I started blogging in 2005 and had to learn by trial and error, along with everyone else. It was a lot of fun and very effective. The most effective part of learning the art of blogging without a playbook — you made more mistakes. Lessons sink in when you make them.
So, to put the conclusion of my post in the lead (probably a mistake), don’t be afraid to experiment. Some of your experiments may blow up in your face, but you’ll be a better blogger for it. And there’s always the chance your experiments will succeed and take your blog to a new level. Here are five blogging experiences that I had that turned out to be mistakes.
My interests tend to be all over the board. Since lots of things interest me, I tended to write about whatever topic happened to be on my mind at the moment. The result was a thematic hodgepodge of a blog that confused visitors. As you probably know, when visitors are confused, they stop reading. Going off topic once in a while is OK, but to nurture subscribers, you have to write on a topic that interests a target audience and stick with it. Subscribers read your blog with you because you help them learn about one thing, not 100 things.
Skilled bloggers cultivate conversation on and around their blog by leaving their posts open-ended. If you button down everything so tight that there’s nothing left to add, no questions to ask, or reactions to express, then you’ve really written a dry instruction manual rather than an engaging blog post. I tended to do this quite often, and then wondered why nobody was sharing my posts on social media or commenting on them. Once I learned the techniques of provoking conversation, readership, commenting and other engagement metrics picked up significantly.
I had no training whatsoever on the development side of blogging, but that didn’t prevent me from screwing around with the blog template. Early in my blogging career, I got the opportunity I’d been waiting for, when Problogger linked to one of my posts. A ton of traffic was about to come to my blog, and wouldn’t you know it — just before the link went live (I didn’t know it was coming), I had been messing with my template code and made my whole blog turn black, unreadable. Disaster. Luckily, I got a hold of my developer in time. She fixed it and no harm was done. But I never tried to wear that hat again. Talented developers are worth their weight in gold.
Titles are a really important part of a blog post. Over time, I learned that composing the title deserves as much time and attention as the post itself. Great titles arouse curiosity and boost SEO if you go about keyword research properly. A lot of my best posts never got much traffic because potential readers who saw the title didn’t see the value, and Google couldn’t match up those posts with relevant search queries
At first, I got carried away trying to be creative and funny, rather than figuring out what my audience really needed help with. One of my favorite quotes is from David Ogilvy, who said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” This is brilliant advice that took me a while to learn. Once I zeroed-in on topics people needed help with (SEO copywriting and business blogging), my blog and business took off. In the end, subscribers read your blog to learn from you and from other readers. That’s what counts. If you can be creative in the process, then so much the better.
How about you? What blogging mistakes have you made that you can share with fellow bloggers?
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a Chicago SEO company. He has been blogging on his own and other blogs since 2005.