Is Your Blog Making These 10 Common Mistakes?

Carol Tice

Enliven Your Blog

Hopefully, your blog is livelier than this-here Post-it

Earlier this week, I spent a day reviewing writer’s blogs for free. I promised I’d boil down some of the common problems I saw into a handy guide — so here it is.

The 10 most common mistakes I see writers making on their blogs:

  1. No picture of you. My motto is “people hire people.” They don’t hire a Web site, or subscribe to a blog. They hire or follow you. They want to see your smiling face so they feel a personal connection with you. Mine’s on my About page. Which brings me to…
  2. Weak, invisible or missing ‘About’ page. One of my biggest learnings in A-List is that your About page is really important. Many readers visit it before deciding whether to subscribe. I didn’t believe this when I started out, but now that I do Google in-page analytics, I can see that my About tab is the most-clicked item of anything on my home page. I used to give it short shrift — it was actually just a link to my writer site! Lame. I believe I’ve seen a real difference in my subscription rate now that I’ve taken the time to write a page specifically for my blog site, about who I am and why I write this blog.
  3. No testimonials. Somewhere on your site — your About page is good, or even in the home-page sidebar — include a testimonial from someone who loves your blog, or your copywriting, or whatever you’re trying to market. Those firsthand quotes are very impactful to visitors.
  4. Visually unappealing. Many blogs I visit are hard on the eyes. For instance, they’ve got a black background with tiny little white letters — near-impossible to read, and if you ever try to cut-and-paste a paragraph to quote, it comes out invisible. Or they’ve got three columns, including one on the left-hand side. My second big learning from A-List is that design and usability really matter. Include a nice photo with each post — it’s amazing how much more interesting your post will seem. Unclutter your site of anything extraneous. Have just one, righthand sidebar. See Zen Habits for an excellent example.
  5. Too much advertising. Ideally, you shouldn’t have any ads on your blog, or maybe just one or two. At this point in the blogosphere, I think ads are a real turnoff for many readers. If ads are working for you, great — just tread carefully and don’t overdo. But if you’ve got Google ads slapped everywhere and you’ve made $12 from them this year, take them down! This was another big insight from A-List for me, that there’s a better way to monetize your site. You can affiliate-sell products you personally use and love on a “tools and products I love” page. This makes me feel like I’m not a sleazy shill, and that instead it’s another form of useful information I’m offering my readers. It’s selling with integrity, and it’s on a tab that doesn’t clutter up your blog page.
  6. No free stuff. You will not believe how many more subscribers you get when you add a free report. People love free stuff! Wish I had gotten my free product together a year ago, but thankfully, I finally got it up as of last week.
  7. It’s anti-social. I can’t believe how many blogs I’ve seen that have no retweet button, no way to share on Facebook or other social sites. Without the social-sharing buttons, it’s like you’re blogging in a dark closet. It’s very hard for you to get discovered. Yes, the odd reader might hand-carry your link to bit.ly and put it on Twitter, but make it easy and you’ll get a lot more promotional mileage out of each post.
  8. No regular updates. If you can only post once a month, then do that — every first day of the month. People are creatures of habit, and they want to be able to count on seeing a post from you at a specific time. If you post twice a week, always do it on the same days and even at the same time of day. Show readers they can count on you.
  9. You don’t engage readers. Many bloggers have complained to me that they can’t get any comments. You can change this by asking your readers questions, and by posting entries that are all about them…like the blog laboratory post. Then, double your number of comments by responding to every single comment you get. Those commenters will feel noticed, and come back and comment again. Blogging is not a one-way broadcast — it’s a conversation. You can get more ideas from this Blog Herald post on how to create posts that get more comments. Like Capt. Jean-Luc Picard always said on Star Trek:Generations, “Engage!”
  10. Sloppy, rambling, or typo-filled writing. This should go without saying, but with a bazillion blogs in the naked city, people are looking for you to blow their minds with your writerly skill. No typos, please, and keep your posts concise. Honestly, write the heck out of each post, as if it were a $1-a-word magazine article, and your blog will take you far.

If you recognize yourself in here, don’t feel bad. I’m constantly learning new things about how to make my blog better, and changing it yet again. Even really successful bloggers make mistakes and have to learn from others. For inspiration, see this great video from Mary Jaksch of Write to Done about how her Goodlife Zen blog sucked initially.

Speaking of blogs…and Mary Jaksch…the A-List Bloggers Club reopens tomorrow! If you’ve been wanting to get amazing amounts of help monetizing your blog for just $20 a month including group support, now’s your chance.

(A weekend reminder — I do not moderate comments on Saturdays, but if you sign up for IntenseDebate or WordPress, your comments won’t be held up.)

Photo via stock.xchng user jaylopez

29 Comments

  1. Nancy

    These are really useful tips, Carol. And my website is guilty of a number of these mistakes! Time for me to work on a nice About Us page with photos!

    • TiceWrites

      My Google In-Page Analytics tells me 10% of everyone who comes to my site goes to that About page. Who'd a thunk it! It's REALLY an important place on your blog.

      For more background, see the blog-review day earlier this week — you can look at many blogs and see the critiques I made — plus catch the video critique of THIS blog that I got — VERY interesting to me. I've already made changes!

    • Clar

      Me too . I'm guilty of not having a photo and my column is on the right. I don't even know how to get my photo on the right. I'll be doing some research. And I don't have an about me page either although WordPress does say you can have more than one page. //wordpress.clarbojahn.com/ Clar.

      • TiceWrites

        For all of us, it's baby steps. I changed about 4 things on my blog and my feed today. We just keep making it better. I got feedback about how much my Google Analytics training video technically sucked…and next time, I'll do better. Like Dory says in Finding Nemo, "Just keep swimming…What do we do? We swim…"

  2. @shakirah_dawud

    Oh, you can be sure I'll be on top of following as much of this advice as I can–and thanks for taking the time out to help us out, Carol. I've already made some changes, actually.
    My recent post The 1 Quality of All Successful Bloggers

    • TiceWrites

      Same here, based on that video review David Hogg did.

      • Clar

        thanks for the link. I found it very helpful. Intimidating maybe, but helpful.

  3. Katherine Swarts

    Great post, Carol! How about a follow-up one in quiz form, "Gauge Your Blog's Effectiveness"? I think I score about 60% based on this list, but it's hard to tell because there are several points where I'm doing only part of what's suggested!

    Special kudos for including point #4. Especially now that the Internet is no longer the exclusive domain of youth, I think the eyedrop manufacturers owe a good bit of their business to websites that use tiny print or glaring contrast!

    • TiceWrites

      Ha — funny idea!

    • TiceWrites

      You'll feel better without the ads, trust me! Do a tools & products I love page…I love that format.

  4. Adam

    Ugh! Staring the mirror of blog mistakes is hard this early

    Thanks for the blog-tervention! Now, I have to go fix a bunch of stuff : )

    • TiceWrites

      Don't feel bad — it's sort of a kaizen/continuous improvement process we're all on in blogging. I changed about 3 things last night after seeing my review video, and wish I knew how to change some of the others…back in the market for a cheap coder/designer…sigh.

  5. ollinmorales

    Great easy and practical tips. Thanks!

  6. Brenda Coxe

    Great tips, Carol. I'll have to check both my blogs and see if I have the option to share and the "About Me" page. I know they are on my website and plan to hook up to my website when I change providers.

  7. David Robert Hogg

    Hi to all Carol's readers.

    I just wanted to repeat my offer to make a video of anyone's site — with tips and suggestions for improving it — in exchange for a small donation to my Charity Water campaign. (http://mycharitywater.org/clean-water-for-kids/)

    The video would use a desktop capture program and would be much like the one Carol mentioned and linked to above.

    If you're interested please email me at david@mylittlenomads.com or visit my personal site at http://davidroberthogg.com/

    Thanks.
    My recent post Give Your Blog a Better Look

    • TiceWrites

      I certainly found it useful…now if I could just figure out how to turn off that line where it says what category the post was in…

  8. thewordofjeff_a

    Excellent points and some that I, it appears, need to implement on my blog. Like you used to do, my "About" link on my blog just points to my website "About" page, so I will look into adding one to the blog itself. I am always grateful for the good stuff you take the time to show us, Carol. Thank you.

    And I hate to be "that guy", but as a Trekker for the majority of my life, I just have to post a gentle correction; it's Captain Jean Luc Picard. Please don't hate me!

    Again, many thanks and kudos for all the help you provide 🙂
    My recent post Is Your E-Book Watching You

    • TiceWrites

      OMG, I'm covered in shame…I watched that show religiously! Fixing Picard now…

  9. Elizabeth Walker

    Hi Carol. I just wanted to let you know that I saw you reply to most everyone with individual comments. somehow I got missed – perhaps it was because I replied to myself with some more information and you thought you already replied. Is it possible for you to take a gander and let me know any specific thoughts? Thanks. Elizabeth
    My recent post Constantly Experimenting

    • TiceWrites

      Hi Elizabeth —

      I did post a brief reply, about how the titles of your blogs didn't let on they were about food, which I thought posed a problem.

      I was a bit boggled by people who asked for reviews of more than one of their blogs, as I was trying to keep it to one blog per customer. I know I will set up more specific rules if I do a review day again!

  10. lifespolitikin

    Carol, after your visit the other day to my blog, I put your suggestions to work. It was my first blog post when you visited, I just didn't know how to do some of the technical things. I've learned the basics, and will take your advice on blogging consistently.

    My second blog post can be found here: http://prowriterinc.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/the-… (still have to figure out how to post a link properly!). As always, your tips are very much appreciated.

    Cheers! — Ahlam
    My recent post The Power of Appreciation- Saying Thank You and Making it Count

  11. Jan Hill

    Hi Carol,

    I was out of town on business last week, and I just read that I missed the chance for you to review my blog! 🙁 Major bummer!

    I am new to blogging, and have been freelancing part time since 2006. I desperately want to attract better clients and better paying gigs–my niche is legal writing, I am a certified paralegal. I have done some writing for Demand Studios…is it hurting me to have e-How on my writing samples page? Is there any chance you could take a look at my blog??

    Thanks–I really enjoy all your great posts!

    Jan Hill
    My recent post Real Legal Writers Have Blogs

    • TiceWrites

      Sorry, Jan — it was a one-day deal. I think if you read through all the replies to the blog-review post, you can get quite a tutorial on some basics to improve your blog that you can hopefully apply to your own blog.

      Your question about your samples page is really another topic. I'm thinking about maybe doing a writer-site review day…maybe after I manage to fix up my own site, which isn't anything like I would want it right now…it's not in WordPress and I'd like to migrate it over and change quite a lot. Stay tuned, I may do a writer-site day in Jan. or Feb.

  12. Vonnie

    Carol,

    You gave me some great tips last week on my blog and I've already started making changes. Thanks for all your advice and feedback.
    My recent post It turns out – we do need our beauty sleep

  13. Patti Foy

    Thanks, Carol, this is so helpful! I know the importance of an About page, and even did notice how many clicks it gets, but didn't get the connection between it and subscribers. Interesting! Mine has been a little out of date for awhile and I am going to move it up my priority list.
    Also, it never occurred to me to have testimonials for my blog itself. Brilliant! I have them for my services but of course it would help readers/subscribers know that the blog is useful too.
    You are always such a wealth of great ideas. Thanks so much.
    My recent post The Little Known Way to Turn Every Shopping Trip into a Joyride

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