I follow a lot of blogs. I also stop following a lot. Why? My day is the same length as everyone’s, and frankly life’s too short to read bad blogs.
Once I started blogging over a decade ago, I became a student of the art. Through trial and error I learned what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve my approach. I’ve shared a lot of what I’ve learned right here and at Platform University.
One thing I’ve discovered is that when bloggers go wrong, we tend to do it in the same ways. And that’s actually good news because it means it’s easy to diagnose and fix many of our problems.
Here are the seven blogging mistakes I most often see. Each of these can be a traffic-killer. For me they’re like flashing exit signs. And the truth is I’m not the only reader that stops reading when I see them.
If you want to gain and retain the readers your message deserves, you need to avoid these mistakes at all costs.
- Your headlines generate more yawns than clicks. A boring, vague, confusing, or too-cutsey title won’t attract readers, especially if they’re already scanning dozens of posts and news stories. Successful bloggers sometimes spend as much time crafting compelling headlines as they do on their posts.
You’re not using imagery to your advantage. Readers are more visually attuned now than ever, and posts with images get more clicks than posts without. But that doesn’t mean any image will do.
Flat, clichéd, badly cropped, unprofessional artwork can sabotage a great post. I use iStock for most of my blogging needs, but today there are countless sources for free, public-domain and creative-commons artwork. Flickr is a great place to start.
Your posts aren’t scannable. Let’s say the headline and image draws me in, but your prose is dense and difficult to scan. Guess who’s moving on. Online, what can’t be scanned won’t get read.
You can fix this by using subheads, lists, and short paragraphs. These help readers get oriented and keep going. Unless you’re an amazing stylist whose every word is magic, a lack of scannability is costing you readers.
Your posts put readers to sleep. Scannable is not the same thing as interesting. Unless you’re putting work into creating compelling posts, readers won’t put the work into reading them.
To keep your posts from sounding dry, preachy, and pointless, make sure you’re sharing compelling stories, novel theories, counterintuitive insights, personal anecdotes, and humorous illustrations.
You’re not consistent. The difference between cultivating a serious platform and having a hobby is all about consistency. If your whims are a good predictor of your frequency and subject matter, don’t expect too many return readers.
Here’s the rule of thumb: Make your content surprising, not your posting schedule and subject matter. What if you can’t find time to be consistent? Try these seven strategies.
You don’t know who your audience is. If you’re writing whenever and about whatever, then you’re probably writing for just about whomever. To create ongoing appeal with an audience you need a better sense of who they are so you can meet their needs and match their interests.
You can get a sense of this by seeing who’s linking to your posts and what readers share in comments. But the best thing you can do to get quick insight is to conduct a reader survey with a service like Survey Monkey.
It’s easier to file your taxes than share your posts. This is big. Even with all the easy plugins for sharing posts, you’d be surprised how many people don’t use them. Are you? If not, you’re probably getting less than half the traffic you could otherwise get!
Any blogger who’s serious about their platform can go further with their message if they avoid these seven mistakes. Will it guarantee success? No. But it will remove some of the biggest roadblocks for return readers.