Writing a blog is hard work. First, you’ve to come up with a niche that you want to focus on. Then you have to create a schedule of topics to discuss. Then you have to write about interesting topics, and you have to write well. Then you have to edit it. And then you have to publish and distribute it to the best of your abilities. And then… Well, there’s a bunch of other things that go before, during and after all that.
And to make things even harder, there are millions of blogs (152 million, to be exact) out there, and only so much time in the world for us to read them. That’s a lot of competition.
The simple truth is: You’ve got to do things just right if you want to be successful at this blogging thing.
And you probably know that there’s a thing or do that you could improve. Maybe they’re small details that you insist are too small to make a big difference to your reader numbers, or maybe they’re so big you’re scared to tackle them. But nothing worthwhile was ever easy, so first stop to figuring out what you’re doing wrong is to look at the basics.
Dumb Mistake #1
Off With Their Head… ings!
Your headline is the single most important thing on your blog. Sometimes I’m tempted to tell people to just spend as much time as they had writing the blog post, on creating the headline. But I know it’s an unreasonable ask.
But here’s the thing (and I’ve said it time and time again, so apologies if I sound like a broken record):
“On average, 5 times as many people read your headline as read the body of your copy. When you have written your headline you have spent 80cents out of your dollar”.
That’s 80% of your success that depends on your headline. Remember, informational and specific headlines are the way to go, as ContentVerve has proved.
So, how long do you spend crafting your headings, hmm?
Dumb Mistake #2
Writing Huge Walls of Texts
People have a super short attention span. In fact, our attention spans are now officially shorter than a goldfish’s.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means that you have to diversify your blog posts. No more text-only posts. The internet is not a college lecture, and your blog is not a college text book.
To get people’s attention you need a great headline, but to hold it you need a diverse range of media. Think photos, graphs, videos and screen shots. I recommend 1 other form of media for every 150 – 200 words you write, which should mean that there is text + media on the screen at all times as the reader works through your post (depending on screen width, blog theme and a variety of other factors).
Dumb Mistake #3
Not Considering Skimmability (one’s ability to skim a post)
When you’re being taught how to teach teenagers, the first thing that you’re told is to make the information accessible by making it easy to digest. Very simply put, this means that you take a complicated idea and break it down so that it’s simpler to understand.
Research has shown that bullet points and numbered lists help with our audience’s tendency to skim our content. Why?
- It makes it easier for the eye to pick out the most important information quickly.
- Sentences can be shortened.
- It keeps people engaged for longer.
- It helps to simplify explanations, without demeaning those who are being taught to.
Remember: You aren’t writing an academic essay. You’re writing for the general populace that aren’t super keen to spend their leisurely time straining to grasp the meaning of your post.
Dumb Mistake #4
No Subheadings in Sight
Another formatting issue that comes up time and time again is a lack of subheadings. Subheadings are probably one of the easiest things to create, and have a huge impact on whether people will read your entire piece or not.
Spend some time creating awesome subheadings.
There are two ways to create subheadings.
- Create them before you start writing. Brainstorm the topics that you’re likely to cover in your post and use these as your subheadings.
- Create them as your write by taking your topic-sentence (or topic idea) and formatting it as a heading to go above the section in your post that discusses that particular idea.
Dumb Mistake #5
Failing To Be An Agility Blogger
It’s a great idea to have a blogging schedule, and I could rant about how important it is to productivity, consistency and all day long. But a lot of people focus solely on creating content based on their schedule rather than looking out into the wider world.
Here’s the thing:
Being a successful blog writer is all about agility. It’s about seeing an interesting story becoming viral and commenting on it now rather than later. It’s about realizing that your audience is screaming for answers to a particular question (no, not literally) and pushing your schedule aside so that you can answer it. Writing a successful blog is about becoming reactive to the web, rather than simply being active on it.
Dumb Mistake #6
Sending People Running to Other Sites Because You Don’t Provide Resources
“Oh, that’s an interesting point! I’d like to learn more about that!” is going to be quickly followed by a Google search away from your page. You’ve inadvertently just lost a reader. Why? You didn’t provide additional resources.
Instead, use hyperlinks to navigate your readers to another post on your page that delves deeper into that topic. This keeps them on your blog, while also giving them the content that they want and need.
Dumb Mistake #7
Sharing is Caring: But You’re Not Making it Easy
People like easy. That’s why there’s a “like” button on Facebook. That’s why there’s a “share” button. That’s why there’s a “+” button on G+, a retweet button on Twitter.
These things make sharing content super easy for your audience. It literally takes them 10 seconds to share something, and then they’ve forgotten they’ve even done it half the time, but you haven’t.
Dumb Mistake #8
Being Too Self-Conscious About Self-Promotion
Recently, my mom took a whole bunch of beautiful photos around our town and juxtaposed them with images of litter. It was a fantastic project (I’m not sure she realized its potential) so I encouraged her to start a blog about it.
Of course, I live thousands of miles away from her, so I wasn’t able to help her set up the blog like she should. What resulted was a bunch of photos on a random WordPress blog.
That’s about it.
I asked her if she shared it with her Facebook friends? Yes, she had. Once. She didn’t want to bother anyone by sharing it more than that. So I asked if she had sent the link to any pages related to our town? No. She hadn’t thought of it.
Suffice to say, her blog has become part of the millions of blogs that just lie dormant in web space, never to be viewed again.
Now, I’m not saying that you should plug your own stuff too much. Not at all. But you need to be unashamed to share where and when it’s appropriate.
Promoting your page intelligently is of the utmost importance. Think to yourself: Who would like to read this post? It won’t always be the same circles, the same pages, the same groups or the same communities every single time. This is a post-by-post decision.
Dumb Mistake #9
Can You Say It In Fewer Words?
Love to write a lot? Well, then you better make it interesting. Don’t write for the sake of writing. If you can get your message across in 500 words then do it.
Dumb Mistake #10
Do You Need To Say It In More Words?
By short and sweet, I don’t mean bite-size. Very few people can pull off the few paragraph posts (I’m thinking Seth Godin and Chris Brogan) but, more often than not, these types of posts fall flat on their faces.
Most likely it’s because you’re not an authority on the subject matter coupled with the very rare ability to say a lot with very few words.
People love quotes, snippets and bite sized pieces of inspiration from people who’ve already made it big. If you don’t have the background and authority that these guys do, then you need to dig in and write some more.
Dumb Mistake #11
Feeling Fluffy? Get Ready To Flop.
I’ve said it once (in this post alone), and I’ll say it again: Writing is hard. But you’ve got to push through that and write something of substance. There’s really not much point otherwise.
The only reason people read posts are because it brings them value in some way. This can be entertainment value or educational value, and sometimes, even a mix of both.
I genuinely don’t care about your brother and how he’s annoying. Nope. Unfluff your content by self-reflecting on content you like to read by others and why it interests you. Your answers are likely not going to be “’cos it’s fluffy and does nothing for me”.
Dumb Mistake #12
It’s Time to Get Personal.
The web is not the Wall Street Journal. You can relax. We know that there’s a person behind that screen, and we want to know who they are, what they do, what their lives are like, what their sense of humour is like etc.
Just like the anecdote I inserted point number 8 about my mother creating a blog and not knowing the first thing about promoting it, you too should make your content personal. Reading content is much more interesting with personal anecdotes, humour and a sprinkling of ker-aziness!
This also goes back to point about our short attention spans: Formatting for easy scanning isn’t the only way to keep us reading – Being humorous, personal and a bit kooky works pretty well too!
Dumb Mistake #13
Allowing People to Choose How to Follow You
A mix between personalization and promotion is providing people with links to your other online platforms.
People may want to follow you (especially if you’re doing the ole’ personalization thing right), but they just don’t use Facebook for that kind of thing, they hate how busy Twitter is, or they just can’t get into Tumblr.
You should be set up on a variety of different social platforms for you blog, and after you have these set up, you should also provide people with links to these profiles so that they can easily choose their favourite platform and follow you from there.
Dumb Mistake #14
Not Backing Up Your Data With Sources
This is where things get a little bit like college. You don’t make a statement in a college essay paper without backing it up with a citation, right? Well, the web kind of works like that too. People want proof.
I like to use my citations on the web as a kind of way to also improve readability. For example, if I’m making a point that I’m backing up with evidence from a reputable site, I’ll highlight and link the entire sentence in which I make the point. The hyperlink (which is usually blue, but can be any colour depending on your website’s settings) works as a underline, colour and bold to highlight my text.
Dumb Mistake #15
Writing your blog for SEO
SEO is fine.
As an after-thought.
I know that sounds kind of outrageous, I guess it is.
But we’re not writing for search engines anymore. We’re writing for people. That means that you should only try to optimize your content after you’ve written it. It’s not super important that it follows all of the rules, and it shouldn’t be written just to adhere to them.
For example, if your keyword density is quite low (or too high) read through your post in one of your rounds of editing and see if there’s anywhere you could add your keyword (or remove it). Remember: it has to sound natural. People shouldn’t be able to detect that you’ve added or subtracted a word or term just for SEO.
If you can’t, that’s fine too. SEO is not the end-all and be-all of blogging.
Dumb Mistake # 16
Guiding Your Readers Nowhere: Lack of a Clear CTA
People are reading your blog, that’s great. But now what? Do you want to have them subscribe to your newsletter? Sign up for a webinar? Do you want them to leave a comment? Do you want them to share the post? Do you want them to read another post on your site?
You need to actually tell people what action you desire them to take, and make it easy for them to do just that.
Dumb Mistake #17
You Don’t Update Old Posts
Things change. The web is particularly fast at changing. If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve probably noticed that some of your posts are a little outdated. They are. And you should really update them.
Particularly with popular posts, you want to ensure that the people who visit your site to read that post are still leaving with the most up-to-date information.
Dumb Mistake #18
Not Engaging With Feedback
We make it a policy at Spokal to respond to each and every comment that comes us. (We? Me? I’m not sure who made this rule up, but that’s just what we do!)
I respond to each comment on the blog (without exception), I respond to each genuine comment on our social media channels to the best of my ability, and I respond to each email to the best of my ability. (We’re a particularly small marketing team [i.e. it’s just me], so I can’t guarantee that I get them all. But I do try).
The idea is simple: Be nice.
I know. It’s a crazy idea. Revolutionary, even.
Kevin Duncan calls it the “Howdy Neighbor technique”. And while it saddens me that being a decent human being has been deemed a “technique”, I see why it’s necessary. Being nice doesn’t come naturally to many people anymore, and even when it does: It’s not something that’s praised and appreciated, and instead these “nice guys” are made embarrassed about their kindness and learn how to hide it/not be nice anymore.
For example: I was ridiculed at one particular job for just being “too nice”. I was literally laughed at for it. To my face. It was horrible. It made me very self-conscious (I hadn’t realized that I was being particularly nice?) and I suddenly became very quiet in the office. I felt uncomfortable that being “nice” was a bad thing, and began to notice how self-serving everyone else was and how they conflated my being nice with being a pushover.
Suffice to say that I left that job pretty quickly.
Nice people are frequently shamed for being nice, and eventually we just stop doing it. But being nice is not a flaw. The idea that “nice guys finish last” is simply not true. Nice guys don’t necessarily take lie down and surrender at anyone’s will, they just don’t think it’s necessary to be mean to get to where they need to be going.
Being nice is not a technique to be benefitted from. Being nice is not something to be embarrassed about. So go ahead, be nice. Smile. Respond to people. Make the world a better place.
The world rewards nice people. And more importantly, the internet rewards nice people.
Are there any other silly mistakes that you see bloggers still making that you’d like to highlight? Feel free to share them and help the blogging community out!