I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: I didn’t know everything when I started blogging (I know. Please contain your shock). Even after a year of freelance blogging, I still didn’t know everything (crazy, right?). And then I started this blog and learned loads more. (I’m starting to get the feeling that there’s a trend here.)
I made a lot of mistakes during my blogging journey. (Real talk- I made most of the mistakes listed below.) But now I know better, and I blog better for it. Here’s your chance to learn from my mistakes and mistakes I’ve seen others make.
If there’s ever been a 3-letter acronym that’s taken the blogosphere by storm, SEO (which stands for search engine optimization) is the one. There are SEO experts, gurus, trainings, webinars, ebooks, and worksheets. The list goes on and on. While you shouldn’t spend all of your time obsessing about your blog’s SEO, you shouldn’t ignore it, either. SEO can play an important part in bringing new readers to your site, so take some time to optimize each post for search engines.
The easiest way to do this is to install the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin allows you to specify a keyword for each blog post and monitors the amount of usage each keyword receives. It also lets you add a meta title and a meta description to your blog post, so you get to decide what is shown in search results. Note: A meta title is the title of the page that’s shown in search results. The meta description is the text that appears under the page’s title.
Really, the most important thing to remember when thinking about SEO is to write high-quality, in-depth posts that people will want to read. If you do that, SEO will mostly take care of itself.
Not Engaging With Fellow Bloggers
“I just love writing for no one and having absolutely zero connections in the blogging world,” said no blogger. Ever. Not even the introverted ones (and I would know.)
Your blog doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and you shouldn’t either. (I’ve tried blogging alone. It’s quite…well…lonely.) There are plenty of blogs and bloggers out there. You just need to find them and start engaging with them. This can be intimidating, especially for those of us who are more introverted and less inclined to reach out and start a conversation. However, if you don’t want to feel like the kid who has to eat lunch by herself every day at school, you need to face your fears and start networking.
Why? For starters, you’ll learn a lot, and that knowledge will only make you a better blogger. You’ll also be able to glean ideas from other bloggers’ posts. When I say “glean ideas”, I mean you either expand on something a blogger said or look at the topic from your own perspective. Part of blogging is creating a dialogue with other blogs, so add to the conversation. Just don’t imitate (or steal from) others. Note: You can avoid any suspicion of plagiarism by adding a link back to the post that inspired you and giving full credit to the blogger.
Another reason to network is to find others who understand your struggles and who will hold you accountable to the goals you set. Blogging requires self-discipline in spades, but sometimes that’s not quite enough to keep us on track. Having a group (or even one other blogger) with whom you can share your goals and ideas can help motivate you to achieve those goals. You’ll even get the added bonus of feedback from someone who’s right there in the trenches with you.
So how do you engage with other bloggers? Pick a few blogs to read consistently, and leave comments on the posts. Let the blogger know how her post helped you, if it did. You can also share the post on social media and tag the blogger. If you really want to go all-in, sign up for an email newsletter or two. Bloggers tend to get a little more personal in their newsletters, so you’ll get a better glimpse at their personalities.
You can even reach out through email after you’ve been reading a blog for a while and let the blogger know that you’d like to collaborate. If you need some collaboration ideas, check out this awesome post by Regina.
UPATE: For even more awesome tips for new bloggers, check out 143 Fatal Mistakes New Bloggers Need to Avoid. (It also includes a tip from your’s truly.)
“OMG! I just got this great spammy comment on my blog! The commenter was so thoughtful as to promote her own unrelated post right in her comment. My day is made!” Said no blogger, ever.
Commenting on other blogs is a great way to connect with other bloggers. Just don’t cross into spam territory. (It’s obvious when you do.) Don’t drop links to your website or post in your comment. That’s not cool, and no one likes it. Link dropping on another blogger’s post is like showing up to a wedding with an uninvited guest. It’s rude, and you’ll tick off the bride.
Here’s an awesome extended metaphor for you about link dropping: You’re strolling down Main Street in Anytown, USA. You’ve just opened a new bookstore, and you’re stoked. You see a local, established bookstore, and you decide to go in and introduce yourself. You find the owner, and you say, “Hi. I’m (your name here). I just started this awesome bookstore. You should check it out and tell all your customers about it.” You hand the owner a stack of your business cards and promotional flyers to place around the shop.
That’s exactly what link dropping is. It’s promoting your content in someone else’s space out of the blue without a prior agreement. It’s not cool, so don’t do it. If you truly believe that the link you want to include is on-topic and will add to the conversation, you can include it. Just be sure you make it clear why you’re including the link.
Emailing a blogger out of the blue and asking him or her to promote your post also counts as spam. Think about it: Would you walk up to a random person on the street and ask him to promote your latest blog post on his social media feeds? I bet not, so don’t do it to people online.
Overlooking Social Media
This was one of my mistakes when I first started blogging. I have a love-hate relationship with social media, and that led me to steer clear of it for the longest time (Whoa, oh, oh, oh. For the longest time- Billy Joel, anyone?). Don’t make the same mistake I did.
Social media, when used well, can be a great way to increase traffic, grow your audience, and meet fellow bloggers and business owners. The key to getting the most out of social media is threefold. You need to: 1) Share your blog posts. 2) Share other bloggers’ posts and tag them. 3) Talk to other bloggers on social media. Whatever you do, don’t become a link-tweeting robot.
Sharing your own posts on social media should be a no-brainer. Social media platforms widen your reach and allow you to get in front of people who wouldn’t normally see your posts. Sharing posts other than your own simply increases the value of your feed. You don’t know everything, so don’t try to pretend you do. Learn from others’ expertise and share that knowledge with your followers. Also, bloggers enjoy when others share their posts. Wouldn’t you get warm fuzzies if you knew someone had shared your post?
You can also use social media to start forming relationships with other bloggers. Don’t be afraid to reply to a question a blogger you follow has posed. You can tweet a blogger and let her know how much you liked her recent post. Successful, established bloggers are people, too, and they like hearing how their work has impacted you.
Still feeling a little squeamish about social media? Check out these 8 social media etiquette rules to follow.
No Blog Promotion
There’s bad news and good news here, folks. The bad news is that in the beginning, you (and only you unless you’re entering the blogosphere with friends in high places) will be the champion for your blog. If you don’t promote your blog, the world won’t know it exists. Your reader count will remain non-existant.
Now, here’s the good news. In time, after you’ve made solid connections with other bloggers and gained your readers’ trust, you should have a few more champions who will promote your blog for you, but until then, it’s on you to promote your blog.
Pop quiz time: Raise your hand if you feel sleazy promoting your own blog.
Show of hands again: Who thinks blog promotion has to venture into sleazy territory?
If you didn’t raise your hand for question 2, good for you! You passed. (Considering there’s no right answer for number 1, we’re discounting it.) When I first started blogging, I didn’t give much thought to promoting my blog. I don’t like drawing attention to myself, so I just blogged and hoped that people would find my blog. They didn’t.
But really, you shouldn’t feel sleazy when you promote your blog if you’re not using questionable tactics. If you are using sleazy tactics, shame on you. Promoting your blog doesn’t mean resorting to icky sales tactics or posting on social media begging people to read your blog. For some subtle promotion, add your blog’s URL to your email signature and ensure that you include it on every social media profile you have.
Not Focusing on Their Blog’s Value
Blog readers are selfish. They want to know what’s in it for them. Why should they read your blog? How will it help, entertain, or teach them? (Think about it- when you first start reading a blog, isn’t that what you want to know?) You need to make sure that you spell out your blog’s value if you want to attract readers. You can do this several different ways.
Create an About or Start Here page that clearly lays out your blog’s value. E.g. – “This blog is for you if you want to start writing awesome blog posts and learn the ins and outs of creating a successful blog.”
Create a solid brand or blog mission statement and place it in a prominent place on your blog. “This blog exists to help new bloggers create incredible blogs through writing advice and blogging tips.”
Write clear post titles that show the value readers can expect from them. E.g.“Why My Latest Webinar Didn’t Rock and What You Can Do to Avoid the Same Fate.” Based on this title, readers will expect to receive a list of reasons and explanations about why the webinar didn’t do well and suggestions or tips about how they can avoid having a webinar flop.
Your blog has a lot to offer. Don’t be shy about stating your blog’s value. Your readers will be more likely to stick around if you do.
Not Giving Serious Thought to Branding
No livestock or hot irons required here. We’re talking blog branding. It’s a business task that should be in the forefront of every new blogger’s mind, but oftentimes it appears as an afterthought, making it difficult to form a cohesive brand. Here’s the thing that a lot of new bloggers don’t realize about branding: It’s more than simply creating a logo and picking out a few colors. (To learn more about branding and what it is, I suggest you check out Kaitlyn’s articles on 4 Branding Myths and 8 Branding Terms).
With all the blogs and content floating around online, you need to ensure that yours will stand out. You want your blog to be recognizable. And yes, a lot of that has to do with logos and colors. However, part of branding is also creating an experience.
Think about Disney. What comes to mind? Good feelings? Fond memories of watching family-friendly movies? Fun times at Disneyworld? Disney has the corner on the happy, family-friendly market. The company has worked hard to ensure that its customers have a positive, family-friendly experience in its parks and during its movies. To really make your brand stand out, create an experience. People love great experiences, and they’ll keep coming back for more.
P.S. You can also check out my branding transformation here.
Not Offering an Incentive for Joining an Email List
This is one to-do that I crossed off my list recently. When you first start blogging, focus on creating a few high-quality posts to get your blog off the ground and interest readers. Your email list should be a priority but not as much as creating awesome blog content. After you’ve published a few posts and smoothed out the wrinkles that are bound to pop up because of inexperience and technology (a frustrating combination) you need to start thinking about getting email subscribers.
The first thing you need to do is put an opt-in form on your website, and not just in one place. You need to have your form in multiple places all over your site. You don’t want to tell people to sign up for you list and then make them hunt for it. “Hey sign up for my email list…if you can find the form. Muhahahaha.” Um…no. It’s not hide and seek. You won’t get subscribers that way.
After you’ve got your opt-in form in place, you need to start thinking about offering an incentive to get people to hand over their email address. You want to ensure that what you’re offering is valuable and well-thought out. You don’t want people to give you their email address and then be disappointed with what they get.
Here are some ideas for email list incentives:
- An ebook
- A guide
- A worksheet
- A webinar recording
Offering an incentive for your subscribers rewards them instantly for signing up. Your newsletter may be full of super valuable tips, but if you send it out on Monday and someone signs up on Tuesday, that person has to wait 6 days before he gets to see any of your special content. An incentive also makes your subscribers feel like they’re getting an extra bonus. They’ll get your newsletters already. That’s a given. Offering them something extra really sweetens the deal and makes your subscribers feel special (which is exactly what you want). You went the extra mile for them.
Just Using Email Lists for RSS
Want to throw all your hard work away? Go ahead. I’ll wait. Just take the blog post you spent hours on and delete it. Or take the opt-in you spent weeks creating and burn it.
Feel better? No? I can’t imagine why.
If you’re just using your email list to send out RSS emails about your blog posts, it’s like you’re throwing all your hard work away. Most of your readers don’t want RSS emails. They want extra valuable, exclusive content. There are RSS readers available for people who want your feed. You could also offer the option of subscribing just to an RSS email feed if you want.
But don’t use RSS for your email newsletter. You newsletter is the place where you can really start to form connections with your readers. These are the people who have given you precious inbox space. Don’t waste it or violate their trust by sending out sub-par content or RSS. Give your subscribers valuable, exclusive content, and they’ll love you for it. You’ll increase their loyalty and turn them into champions for your blog and business. Not to mention the fact that you’ll positively affect your subscribers and give them the tools and info they need to accomplish their goals.
Drowning in Information
I’m a researcher. I don’t do anything unless I can research and plan it. Day trip to Detroit? Let me just create a quick 20-page itinerary complete with maps, weather conditions, and a brief history of every place we’ll visit. (You think I’m joking. I’m not.)
If you’ve hopped online and searched for blogging help, you’ve probably found that there are 5.78 billion blogs and bloggers with advice, tips, and tricks for starting a valuable blog. That’s all well and good, unless you get stuck in research mode because of the extent of the info available. It’s easy to drown in a sea of resources, especially when you’re alone and have no connections in the blogosphere. I’ve done my time floundering in the endless ocean of Google, but there are some escape routes (or ports of call?)
The best way to leave the vast ocean of results is to find a handful of bloggers you admire and trust and follow them. If you lessen the number of information sources, you’ll make the flow of information more manageable. If you’re feeling really overwhelmed, just take a break. Don’t research or read up on the subject in question for a few days. When you come back, single out a few bloggers and don’t look back.
Finally, take a cue from Nike and just do it. The best way to learn is by doing, so stop researching and start doing. It’s scary, but take a breath and dive in. Things won’t go perfectly, but you’ll figure it out.
Trying to Tackle Everything at Once
Real talk- When I started this blog, I was like, ” I’m gonna have 4 awesome posts, a super email opt-in offer, 3 great guides, 2 fabulous content upgrades, and a partridge in a pear tree. Preferably Keith Partridge (I mean, his hair was fabulous).”
Well, I got the 4 posts, a homepage, and a working About and Contact page, and that was it. My plans for launching a fully-equipped blog had failed (kinda). I was pretty disappointed in myself, but I’m starting to realize that it’s ok to not launch a blog with everything in place. In fact, it’s really stressful trying to do so. Take it from me and focus on the essentials: awesome content, a nice homepage, a working About page, and a Contact page. Everything else is still important but not essential.
Well, there you have it: 11 mistakes new bloggers make. I made 6 of the mistakes above, and I lived to tell the tale. Don’t sweat it if you do make mistakes. You’ll learn from them and move on with your awesome blog. Speaking of mistakes, what new blogger mistakes did you make when you were first starting out? What advice do you have for new bloggers?
UPATE: For even more awesome tips for new bloggers, check out 143 Fatal Mistakes New Bloggers Need to Avoid. (It also includes a tip from your’s truly.)