Blogging isn’t quite as easy as it looks. Sure, you can register a free Blogger or WordPress.com site, set up a basic theme and go to town writing posts, but you’re not going to gain widespread success without being struck by digital lightning. There’s a lot of work that goes in to running a successful blog. There’s planning the posts, optimizing the meta data, digging deep into topics and keeping to a schedule. There’s networking with other bloggers, promoting posts on social media and guest posting across the Internet. There’s all of that, and more. With so many ways to fail, it’s easy to forget that the posts themselves need to be written properly, lest they drive away traffic. What mistakes might you be making?
Starting right off the bad with a big one; negativity. It’s okay to be negative in your title, to draw in readers. Chances are, you’d click an article titled “10 Reasons Google Adwords Needs to Die,” right? If nothing else, you’d want to see what justification the writer has for the opinion. The occasional negative article is perfectly fine. It’s when you’re negative constantly, for every post you make, that you start to push away readers. Negativity to draw in users is one thing; becoming a force of depression is quite another. Don’t become a black spot on your user’s day.
Perfectionism is alright; perfectionism to a fault is not. The problem you’ll run into is trying to make every little detail of your site and your posts perfect. At some point, if you ever want to publish something, you have to draw a line. Your posts should be proofread and edited for content and accuracy, but they don’t need to have every last word calculated down to a microscopic level. You’re not writing a sonnet, where every syllable matters and every choice of word is intentionally picked for emotional connotation. You’re writing a blog post, where most users skim for the key points anyway.
This is a big flaw too many bloggers fall victim to in their early careers. It’s very easy to start a blog post and write about the subject as thoughts come, connecting one thought to the next without regard for the whole. Sometimes, you’ll reach the end of a post and realize two thirds of it has nothing to do with your original topic. This sort of unfocused rambling has value in a sense; it gives you a way to clarify your thoughts and it can be the basis for several future posts. However, it does hurt you when you’re trying to get your content ranked in search. Without focus, it’s harder to rank for specific queries.
If your posts lack spacing, subheadings, bolded concepts and other basic formatting, they’re hard to read. You, as a writer, can read through them easily enough. The average web reader, however, wants to spend most of their time doing as little reading as possible. Skimming is the name of the game, so make it easy for your readers to skim. Give them as much content in as visible a way as possible. Don’t hide value inside long, dense paragraphs.
This is an all too common issue that’s only going to become worse and worse as time goes on. The problem is that there’s so much content on the Internet, in so many different niches, that it’s hard to find something that hasn’t been done. In some niches, it’s almost impossible. You have two options here. First, you can spend increasingly large amounts of time searching for topics with no previous coverage. Or, the better option, you can seek out content that has low competition and find the best coverage that currently exists. Once you find that post, write yours with the explicit goal of being better than the best available. Make yourself the best available resource.
Every post needs links. Links are the lifelines of the Internet. They’re essential for a healthy site, they’re essential for search engine discovery and they’re essential for building an online reputation. Your posts need to include links. Include a couple of links to external sites, but more importantly, include several links to other pages on your site. Internal links are incredibly beneficial, specifically because they guide readers around your site and keep them in place. Giving them a way to explore related content keeps them hanging around, where you can expose them to any ulterior motives you have for keeping them on your site.
The Internet is not a print medium. You’re not limited by the colors of a printer or the price of ink. You’re hardly even limited in terms of space, though stretching beyond the typical web conventions risks losing the attention of some users. Make use of graphics. Put images in your blog posts. Users like value packed as densely as possible, and few ways of conveying information are as dense in value as a good image. They say a picture is worth a thousand words; a good infographic is worth far more.
Readers love to know when something they can see is coming. It’s why television is scheduled in half-hour blocks. It’s why jobs require regular work hours. It’s why you should stick to a posting schedule. Train your readers to anticipate new content, so they’re ready and waiting when it goes up. A dedicated schedule also gives you the chance to fill your site with content. Every piece of content is a chance for more user interaction, more incoming links and more readers.
Blog posts are not billboards. Blog posts are not brochures. Blog posts are not television commercials. Blog posts are not newspaper ads. They are not advertising of any sort. Instead of thinking about blog posts as a way to advertise yourself or your product, shift your reasoning. Blog posts are newspaper articles. Blog posts are encyclopedia entries. Blog posts are instruction manuals. Treat them as such. When you’re too promotional, users realize that you’re only there to sell them something, and they’ll back away and ignore your pleas.
It’s all too common to encounter bloggers who adopt a fire and forget strategy with their posts. Posting an article and leaving it alone is not a path to growth. Even simply sharing it on social media sites is a good first step, but there’s more to support than widening the net. You also need to watch what users have to say. Comments on your posts, comments on your social media entries; these are gateways to your users. Respond to those comments and draw them in. It’s worth it.