Learn all about the basics of blogging on Sunday, June 26th between 3pm – 8pm EST in Professional Blogging Boot Camp.
Blogging can become an extremely fulfilling and enjoyable hobby, pastime or even job. However, that’s usually only the case when someone’s actually reading and sharing what you’re blogging about. Every day thousands of new bloggers enter the fray and add their voice to the mix. The trouble is, there’s so much noise out there already, it’s way too easy for a new blogger to get discouraged quickly when no one visits their blog in spite of their efforts.
There’s plenty of reasons why a new blog fails but here’s the ten worst offenders.
No. 1 – One Post Wonder
Your blog is up, it looks great, you’re ready to start writing. You pen your introductory post explaining what you’re all about, why this blog is worth reading and why people should stick around. Then you get up from your computer and don’t come back for a week only to be shocked…SHOCKED…to find that very few people have visited your blog, no one has commented and no one seems to be coming back.
You don’t get courtesy points on the Internet. No one is going to come check out your new blog about candles just because it exists. They’ve got plenty of candle-related resources already. And if they come once and see that you’ve written one post in a week, they’re not going to keep checking back to see if and when you post again.
When you’re a new blog, it’s critical to create as much content as you can. You want to set the expectation that your blog is a place to find current, ongoing news and commentary on the topic you’re writing about. If there’s a new story atop your blog every time someone visits, they’re that much more likely to keep coming back.
No. 2 – Choosing A Topic For An Audience Over Your Own Interest
We all want to be successful at what we do. Sometimes, that means we try to identify a niche that might not be our favorite thing but we think will be successful. There are times when that kind of thinking works, but more often than not, it doesn’t.
Screenwriters are told to never try and write a script based on what’s popular in movies right now, because chances are by the time you’re done writing, that trend will be over. Instead, you should write the story you’re passionate about and that will shine through, making the script interesting regardless of what’s popular.
Blogging works the same way. Just because everyone’s talking about LeBron James, that doesn’t mean you should create a blog all about him if you don’t care about his career or the day-to-day news surrounding him. Chances are you’ll burn out quickly and your blog will wither and die while you could have spent all that energy working on a blog dedicated to something you’re passionate about.
Besides…there’s enough people writing about LeBron James…
No. 3 – Cutting & Pasting
Unless you’re out there pounding the pavement for stories, leads and sources, your blog isn’t a news source. More likely, you’re getting topics and news from professional sources like newspapers and journalists. Readers already know to look to those people for their news.
So why would you just cut and paste all that info and post it on your site? What does that accomplish? Nothing other than clutter up your blog with the same old information that can be found at better, more credible websites.
If you want to write about the news of the day, that’s fine, but remember to bring something different to the story. Share the crux of the story but then add on your opinion. Or pose a question. Or take the discussion in a new direction. Anything other than just regurgitating information.
No. 4 – Who Cares About Search Engines? (You Should)
You want people to read your blog, right? Well one of the easiest ways to find new readers (and for new readers to find you) is through the search engines. The great part about it is that you don’t have to tell the search engines about your blog. All you need to do is make it easy for those search engines to find you…and find you they will.
That means linking up with like-minded sites and getting them to link back to you. Search engines treat links like little letters of approval. The more sites link to you, the more trust-worthy you must be (in theory).
On a day-to-day basis, its critical you think about keywords and search terms in your headlines and text. We all like to be witty and funny but it can be a trade-off. Rather than that jokey headline, try filling your headline with the words most likely to be searched for (ex. – a story about Bernie Madoff better have his name front and center).
Ignoring the tools that get you search engine traffic can be the difference between getting 10 clicks and 1,000.
No. 5 – Social Media, Schmocial Schmedia
You just created your blog and it’s ready to go. You haven’t included easy ways for users to share your links across Twitter and Facebook but you’ll get around to it eventually.
Uh, no, you’ll get around to it RIGHT NOW. Search engines aside, there is no quicker way to build traffic and a dedicated audience than to hook up your social media links ASAP. Twitter and Facebook are basically extensions of your blog and your community. The conversation begins on your blog but its continues on social media. Not to mention that the conversation extends to new people and audiences faster via social media than anywhere else.
And of course it goes without saying, your blog better have a corresponding Twitterfeed and Facebook page. Both are homebases for your content off-blog.
No. 6 – Voice Lessons
Bloggers tend to make very strong or very weak choices when it comes to their voice on the blog. There’s the “tell it like it is” blogger who isn’t afraid to shower scorn and judgement on all that cross their path. There’s the “snarky commentator” who loves cracking jokes about everything and anything. There’s the “quiet storm” blogger who doesn’t add much in the way of commentary but covers all aspects of the topic.
Whatever choice you make as a blogger, make sure its actually a voice you’re comfortable with. If you don’t feel comfortable saying tough things about the basketball team you’re blogging about, it will show. Audiences are savvy enough to smell out when you’re faking. They can also tell when you don’t know what you’re talking about. And since you’re a new blog, they’re not going to waste their time challenging you, they’re just going to leave and assume you’ll be gone in a few weeks.
Stay true to your voice, whatever it is. There’s enough room out there on the Internet for everyone. You don’t need to mimic someone else just because it worked for them.
No. 7 – The Inter-Blog Spammer
Look, I know it can be tough out there to get noticed. The easiest and quickest way to get noticed is to have other blogs link to you. But sometimes you’re just not getting the love you were hoping for. So you decide to link-bomb every and any site that’s semi-related to yours. You drop links in the comments, you email other bloggers asking them to post everything you blog. You tweet out your links ad nauseum to your 11 followers.
Guess what…all that does is make everyone think you’re annoying. It also tells others that you don’t have enough faith in your own writing to get noticed and build an audience organically. Red flags go up, people start ignoring you and pretty soon your self-fulfilled prophecy has come true.
The better way to get linked up? Email like-minded bloggers with a nice intro and request to share a link or story. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but you’d be surprised. And make sure you only blast out your very best posts. Not everything you write is interesting to other bloggers, but some of it is.
No. 8 – All About The Benjamins
I’ve been blogging for almost ten years now and I’ll be the first to admit that mixing money with blogging is a tricky beast. If you want to monetize your blog, its a delicate dance that you make with your audience. You want them to purchase items and support you but you also don’t want to scare them off.
For new bloggers, it’s extremely-easy to scare your audience into thinking all you want to do is bilk them for their Amazon affiliate money. That’s why you should take things extremely slow when it comes to making money on your blog. So many new bloggers load their site up with ads, links and special offers…all of which immediately scares off potential readers who (rightly) see your site as nothing more than a cash grab.
People will only start making purchases from you when they know they can trust you. You’re not going to see a ton of t-shirts with your logo on it if no one cares about your brand. Something like that is a badge of honor earned from months and years of building a dedicated following.
So when it comes to ads, affiliate programs, merchandise and more…take it slow. Wait a few months before you start to load up. Maybe even a year. Worry about building a community of like-minded readers who come to value what they get from your blog. Only then will you be in a position to offer them something so valuable that they’ll plop down their credit card number.
No. 9 – A Blog About Everything Is Worth Nothing
You just started a brand new blog that covers everything that’s going on in sports. All topics, all sports, all athletes, all breaking news. Congrats, that sounds like a big-time endeavor. It’s a shame that there’s already 500,000 sites, networks and companies out there doing exactly the same thing, most of whom have more writers, resources, experience and value than you.
What you should have done was pick that one sport or that one team that you absolutely love and just blogged about them. That’s where you bring value and that’s where your passion will show.
The idea of being hyper-local on the web is where the little guy finds an advantage. The big websites out there can’t get as granular as you can and the more specific, more local, more granular your topic, the more likely you become an expert in the eyes of readers.
Rather than blogging about the state you live in, blog about your town. Or even your neighborhood. Chances are you’re one of the only games in town (or the only one) and your value will skyrocket.
No. 10 – Separation of Community & State
When I say you should worry about building a community, I’m not just throwing that out there as another buzzword for audience. You start with an audience but eventually, if you can pull it off, you build a community. A place where people gather, feel like they are a part of something and keep coming back to be a part of the discussion.
A blog is only as good as it’s community and that starts with you. Often, new bloggers don’t take the time to support their tiny community as it grows and matures. They take on the role of superior, ignoring the “peons” in the comments, which only enforces the message that this isn’t a community at all.
Bloggers should be introducing themselves to new readers, welcoming new commenters, interacting with them in the comments, answering questions and reacting to the needs of the community.
A good way to think about it…It’s your blog but it’s everyone’s community.
Sean Keeley is an Adjunct Professor at Syracuse University, having recently taught “Blogging For Information Professionals.” He runs Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, a blog dedicated to Syracuse University sports as well as Fremont Universe, a blog dedicated to the Seattle neighborhood of Fremont. He is currently teaching Professional Blogging Boot Camp, a five-hour intensive course on the basics of blogging, on Sunday, June 26th between 3pm – 8pm EST. Find out more about the class here.