The best way for me to to help new top blog dreamers with big online dreams is to outline the most common mistakes newbies make when they dream of a top website or top blog.
Call it my dream manifesto of sorts.
Bloggers make the most mistakes because they think of blogging like they are writing an English paper for school and not for a web publication.
They tend not to look at their blog posts critically enough, or don’t bother to learn why the Internet requires they do their posts in a certain way (you are not writing a book) … and they are the most likely people to ignore this list.
1. Not really knowing who your visitor is.
You think you know what your reader wants, but if I were to sit you down and ask you the following questions, could you answer them with certainty?
Describe your ideal reader -
1. What is his/her age? No range. The age – period.
2. Sex? Not both.
3. Number of children? Their ages? Their sexes?
4. College educated … or not?
6. Scared? About what?
7. Happy? About what?
8. Depressed? About what?
9. Height and weight?
10. Eye color? No I am not kidding.
12. Bad habits?
13. Sleeping habits?
14. Driving habits?
15. Computer habits?
16. Cell phone habits?
17. Dine out or in?
18. He/she lives where?
19. Disposable income?
20. Married? Single? Divorced? Widowed?
21. Conservative? Liberal?
22. Spiritual or atheist?
You must be able to answer these questions before you go build your blog. It will make all your decisions so much easier.
Instead of trying to communicate to a mass visitor-base, you should use these questions to create an image of a real reader, so when you do communicate online you are talking directly to this one person, as if you were sitting in a restaurant chatting one-on-one.
I’ve had people tell me their blog is for written women over 55, yet they use some dark distracting background and font the size only an 18-year-old can read and chat about bikini season — then wonder why their perfect visitor isn’t interacting with them.
Do you know who you are writing to?
2. Calling your blog something people won’t easily understand.
What search terms will your perfect visitor use to find you?
Will they use Google? Bing? Dogpile? Facebook? Twitter?
Will they be using a Smart phone? What kind of Smart phone?
Will your business name and domain name work in all these places?
I love Auto Body shops. They tend to call themselves names like ‘Franks Auto Body Repair’, ‘Joe’s Best Auto Repair’, ‘Precision Auto Repair’ and so on. There is no question when you read their logo what they can do for you.
Why not call one of their websites: www.(name-of-city)bestautorepair.com?
How many people use the term “best auto repair” along with the city when they search? How easy it would be to find them.
Naming your hair blog “belle.com” before you’ve built an established brand under that name won’t bring you the same traffic as badasshairdos.com.
KISS is the rule here. (Keep It Simple Stupid).
When you start your online venture, no one is going to be searching for ‘Belle’, unless you have a large and very loyal client-base who knows you by that name. But in using just that name you will miss the opportunity of getting that first shot at a new visitor looking for bass ass hair styles.
Your blog may never be found because the domain name doesn’t resonate with how your visitor searches online. The same goes for Facebook, or anywhere your visitor hangs out and searches for information.
You do know that there are over 140 million blogs out there. It’s an entire country.
Please name it something the world can spell.
Leave the complicated names for naming your pets.
For more on naming your domain see: Top 5 Mistakes When Naming Your Website or Company and How to Pick the Perfect Name for Your Blog or Startup.
3. Not memorizing your keyword marketing phrases and then not using them all the time.
Once you’ve figured out how these people will be searching for you … such as by city, by name, by product, or by service, then not using this information every time you place content online is a sin.
I can tell you with certainty that someone else is doing this and getting your visitors.
Nothing drives me more crazy then to see a title to a blog post that says, “How To Grow ‘Widgets’ in 48 Hours” and the word ‘widgets’ is not used in the opening sentence of the content, or in the closing sentence, or used more than two times throughout the page. The image doesn’t even look like the widget.
Did I sign up for a “guess where you are” game show?
When your visitor is uses their 4 seconds of attention span to glance at your blog, will they see what they came for, or will they leave because it looked like you were talking about your pajamas and 40 cats?
Your potential visitor is not reading a book and walking the halls of the library looking for your best seller, so show them some kindness and place your keyword in the first sentence (tell them again why they are there), get to your point in the first three sentences, and close with your keyword phrase to remind them why they stopped by.
Because your post is what your title told them it would be… right?
4. Not Developing a real understanding of how search and social media work, then not applying those principles.
I wish I had a dime for every entrepreneur who thought they had the most amazing idea or story to tell and trusted that just putting it on the Internet would change their lives forever. On the Internet there isn’t such a thing as street traffic or window shoppers randomly passing by your amazing blog post because you “pushed it live.”
Running a blog requires real work and you must promote your work every single day – both online and offline.
You must discover where your visitor hangs out online and engage with them there in a supportive way and encourage them to come visit your blog to get more (where there is hopefully more) of wonderful you.
This may mean being on Facebook. Or Twitter too. Get over it.
For more on SMM see: Traffic from Social Media vs. Search – What Does It Mean? and How to Herd Organic Search Traffic to Your Blog and How to Use Facebook and Twitter to Drive Traffic to Your Retail Shop and Original Ideas Don’t Exist.
5. Making everything you put online all about you.
I am blown away by the blogger who tells me what it is they want on their blog instead of telling me what it is theirÂ visitor wants.
“But I want to tell my story, my way!”
Would people at a party stand there and listen to you tell this story? At this length? With that opening?
Are you sure?
Have you tried it?
Some bloggers want to dump their feelings about a particular incident on to their visitor without realizing the visitor doesn’t care — no matter how great of a writer they believe they are.
If you are a blogger reading this who thinks you’ve never made this mistake, then you are the worst kind of blogger — one who doesn’t question your writing.
I”ll quote Seth Godin here, “When you are busy telling stories to people who want to hear them, you’ll be tempted to tell stories that just don’t hold up.”
6. Not bothering to make your content easily readable.
Not understanding the rules of how people read on the Internet and thinking that you can bend these rules because your ‘widget’ is so amazing is bullshit.
Ever go into a grocery store when they’ve moved around the merchandise and you can’t find what it is you normally buy?
Doesn’t it just piss you off to the point of crazy?
What happens when you attempt to hunt it down and you can’t find anyone to ask? Have you ever walked out of the store? Then you do know what kind of a hassle that kind of pissed-off is.
Why wouldn’t your frustrated web visitor leave when it’s just a click of a button to go?
Oh, and those annoying pop-ups. They piss visitors off too.
To read more on readable content see: Scrolling and Attention and F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content and 8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content.
7. Not sticking with a basic structure or topic.
You must define a topic for your blog, just like you must decide on a USP for a business. A USP is your unique selling proposition. Having one sets you and your blog apart from your competition.
The most successful blogs have a well defined niche with a target demographic in mind.
Starting out talking about swimming, then switching to candle-making, then on to discussing your fear of flying will only confuse your readers. You won’t develop a following.
You also won’t be able to link your blog posts together to form a cohesive storyline. Your storyline matters to search engines and your readers even if it doesn’t matter to you.
Don’t be one of those people who has a website or blog where you are a “Life coach/graphic designer/make-up artist/author/part-time chef.”
Choose a topic! One. Uno. PERIOD.
You can create 5 blogs targeted to each of your passions and link them to each other, but stick with just one topic on each site.
And make sure the topic you have chosen is something you have a real interest in promoting.
Because for your blog to become a success you will need to be able to blog regularly on your topic for years. You will need to live it every day. You need to pick something that you are willing to write about for at least 3 years.
Can you do it?
For more on niches see: The 5 Reasons Why Your Content Sucks and Improve SEO By Staying On Topic and Not Adding Fluff To Your Content and Blog Writing Tips.
8. Giving up on your blog too soon.
Building a successful blog takes time. It can be a agonizingly slow process.
Every successful blogger knows about the 3-month itch — the point at which you run out of things to say and are becoming bored with your topic. You grow tired of updating your Facebook page, your website, and your Twitter feed.
You thought it was going to be easier.
It’s okay to only blog once a week. Just know that your site won’t grow as fast as others, but it is better to have a schedule and stick to it, then to only post twice a year.
But understand that there will be times that you hate it. When you do, you’ll probably write your best post ever.
For more on giving up your blog see: Why Real Creativity Requires Significant Work and Top 100 Blogs Have An Average Age of 33.8 Months and What it Takes to Compete With Top Blogs: 3 to 10 Posts a Day and Fighting Your “Dip”.
9. Not commenting on other blogs and not interacting with commenters on your blog.
This is the same as not responding to emails or phone calls about your topic/product or service. You should visit other blogs and websites where your perfect visitor hangs out and engage with them in a real (non-selling) way.
Commenting in your own comment section and interacting with readers who bother to leave you a message is a sign that you are a professional. You don’t have to comment on every single interaction on your website, but showing up in your blog comments once in a while says you are not a poser.
Answer questions online.
Help other people solve problems.
Help another struggling blogger by being the first to comment on a post they’ve written. Treat people online the way you’d like people to respond to you.
Promote blogs, websites, writers, entrepreneurs who share your niche and are just starting out.
Reading popular blogs and websites in your niche helps you understand your target audience and gain new perspectives on what you could be doing wrong.
Another way bloggers blow there interaction with visitors is to moderate comments or having people jump through hoops to register to interact. Don’t put up an extra wall between you and your visitors.
Your visitor has the right to voice their opinions in your comments — even if you don’t like what they have to say. Negative comments can give your blog authenticity and a reason for someone who might not usually comment to speak up and defend your position.
Never engage with your commenters in anger — ever.
For more on commenting see: The Power of Commenting On Other Blogs and How To Strategically Comment On Other Blogs and A 60 Second Guide to Engaging Your Readers and Engaging Readers Through Commenting, Facebook, Crowd-sourcing and More.
10 . Writing bad post titles.
Ad man David Ogilvy once wrote that “5 times as many people read the headline as read the body“. Crafting a great title may be the only chance you get to sell someone on clicking through to read your content.
If you don’t stop readers with your title, 99% of your time spent on content will be wasted. The purpose of a title is to get people to click-through and scan your page. From the title, they typically read only the first 120 characters of the first paragraph before they begin scanning.
Are you reaching out from the page and grabbing them by the throat?
Does your title shout, “You must read this!” Is your keyword phrase included?
Think about how you read and interact on the web. Do you really think your visitor behaves differently?
I like what Victor Urbach says about this topic, “The only purpose of the first paragraph is to get them to read the second paragraph, and so on. A headline is the engine that pulls this train.”
Don’t make your titles so long so that it makes it impossible to tweet your post and share your article. Always count your headline and try to keep it under 70 characters. Make it easy for people to help promote you.
For more on titles see: The Best 100 Headlines Ever Written and How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines and Why Some People Almost Always Write Great Post Titles and Writing Headlines for Regular Readers, Search Engines, and Social Media.
11. Displaying content like you are writing a book and ignoring the basic rules of the web.
A. You don’t bother linking your content.
Linking is important because it helps your content behave like a resource for your readers. Don’t put a title of a book in your content without linking out to where they can read more about it, or purchase it.
Help search engines understand what your topic is about by linking your keyword phrases so that the people who are looking for your topic can find you in search. Link to authors, bloggers and other websites to alert their webmasters with a trackback. They quite often will stop by and see what you have to say about them.
B. You write in long paragraphs and don’t use bold or sub-headings.
It is hard to read on the Internet (which is different from reading on a Kindle) don’t make it more difficult by having paragraphs longer than three sentences. Break your content up with sub-headings in bold so it helps keep the visitors eye on the page.
Don’t combine a bunch of font-styles and font colors, or use italic styling all over the place. It’s distracting. Keep it simple and easy to read.
And stop with all the !!!! and CAPS!! Let your words communicate your feelings.
For more on web content see: Why You Should Use Contextual Link Building for SEO and Why You Should Link to Your Competitors – A Lesson from Yahoo and Web Pages that Suck and 4 Guidelines For Readable Web Content and Make Your Web Content More Readable.
12. Being too nice, playing it safe and never have anything controversial to say.
People want to hear a unique voice when they are reading the Internet. Don’t talk in corporate-speak, or lawyer-speak, or sales-speak. Talk to your readers like they are sitting next to you. Have a strong opinion. Don’t be afraid to piss people off.
Say something bold! Say something outrageous!
But mostly – be original.
Allow your readers to tell you that you are wrong, you missed the boat and point out your faults.
It’s what makes for engaging web conversations.
But do not let anyone insult you with cruelty.
For more on why you should have a strong blog voice see: Why Controversial Blog Posts are a Good Thing and 5 Blog Writing Tips To Get More Comments and Be Likeable And Controversial – Writing Your Way To Success and Say it Loud! How to Have a Big Blog Voice.
13. Begin monetizing too soon before you’ve built a trusted readership.
You need to concentrate on perfecting your message and your content first before you think about asking for money.
Work hard at discerning what your reader wants to read from you first. Too many people begin their blogging venture thinking about the money instead of solving problems, entertaining people or adding value.
Don’t get sucked in by claims that you can make six figure incomes in your first year online – what they may not be telling you is that the owner of the blog in question actually failed at 6 other ventures before this one and has been at this in some form for years.
Proceed with care.
One of the best articles I have ever read on this subject is You Shouldn’t Pay ANYONE to Learn How to Build Your Own Online Business and Consumers Guide to Making Money Online.org and When Should You Monetize.
14. Not accepting constructive feedback and lacking a critical eye when it comes to your work.
Everyone tends to ignore their weaknesses. This is a common human trait, but when you want to sell to the public you must understand what your weaknesses are. You must be able to look critically at what you are putting out for people to digest.
Constructive criticism can assist you in bridging the gap between your perception of how wonderful you think your content is and what others are really seeing. Having a critical eye helps to make you better bloggers and website owners.
If someone tells you that your blog is hard to read — ask them why. Look at it.
If people tell you that they don’t like it every time you write about your dog’s death, consider putting that story to rest.
Care about what your readers are saying. Quit looking at everything from “… but this is what I want to say …”
You should always read your online reports like a detective to see your flaws, which brings me to my next point …
15. Not bothering with analytics reports or looking for flaws on pages of your website.
You should dissect your analytics reports at least once a month to see where you are missing the boat. Look at what your content is doing for the visitor.
–How long are people reading your content?
–Do you have pages with a high Bounce Rate?
–What are your popular exit pages and why are people leaving your site from there?
If someone is staying on a page or post less than a minute — go back and fix it. If you aren’t sure what is wrong ask a stranger to read it.
If you do not care enough to analyze your blog then you shouldn’t engage with the public. Go ahead and make your website private and keep it to yourself.
Give search engines a break.
Some of the best articles on web stats are: 10 Google Analytics Reports You Need to Have and 15 Tools That Reveal Why People Abandon Your Website and Understand Your Site’s Traffic and What Is Bounce Rate?
16. Making it difficult for readers to subscribe to your email list or contact you.
There are many valid reasons for building an email list, especially if you are planning product launches — but you should build one even if you’re not.
Search engines and social media sites like Facebook change their practices all the time.
You do not want your web traffic controlled completely by search engines or social media sites. Your email list belongs to you and no algorithm change can affect your list. Your list should be more important than your traffic.
Having an email list offers you the opportunity to further interact with your readers by offering them something special that they won’t get by dropping by your site.
Have a clear way for readers and visitors to contact you.
Not having a contact page sends the message that you don’t want to hear from your readers. Visitors often find broken links, missing images, commenting issues, and old posts with problems.
Offer them a way to tell you.
17. Not optimizing images or understanding how to use them effectively on the Internet.
Your images are content too. You need to help search engines understand what they are about.
Learn how to use Alt tags.
Learn how to set your vertical and horizontal spacing, placement, linking, and the ability to open your images in a larger webpage. Create simple edges or borders around your images so that people will see you as a professional.
Don’t make the images so large that they impact the load time of the webpage or pushes your content to under the fold.
My favorite image pet-peeve is when someone uploads an image on to the Internet with a name of something like “4869874472000.jpg”. Now how on earth does this benefit anyone? If it is a picture of a sailboat name it “sailboat.jpg”.
Come on. It’s just one extra step.
What often sets a blog apart is how well they place their images and understand how images work on the web, which includes naming them something that relates to what they are positioned next to.
For more on prepping and optimizing images for the web see: How to Rank in Google Image Search and Preparing Images and Photos for the Web and The Importance of Naming Images and Adding and Editing Images on WordPress (video).
18. Having music start automatically or set videos to auto-play.
People read websites at work and don’t want to disturb others in the room. Allow your visitor the choice of when they want to hear your message.
Auto-playing music is just plain annoying — along with anything voice-activated.
I don’t think I need to say anything more.
For more on website annoyances see: People United Against Those Annoying Websites That Automatically Load Music and The Nuisance of Autoplay Videos and Webpages That Suck.
19. Not testing your blog on other platforms.
You need to check out your website or blog on other people’s computers with different operating systems and browsers so you see how others see your site.
This is also true of Smart phone and IPad testing platforms.
For more on browser testing and web compatibility see: Browser Check and Mobile Web and App Development Testing and Emulation Tools.
20. Thinking just because you have a great idea people will automatically flock to your blog post.
Ever since we all saw Field of Dreams entrepreneurs on the Internet, bloggers and start-ups have dreamed if they “build it”, visitors “will magically come.”
I don’t know what it is about putting up a website that makes people think Google will love it and index the content to the number one spot of whatever glorious search term and people from all over the world will flock to see what you are all about.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Unless you are Madonna, then all bets are off.
There are approximately 7.3 million new pages added to the Internet every day.
Please read that again.
This doesn’t even reflect what is happening on Facebook or Twitter. The world is distracted. Why do you think if you build a blog people will automatically come?
Are you remarkable?
And when I say remarkable … like Philippe Petit Man on A Wire remarkable?
–Do your images take a viewers’ breath away?
–Does your content make grown men cry?
–Do you get angry, hateful emails?
–Does the media talk about everything that you do?
–Are you scared when you hit the publish button on your blog posts?
–Do you believe in something so passionately that you can’t sleep at night for wanting to write about it?
–Does your web design or logo win awards?
–Do you want it so badly that your stomach hurts — does this come across on your blog?
How does a piece of art stand out in a museum; a house stand out on a street; a car attract your attention, or a beautiful woman (or man) catch your eye in a nightclub?
It’s because something about the experience of seeing them is remarkable. It’s worth “remarking” or talking about to other people.
The web is no different.
The web universe is fair. There is no such thing as in overnight success. The universe requires that you pay your dues and prove just how badly you want it. You will be tested at every turn.
Don’t believe me? Then ask every successful online entrepreneur.
Roll up your sleeves and get a job that supports you while you are building your online reputation.
Connect with a blogging network that will support you. Band together. You can rise faster if you connect with a top blogging mentor or a group of websites working their way up online.
Guest post on each others’ blogs. Link your websites. Quote each other. Help each other get found online.
Don’t try and do it alone. Stop believing that a bunch of baseball players are going to walk out on to your “amazing” field and want to buy something from your website just because it’s there.
Have a back-up plan, a plan B and an emergency exit plan.
For more on why no one is visiting your great blog or website see: If You Build It, They Won’t Come and Why No One Links to Your Best Posts and How to Ensure No One Ever Visits Your Blog Twice and Why Nobody Reads Your Blog and Quit Screwing Around, Punch Your Website Visitors in the Face and How 4 Top Bloggers Used Networking to Accelerate Traffic and Kick Ass.
There you have it.
This is what I have learned in 6 years of blogging and helping business with their online presence. Have I made these mistakes? Absolutely. That’s why I know so much about them.
One of the most important factors in dream achievement is that you look at the realities of your situation — not what you wish it to be — and make decisions based on those facts. It may make dreaming a little less glamorous, but I promise you that it will make your online dreaming more realistic and likely to come true.
And I do want your online dreams to come true.
Because I don’t want to have to write another dream manifesto.
Latest posts by Catherine Hughes, Be an Online Success (Posts)
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The 20 Most Irritating Mistakes New Bloggers Make Manifesto by The 8 Women Dream Project, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.