Blogging Tips and Mistakes to Avoid

    November 13, 2006

For every Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan, there is John Q. Blogger who just can’t seem to increase the readership of his blog. Opinions are a dime-a-dozen in cyberspace, but there are steps that bloggers can take to make their blogs more attractive to potential visitors.

Everyone wants his or her blog to become wildly popular, spurning comments galore and being linked to by the most influential names in the blogosphere. Sadly, some easily correctible but all-too-common mistakes doom many blogs to failure before the first entry is ever made.

To give bloggers a beginning point of reference, Jennifer Slegg outlines the things she looks for in a good blog:

Looks Count. Yes, call me vain, but looks count. You have to be writing some pretty spectacular blog entries for me to keep reading a blog that is supremely ugly, uses a design that breaks in certain browsers, uses a trendy but hard-to-read font face, or uses the “out-of-the-box” blog design with zero customization (if it still says “Just another WordPress blog,” you are on shaky ground).

Jeremy Zawodny could change his background to migraine-inducing black, change the logo to some hideous dripping blood goth design, make the text lime green with hot pink links, and I’d still read it. But for some blogger who might post a single gem every other month? RSS exile it goes.

Don’t Hit Me Over the Head with Ads. Yes, we all want to monetize our blogs. But I get easily annoyed when I see the blog entry title, then one (or even two!) 336 x 280 ad units before I see a single word of the actual entry. True, a placement that is in your face may get more clicks initially, but the drop in traffic from annoyed readers dumping your blog will result in lower ad impressions and earnings. If you have your heart set on that placement, change it to a banner instead, and save the large rectangle for the juicy spot after the entry but before the comments.

Use RSS Ads Smartly. If you use RSS ads, give the entire entry in the RSS feed, and not just a snippet. Or better yet, offer me a choice of either an ad-supported full entry feed or an ad-free snippet-only feed.

Write Regularly. We are all guilty of allowing a week or two go between entries. Sometimes there is nothing newsworthy to report, or we are busy with clients (or vacations!) But once you allow a couple weeks to go by without an entry, people start to wonder if maybe your blog has joined the thousands of other defunct blogs cluttering the net. So have a few entries ready to go for times when life interferes. And if you know you are going to be busy, have a few entries set to future publish every few days while you are away to give the illusion of an active blog even if you are really at Disneyland.

However, the key to a successful blog lies not only in understanding what common strategies are successful, but also in avoiding certain mistakes that may turn readers off to your site.

I had a chance to talk to Danny Sullivan about the blunders he comes across in many blogs. Danny, of course, is no stranger to blogosphere success, and according to him, these are some the most common mistakes committed by novice bloggers:

Ignoring email. Places like FeedBurner make it super easy for people to get posts by email. Many use email, so don’t forget that group and think a feed is enough.

Lack of About page. Too many blogs fail to tell me who is behind them.

Failure to control your domain. Don’t, DON’T!, put your blog up on someone else’s domain. Yes, Blogger, WordPress, TypePad make it easy to get going. But if you’re successful, some day you might want to move to your own domain — and you might not be able to move. From day one, use a service that allows you to host using your own domain, not theirs. And also ensure the feed goes out in your own domain. I love FeedBurner, but it’s cheap to pay a bit and make sure the domain stays in your own domain — very useful if for some reason you ever move on.

Use descriptive titles and descriptions. Even if you send out a full feed, plenty of people will either summarize your posts with only titles or tiles and descriptions. Make sure what you provide is compelling, to encourage clickthrough.

As the platform of social media continues to skyrocket, the practice blogging is transitioning from downtime hobby into a serious business practice. For those looking to capitalize on the blogging boom, it will be crucial to avoid the mistakes that relegate most blogs to the RSS trash can and capitalize on strategies that cater to the wants and needs of one’s potential readership.

If you can carve out a relevant niche, stick to what works, and avoid what doesn’t you could find yourself with a hit blog on your hands.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.