You want to start a blog. You have big ideas, and lofty goals, like, you’ll tell your story and save the world.
And you’ll make a whole lot of money, quit your job, and move to Bali where you’ll spend the rest of your life and be zen.
So you plunk down on a chair, all determined, buy a domain, hosting, set up a blog, and start punching away on your keyboard, one blog post at a time, right?
And then, after a few weeks, or maybe after a couple of months, you start to realize that something is missing.
Something just isn’t right!
The money isn’t flowing in as fast as you thought it would.
You hardly have readers, and even the ones that do land on your blog, do not seem to have any interest in anything you have to say.
Well, let’s fix that, shall we? Let me now introduce you to some of the most common mistakes you may be making on your new (or old) blog, and show you how to either fix them or avoid making them altogether.
Mistake #1: You’re Not Collecting Emails from Day-1
So, you’ve started a blog, but you have no clue what to do with an email list. You figure you’ll wait until you know exactly what you’ll send to your list and what you’ll use as an opt-in incentive.
Setting up your email list should be your first priority as a blogger (or as any business owner, really). Over time, you’ll come to understand that your email list is where your most loyal readers (and potential clients/buyers) are. The longer you wait, the more future buyers you lose. Even if you do not have an opt-in freebie to offer on launch day, you should still set up an opt-in form. Perhaps offer to send new blog updates in exchange for signing up. You’ll get at least a few people to sign up if you have good content that is helpful to your target audience.
You can easily set up an opt-in freebie with an email marketing platform. There are several of these out there. Personally, my preferred email marketing platform for bloggers is ConvertKit [affiliate]; it’s what I use on this blog and I love it! But you can choose any platform that you feel comfortable with. The idea is to get an email list started from day-1 of your blog launch. Just do it!
Mistake #2: You Don’t Know Exactly What You’ll be Blogging About
It’s difficult to give advice on the topic of niche. In one hand, we have some veteran bloggers who would tell you that you should pick a particular niche, and stay on course at all times. Then you see all these other blogs like Cup of Jo by Joanna Goddard or Chasing Foxes by Silas and Grace where they blog about a multitude of things.
Here’s what I do know. Even with lifestyle blogs like Cup of Jo, for example, they’re not completely niche-less. They just have several topics they blog about. So the bottom line is, while you do not need to have just one particular niche/topic that you blog about, you DO need to have clarity on what these topics are that you’ll write about BEFORE you launch your blog. (On that note, here’s a 52-point blog launch checklist that you may benefit from.)
Mistake #3: You’re Obsessed with Branding and the Perfect Blog Design
OK, I understand wanting to make your blog look perfect. We all like pretty things, nothing’s wrong with that. The problem, however, is that often new bloggers spend way too much time than necessary to come up with the perfect “branding”.
As a new blogger, it’s not only unnecessary, it’s often a waste of time (and money).
Let me clarify.
You will, most definitely, not stick with your initial design and branding for the rest of your blogging life, I guarantee that. Heck, you may not even want to stick to your blog name for that matter for very long. So spending forever and a fortune on a unique, custom blog design from the get-go isn’t going to do you any good.
It IS important that you have a clean and user-friendly layout, but spending a fortune before you even start blogging isn’t necessary. Do that when you’ve blogged for a while and you have earned some money. Nothing’s wrong with taking your time and slowly perfecting your “brand” as you go.
Here’s what I suggest. If you’re DIY-ing your blog, use a good theme with lots of customization options. One of my personal favorites is Astra. It’s a great theme and has both free and pro versions. While the pro-version is definitely richer in terms of options available, the free version has everything a first-time blogger will need.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, pair your Astra theme with my favorite drag and drop page-builder plugin — Elementor [affiliate]. Just like Astra, Elementor has both free and paid versions, and even the free version is great for when you’re just starting out.
(If you’re setting up your blog yourself, here’s a WordPress blog setup guide that you can use to help you get started.)
Mistake #4: Your Blog is Not User-Friendly
While you don’t want to spend too much time designing the perfect blog, there are a few things you must pay attention to. Your blog should be user-friendly. Make your readers’ experience on your blog nice and smooth, so they continue to come back to it.
Here are some things you should take note of:
- Have a primary navigation menu and list all essential pages that a reader may be looking for. Make sure to have an “About” and a “Contact” page.
- Make sure your blog doesn’t take forever to load.
- Use a font (and font color) that doesn’t hurt your eyes. After all, you want people to read your posts. Make it easy to do so. (Pro-tip: almost black fonts are easier to read than true black. Use something like #333333 or #2a2a2a for your font color rather than #000000. Make the font big enough so your readers aren’t always squinting their eyes.)
- Don’t go crazy with colors. When starting out, if you’re setting up your blog yourself, stick to basic colors. [Almost] black and white with one other color for accents. No need to be fancy unless you know what you’re doing.
Mistake #5: You Don’t Format Your Blog Posts
What does that mean for you as the blogger?
Well, you need to write in a way that makes it easy for your readers to skim. And that means certain types of formatting. You want to make sure you’re giving your readers as much information as possible so that even when they skim your post, they still get the gist of the important points in your post. Use headers and subheaders to separate your post into sections. Use bolded text for the important parts. These simple but very important formatting techniques allow your readers to get the most out of your blog post in a short amount of time.
Here’s a blog post that outlines some essential formatting techniques for your blog posts.
Mistake #6: Your Blogging is Inconsistent
How often should you blog? That’s a question I get a lot from brand new bloggers. There’s no easy or correct answer to this. I wish I could just give you a number, but it’s not that simple. One of my favorite digital marketing gurus of our generation, Neil Patel says you need to write a lot if you want to drive traffic to your blog. His advice is always backed by strong analytics, so it’s definitely true that the more you write the more traffic you’ll drive.
But then again, one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Morrow, says that’s a big mistake. Hammering away on your keyboard every single day by and of itself won’t mean suddenly your blog will be #1 in Google’s SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
You need to weigh in on a few things. How long does it take you to write a quality blog post? Are you sacrificing quality for quantity? Don’t! That’s suicide!
So, how often should you publish? As often as you can without sacrificing quality. If that means you can only publish one blog post a week, so be it. Make sure to keep a consistent schedule as often as possible.
Mistake #7: You’re Withholding the Good Stuff
Maybe you’re planning to write an eBook and sell it on your blog. Or you’re thinking that if you share all your secrets, someone else will use them and you’ll lose out in the competition.
Classic examples of flawed mindset.
First of all, people won’t buy from you unless they’re convinced that you have value to offer. You need to prove yourself to your audience first and only then can you expect them to give you their money. And you do that by giving them as much as possible. Sure, you cannot share 100 pages worth of eBook content in a single blog post, and that’s fine. But give them as much as you can. Give them the absolute best of those 100 pages!
Second, your fear of competition will only backfire. Someone somewhere will figure out your secrets without you having told them, and they will share them with their audience. Result? Your readers will flock to your competitor because they’re offering more value.
If you’re competing, make it a competition of value. Your competitor shared 10 points? You share 15. That’s the kind of mindset you need to succeed as a blogger.
Mistake #8: You’re Just a Little Too Eager to Make Money
Like I said before, people only give you money when you’ve proven your worth. You need to give and give and give before they give you. If all you’re doing is selling on every single blog post and email newsletter, people will soon get tired of you and instead of buying from you, they’ll just find another blogger.
I’m no expert, but I do understand this (and I’ve learned it the hard way), you need to be subtle about your selling. Before you ask for money, you’ll need to prove to your audience that you’re worth every penny and more than what you’re asking for. That takes time and effort. Be patient, and focus on providing value first.
Mistake #9: You’re Losing Sleep over SEO
Wanna know a secret? NOBODY knows exactly how Google’s algorithm really works. It’s so complex that I doubt the engineers at Google even know exactly how pages are ranked. Sure, there are great resources out there and if you practice certain things, you’ll start to rank over time.
But SEO isn’t that simple. And the digital marketers who actually do know a thing or two have had YEARS of experience, and the seasoned SEOs typically work with big companies.
You’re not a big company (if you are, you’re reading the wrong blog, pal!) So worrying over SEO isn’t going to get you anywhere. What you should be worrying about instead is writing great content that people actually find value in. Learn to write great headlines that people want to click and share. Learn to write your posts in a way that people can’t stop reading. Spend your time doing those instead of trying to understand how Google ranks your page.
Maybe when you’ve got all of these down pat, you can start thinking about SEO, but until then, focus on the quality of your blog and other ways to drive traffic to your blog. (Hint: Pinterest is great for new bloggers to drive traffic.)
Mistake #10: You’re on … EVERYTHING.
STOP! Do not try to conquer all the social media platforms at once. It’s mighty difficult when you blog full time. And if you’re not a full-time blogger, then trust me, your blog won’t last long!
Focus on building up one platform first. When you have a few thousand followers and a good amount of engagement, then you can start thinking about another platform.
Mistake #11: Your Writing is All About You
A good blogger knows what’s important. The audience. Your blog isn’t about you. If you have a story to tell and if it is relevant to the topic at hand, and your story enhances or enforces what you’re saying, or the point you’re making, then sure, tell your story. But remember, people aren’t always interested in your story. We all have our own sets of dramas in our lives, we don’t need any more added to that.
Mistake #12: Are You a Robot? Show Some Personality!
This may sound confusing, especially after the last pointer. True, you shouldn’t be writing about yourself all the time, nor should you focus on what you want to tell all the time. But at the same time, if your personality isn’t coming through in your writing, you risk sounding like a robot.
Try to write your posts the way you speak. Your blog isn’t a textbook. You want people to want to read your posts, not run the other direction. When you write the way you speak, it creates a sense of intimacy. And when that happens, even if you’re not telling your readers your life story, they get a sense of who you are. And that makes your blog posts that much more interesting to read. In a sea of blog post after blog post that talks about the exact same things, the only way you get to stand out is when you infuse your unique personality to your posts.
Mistake #13: You’re Not as Funny as You Think
Ok, maybe you are… but, are you sure? Like, a hundred percent sure? Because if not, stop! Wittiness is a skill, and not many people have this skill. If you aren’t certain that you’re able to make your readers laugh, keep the jokes to yourself, and write in a neutral tone. It’s better than landing flat jokes.
Mistake #14: You’re Busy Trying to Show Off
Bad jokes are bad, but so is cleverness. Using difficult words may make you feel smart, but as far as blog posts are concerned, you’re better off using plain tongue.
I’m not saying you should compromise the quality of your writing. If you’re a good writer and you have a solid grasp over the language and you know how and when to use certain words, sure, go for it. But tread carefully. Do not isolate your readers. When writing a blog post, pay attention to who you’re writing for and if your writing is suited to your audience.
Mistake #15: You’re Not Listening to Your Readers
One of the biggest mistake new bloggers make is not listening to what readers really want. Often you may be surprised to find out that what you think readers want from you are very different from what they really want from you.
True, sometimes your readers may not know what’s good for them. And you, as the expert here, want them to know what they don’t know.
But there needs to be a balance. This ties up perfectly with one of the previous pointers where I mentioned you writing only about what you want to write.
If that’s all you do, readers will leave you.
So, how to do you find the balance?
And you observe.
When you’ve blogged for some time and you have some email subscribers and a few regular readers, you can start by asking them directly what they want from you.
But if you’re brand new and you have no idea who to ask, then start spying on your competitors’ blogs. Find out which of their blog posts are trending the most. Those are the topics your readers want. Also, read the comments people leave on their blog posts. Try to find a pattern. If you pay attention, you’ll find clues as to what these readers are interested in.
Mistake #16: You’re Failing to Engage Your Readers
Readers come back to your blog when you engage with them. Invite them to share their thoughts on the post with you. Ask them a question relevant to the blog post — something that requires them to put some thought into answering it. Ask them to take a certain action. Again, spy on your competitors and see how they’re managing to engage their readers. Engagement is key to growing your blog. Don’t overlook it and do not ignore the readers.
When a reader leaves a comment, craft a thoughtful answer to it. Don’t just end it with a simple “thank you”. If they ask a question, take the time to write a response and provide value in your comments whenever possible.
Mistake #17: You’re Not Using an Opt-in Form in Your Blog Posts
Even if you have an email opt-in form on your home page or on your sidebar, you should always add an opt-in form inside your blog posts. Let’s say a reader loves your content and she wants to sign up. Then that form is right there for her to subscribe.
Thing is, you have to make it easy for others to take action. Do not count on your readers to hunt down your email opt-in form. Put it right there for them to use, Make it as easy as possible. If not, you’re letting go of potential subscribers just like that. Don’t! That email list is precious, and you need to be vigilant when it comes to growing this list. More so than growing your followers on social media, or even driving traffic to your blog.
Mistake #18: All of Your Focus is on Content
Writing quality blog posts is a must. BUT! You also need to get your awesome blog posts in front of eyeballs. How do you do that?!
There needs to be promotional efforts on your part. Whether on social media, or Pinterest, or blogging groups, whichever platform you’ve chosen to focus on, you need to go all out on that platform and make sure you’re able to drive traffic to your site.
Personally, I think Pinterest is great for new bloggers. But I’ve also heard good things about Instagram. Whichever platform you’ve chosen, learn that platform inside out and promote your blog posts HARD!
Mistake #19: There’s No Way for Your Readers to Share Your Awesome Posts
Again, if you want your readers to take certain action, you have to make it easy for them. You want your readers to share your posts? Then make sure it’s easy peasy to do so! Add a social sharing plugin if you’re on WordPress, and make sure people can share without having to dig through your site for a way to do so.
For example, on this blog, I have social sharing buttons floated on the left (or at the bottom, based on your screen resolution), and I also have these share buttons at the beginning and at the end of a blog post. Having these button on multiple locations increases the chance of someone sharing it.
Mistake #20: You’re Not Utilizing Internal Links
Want people to stay on your blog? Give them something to do. Add internal links.
But more importantly, it’s for the benefit of your readers. If you’re writing about a topic and think another post will compliment the particular topic you’re writing about, then share it! It will not only help your readers, but it will also lower your bounce rate, and the average time a user spends on your site will increase.
(Pro tip: When adding internal links, do not write “click here”, instead, write a meaning phrase, such as: Learn more about ‘How to Do XYZ’ — the section within quotes being the hyperlinked text.)
Mistake #21: You Don’t Have Shareable Images
You’ll increase the chances of having your posts shared when you have a sharable graphic/image in your post. If you’re dedicated, you may want to add specific images for all major social platforms, such as a custom image for Facebook, another for Pinterest, another for Instagram, etc. These platforms all have their own size guides, so having different images for these different platform helps increase share.
However, if you do not have time for that (I don’t!), then at least create an image for a platform where you know your readers hang out most.
For example, I focus mostly on Pinterest for traffic. So, my readers are also big on Pinterest. I spend a significant time crafting images that are sharable on Pinterest (vertically aligned images with overlaid text).
Mistake #22: You Don’t Have Long-Form Blog Posts
As far as word count goes, it’s no secret that long-form posts tend to perform better. Studies show that longer posts generate nine times more traffic (Curata). While I do believe that a blog post should be as long as it needs to be — neither longer nor shorter — it is also true that a quality, in-depth, and longer post is highly desirable.
Mistake #23: You Keep Babbling On and On and On…
You want to make your blog posts longer, so you say 20 words that can be said in 5. Now that’s just wrong. You’ll bore the readers, and worse, you’ll piss off the readers and they’ll never come back.
The goal isn’t to force the word count to be a certain number. The goal is to write long posts that are packed with value, without any fluff.
Mistake #24: Your Topics are Too Broad
Your blog posts should be specific. For example, compare the following two topics.
The first one is, how to use social media to get clients as a fitness coach.
The second one is, how to use Instagram to get clients as a fitness coach.
The first is a broad topic and likely, you’ll be sharing small chunks of advice about using social media: some advice on using Facebook, some on using Twitter, some on using Instagram. The result? Your readers don’t learn a whole lot, and they come out of your blog without the wow factor, or without taking any specific action. Bottom line, they forget about you.
However, the second topic is very specific, and you can share a whole bunch of information on using Instagram to book clients specifically for fitness coaches. These are going to be very specific instructions and tips and directions, and it will be a much more actionable blog post. You may have narrowed down your targeted readers by doing so, but it’s much better to have 50 readers who read your post top to bottom, heed your advice, and take certain actions such as sign up for your newsletter, than have 500 people read the first few lines and then leave your blog without taking any further action.
Mistake #25: You’re Not Editing Your Posts
I’m guilty of this. After writing thousands of words, sometimes I just don’t want to bother editing the entire piece. The editing process bores me. However, it is important! Any piece of writing should be edited a few times for spelling and grammar errors and with the intention to make it read better by trimming or adding content as necessary.
Writing is an art. If it sucks, people won’t read. You want readers? Make sure your blog posts are not full of silly mistakes overall well written in a way that captivates readers to a certain degree; enough for them to want to come back to your blog and read more.
Mistake #26: You’re Excluding People
This is somewhat subjective. For example, if you’re a mom blogger, and you’re writing about breast pumps, then yes, the ones reading your post are likely all women with little kiddos or women about to give birth.
But in most other cases, you should never exclude a whole gender. Write for both male and female readers even if your target audience avatar is a man between 25 and 45 years of age, and the topic can be applied to either gender (or non-binary).
Mistake #27: You’re Bored
This can happen. Maybe you’ve blogged for a few weeks and you’re starting to get bored. The problem is, if you’re bored, your writing will also be boring, and as a result, your readers will be bored too. The worst thing you can do when you’re bored is continuing to write boring things. You don’t want to do that to your blog.
If boredom hits, it’s best to take a break. Take a week off. Go ahead, do it! You may lose a little bit of traffic during your break, but that’s better than writing boring blog posts that neither satisfies you nor your readers.
Boredom is a sign of a depleted soul devoid of creative energy. When this happens, the best thing to do is to try and replenish the lost energy. Do something different, have some fun, read a book, enjoy nature, or whatever else fills you up with inspiration. Go ahead, do what you need to do to get back on track.
We all need a good old break every now and then to avoid burn-out. No shame in that.
So, how about it? Are you making any of these mistakes? If so, STOP! Take a hard look at how you’re approaching your blog and correct course when necessary.
Also, if you’re making any of these mistakes or if you have questions regarding any of the pointers here, feel free to leave a comment and address your concern. Share your journey with me and the other readers so that we may all benefit from your experiences.