    Ideas for your next article: “don’t cloak your pages”, “don’t spam your users on Friday morning”, “don’t use pop-ups”, “don’t welcome the user with an online form”, “do use clever jquery for enhanced UX like floating nav”, “do let users embed your videos otherwise they’ll nick the code and it’s irritating for them”, “do use nofollow tags on links pointing out “, “do remember to check what’s in the title tag because having the image file name inserted in it instead looks unprofessional”, “do have a search function that actually works instead of, like in the Myer site, searching for “Chanel Foundation” will get you only one result, a PDF document about Australian Football.”, “don’t be lazy and stop posting PDFs on your site, it shows utter disregard to the user, especially if they are on a mobile, and for god’s sake invest some proper money in digital”.

    Anything else? Oh yes, the email address thing, Salli, it’s a spam thing, by the way. I do remember it already being an issue in 2003 though.

  43. Tom Dodson
    26 Feb 13
    11:11 am

  44. ooh burn….. want some cream for that burn?

    :) BJ