Common Mistakes In Starting A Blog

So you’ve decided to start a blog? Awesome. You deserve a hug, pat on the back, or at least one of those 80′s freeze-frame jumping high fives.

But wait. It might not be all sunshine and roses right away. There’s a few simple mistakes that a lot of us make in the very beginning that tend to decrease the effectiveness of our new-born blog. But the good news is that they’re almost always easily corrected. Let’s take a look.

Not letting us know who is writing it.

Letting us know who is behind your blog is extremely important, but for some reason it gets overlooked in a lot of new blogs. If your blog is a personal one, then this part is easy. Just let your readers know, often and early, who is responsible for the content (something like that dashing picture of me in the upper-right helps).

The same thing goes if your blog is for your organization or company. Make sure you highlight the fact that the blog has multiple authors (you can include small pics or bylines) and let each of their personalities show. Companies don’t blog – people do.

Not having a clear purpose.

The big question. The cosmic “Why?” of your blog. Make sure you spend some time thinking about this one before you sit down to write anything, because if you don’t you’ll soon find yourself wandering off track. A clear purpose helps keep you focused on the mission you had when starting.

Not having any content.

It seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many blogs I see with only one or two posts. Before you announce the launch of your new blog, make sure there’s some content there for people to go through. Nothing is more disheartening than hearing about a great blog launch and only finding one post to read.

In these cases, a soft-launch is usually a good idea. Start building your content and slowly invite people to check out your site. Start with a small group of people your trust, and go from there.

Not having “pillar” content.

Every blog should have a few home-run posts. These posts, often called “pillar” posts, are your best stuff, the stuff your blog stands on. It’s okay if you haven’t worked out your best writing yet, but presumably you had some good ideas when you decided to start a blog. Write out your best ideas into clear, well thought out posts and feature them prominently on your site.

You can check out my best stuff in my Must Reads section.

Monetizing right away.

I can’t speak for the interwebs at large, but I find it extremely silly when I visit a new blog and it’s covered in ads. You just started, you have no traffic or following yet, is that $0.09/month from AdSense really enough to justify cheapening the look and feel of your site?

I’m not an expert on when the “right time” is to monetize your blog, but a quick Google search will give you all the answers you need.

Not linking out.

Just like with Twitter, the beauty of a blog is the interaction. Unless you’re going for the really, really long tail, my guess is that there’s already some other blogs on the topic you’re going to be writing on. So when those bloggers come up with a great post, don’t be hesitate to mention it on your blog.

Also, you can’t worry about people navigating away from your site. If you have good content and a clear purpose, they’ll be back. When you link out and point to other relevant content you don’t lose readers, you gain trust. No blog is an island.


So there’s a few ideas from me. What do you think?

Also, if you’re still having trouble with your new blog or want to talk about getting started, feel free to email me at MattJMcD [at] gmail dot com.

21 thoughts on “Common Mistakes In Starting A Blog”

  1. Great list of mistakes some make. Not having an About page is one that drives me crazy. And you are right, too many try to monetize their blogs before they even have any visitors, let alone regular readers. We tell all of our clients to have a minimum of 4 post ready to put up the second we take them live. But what is worse, when someone is excited about blogging, has us design their blog and then don't post to it again for over a month or more. And then they just expect the traffic to show up.

    If they are serious about blogging, they need to have post ready to go live with. And they need to post to their blog on a regular basis. And I love your idea of having some “pillar content” This is the kind of content that will keep them coming back.

    Thanks again for a great post.

  2. Grant,
    Thanks for the great comment. Having an about page is another really important thing that I didn't mention in there. So many times I just want to find out a little bit more and there's nothing to be found. Great point.

    Also, I agree that the commitment has to be there. If you're not going to be able to write, then don't start a blog. No one likes a ghost town.

  3. Even prior to all of that (very good points all!) I'd encourage new bloggers to shop around at similar blogs (content-wise), make comments, get to “know” other bloggers, and see what seems to work best. Build a small yet sympathetic audience before you even begin. You want the support and encouragement of other bloggers, and that happens with participation, even prior to soft launch. Be a student first…

  4. Steve,
    I think that being a student first is a great idea. It makes a lot of sense to spend some time reading and commenting on other blogs. It allows you to see the things that other established bloggers are doing right, and learn from them.

  5. Not giving readers a reason to care. Yay you're blogging! Now go sit over in the corner with the other 100 million + bloggers that beat you to the game.

    The biggest mistake I see from bloggers, esp business bloggers, is that they position their blog as a tool to promote THEMSELVES, instead of as a tool to create VALUE for their READERS.

    Why would anyone come to your blog? If you can't answer that question, don't blog until you can. Shift your focus to look at your blog through your reader's eyes. Patagonia doesn't blog about their clothes, they blog about the environment, about sustainability. Why? Because they understand what information their customers are looking for. They know what issues they are concerned with, and provide them information and news that caters to their interests.

    And a SIDE benefit of that is….their blog becomes a promotional tool for them. Yep, their customers love that they collect all this environmentally-focused information in one place, and tell all their friends to go read The Cleanest Line.

    Don't promote yourself, promote and create content that's valuable to your readers, and the people you want to read your blog.

  6. Adding too much — too many widgets, too many things to your sidebar, too many pages…

    Keep it simple. It's easy for new readers to go wild and make their blog look like a car in a nascar race with logos, network banners, etc…

    All of those make you look less pro, imo.

  7. Two things:

    1) Make relevant comments on other blogs. Helped me get traffic back early on. “Blog it and they will come” is not enough.

    2) Promoting too much. There’s a fine line between annoying and self-promotion. Don’t be someone who always promotes their own agenda/post on some else’s blog. “I just blogged about this this morning—on MY blog!” That’s hijacking it away from the main post.

    3) Regarding linking, don’t link just to the top blogs. Everyone does that and not all A-list blogs link back. There are a lot of niche blogs out there with maybe smaller audiences but decent content. Don’t avoid linking to one just because it doesn’t have a high Technorati rank. If you like the blog, link to it. (It may be on its way up too.)

  8. Great stuff, Mack. I think that your point on “don't blog about your products, blog about what matters to the people who buy your products” is a good one. Personally, I don't think it's wrong to add in some product news, behind the scenes looks at the business, or other things that add personality to a company, but to that same point, no one wants to read a blog that comes off as a commercial.

    Thanks!

  9. I think it's a tough balancing act between making your site look like it's part of the community, and making sure it doesn't look like like something out of Nascar, like you said.

    I would encourage new bloggers to join communities and engage other authors, but at the same time it's not a terrible idea to ask someone with some design sense what they think of your blog layout!

  10. I think that leaving comments and adding to discussions is a great way to get things rolling. It helped me a lot too when I was first starting out. If someone can't get to your site to see your great ideas, then you can bring them to theirs.

    But, like you said, hijacking the conversation with a link all the time comes off as a little selfish and doesn't really add anything.

    Also I think it's good to mention that linking to A-list bloggers, while easy, isn't a great strategy because, as you mentioned, they rarely link back. Also most people have already read the A-listers stuff. That's why they're A-listers.

    Thanks!

  11. Excellent list of no-no's that actually happen all over the place. Especially the “at once” monetizing thing looks silly to me too. Also, when i visit a new blog, after reading an article, my first move is to head onto the “about” page. It makes it personal and that's what keeps me coming… Good article man…

    /me clicking on about
    /me bookmarking ;)

  12. well put. i can certainly vouch for your advice as you've given me plenty over the past year! there's a discipline to writing, too, that i think needs to be established early. not so much to a style, because that will evolve, but actually making time to write, research, proofread, etc.

  13. Thank you sir. I do agree that a method, more than a style necessarily, has to be developed earlier. Like you said, style will develop, but if you don't make time to sit down and actually write something, then it's a pretty tough task.

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