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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The 3 Worst Blogging Mistakes to Avoid

There are three critical mistakes that I made when I first started, as a complete blogging beginner. These blatant oversights cost me in ways I don't even know. They were simple problems that I could have easily avoided, that would have provided me with more traffic, more readers, just...more, and better.

I originally started it for personal reasons only, and didn't care if anyone was reading it. Then I started thinking, "Why write something online if no one is going to read it?" That's when I started redesigning, editing, changing my blog around and experimenting with different styles.

But it was already too late.

When I started my blog I missed 3 critical things. I know why I missed them, and I should have known better. I'm a bit of an idealist though, and thought perhaps everything would fall into place. I know it doesn't work that way in the online world, but thought maybe, just maybe... And it still didn't.

If you are just starting a blog, or have just started a blog, or maybe you are like me and started one but it's lacking, here are three things to go back and look at. Look at them again and again until you are 100% absolutely sure of your work.

1. The Title
Your blog title and your post title matter, but you could name your blog pretty much anything and, with good post titles, you'd still get visitors. Yes, your blog title should be relevant be it via a brand name or a topic, but it's not the be-all-end-all. No, what really matters more is each and every post title.

My Mistake:
When I first started my blog, I had cutesy, cryptic, weird, and humorous titles for my posts. I enjoyed thinking up titles but sometimes I'd just use whatever popped into my head at the time. Cutesy, cryptic, weird, humorous - do you notice what's missing? Relevant.

None of my post titles were relevant to the content. 

You don't just want to make your titles relevant though, you want to make them interesting, intriguing even. Make it one of those headlines that readers want to click "just to see what they're talking about".

I had this idea in mind with some of my titles, but they'd never usually be seen. Why?

2. Related, Recent, and Popular Posts
People simply won't know your posts even exist if you don't slap them in the face with them. Think about some of the biggest blogs that you've encountered: they all have links to every other post on their site.

This happens mostly with related posts. However, many blogs also have a little box on the side with recent posts,  popular posts, anything and everything to keep catching your eye, to keep you clicking, and to keep you on their site.

The more you find, the more you get interested in, the better the stats and the more likely you'll subscribe.

My Mistake:
I'm sure you've figured it out by now... Yep, all I had was "Blog Archive". I even had it at the top. In my experience, a Blog Archive gets you virtually nowhere unless, at the very least, you have #1 down pat.

Even with excellent post titles, linking to your other posts solely through a blog archive means one thing - your readers have to find it. This is a very basic, marketing 101 type strategy - make it simple!

Unless you have already dedicated readers on your blog, few people will take the extra time and effort to go through a blog archive to search for interesting posts. When I really think about it, I don't even want to sift through someone's blog archive to find their best content.

Why bother when I can go find interesting content on some other guy's blog and easily go from post to post without having to hunt. You could have the best content in the world, and even the best titles - if your posts are buried, who will find them?

3. The Post URLs
Although your title is usually the front runner, there are times when your title isn't even visible. Those are times when your post URL has to be relevant, descriptive, interesting enough in itself to want someone to click that link.

If someone else has linked to your blog, they may not have linked you by title. If you have interlinked to one post from another, it's probably not by title. If I link to your blog and with the only anchor text being "here", you don't get the chance to wow someone with your title.

You've got to make a first impression that goes beyond that.

My Mistake:
In Blogger, your post URL is comprised of the first 40 characters of your title. You get 40 characters (which includes spaces) to make an impression, to create interest, SEO, and to describe your post. It's really not much.

In fact, "The 3 Worst Blogging Mistakes to Avoid " is a full 39 characters. Almost every single one of my first posts had URLs that were cut off. If I had changed entered my original title in as "The Three Worst Blogging Mistakes to Avoid" it would have created a URL of "the-three-worst-blogging-mistakes-to", which is still descriptive but having it end in "to" looks very tacky.

Some of my URLs weren't even legible. I'd have post URLs that were "the.html". Lovely. In Blogger you sometimes have to design two great titles - one to create the URL and one for the actual post. Many of my posts weren't great at either.

Not having any clue what I was doing, I'd really messed up my blog.

On almost all my first posts, I had 1) cryptic, irrelevant, silly titles that 2) weren't advertised anywhere and 3) you couldn't tell from the URL what they were even being irrelevant about. If this sounds like you, take heart.

If you do not have too many posts up, it won't take you terribly long to repair some of the damage. But if you really want to fix things, it will take some time.

Fix Your Mistakes

To Start:

Go back through all your posts. Find the ones that are interesting, intriguing, fun, engaging, you'll want to keep those. Re-read your blog posts. Ask yourself, "Is there anything of value for the reader?"

If the answer is no, it should go.

Once you've tossed the trash, find your best posts. See if you can improve them. Are the URLs sensible? Do they describe the post's content well? Do they have some level of intrigue? Are they clean cut?

If the answer is no, change the URL.

Once you've come up with your URL-creation title (if you're using Blogger), think about an excellent title for your post. You can change your post title anytime, but keep in mind that search engines and some programs (LinkWithin, for example) may not pick up your updated post titles right away.

Last but not Least, Link!

You've spruced up your content, you've made your titles shine, and your URLs all make sense. The last thing to do is to promote! The first place you should do this is within your own blog

Add a "popular posts" widget, add a "related posts" widget, just make sure that your posts are getting attention! Make sure your best is front and center. I have posts that I wrote when I first started years ago that are just now being found, because I've made the steps above.

They have been there all along, but no one was reading them.

Are you a beginner blogger? Do these ring a bell with you? Don't make my mistakes. Start your blog the right way and make your content work for you.


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