It’s one thing to want to start a blog. It’s another thing to get things right. There’s so much to think about – what to blog about, how often to post, how to get people to read it what you’re writing – that a lot can go wrong. Here are some common mistakes that beginning bloggers make, and how to avoid them:
1. Focus on yourself. Unless you’re Lady Gaga, nobody wants to hear about you, you, you all the time. Pick a blog topic you’re passionate about, but make it something other people are interested in too.
2. Write about anything. Write about parenting one day, gardening the next, trips, relationships, books and that wild weekend in Vegas with your college girlfriends and readers won’t have a clue what your blog’s about. Stick to your stated subject. If it helps, keep a notepad – or iPad – in your pocket, purse, messenger bag or car so you can jot down ideas related to your theme when you think of them.
3. Pick a generic name. My Daily Musings doesn’t tell readers what your blog’s about – other than you (see No. 1). Pick a name that fits the topic. The only exception: if you’re using as blog as a business platform, in which case, name it after some version of your own name. Add a tag line – catchy, straightforward, serious or humorous – to give readers more information. Use GoDaddy or another domain name registry to find out what blog names are available.
4. Post whenever you feel like it. Letting days, weeks or months roll by without a post is a great way to kill interest – and page views. Readers like consistency. Pick a posting frequency you can live with and keep to it, whether that’s twice a day, week or month. Use Google Analytics to find out when your site gets the most traffic and publish posts on those days. Use an editorial calendar to map out what posts you’ll publish when. If it helps, write posts in advance and use your blogging software’s pre-publish feature to schedule when they go live.
5. Write when you can squeeze in a few minutes. Writing posts whenever you can fit it in doesn’t work because you’ll get busy and put it off – I know, I’ve done it. Pick a schedule that works for you and stay with it. If you’re an early bird, write before work starts. If you’re a night owl, write the next day’s post before you go to bed.
6. Write really long posts. When it comes to blog posts, less really is more. 250 to 300 words is fine. Break ideas into paragraphs. Use bold face subheads to break posts up into section. Include numbered or bulleted lists. According to recent research on online readability, making text easy to read will keep readers hang out on your site longer.
7. Focus on style over substance. I just got back from the American Society of Journalists and Authors annual writer’s conference, where expert after expert stressed creating blogs with original content, including good old fashioned reported news. So use make sure your blog posts are optimized for search engines, but concentrate more on providing new information.
8. Never include links. Links are the way of the web. If you’re making an argument, link out to related material from a news site or more well-established bloggers to show you’re part of the conversation. Link inside to your own blog posts too – it’ll help readers discover material that might be new to them.
9. Run the same types of posts all the time. Variety is the spice of blog posts. Use Q&As, lists, trends, guest posts, roundups and collections of links to stories on a related topic. Record a podcast or video. Share a photo. Surprise your readers – people like surprises.
10. Assume you know what readers want. You might think people come to your blog for your witty repartee when they’re actually there because of your cool photos or daily pie recipe. Why wonder: ask what they want. Invite comments. Use polls and “Open Threads” to draw people in.