Do You Make These 10 Mistakes When You Blog?

Assuming you want to increase your blog traffic, there are certain mistakes you must avoid to be successful. If you commit these mistakes, your traffic will never gain momentum. Worse, it may plateau or begin to decrease.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/VisualField, Image #1285627

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/VisualField

How do I know? After writing more than 1,000 posts and receiving more than 60,000 comments, I have made most of the mistakes you can make—numerous times. As a result, I have begun to see certain patterns emerge. These are my top ten traffic-killers.

  • Mistake #1: You don’t post enough. Hobby bloggers may go weeks between posts. But frequency is what separates the men from the boys. You cannot build solid traffic without frequent posts. I have seen time and time again (via Google Analytics) that there is a direct correlation between frequency and traffic. The more I post—within reason—the greater my traffic.
  • Mistake #2: You post too much. Yes, this is possible, too. I don’t need to hear from anyone more than once a day—unless it is a group blog or a news site. You would do better to focus on writing one really great post a day rather than several mediocre ones. The trick is to find your frequency sweet spot. For me, it is four to five posts a week.
  • Mistake #3: Your post is too long. Seth Godin is the master of the short, pithy post. His are usually in the 200–400 word range. I shoot for less than 500 words. But I often post 750 words and sometimes more. You can get away with this if your posts are “scannable”—that is, you make use of subheads, lists, and other devices that keep people moving through your content. If a post starts getting too long, consider breaking it up into several posts.
  • Mistake #4: You don’t invite engagement. When I talk about “engagement,” I am referring to a combination of page views, reader comments, and social media mentions. Postrank.com is a great tool for measuring this kind of engagement. The posts that generate the most engagement for me are those that are controversial, transparent (especially about failure), and open-ended. This is why I try to end every post with a question.
  • Mistake #5: You don’t participate in the conversation. When bloggers don’t participate in conversation by commenting on their own posts and responding to their readers, it is like hosting a party at your home, making a brief appearance, and then disappearing. In any other context, this behavior would be perceived as rude or odd. The same is true in blogging. People want to have a conversation—with YOU.
  • Mistake #6: You don’t make your content accessible. Since I am in the publishing business, I often get asked if I think people are reading less. The simple answer is “No.” In fact, I think they are reading more than ever. But they are reading differently. Readers have shorter attention spans. They are scanning content, looking for items that interest them. When you use subheads, lists of bullets or numbers, it draws readers in by making your content accessible. Shorter paragraphs also help.
  • Mistake #7: You don’t create catchy headlines. According to Brian Clark, who runs the must-read site, CopyBlogger, “on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” This means your headlines are the most important thing you write. Fortunately, Brian has an entire series of posts called “How to Write Magnetic Headlines.” I suggest you read every post.
  • Mistake #8: Your first paragraph is weak. This is critical. Assuming that you have written a great headline, people will next read your first paragraph. You must use this paragraph to pull them into the rest of your blog post. Start with a story, a promise, or a startling fact. The idea is to grab their attention and hang onto it. Many bloggers spend too much time trying to setup the post or provide context. Just get to the point.
  • Mistake #9: Your post is off-brand. I have often been guilty of this one. If you are a hobby blogger, you can get away with the occasional post that strays from your primary message or brand. But if you are trying to build traffic, you need to find an editorial focus and stick to it. A tighter focus leads to higher traffic. This is why I have tried to narrow my own focus to three areas: leadership, social media, and publishing. If I want to write on something else (e.g., fitness), I do so through one of these three lenses.
  • Mistake #10: Your post is about YOU. Unless you are a mega-celebrity, readers don’t care about you. Not really. They care about themselves. They want to know what’s in it for THEM. Your personal stories can be a doorway to that, but in the end, the best posts are about your readers’ needs, fears, problems, or concerns. Always ask, “What’s the take-away for my reader?”

There are other mistakes, too; I doubt this list is exhaustive. But I think I have covered the major ones. If you can avoid these, you will be well on your way to increasing your traffic and growing your audience.

Question: What other traffic-killers have you witnessed as a blogger? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://thewholedangthing.wordpress.com Ben Emerson

    huge paragraphs. Paragraphs that go all the way across the screen. I have trouble wanting to continue reading if I look at a post and see giant paragraphs. I don’t mind them in books. But I can’t stand them on blogs.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1187136850 Kristi Wallace Knight

    I beg to differ with #10.  Maybe it’s because I started my blogging life on Livejournal back in the dark ages, but the blogs that I keep coming back to are the ones in which the bloggers write about themselves and do it well.  I’ll read advice blogs from time to time, but I’ll make time in my day for personal blogs.  

    Other than that, though, I think you’re right on.  Keep it short, interesting, organized, clear, and keep interacting with your readers.  Great advice!

  • http://byrdmouse.wordpress.com Jonathan

    The day after my most views only I didn’t post and had minimal viewers. Then I posted again with a few viewers, but someone connected to my blog via this post. Not sure how that happened but maybe it means something.

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  • http://twitter.com/Raywhitebheath Ray White Blackheath

    This was a great article on blogging and setting up a blog. Thanks

  • @Shaenacrespo

    I’m so glad I found this blog! Great stuff, thx!

    Question: I blog in first person about lessons from life. I always thought it was more personal to say I than you when teaching lessons. I’ve not really found many bloggers who do this. Is it a death trap?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, I don’t think so. I think this is part of what makes up your unique voice. It will be different for every blogger.

  • anon

    One of the things I like about your blog is that you will include a photo or image in each blog. I guess I am very visual because I find pure text blogs to be kinda dull even if the topic and writing are good. It may explain why I rarely read books but love the internet. Images!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. I will take that as a compliment. ;-)

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Man! I love this post. Rich in content and helpful. I have been slowly building my blog with the intention of posting regularly. This [MH] blog is inspiring. And this post, in particular, is motivating to “get on it” and finish building the blog and start building an audience. Thanks!

  • LaniWendtYoung

    I hate when a blog takes forever to load. Thats a surefire way for me to stop trying to go there. Thank you for this useful list. I write tooooooo much and after reading yr list, am convinced even more of the need to aim for shorter, sweeter posts. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.vogler1 Daniel Vogler

    I’ve definitely been guilty of number 1… it’s just that it takes me a couple of hours to finish up a great post and as hobby bogger I barely can do that more than once a week.
    Do you have any tips on how to blog fast without loosing quality? Guess it just comes with the practice .

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think it comes with practice. It also helps me to have a blogging template. I have written about that here.

  • Patcrawford

    This was useful information, thanks.

  • http://www.ThomasNelsonBibles.com Julie Belschner

    thank Mike  :)  I’ll send you a link to our new blog using your suggestions, once it’s up and running (should be Sept. 1)!

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  • http://www.inteliwise.com VirtualAgents

    Great to hear and an inspiration. Great post! I love it! It can really help to boost and improve your business. Thanks for the info.

  • Anonymous

    I think you pretty much summed it up!  I know I am guilty of writing too long of posts.  I am trying to get more concise.  I will try using your advise of bullets points.  Thanks!  

  • Wife

    Thanks R for your input!   k & K  R now both in college.  Where has the time gone?  Enjoy your teenagers!    It gets 2 become over sooner than U thought!  P

  • Grania

    Really bad grammar or spelling ( I’m not talking about the odd typo) totally loses me – please guys, if you can’t spell, use a spell-checker.

  • http://mainstreetmusingsblog.com/ Lisa Tognola

    What about bloggers who overlink?  I’ve seen many a post dominated by words in color because of link-happy bloggers.  I find this distracting and annoying.  (Maybe it’s my own negative association from reading so many of my professor’s red editing marks on my college papers!) I think bloggers need to find the right balance of links useful to the reader and helpful to the blogger’s traffic. Thanks for the helpful post!

  • http://www.abhijitkar.com Abhijit Kar

    Simple but absolutely to the point revelation of a set of common mistakes by most of the bloggers – despite, some of them being much better than the bests – that fail to create a sense of engagement with readers.

  • Melindatoad

    The one thing that makes me flee faster than anything on a blog, is music! Music on a blog to me is too pushy and in your face. If I am reading from the library or coffee shop, the last thing I want is someone’s music blaring across the place! In my opinion, the music is about YOU and not your reader. And the second is if the website is too busy. Flashing banners etc bother my eyes and distract. Great advice. It’s so easy to lose focus.

    Blessings,
    Mel
    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  • Naomi

    Great advice! Straight to the point and easy to read. Refreshing!

  • Bronwen Scott-Branagan

    Five a week sounds good. I’m doing a course and in the next two weeks I’m to do thirty. It takes ages!

  • http://www.in-ruins.com Craig

    Thanks for the list. We (my wife and I) started our blog and got side-tracked with life in general. Good to see these mistakes. I especially need to be reminded of #10.

  • Yourbadneighbor

    I find it is better if you make a mistake in a post concerning your factual information you should admit it, thank the comment writer and move on, do not try to bully your way through. Now if there are two valid views acknowledge this and tactfully explain that while there are two views, the one you posted is correct for the information posted

  • http://www.facebook.com/Malawiman Stuart Palmer

    Very helpful ideas if you are thinking of starting to blog more seriously.  Hard to be consistent I find.  There must be a tool that lets you write posts in advance and then select future publishing dates?

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  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    I love the list and the links to other resources.  My challenge has been consistency …..blog every day for 10 days – then nothing for few days.  But this post challenges me to up my game and build that discipline into my week.   Once again, thanks for great content, Michael.

  • http://www.swindonsilicon.co.uk/ IC Design

    Comprehensive writing and conceived method should be the most important aspect of your writing in blog. If you have images for your description it is very healthy to use them. If you are writing about   some technology post then try to make your own image representations. This will make your post completely fresh and healthy for readers.

  • http://www.drillsetc.com Hockey Drills

    Another great article. In particular, I have made a note of number 4. It seems like a  simple concept, but easy to overlook.

  • Peggy Lea Baker

    Not only was this blog excellent to begin with, reading the majority of comments from  others was also very valuable.  Thanks so much Michael, and everyone else!

  • Kathynettles

    Excellent advice for a brand new ‘blogger’  in your post and thru the comments. It’s amazing the timing of the Lord. I see you wrote this 2 years ago… when the Lord planted a seed , leading me to encourage others, especially women, using humor, to tackle doubts, fears and demands to be ‘perfect’ personally and professionally.  I’m excited to say, I will ringing in 2012 with the  launch of barbiebarnabas.com ~ stay tune. (Oh and Kens’ will be welcome ; )

  • http://spusht.blogspot.com/ Nisha

    In the short span that I have been blogging, I have noticed soooooo many off-the-topic stuff some bloggers write about in their post.  Totally unrelated stuff, like about their child’s school admission & then coming back to the recipe at hand; or how someone’s husband returns home & says ‘oh you’re cooking this AGAIN?’ story then mention the recipe, etc etc.
    Sometimes I fall off the chair laughing, sorry, really not trying to be rude, but sometimes it’s just plain funny, you know what I mean? :D
    These bloggers actually have huge fan following in thousands & they all probably love reading & connecting to the author’s life, but like you said, I as a reader definitely ask “so what’s in it for me?!”  :)
    Great post – I’ll keep these (and your other advices & tips!) in mind too when I blog – who knows someone else may be laughing at mine too!  :D

  • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

    I love reading this blog!

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  • http://www.springmemarketing.com/ asenath

    Where have you been hiding? I just came across your blog and I cannot get enough! This is good stuff! I started my blogging about three months ago, and I wish I had this when I started! My favorite part is the part about the first paragraph… I will work on it!

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  • http://theroaddogblog.com/ Chad @ RoadDogTravel

    Thanks for the information. I’ve been reading alot about how to bring traffic to a blog. All of the advice seems to very consistant except for one thing. There seems to be a split as to whether your blog should be personal or not. Some say it’s a mistake while others say it’s essential to gaining traffic. Maybe it depends on the type of blog. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.sonyaleethompson.com/ Sonya Lee Thompson

    I took a sabbatical one year for about a month. My numbers, and groupies, never returned. Biggest mistake by far for me. 

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  • Anonymous

    I’m GUILTY!!!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Since you are admitting to being guilty are you doing anything to change?

  • http://twitter.com/antiquerain antiquerain

    Just reread your post–so many good and practical reminders. Sweet and simple.

    I find that it is so easy to share your content–it sticks in my head.  So, when I’m sharing something I’ve learned of late, often a post principle is what’s there to draw from.

    Thanks for editing, trimming and giving such quality content so consistently. Cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/antiquerain antiquerain

    Just reread your post–so many good and practical reminders. Sweet and simple.

    I find that it is so easy to share your content–it sticks in my head.  So, when I’m sharing something I’ve learned of late, often a post principle is what’s there to draw from.

    Thanks for editing, trimming and giving such quality content so consistently. Cheers!

  • Helen Chadwick

    This is a fantastic. Add this blog to the growing list of advice I have been following for the past three or four years, since completing my first novel. I will be back for more because your writing is effective in helping me focus on slaying that dragon. I think the dragon I battle each day has more than three heads, however.

    After starting a blog with full-steam-ahead enthusiasm, I got discouraged with all the hoops to get published and returned to spending all possible time (aside from day job, part-time job, and family) writing another novel, and another, and another…

    Thank you for this wonderful blog…I will be haunting the place more in the future.

    Lucy

  • http://www.internetobservations.net/ Raymond G. James

    Thanks for the info. No matter how long  a person has been posting articles/blogging I think there is something to learn.

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  • http://relationships-relationshiptips.blogspot.com/ Njut Tabi Godlove

    great post. leran some thing new. rhapsody-of-realities.blogspot.com

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