A blog is often the first place that visitors to a website land, thanks to the rise of content marketing and the realisation for a lot of businesses that a good blog drives both traffic and leads. However, many find that no matter how many posts they write, how much they distribute it or however hard they try, they just can’t get any real traction on the blog.
A blog is the place then to make a good first impression. You don’t have very long to grab the attention of the reader and if you don’t, then you’re going to see a high bounce rate, nobody bothering to sign up to your newsletter and no leads. So what makes a good blog? How can you ensure that your blogs are up to the job when it comes to grabbing visitors’ attention?
Let’s have a look at some of the most common mistakes that bloggers make and how you can avoid them.
#1: Creating ‘Fluff’ for SEO
One of the biggest mistakes out there is concentrating far too much on SEO and not enough on the reader. Many businesses still believe that it’s sufficient to post a 300-500 word blog which is stuffed with keywords and doesn’t really have anything to say. It’s not, in fact, it’s safe to say that this kind of blog can do damage rather than promote your site these days. Gone are the days when keyword-stuffed posts performed well in search. Now, Google and the other search engines are not only wise to it but will also penalise a site and send it plummeting down the SERPs if it contains too many keywords.
Short posts also don’t perform as well as longer posts, both in search and with readers. When it comes to it, how much useful information can you really convey in 300 words without using a lot of bullet points? Not very much and so it won’t get very much attention.
#2: Trying to Be Too Clever
OK, so you’re an expert in computers and you want the world to know just how good you are. So to show this, you create posts that are full of the complex ideas, jargon and complicated terms that the technology niche loves to attract. This however is likely to alienate your audience as it’s clear to them that you’re arrogant and think you’re better than them.
It’s much more difficult in many ways to take difficult concepts and make them easy to understand to the layperson. However, people who can do this will win out over those that are self-indulgent and write for themselves instead of the audience. In the past, when I’ve expressed this idea, I’ve been accused of encouraging others to ‘dumb it down’ but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about understanding your audience and writing for them, so that they will come away having learned something useful without being made to feel stupid for not knowing industry jargon.
#3: Not Writing for the Web
This carries on from the last point in that we read differently online and that’s another good reason to keep language relatively simple. When we read on a screen, we skim, skipping over text and taking it in but not necessarily reading every single word. As a rule of thumb, I tend to think that anything that makes the reader stop in their tracks in order to make sense of a word or sentence means that you’ve lost them. Readability scoring is a useful yardstick when creating blog posts as they mean that you can use them as a guide as to how easy or difficult to read your work is. Flesch Kincaid readability scores are calculated by using the formula below, but you don’t have to do the maths as Word includes scoring for your convenience in the ‘Review’ menu.
Scores can be interpreted as shown in the table below and it’s thought that the 60-70 range works best for reading on the web. However, I must point out that this largely depends on your audience.
|90.0–100.0||easily understood by an average 11-year-old student|
|60.0–70.0||easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students|
|0.0–30.0||best understood by university graduates|
#4: Trying to be Everything to Everyone
If you want your blog to be a success, then it’s vital that you remain within your niche and stay there. A common mistake by many inexperienced bloggers is writing about anything and everything that may have no bearing on what your business or site is all about. This is not only important to your readers, it’s also extremely important to search engines. These days Google looks for relevance when determining whether your blog is valuable to the audience and as such, you should avoid writing about or posting on other subjects.
#5: Not Referencing Source Material
When you write something and you’ve carried out research, it’s useful to the reader if you link to the source that you got the information from. This provides further reading and supports your writing in that it shows that it’s not just your opinion. It’s essential too that you provide a link back to the source too when you quote somebody. This is a basic principle of journalism, and since you’re now in publishing, you should follow the rules. Search engines don’t see quotes as duplicate content (lots of people don’t link back or use quotes for this reason) – when you put quotation marks around the text, search engines see it for what it is and therefore don’t count it as duplicate content.
That’s not to say that you can put quotation marks around a whole post though, search engines still look for context and the length of quotes does count.
#6: Plagiarising the Content of Others
Talking of duplicate content, you should never, ever, take someone else’s content and attempt to pass it off as your own. This is known as plagiarism and not only can it see your site taking a dive in the SERPs, it can have more serious consequences if the original author finds out and decides to sue. All of the written (and other) work that you post on your blog should be your own. Of course, that isn’t to say that you can’t have the same ideas as others, any writer or other creative will tell you that there’s very rarely such a thing as an original idea. However, the research you put in and the words you use – aside from quotes of course – should all be your own.
Don’t be tempted to use text/article spinners either. These take the original article and ‘spin’ the text to ensure that the article is seen to be unique to search engines as it doesn’t use the same terms as the original. The problem with these, aside from the fact that you’re likely to see a manual penalty is you use them, is that they create posts that often don’t really make very much sense. Google and the other engines are now good at looking for black hat SEO practices and text spinning does appear under this label – stay away and write your own stuff.
#7: Bad Spelling and Grammar
As a basic rule of thumb, if you don’t possess writing skills, struggle with spelling and grammar confuses you, then have somebody else write the blog for you. Bad spelling and grammar works against you on every level – the reader is discouraged and believes that perhaps your site can’t be trusted, and the search engines decide that your site is low quality.
Not all of us can write, just like not all of us can do maths or put a shelf up. Human beings all have their strengths and weaknesses and varying levels of skill. With this in mind, hire a copywriter and work with them to create your blog content rather than see your site gaining no attention from visitors or Google.
#8: Not Formatting for Web
Have you ever visited a blog and been met by a huge chunk of text filling your screen that has no paragraphs, or breaks in between paragraphs and no sub-headers? Did you stay to read the whole thing? If not, you’re far from alone as there’s nothing more off-putting to the web reader than a large amount of text in one block.
The above image shows how people read online and was taken from a study carried out by Jakob Nielsen – the first image is for a about us section, the second a product page and the final image shows how the eye skims over a search results page. The dominant pattern is an F shape and shows how people tend to read the initial text the most thoroughly before skimming through the rest.
In order to enable skimming and boost readability, it’s necessary to format your work so that it contains clear white space in between paragraphs. You should also use bullet points where you can, images to break up the text further and sub-headers so that readers can take in the salient points quickly and easily. This is much less intimidating than a post that’s just one long stream of words and will ensure that the reader actually stays to read the post.
Use short sentences and paragraphs too, with the latter being around 8 lines deep as a maximum.
#9: Over-monetising the Blog
So you want to monetise your blog and receive a residual income from it? You’re not alone, many people do. However, you can overdo it and this will result in visitors leaving the site quickly. Many plugins and affiliate schemes now offer monetisation options which place links in text, display relevant content and pop-up ads. We live in a world where we’re constantly exposed to advertising and so many people just let it go over their head. If they do notice the ads however, they can also become extremely irritated and leave, never to return.
Keep ads relatively simple. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use them or monetise your blog, but don’t indulge in overkill and do try to make sure that ads don’t infringe on the user experience. Many people do use ad blockers now too so won’t see some of the ads, or the pop-ups, so it’s likely that you won’t see anything more than a small amount of revenue from these anyway.
#:10 Being Overly Self-promotional
Your blog is the place where you write about what’s happening in your industry as well as offering useful, entertaining and/or educational information to your visitors. It’s not the place for you to write post after post extolling the virtues of your company. As I said above, people are constantly bombarded with advertising these days and your website is there to tell people what you do. It should, where applicable, carry customer testimonials as well as case studies and so on to inform visitors of your expertise.
Your blog informs in a much more subtle manner and that’s by offering valuable information on your industry. This promotes you as someone who knows what they’re talking about and shows your audience that you can be trusted. Posting constant blogs that purely talk about your company and how great it is does one thing – bores people – so they won’t come back. This is also a common mistake made on social media. Self-promotion simply goes over the heads of your followers and they won’t engage.
There’s nothing wrong with the odd, one every 20 or so blogs that are self-promotional if you’ve landed a huge client or won an award, otherwise stay away from blowing your own trumpet.
#11: Not Getting Involved in Comments
If you’ve enabled comments on your blog and people are joining the conversation, then it’s important that you take the time to reply. Nobody likes to be ignored, so if they comment on a post, especially if they’re complimenting your site or asking for advice, do take the time to reply or risk gaining a reputation as a site owner that wants to take but not give back.
There’s no real formula for blogging success, but follow these tips and you should see your blog gain more traffic over time. I haven’t mentioned it above, but do also utilise social media and grow your following so that you can distribute your blog effectively too and get people on the site reading. Once they’re there, include a CTA such as a newsletter sign-up lightbox and your new readers will soon be coming back for more time and again.