Blogging can be complicated, so you want to make sure you're doing things right.
We asked our Social Media Examiner writers “What's the single biggest mistake bloggers make and why?” Read their answers carefully to see how you can improve your blogging to get the results you want.
Get Off to a Good Start!
Mistake #1: Not understanding your audience
The biggest mistake bloggers make is to misunderstand who their audience is. I see many blogs where the bloggers clearly understand the topic, but they fail to connect to their audience with their posts.
Bloggers must understand the problems facing their audience and what the audience already knows about the topic to craft posts that deliver useful information. Otherwise, the posts include the wrong information or exclude the right information, making them too complex or too elementary. Or, the posts fail to explain the problem being solved, and the reader can't put the information into context. Either way, the post is full of information that the reader can't put into use.
Mistake #2: Not having a strong niche
The biggest mistake bloggers make is trying to be everything to everybody, or even three or four things to three or four different groups. You can't overestimate the benefits of focus, and the more clearly and tightly defined your mission for blogging is, the more likely you are to develop a niche following that is equally as focused, passionate and valuable.
For instance, if a banking blogger is especially interested in lead generation for small business lending, he shouldn't waste time and energy also trying to write about the mortgage market. Instead, he should focus that energy on niches and interesting topics within small business lending. How do loans differ for convenience stores versus restaurants? What are the different small business loan options for different businesses?
This doesn't pigeonhole the blogger; it just means the wealth of topics is more specific, and ultimately more interesting and informative, to a smaller group of people.
Mistake #3: Covering too many topics
I believe the single biggest mistake bloggers make is covering too many topics. Many bloggers want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, so they write about a myriad of topics.
The problem with this is that the scope of the blog can become lost and possibly disengage the audience. Defining a few key areas that a blog's posts will cover can finely hone the content and laser-focus the knowledge and expertise of the blogger.
Establish Good Practices
Mistake #4: Inconsistency
The single biggest mistake bloggers make is inconsistency, both in quality and in publication frequency. The tricky part is that these two elements of success often work as opposing forces.
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The notion that you should blog “when you have something to say” makes sense on the surface, but unless you establish and adhere to a publication schedule or a level of frequency (daily, three times per week, etc.) it becomes VERY easy to eventually tell yourself, “well, I don't REALLY have anything to say today, so I'll just skip it.” That's how your publication frequency drops from five per week to three to one to occasional blogging. The blogs that are successful over the long haul are those that make publishing routine, not based on daily inspiration.
But making publishing routine does not mean, “let's just throw up a garbage post because I have committed to writing three per week.” Quality always trumps frequency (with the possible exception of SEO). Five mediocre posts per week will not get you as far as two outstanding posts per week.
That balance between the need to be consistently publishing and the need for consistent quality is the key to successful long-term blogging.
Mistake #5: Not committing to the process
Oh, there are so many mistakes business bloggers make. If I had to choose just one, it would be not committing to the process. Too many people get into blogging thinking that it will have an instant impact on their business. Their search engine visibility and inbound traffic will skyrocket, and they'll be sleeping on a bed of $100 bills.
However, unlike pay-per-click advertising, constructing a blog that builds your business takes time and effort. I tell people to plan on writing two to three posts per week for six months to get the results they're hoping for… more if they're in a competitive industry.
This means more than just writing, however; you also need to write keyword-rich posts with persuasive, compelling titles that will be read, linked to and shared on social media sites.
Rich Brooks, president of Flyte New Media and author of The 11 Biggest Mistakes Small Business Bloggers Make (free report, email registration required).
Mistake #6: Focusing on quantity instead of quality
I think a lot of bloggers focus on quantity versus quality and I think this is the biggest mistake. There is this theory that states that you need to blog a few times a week to make your blog always seem fresh; both from the perspective of human consumption and also from a search engine perspective. The advantage is a gain in quantity—perhaps also a gain in page rank—but there is a loss in quality.
A good, in-depth blog post takes time to research, write and edit. Unless you're a larger company with a team of professional writers, there's not enough time in the day to do this well; thus there are a lot of blogs with underperforming material.
Mistake #7: Writing for yourself, not your audience
Although it might be cathartic to opine on your latest thoughts of the moment, if it isn't of value to your audience, your audience won't read it.
Readers are selfish. They want information they can use. Find a way to provide it.
Mistake #8: Making it all about you
Are you that interesting? A celebrity perhaps? If the answer is no, stop writing about yourself and write about something that your readers will find useful, interesting or entertaining.
Sure, put your own personality into your content or add a post or two about something that has happened to you and is noteworthy, but write about interesting stuff.
Hone Your Craft
Mistake #9: Bad writing
A blogger's objective is the same as any other writer: to find (and keep) readers. The more readers, the better. Having said this, there is one sure-fire way to turn off regular and potential readers: bad writing.
With the ease and accessibility of creating a blog nowadays, the importance of good writing in getting published has all but disappeared—online, at least. I cringe in disgust when I find typos in a $30 hardcover book from the bookstore, or a newspaper or journal article. Yet it's not uncommon to find formatting, spelling and grammatical errors littered throughout blog posts and articles published online.
Not only do these mistakes make a post difficult and unpleasant to read, they make the point harder to get across, and ultimately leave the reader with a less-than-professional opinion of the blogger. Of course, good writing is more than grammatically correct sentences that have been spell-checked.
Good writing is concise, has a point to it and is accessible (in other words, easy to read and understand). But I would argue that half of the battle to gain readers comes down to simple, lazy mistakes that are easily fixed. Use spell-check; take time to research ideas, facts and concepts you're not sure about; and most importantly, read over your work before posting. This can make a huge difference.
Mistake #10: Failing to engage readers with a compelling headline
The biggest mistake bloggers make is failing to engage readers with a compelling title and an opening statement or question that supports it. Think of the title as the label of a package, one that will only be opened if the label clearly or cleverly describes what's inside.
Once the package is opened, the first few lines have to hook the reader again by delivering on the promise of the label. When both the title and opening work together, the remaining content is willingly consumed.
Mistake #11: Going it alone
What do I mean by that? I think bloggers have the ability to be great storytellers, but sometimes they cut themselves short. They think they have to generate the whole story themselves and fail to use blogging as a way of reporting.
Bloggers need to ask questions and go after a story. Bloggers should follow their instincts and interests. They should feel like they can reach out to other bloggers and people who have commented on posts. Contact companies directly. Ask an author if he or she can do a Q & A. Go behind the scenes, dig deeper.
Simply stated, bloggers will write better pieces and generate more interest when they look for the special angle and break free as writers, reporters and researchers. Bloggers needn't go it alone. Instead, they should ask themselves what they hope to achieve in a post and go after the material. Like what you're doing here, Cindy!
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Mistake #12: Adding to the noise
Because social media has what seems like an insatiable thirst for content, it can feel like there's a black hole consuming as fast as we can create. Don't fall into the trap where you feel like you've got to create content for the sake of creating content. Publishing material indiscriminately that lacks substance adds to the noise and diminishes your credibility.
So how can you keep the quality up while also keeping up a steady flow of material? Take one well-thought-out topic and break it into smaller parts. Not only will this approach give you both quality and quantity, it can be used to stimulate a conversation with your readers.
Start by telling your audience what you're planning to do; for example, let your readers know this is the “first of a three-part series that will explore…” This simple technique will let your audience know there's more to come and help to create demand for your next piece. Next, make sure to invite readers to comment or share their thoughts by asking questions or including a survey/poll at the end of your post. Then in your subsequent pieces, show your audience you were listening to what they had to say by referencing or incorporating some of the feedback/input they provided.
Build Your Blog Community
Mistake #13: Only talking about your company, products and services
I see that companies talk a lot about themselves—their products or their services—on their blogs and I don't think that's the best way to go about it. If potential customers are seeing your blog for the first time, they don't care about you yet. They care about their problems and how your product or service can solve them. Informative content such as tips/tricks or how-to posts are much more effective.
Whether you're a furniture company giving home decorating tips, or a B2B marketing analytics software company giving marketing tips, informative content puts the customer first and build trust before the sale. That's how you build relationships and create a community that will advocate for you.
Additionally, this is how you can rank for the right keywords and phrases that your target audience searches for on Google.
Mistake #14: Not engaging with your readers
The single biggest mistake bloggers make is not engaging with their readers in the comments section. Creating exceptional content is one thing that certainly can get lots of viral visibility. But I feel that acknowledging and responding to your readers as they comment helps build stronger relationships and more “social equity.” People remember you when you take time to reply.
Granted, this may not always be possible or scalable for larger blogs. But even a few replies to comments indicate to all readers that you do read your comments.
Mistake #15: Not taking time to respond thoughtfully to your blog comments
The biggest mistake I believe a blogger can make is not to take the time to respond thoughtfully to comments and interact with readers. Interacting by responding to comments and questions is an important way to build readership because readers who are acknowledged are likely to come back.
It seems that some writers approach blogging as a unidirectional means of communicating (i.e., “I have something to tell you”) rather than an active conversation within a community. From the reader's perspective, an analogy would be attending a lecture that didn't allow for any question-and-answer period.
Although the content might be quite interesting, the richness often comes through the back and forth with the audience. I have found this to be true, for example, in a recent post on Social Media Examiner. Not only were great questions asked that benefited other readers, but the comments also helped me realize what readers are interested in hearing more about in future posts.
Get More Out of Your Blogging
Mistake #16: Not promoting your blog content
One of the biggest mistakes I see bloggers making is they don't promote their own content enough. Granted, there are some who go overboard and do nothing but self-promotion, which is not the right way to go.
There is, however, a healthy balance that will get your blog posts the attention they deserve without driving your followers crazy. If you don't do just that amount, no matter how great your content is, it's still likely to fail at bringing in traffic. The whole “If you build it, they will come” motto from the movies just doesn't cut it unless you already have a subscriber list in the thousands. Even at that stage, you may be getting a satisfying amount of traffic to blog posts on your own site, but it will still take extra work to get the same volume of traffic to guest posts and articles that you write as a freelancer on lesser-known sites.
So if you're writing great content, don't feel guilty about promoting it! Your followers want to know about your awesome content as well as the awesome content you share from others. Proper self-promotion is a win-win situation for both you and your audience!
Mistake #17: Not joining a blog community
One of the largest mistakes new bloggers make is going about it all alone. There are tons of talented writers who would love to form a community blog based around wonderful content in your niche, which would accelerate your blog's growth with more promoters and give you a wider social circle to pull from for comments and sharing.
Look at Social Media Examiner as a case study in this. One person's social circle didn't make this site the powerhouse that it is today, but a community effort of many. My advice to bloggers is to consolidate for the greater good, so you all can be successful instead of trying to do it all alone.
Mistake #18: Not collaborating with other bloggers in your industry
The single biggest mistake that I see bloggers making, and that I've made myself up until very recently, is not collaborating closely with other bloggers within your industry or profession.
When I first began blogging, I was very skeptical about showcasing or promoting any “potential” competitors, but I was completely mistaken about this. By collaborating with and promoting your peers, everyone benefits from increased traffic and visibility. All boats rise with the tide!
You could put a blogging group together in your local business community, or you could build a group from across the world if you want to! Each group member could agree to comment on blog posts of group members as well as promote posts through social media sites.
Remember, there's enough business to go around, and you need to have an abundance mentality in order to be a truly successful blogger. I plan to spend a lot more time figuring out ways to promote other bloggers who work within my industry or share the same passions and interests. It's really important that we all help each other grow!
Mistake #19: Not sharing your expertise
The single biggest mistake bloggers make is not sharing their expertise with other blogs and other bloggers to build credibility, reputation and trust.
The fastest way to build a community online is to share information. Most bloggers think they're doing this because they post daily and interact with their community. By far the most common problem bloggers face is attracting loyal readers. But readers don't come from a void—they come from other authority blogs or sites where great information is shared and syndicated.
What's lacking is the integration of guest posts into their own blogs, and being a guest author on other blogs. This is how you rapidly build a community of targeted readers—by sharing excellent information from and across a variety of sources, not just your own. Did you know that trust, credibility and a good reputation can be shared too? If you do this, you won't have to search for readers, they'll find you!
#20: Sacrificing keyword-rich titles for cleverness
Many bloggers sacrifice keyword-rich titles for clever, attention-grabbing headlines they feel might share better socially. However, doing so will ensure a quick trip to social media wasteland and cause your content to be overlooked by its best friend, the search engine.
With a keyword-rich title, your blog post will live on in search indexes and become a resource instead of a flash in the pan. Don't rely on a magical combination of shares and retweets to carry the torch for your hard work.
If you want to have a catchy title, put your keywords first, add a colon, and write an attention-grabber. Remember, blogging is the social media rug that ties the room together. So make sure you're getting it the attention it deserves.
Mistake #21: Neglecting blog SEO
Certainly bloggers must make sure they engage with commenters and keep their blogs free from spammy comments. However, the most important thing is that as many people as possible read posts. This means that each post utilizes SEO (search engine optimization) best practices so that it ranks well when the subject matter of the post is Googled. I feel neglecting this is the biggest mistake bloggers can make.
Bloggers should make sure their posts have: 1) a descriptive, keyword-rich title; 2) a “permalink” natural-language and keyword-rich URL; 3) section headers that are descriptive and utilize keywords specific to each section; 4) “anchor” text (the text that is hyperlinked) that contains keywords relevant to what's being linked to; and, most importantly, 5) self-hosting your blog instead of using Blogger or WordPress.com.
Also, a blog should have an SEO plugin like Headspace for WordPress or in some way be set up so that bloggers can craft their own title and meta description tags for each post. All of these elements should convey the subject matter of the post in a keyword-rich manner, top to bottom.
What other blogging mistakes have you noticed? How would you improve your blogging? Please share your comments in the box below.
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