This post is based on episode 46 of the ProBlogger podcast.
When people interview me about blogging, I’m often asked about mistakes I’ve either made myself or seen others making. And the hardest part about answering that question isn’t coming up with them, but rather deciding which ones I should mention.
Because believe me, there are a lot of mistakes bloggers make.
Today I’m going to talk about 20 or so of those mistakes. But this is by no means the complete list, and I’m sure you can think of plenty more. (If you do, please share them with us in the comments.)
1. Not starting a blog in the first place
A lot of people have trouble getting started because they want their blog to be perfect from the word go – the hosting, the design, the topic, even the first post.
Unfortunately, a lot of these people will never think their blog is perfect. And so their thoughts and ideas never see the light of day.
I know people who’ve been talking about starting a blog for years. One of my friends has been thinking about it for nearly as long as I’ve been blogging. And every time he talks about it I say, “You could have started ten years ago just to see what would happen.”
If you haven’t started your blog because you want everything to be perfect, I strongly encourage you to make a start anyway. It doesn’t have to be on your own domain, or even use your own hosting. Set up a blog on blogger.com or wordpress.com (both free) and see what happens.
The truth is your blog will never be perfect – not when you launch it, nor at any time after that. You will always be finding ways to improve it. So let go of that perfectionism and just start.
2. Giving up too early
While some people have trouble getting started, others find it hard to keep going.
When most people start blogging they’re driven by passion. But after a while that passion starts to wane (often around the three-month mark), and blogging starts to feel like something they have to do rather than something they want to do.
And after looking at their relatively low traffic and subscriber numbers (it takes most blogs a year more to get going), they may well feel they have better things to do with their time.
Another time bloggers often contemplate giving up is at the one-year mark. Instead of celebrating their first anniversary they look at their numbers and think, This is all I’ve got to show for a full year of blogging?
If you’re thinking of giving up because you’re not getting the results you expected, please don’t. All of the blogs I’ve had over the years took a year (if not longer) to reach the point where they had decent traffic and generated a decent outcome.
3. Not differentiating yourself
Whatever niche you’ve chosen, chances are there are already hundreds (if not thousands) of blogs out there covering the same niche. When I started blogging about photography back in 2007 there were already hundreds of photography blogs around.
So how can you differentiate yourself from those other blogs and offer something unique?
One way is to share your own uniqueness – your opinions, your stories, your experiences, your personality, and your sense of humor.
You can also work on developing your voice – the way you present yourself and the position you take with your topic. What will you be to your reader? A companion? A friend? A teacher? A journalist? Whichever option you choose will change the way you write your posts.
You can also try to hit a particular type of reader within your niche. When I started writing for Digital Photography School, my aim was to be a companion to those who were new to cameras and photography. That set me apart from other photography blogs where the content was more advanced and written in a more professorial voice.
I’ll admit it’s getting harder and harder to differentiate yourself from everyone else. But try to find something that sets you apart and makes you unique.
4. Not blogging on your own domain (or on the wrong domain)
I’ll be completely honest: most of the blogging mistakes I’ve made have centered around domains. And I think I’ve made just about every mistake there is to make.
While blogging on wordpress.com and blogger.com is okay to start with, eventually you should be using your own hosting and your own domain. And unless you plan on targeting a specific geographical area, you should try to get the .com domain if you can.
You should also choose a domain name that’s memorable, is relatively short, and doesn’t have any hyphens or other punctuation.
And I’m making these suggestions as someone who has made all of these mistakes. My first blog was on a .org.au domain even though I was targeting an international audience. ProBlogger was originally on a .net domain. And Digital Photography School’s domain has hyphens between each word.
If you have made any of these mistakes it’s not the end of the world. After all, Digital Photography School is still doing well despite its hyphenated domain name. But if you’re just starting out, try to choose one that avoids these issues.
5. Having an irregular posting schedule
While you don’t necessarily need to publish every day, you should try to establish some kind of rhythm with your posting.
It’s good for you as a writer because it will get you into the habit of writing regularly. And the more you write, the better you’ll become.
It’s also good for your readers. If you publish your posts regularly (Monday and Friday, Tuesday and Thursday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or whatever works best for you), your readers will know when to turn up for the next one. But if they keep coming back and finding nothing new to read because you decided to skip a week, they may stop coming back altogether.
Posting regularly also help you build a decent archive over time. Even if you publish only once a week, you’ll still have 52 posts within a year. And those archive posts create paths into your site from search engines and social media.
But while having more posts will obviously create more paths, how regularly you post is more important than how often you post, at least to begin with.
For Digital Photography School I started writing two posts a week (Tuesday and Thursday). then increased it to three posts a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). After a while I started posting every weekday, and then every day.
These days we publish 14 posts a week. But it has taken us years to reach that point.
6. Being too apologetic
While posting regularly certainly has its benefits, sometimes life makes other plans for us and we have to skip a post. And that’s totally fine. We all have other things going on in our lives besides blogging.
Which means there’s no need to start your next post with an apology. There’s a good chance your readers didn’t even notice, and now you’ve just brought it to their attention.
And while I can understand you wanting to be honest with your readers, it can be more of a distraction than a help.
So instead of apologizing about the post you never published, focus your energy on the one you’re about to publish.
7. Focusing on traffic rather than your readers
There’s nothing wrong with writing the occasional post specifically to be shared (and hopefully go viral). After all, it could bring in a wave of new readers.
But if they’re the only posts you write, you may well find your regular readers disappearing sooner or later.
Don’t write blog posts to bring in traffic. Instead, think about the people who are reading your blog and write the kind of content they need.
And if it happens to go viral as well, then it’s a bonus.
For example, infographics do really well on Digital Photography School. They get a lot of shares on Facebook, and drive a lot of traffic to our site. But if that’s all we ever posted we’d get a lot of people visiting the site and then quickly disappearing.
Why? Because infographics alone won’t help our readers improve their photography. They also need to learn about ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and other less glamorous topics that will help them master their cameras and take better photographs.
These days we try to mix it up as little. Our editorial calendar for each week will include something that’s shareable, something our readers can act on, and something that’s a bit more engaging. But the other posts we publish that week will be geared towards teaching our readers different things.
By all means create content that will get people’s attention. But don’t make it your sole aim. Instead, focus on creating content that will change your readers’ lives.
8. Creating too much clutter
When you first launched your blog it probably looked very clean and sleek. But what about now? Chances you’ve added a few more widgets, navigation elements and ads over the years. Is it still looking relatively clean? Or has it become so cluttered that it’s turning people away?
It might be time to have a look at your blog’s design, and either remove some of those elements or redesign it to better accommodate them. You could even ask your readers (or at least a close friend) what they think about its design.
And next time you add a new element, think about whether you can remove something to maintain a balance.
9. Giving great blog posts terrible titles
It can take me hours write a blog post, or even days if I’m covering a topic in depth. And when you’ve been writing a post for that long it can be tempting to quickly think up a title and then publish it.
Using the first title that comes into your head can really cost you. It can be the difference between people reading your blog post and just glossing over it (or even skipping it completely).
Ideally, you should try to come with at least ten titles for your post, and then choose the best one. You may also want to ask other people for suggestions if they’re willing to help.
So make sure you spend some time on your titles. The effort you put in will make a real difference.
10. Not having a topic or niche
Most successful blogs have a well-defined topic, niche, or target demographic. And while there are successful blogs that don’t have an obvious topic or niche, they usually have something that defines them. It might be the style of the blog or what they do. Or it might simply be their sense of humor.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from creating a blog where you have the freedom to talk about anything and everything. But there are costs associated with having one.
You may have trouble getting your readers to stick around. They may have come after reading what you wrote about a particular topic. But if you never write about that topic again, they may not see the point in coming back. (This is where having an engaging writing style can help.)
You may also have trouble monetizing your blog. This is especially true if you plan on working with advertisers because they tend to align themselves with a particular topic or niche. Monetizing your blog by selling products or services can also be tricky of you don’t have a topic or niche to ‘anchor’ them to.
So when you’re planning your blog, think about what they will all have in common. It could be a topic or niche, or a particular writing style.
11. Choosing a topic or niche you’re not interested in
The first blog I started making money from was one where I reviewed digital cameras. It was quite profitable, and at one point I was making more than $100,000 a year using a combination of affiliate marketing, and advertising.
Amazed at how much money I could make from one blog, I created more to try and replicate my success. One of them was about printers, which seemed like a natural progression from digital cameras seeing as printers were being used more and more to print photographs.
There was just one problem: I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in printers. (I still don’t like them very much. And they don’t seem to like me either.)
The fact I wasn’t interested in printers made writing about them a real challenge. I certainly couldn’t write about them as naturally as I could other topics. And my lack of enthusiasm for them came through in my writing.
Yes, I was making some money from the traffic I got from search engines. But my heart really wasn’t in it, and I was happy to let it go.
Back then I had around 30 blogs. These days I have two. And they’re both based around topics I’m genuinely interested in.
That interest has not only kept me going year after year, but also helped me engage with people and build strong relationships with my readers.
If you want to build a profitable blog, you may as well base it on something you’re interested in.
12. Having too many ads on your blog
I don’t have a problem with you putting ads on your blog. In fact, if your long-term goal is to monetize then I suggest you put them up on day one. It will send a clear message that you’re monetizing your blog, and save you from endless conversations about why you’ve put them up down the track.
But you need to be careful about how many you put up. Having lots of ads on your site can make it look cluttered and less appealing. And being bombarded with ads asking them to buy this and buy that could drive readers away.
(You also run the risk of being penalized by Google for having too many ads on your site.)
You also need to look at it from a revenue perspective. A dozen ads competing for people’s attention are not only less likely to be clicked, but also more likely to be ignored. One or two ads placed in prominent positions stand a much better chance of being clicked, which means you can charge more for them.
13. Expecting your readers to come to you
A lot of people think a blog is like that baseball field in Field of Dreams. Just build it, and the people will come.
But the reality is blogs don’t work that way unless you already have an established readership who can spread the word for you. So you need to step away from your blog and head to wherever your potential readers hang out.
And then you need to discretely tell them about your new blog. Not by shouting about your new blog, but rather by helping people and being useful.
14. Writing about “How to make money blogging” on your first blog
Some people start their blogging journey by looking for the most profitable niche. And when they discover the people making the most money from blogging are writing about making money from blogging, they decide to follow suit.
Even though they haven’t made a cent from blogging themselves.
Please don’t make the same mistake. Making money writing about making money blogging is quite difficult because so many people are already doing it.
And a lot of people really aren’t interested about blogging. Digital Photography School is far more profitable than ProBlogger simply because people more people are more interested in photography than in blogging.
So write about something a normal person would be interested in –photography, food, clothes, travel, whatever. Just make sure it’s something you are interested in and can genuinely talk about, and have some expertise or experience with.
There’s nothing wrong with blogging about blogging, or even about making money blogging. But you’re going to much more successful if you’ve already done it on another blog or had some experience.
15. Not being useful with your blog
The most successful blogs (at least the ones I read) try to meet the needs of their readers and/or solve their problems. People are much more likely to come back to a blog that has affected or changed them in some way.
So ask yourself whether your blog is making a difference. Is it bringing about some sort of change? Is it solving a problem? Is it useful?
Your blog doesn’t need to end poverty or bring about world peace. It just needs to be useful to someone, which could mean:
- teaching them how to hold a camera
- teaching them how to make a soufflé
- teaching them how to be a better parent
- giving them a laugh
- making them smile
- making them realize they’re not alone.
The change you make to your readers’ lives doesn’t need to massive. But if your blog doesn’t bring about any change or solve a problem, you may want to rethink what your blog is about.
16. Writing for search engines instead of humans
There’s no denying that Google can bring a lot of traffic to your site. But if you focus on what Google likes rather than what your readers like then it will be pretty much useless.
Sure, you’ll get people coming to your site from Google’s search results. But they’ll disappear pretty quickly once they read what you’ve written.
So forget about Google. Focus on your readers instead, and help them solve the problems and issues they’re having. If your content is useful to them they’ll keep coming back. They’ll also share it with other people, which will in turn improve your search engine rankings. (Search engines use this information as part of their calculations.)
It’s good to know how search engines work. But your focus should always be in your readers and what they need.
17. Becoming a stataholic
Google Analytics is quite seductive, isn’t it? It’s easy to lose track of time as you pore poring over all the information it has collected about your blog and your readers. How high your blog is ranking. How many comments you’ve got. How many page views you’ve had. What your bounce rate is. How much money you’ve earned from AdSense. How how many followers you have on Twitter. How many likes you have on your Facebook page.
But while it’s good to know how many people are reading your blog and how they’re using it, those metrics can be an incredible distraction. They can not only take you away from creating content, but also feed your insecurities and get you really down if you’re not careful.
I recommend choosing a specific amount of time each week to check your stats (e.g. a few minutes at the start and the end of each day).
I start my day by checking my stats to see what happened the previous night. And I do the same at the end of the day. I also set aside about an hour each week to really dig into my Google Analytics and some of the social media metrics around my blogs.
And for the rest of the week I focus on creating content for my blogs.
18. Growing your blog through link baiting or personal attacks
When I started ProBlogger I saw a lot of bloggers try to grow their traffic by attacking, baiting and critiquing other bloggers. These attacks (often made anonymously) were sometimes disguised as satire. But in a lot of cases it was a nothing less than a blatant attack.
While you can grow your traffic this way, you can also damage your brand. And once you have a reputation for writing snarky, attacking content it can be very hard to shake.
You’re much better off having a reputation for creating uplifting, constructive, and life-changing content.
Be careful about getting into that ranty, snarky space. While there may be times when you need to be blunt and to rant, try to balance it with different types of content on your site.
19. Not knowing why you’re blogging
Most of us start blogging without knowing exactly what our goals are or why we’re doing it.
But you really need to work it out sooner rather than later. Because how can you hit your goals if you don’t know what they are?
Yes, good things will come your way if you just keep blogging, particularly if you’re changing people’s lives. But you should also think about your goals – not just for your blog, but also for your life tin general.
I try to set aside time at the start of each year to come up with some goals. It helps me stay on track and make progress throughout the year. If you don’t have a goal it’s easy to become lazy because you don’t have anything driving you forward.
20. Thinking there’s only one way to monetize your blog
A lot of bloggers fall into this trap. They look at how one blogger is monetizing their blog and try to do the same with theirs, thinking it’s the only way it can be done.
But there are plenty of ways you can monetize your blog depending upon the size of your audience, your niche/topic, and how well your blog is established.
By all means choose one to get you started. But don’t be afraid to try the others as well.
21. Thinking you need to know everything first
A lot of bloggers have insecurities around different aspects of blogging:
“I’m not technical enough.”
“I don’t know about design.”
“I’m not a great writer.”
“I’m not very good at marketing.”
When it comes to the technicalities of blogging, I’m sure we all have areas we don’t know much about. When I started blogging it took me three months to work out how to make text bold. Even now I’m not very technical, and leave that aspect of blogging to someone else.
(Fortunately the tools we have today are so much better than they used to be, and so you don’t need to know as much.)
But the truth is you don’t need to know everything about blogging before you start. Or everything about your topic for that matter.
By the time I started ProBlogger I’d already been blogging for a couple of years. But I certainly didn’t know everything there was to know about making money from blogging. So I was transparent with my readers about what I did and didn’t know, what I was learning and what I already knew, the mistakes I’d made and the successes I’d had.
If you’re transparent with your readers, you’ll find they can be very forgiving.
So there you have it: 21 mistakes bloggers make (including me). But as I said in the introduction, there are plenty more I could add to the list.
What mistakes have you made, or seen other bloggers make? Let us know in the comments.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash