Here’s a little experiment that I’ve been trying on some niche blogs I recently created. The idea is to narrow visitor choice on the page down to the point that an Adsense block or an affiliate offer are the most logical exit points aside from the back button. In this article I’ll go over how I’m setting this up and some of the reasoning behind it.
Content and Theme
I’ve used very narrowly written content that is built around a handful of targeted keywords and related long tail terms. In many cases, the articles essentially echo each other although they’re written where they would not trigger any duplicate filtering. I’ve also varied the length between about 300 and 1000 words. They’re also linked to each other with the goal of obtaining a dual search results entry.
For a theme, I’m trying out a couple very minimalist themes, including a new, very minimalist, one column theme called Stripped. I make extensive modification to the themes. I removed almost all of the typical navigational widgets you would see in on a typical blog such as a RSS feed, categories, recent posts, date archive and so forth. I’ve left a few standard items, like links to the home page, about page, and search at the bottom of the page. I’ve also removed date/time from the posts.
But Everybody Likes a Choice, Don’t They?
The conventional blogging wisdom is that it is good to provide a blog visitor with a lot of navigational choices. I even encourage this in my Free Blog Reviews. The idea behind it is the goal of keeping the visitor on your site. But, is that the best strategy for a niche blog?
Perhaps it isn’t.
Your average blog usually has dozens of choices as to where to go next. Just look on this page for an example. There are probably close to 100 internal and external links on this page. While this isn’t bad when you want someone browsing around your site it can dilute a marketing message. In fact, having a lot of options can become counterproductive to the goals of a niche blog.
Some marketing research has found that giving too much choice, whether it’s advertising links on a web page or varieties of toothpaste, actually leads people away from taking risks, like clicking on an ad or buying a new product. Having a lot of choices can force people to narrow their view, become defensive and increase their banner blindness. It can lead to snap judgments, such a clicking the back button, just to avoid the stress of dealing with a large number of confusing options.
A Bird in the Hand
Marketing psychologists have also noted another trend in this area. When it comes time to choose, if people already have established a preference they will not be as stressed by a reasonable number of choices. Because their mind is already partially made up, they’ll be looking for choices that reinforce their line of thinking. This is why Adsense works well on a highly optimized niche blog post but usually does poorly on a general or social oriented blog post.
If your advertising block completes the loop in the mind of the visitor the odds of them clicking the ad greatly increase. This is why search traffic tends to convert well. The searcher is trying to find a way to complete the loop. To be successful, your niche blog has to offer them an easy and comfortable way to do this.
You also have to remember that a lot of advertising revolves around validating the emotional feelings of the customer. Few people really think about advertising logically and, not surprisingly, these people who think on the logical side tend to be more unhappy and even depressed as compared to the general population. Thus, if you’re trying to think logically, as in “A good blog must have a prominent RSS feed widget”, you may miss the point.
What are your thoughts on this? Are you making your niche blogs look like regular old blogs? Have you tried a minimalist approach? Leave a comment and let me know what you think about this idea.