I have been doing blog critiques for a while now and I see the same mistakes over and over again with relatively new bloggers, and some who have been around for a while and should know better.
1. You create your blog on blogger or wordpress.com instead of going directly to wordpress.org
I belong to several blogging Facebook and Google+ groups and the constant question I hear is, “How do I get my own domain and how do I get to use all those plugins you all talk about?” Many of them don’t know the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org and I explain it over and over again. I now have an article on my blog which I can refer them too, making everyone’s life simpler. I also hear about how they found someone to move their blog over from blogger.com for them and now everything is a mess. There are no shortcuts – it’s best to get an expert right from the outset to do certain things.
The best advice I can give you is to buy a domain, get hosting set up and connect through to WordPress.org. You will never regret it.
2. As a new blogger, you follow your passion and don’t go niche enough
A plaintiff cry I often hear is, “I am working my butt off and yet I still don’t have much traffic?” There can be many reasons for this of course but the one that stands out like a sore thumb is the lack of a niche topic. You have a general recipe blog or you are Paleo or you cover celebrity news. Well-established bloggers have already swooped up those general markets and are doing it better than you can because they have a depth of material and knowledge that keep them ahead.
These days, you have to narrow down your topic and focus on a specific readership so you are no longer a tiny fish in a massive ocean. You have to reduce the size of that ocean and be a big fish to get noticed. Instead of doing a general recipe blog, choose to do party appetizers and get known for that so when people Google for party appetizers, you will pop up because you have refined your keywords to scoot you to the first page in search results. Instead of a Paleo lifestyle, focus on Paleo for children and everything that encompasses. Instead of celebrity news in general, blog on Latin American celebrities or young female TV celebrities. Choose your niche and then don’t fragment yourself and bring extra topics in just because you can. Stay the course and you will see the benefits. Read about the 7 steps for building a profitable niche blog.
3. You ignore SEO
Even as a new blogger, you have heard about SEO, but your eyes glaze over and you relegate it to the too hard basket. And that’s where it stays until one day, you decide to get a blog critique from yours truly and it rears its powerful head. If I am lucky enough to even find an SEO plugin, it won’t be configured correctly. It just sits there comfortably on the blogger’s plugin page and has a holiday because it isn’t being used at all. Many of you haven’t even noticed that extra area below your post editor where you are to fill in the meta data. Or, if you have, you close one eye and go on your merry way. Mention keywords and you hide.
You simply have to put up with the stress of learning some basics if you want to take your blogs forward. Just a little knowledge of the importance of meta data and how it is used will convince you. Read about some great SEO blogging tips.
4. You install a plethora of plugins
While we are talking of plugins, the majority of bloggers, not just new bloggers, install far too many plugins. They are shiny and exciting, and I understand why you do it, but you have no idea about the mess of coding that results and what you are doing to your load time. Conflicting plugins can create a world of hurt. Each new plugin means more parts to load for each and every page. Only a handful of plugins are truly needed like Akismet to catch your SPAM, a cache plugin to speed up your blog, an SEO plugin to let the search engines know you exist and a related posts plugin if you want to encourage your viewers to look around your blog. Okay, a couple of other fancy ones maybe but then that’s it!
5. Your blogs have horrendous load times
Speaking of load time – many of you have never tested your own blogs to see how long they take to load. Almost every blog I have critiqued has been over the magical 3 seconds that people will wait for a site to load before getting bored and clicking away, never to return. Some have taken longer than 10 seconds to load. Ouch! Those who do find out are bewildered as to what to do about it. You have Home pages with the default 10 posts showing, which can be far too many if your posts are image heavy. Your images are massive, you have heaps of plugins installed and no cache plugin. You beautify your blog to the detriment of the load time, which means that few actually see all your beautification. Not a good compromise from any point of view.
6. You haven’t networked early enough
Blogging can be a lonely business so you need to network to feel part of something larger than just you. But the main reason you network is to create a community that can help you in your blogging efforts. There are plenty of groups on Facebook and Google+ and many good forums which you can join. Here you can ask questions, share posts and make friendships which can benefit you in many ways. The more mature bloggers will tell you that the single thing that helped them the most in their blogging careers was the networking they did. Never underestimate the power of numbers. Many times in my groups, when a blogger has felt ganged up on by readers over a controversial topic, they have come in to ask us for help so that we can balance out the argument. Having a network of blogging friends is invaluable when you have an e-book or other product to promote. They will review it for you on their blogs and social media and generally get the word around and sympathize when you get a bad review on Amazon. When you feel like giving up, all you need to do is go to one of your networks and grumble a bit. Before long the sympathy you will find there will have you reinvigorated to continue. No blog is an island.
7. You have made your About page about you
But it is an About page, isn’t it? Yes, but not quite yet. First you have to tell your reader why they should be interested in you and your blog. What is in it for them? Why should they care? Catch their attention with how you are going to enhance their lives, then they will want to know you. Once you have captured their attention, then you can rattle on about your present and past life and what you like and dislike, but only further down the page.
Good headings are important to break up the text. Readers scan a page looking for the headings to see whether they should bother reading or not. Their time is precious and they are so busy that they don’t have time to read unless the headings catch their attention and draw them in. Nowhere are your heading skills more important than on this page.
8. You ignore the importance of good, stimulating photos which intrigue and entice
A post without an image is like a piece of toast without the butter and jam – dry and unappetizing. And a post with an image of a brown blob of food on a plate degrades the whole recipe. People are generally visual and, in this age of short attention spans, you need to capture them in whatever way you can. Pinterest shows the power of the image and there are now very specific needs to ensure an image will be repinned many times. It has to be portrait, it has to be eye-catching – the brighter the better, it has to be unique, it has to tell a story and if there is a heading or teaser on it, so much the better. Learn to take decent photos or use the free sites – they have fabulous images you can use.
And, please, please, downsize your photo to the exact width of your posting area and compress it to preferably under 100kb. Do not use WordPress to re-size your photos. They are still seen by the system as large and slow down your site. Upload the perfect image every time.
9. You focus on growing your social media pages instead of your email list
Many of the groups you will join will be on Facebook but that doesn’t mean you have to spend heaps of valuable blogging time throwing stuff at your page. Early on, it will be small and you will be spending a lot of effort trying to grow it even though, on Facebook especially, people only get to see a fraction of what you write. Put that effort into growing the subscribers to your blog. You have those emails. You don’t have the emails of your Facebook followers and you have no control at all over who sees what. When you have a newsletter list, you can send them what you want, when you want. That list is yours. The Facebook followers belong to Facebook. Get yourself a free MailChimp account right from the beginning and start to grow that list. Don’t give your viewers several options of how to subscribe, get them on your newsletter list. Focus your efforts on growing it.
Newer bloggers – take note of these 9 issues, rectify them and you will be able to drag yourself out of that pit of despair which so often threatens to engulf you on this journey to blogging greatness.