All bloggers make mistakes – and, most of the time, those mistakes are all just part of the learning process, right?
Rather than have you learn the hard way, though, here are five mistakes many bloggers make: but which are really easy to avoid…
Narrowing your niche too far
Identifying a “niche” is one of those things a lot of bloggers struggle with, but which many of them try to do anyway, having gotten it into their heads that it’s important to narrow down a niche, and then stick to it like glue. Now, I’m not saying that niche blogging can’t ever work: in fact, there are lots of good arguments in favour of it, which is presumably why so many bloggers seem to be in favour of it.
I’m NOT a big fan of niche blogging, as it happens, but if you do want to try it, my best advice to you is to make your niche as wide as possible, and give yourself room to grow out of it, if required. For me, the big problem with niche blogging is that, no matter how fascinated you are with your chosen subject when you decide to start blogging about it, sooner or later you WILL run out of steam – and that’s when blogging will start to feel like a chore that you want to avoid at all costs.
Most of us don’t have exactly the same interests at 35 as we did a decade earlier, so if you want to have the same BLOG for all those years, and to make a long-lasting career out of it, you have to be willing to adapt: and to prepare for the fact that you might one day never want to write another word about your “favourite” niche subject ever, ever again.
If you ignore SEO, that really just leaves you with social media as a means of promoting your posts – you’re basically restricting your audience to the people who already follow you – or maybe some of the people who follow THEM, if you get lucky, and someone decides to re-tweet you or similar. Now, there are, of course, some bloggers who rely solely on social media as a means of traffic, so I’m not saying it can’t work, or that SEO is the be-all-and-end-all. What I am saying, however, is that if you’re going to put all your eggs in the social media basket, you’re going to have to work really hard to keep them there – or to keep on promoting yourself on your various social profiles. Not only can that be almost a full-time job in itself, it’s also a bit of a risk, because if one of those networks goes bust, or simply changes its algorithm, your traffic will go down with it.
I experienced this first hand earlier this year, when a Pinterst algorithm change caused my traffic from there to go into freefall. Luckily for me, Pinterest wasn’t my only source of traffic, so it wasn’t totally catastrophic: if I’d been concentrating JUST on that traffic source, however, it really could have been – which is why you need to think about Search Engine Optimisation, as well as social media. When your posts get traffic from search engines, your audience is coming to YOU, rather than you having to constantly reach out to THEM: and they’ll keep on coming to the posts you’ve optimised for many years to come, if you’re lucky – without you having to do anything to promote them.
(Psst – if you’re new to S.E.O. there’s a post with some basic tips here!)
Not doing any research
Many people assume that because blogging is accessible, it must also be easy. They think there’s nothing that really need to know: you just sign up for a Blogspot account and start posting, right? Wrong. As a blogger, you’ve just entered the self-publishing industry, and it’s absolutely critical that you familiarise yourself with the laws relating to that industry before you do anything else.
Almost every single day, I see bloggers – some of them very well established ones – steal other people’s photos, and put “Image: Pinterest” underneath it, thinking that somehow absolves them of complying with copyright law, for instance. It doesn’t. Every single one of those bloggers runs the risk of getting a hefty invoice in the mail one of these days – and being taken to court if they don’t pay it. If/when that happens, their defence will be that they “just didn’t know!” or that someone on Facebook said it was OK – and that, of course, is no defence at all.
Can you even imagine someone in any other industry claiming to be totally unaware of even the most basic laws of that industry, and everyone around them just nodding and going, “Yeah, well why WOULD they know that? It’s so unfair!” Of course not: so why jump into a blogging business without doing any research, or making the slightest attempt to familiarise yourself with the industry rules and regulations?
Prioritising quantity over quality
I think we’ve all been there with this one. Almost as soon as a blog starts getting traction, you start to feel like you have to be churning out content every day, both to keep your pageviews high (Mine drop by at least 1,000 views per day on the days I don’t publish something new), and to keep your readers coming back. The problem with that, however, is that unless you really are some kind of real-life superhero (Er, BlogGirl?), that kind of schedule is only sustainable for so long. Pretty soon you’ll reach a point where you run out of ideas or energy, and you just don’t feel like posting, for whatever reason. When that happens, if you’ve allowed yourself to become tied in to a rigid schedule, or be a slave to pageviews, it’s easy to convince yourself that you HAVE to put out a new post, no matter WHAT: and that’s when the quality of your content can suffer.
Now, this isn’t an argument against daily posting: far from it – if it works for you, then go for it. What it is, however, is an argument for quality over quantity: even on days when you maybe haven’t posted in a while, and you feel like you just HAVE to produce SOMETHING. The thing is, blogging is just SO competitive these days. If you want your blog to be noticed amongst all of the hundreds and thousands of other blogs out there, it has to be good. Like, REALLY good: as in, your best content, every single time. (IF your blog is a business, obviously. I mean, I think with a personal blog like this one – even although it is ultimately a commercial venture – there are going to be times when you have a particular story to tell or whatever, and you know it’s not going to make for the shiniest, Pinterest-y blog post, but you still want to post it, because it’s part of your story: so I guess knowing what your blog is about, and what you want it to reflect is an essential part of all of this, too.)
Bad photos, sloppy writing, half-formed ideas… you really have to ask yourself if those things are REALLY worth posting, just for the sake of getting a new blog post up, you know?
Trying to be someone else
When we talk about copying in reference to blogs, it’s normally in reference to stealing other people’s photos, or just copying and pasting chunks of their text – both of which are, of course, plagiarism, and liable to land you with a hefty bill and/or a Google penalty. There’s also a more subtle, sometimes even totally unconscious, kind of copying I notice all the time, though, and it’s the kind of copying that happens when someone spends a lot of time on another person’s blog, admires it, and then sets about moulding their own blog to be just like it.
Some of this is harmless enough – they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all. It’s also the tell-tale sign of someone who doesn’t really have an identity or ideas of their own, though, and who just mimics other people (Whether intentionally or not) to make up for it. I’m sure no one needs me to point out that no truly successful person got where they are simply by copying someone else, though, and the blogging world is no different.
Not only is it really, really obvious when someone is doing this kind of thing, it’s also a good sign that they don’t really have what it takes – or not yet, anyway – to succeed on their own merits. Seriously: if you find yourself having to copy other people, even if it’s something as simple as changing your blog design, or always doing the same types of post, on the same days, you should probably ask yourself if blogging is really the right hobby/career for you. It’s always better to be yourself, than be a pale imitation of someone else: there’s a very fine line between “inspiration” and flat-out copying, and it’s best to make sure you always stay on the right side of it.
So, those are just five of the mistakes we bloggers make all the time: if you want to hear some more, don’t forget you can download my ebook from Amazon now!