Quick question: How many blog posts do you read in a day? 5? 10? 15 maybe?
Okay, how many blog posts do you really read in a day? From start to finish I mean, with all your rapt attention… my guess is probably one or two, if even that—and that on a day when you’re relatively free. That’s just how it is.
This is of course, bad news for bloggers, because creating content takes both time and effort; and then sometimes, nobody even acknowledges it. But you can’t take it personally. It’s not that your readers or visitors actively dislike you or your content; they’re probably just struggling to cope with information overload themselves.
Words are a dime a dozen. Digital media has made it so. But time isn’t. Time is still as invaluable as it ever was. The best bloggers acknowledge this and treat their readers’ time as they would treat their own.
Most importantly, they don’t make rookie blogging mistakes—avoiding them is half the battle won. If you’re a blogger who is serious about what they do… you need to ensure you aren’t making these mistakes.
1. You’re writing for bots
Keyword analysis? Check. Keyword in title? Check. Meta description? Check? But did you remember to write for humans? In the mad rush to get more organic traffic, it’s easy to forget who you’re really writing for. Choose topics because you think they will actually solve somebody’s problem and not because you think it’s a great keyword to rank for.
This is not to undermine the importance of search engine optimization or the traffic that it can send your way if done right—in fact, 82% of the traffic that this blog had received comes from search engines—that’s huge! But we still write for our readers first and optimize for search engines later, instead of the other way around.
Besides, if your readers like your post and find it useful, chances are some of them will link back to it, and the search rankings will take of themselves. Again, this is not to say that you should ignore search engine optimization entirely, by all means, plan your keywords, use a plugin like Yoast or Headspace, follow all the basic hygiene steps, but don’t get too caught up in feeding Google that your real readers starve.
2. You’re trying to please everyone
There are over 3 billion people online. You can’t win them all. That’s just a fact. One of the most common mistakes new bloggers make is try to be everything to everyone. Leave that job to The Huffington Post. Even if you’re writing about 3 to 4 topics intended for 3 to 4 groups of people—you’re spreading yourself too thin.
A better approach is to establish yourself as an excellent source to knowledge and expertise to a small group of people. Basically, do less. For instance, instead of running a blog that covers every aspect of finance, you could run one that only focuses on getting out of debt. That way, you’ll build a more engaged and loyal base of readers, quicker.
Another way of distinguishing yourself from other bloggers apart from just narrowing down the subjects that you cover is to add a unique twist to your content. Look at the website Nerd Fitness—which is all about fitness, but specifically written for nerds. Such distinction immediately grabs your attention.
3. You don’t have a plan
Think about it: Would Olympic athletes get by without following a routine? Would they skip a practice day because they weren’t in the mood? Of course not. That’s why they’re at the top of their game—literally.
That’s the mindset you need to be in if you’re serious about blogging. Plan your posts well in advance, assign a publish date to them, and follow your editorial calendar religiously. If you don’t commit to a process and hold yourself accountable, it’ll be too easy to slack off on a day when you don’t feel inspired.
Also, consistency isn’t just about the quantity of your posts, it’s also about quality. The voice of your blog needs to be consistent too. You can’t be snarky in one post and then cheeky in another—it’s disconcerting for the readers.
Remember: Don’t under-publish or over-publish. Find out what makes your audience tick. What’s their appetite? Conduct a quick survey. Send them personal emails. Do whatever it takes to find out. And then publish accordingly.
4. Your headlines just aren’t cutting it
Headlines are like the first impressions of the Internet, if you fail to impress your readers with the headline, things end there. On the other hand, a well-crafted headline can actually make content go viral. Peter Koechly of Upworthy says that they sometimes see a difference of as much as 500% more traffic just because of a change in headline.
On an average, 8 out of 10 people read a headline when they come across one, but only 2 out of 10 people go on the read the rest of the post. This means that although a majority of people read headlines, they choose to not click or read further.
So now that you know just how important headlines are… how can you start writing better ones? Thankfully, there’s a lot of great help around. Boost Blog Traffic has a great (free) eBook on 52 tried-and-tested headline formats guaranteed to give you results. Once you get the hang of writing good headlines, you can tweak and make them even better by using tools like EMV Headline Analyzer and CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.
5. You can’t stop talking about yourself
Unless you’re a celebrity, most people don’t come to your blog to learn about your story or get a minute-by-minute update of your life. Yet so many bloggers fall into the trap of talking too much about themselves.
People are selfish and they’re looking for information they can use to either make their life better or fix a problem they’re facing, not read your personal tales or opinions—that’s a columnist’s job, not a blogger’s. Sure, have a voice, infuse some personality into what you write or create, otherwise there will be nothing to differentiate yourself from the others. But don’t make the content all about yourself.
By the way, if you happen to run a company blog, then this applies equally well, if not more to you too. You can’t afford to keep talking about your products or your services all the time, otherwise your readers will begin to see your blog as a mouthpiece for your own agenda—and that’s a situation you can’t recover from.
6. Your blog doesn’t look the part
If you want to be a pro blogger, your blog has to look and feel the part too. Just think of some of your own favorite blogs—you’ll notice that most, if not all of them are hosted on their own domains and have a fetching visual design.
This means the most basic thing you’ll need to do is buy a domain and hosting package, then either have a designer setup a blog for you—or better still, do it yourself by using WordPress with a premium theme. There are a many easy-to-follow guides online that can help you get this done, and besides, most hosting providers now offer easy one-click installations.
Yes, there will be a learning curve, but if you follow the process, you’ll gain so much more confidence in your ability to manage a blog independently. And it’s not just about good looks we’re talking here, when visitors see a well-designed and self-hosted blog, they just take it more seriously than they would take one on Blogger.com.
7. You don’t network with other bloggers
This is unfortunately an all-too-common mistake. There are different reasons why bloggers don’t collaborate with other bloggers—perhaps they view them as competition, or maybe the thought just never even crossed their mind, but there are some serious benefits of working with your peers instead of existing in vacuum.
First and most obviously, by working together, you can use each other’s social networks to reach out to a wider audience than either one would have on their own. Second, an exchange of ideas and expertise will result in new ideas for content. And lastly, networking with peers will help you get known more widely known within your niche. Obviously, these aren’t the only benefits but they’re the most apparent ones.
There are more than one ways to collaborate too. You could start off by guest posting on each other’s blogs, or you could interview other bloggers, or feature them on a list that you make, or curate old content created by them and present it in a logical order.
In most cases, if you feature somebody or their content on your blog, according to the law of reciprocity, they’ll be much more receptive to the idea of returning the favour in kind or working with you on something else that you may have in mind—compared to if they didn’t know you at all.
8. Your writing is bad, disorganized, or both
A big part of blogging (perhaps the biggest part) is writing and editing. When you make mistakes related to those, most would find it difficult to excuse you. The situation can be likened to a restaurant that serves mediocre food; sure, the plates are nice, the ambience is amazing, but why would you even go there if the food itself is subpar?
At the bare minimum, your language should be free of errors and typos, easy to understand, and devoid of jargon. Once that’s taken care of, aim for higher level things such as a coherent flow and structure, an engaging voice, and pithiness.
Avoiding errors has never been simpler with the help of apps such as Grammarly. A good practice is to keep a day’s gap between writing and editing as it helps your mind gain some distance and look at things from a fresh perspective.
Readers will usually display less patience towards a blog than they would towards, let’s say, a novel or even a magazine. So a great post is more about organization than about writing prowess. You don’t need to be an award-winning writer in order to be a great blogger, but you do need to present your ideas in a logical and coherent manner.
No matter what your reason is for blogging is—creating your personal brand or raising awareness about your services or products, it takes both time and effort to do it successfully. And because blogging is such a public activity, you run the risk of being seen as an amateur if you don’t get it right from the get go.
People can be harsh online as it’s so easy to judge or criticize someone without facing any of the real life awkwardness associated with it. This is why the responsibility of managing your reputation as a blogger is in your hands from day one. In this post, we covered some of the things a lot of beginner bloggers get wrong and how you can spot and avoid them before someone else points them out to you.
What did we miss? Do you have a pet peeve about blogs that no one seems to care about or notice? Let’s discuss in comments.