The 3 Worst Blog Writing Blunders — Don’t Make These Mistakes!

By Danny Iny

Writing a blog post isn’t enough.

Sure, it’s nice to see your words published for the world to see, but that’s a hollow victory if the world isn’t interested.

What you want is a blog post that performs; a post that gets read, gets commented, gets shared, and maybe even gets people to buy your stuff.

And unfortunately, most blog posts don’t fit this description. They don’t lead to action, they don’t evoke interest, and in many cases they aren’t even read past the first paragraph.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be you…

“Why don’t people like my writing?”

The cause of all these blunders is that most bloggers don’t know what the problem really is.

These well-intentioned, hard-working bloggers think it’s all about their writing. Why don’t people like it? Why aren’t people sharing it?

Well, the truth is that it isn’t about the writing – it’s about the reader.

Your writing could be great, just not well-aligned with your target reader. And if that’s the case, it won’t get read, won’t get commented, and won’t get shared (even if it’s great).

So how do you align your writing with your reader?

It starts with homework…

Blunder #1: Not Doing Your Homework

I don’t just mean finding out who your target audience is.

Sure, you need to identify your ONE person, and do the demographic and psychographic profiling that will give you a clear picture of who they are and what they’re about.

But the homework I’m talking about is very specific. It’s homework to research the target blog that you’re going to write for – whether it’s yours, or someone else’s. Here’s how you do it:

First, make a list of the 10 most popular posts on the site, based on whatever metric the site is tracking (comments, shares, etc.). Then, list the topics covered by each of these posts.

Odds are, you’ll find that at least half of the posts are about the same 2-3 topics.

Ta-da: now you know what the blog readers want to read. So pick one of those topics, and get to work!

Now you need to avoid blunder #2, which comes with the headline…

Blunder #2: Bad Headline

Don’t try to be clever, or reinvent the wheel. The headline is too important to mess with!

The best way to get it right is by relying on what you already know is going to work. You can do this with templates, like Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks, but the very best way I’ve found to create a winning headline quickly, easily, and without a lot of margin for error is by copying what works on the blog you’re writing for (again, whether that’s someone else’s blog, or your own).

Go back to the list you just created of the blog’s 10 most popular posts, and look for patterns. You’ll probably find that at least half of them follow the same couple of patterns. For example, on Copyblogger, about half of the most popular posts follow one of the following two patterns:

  1. [NUMBER] of [SOMETHING] about [SOMETHING]
  2. What [SOMETHING] can teach you about [SOMETHING]

These are fairly common patterns that will often work well, but the real key is to do this kind of analysis on the blog that you’re targeting (even if it’s your own).

This research shows you what sort of headlines the readers that you are targeting already respond to, and makes it easy for you to grab their attention and give them what they want.

Now there’s just one last blunder to avoid, and you’re off to the races…

Blunder #3: Reader Isn’t Hooked

The third common blogging blunder is jumping straight into the meat of the post, without giving the reader a real reason to care first.

That’s what the hook is for, and it’s critical to write a good one!

The hook is the few paragraphs at the top of the post, whose job it is to get the reader interested enough to keep reading through to the end.

So how do you write a good one?

The answer is by writing about symptoms. Not problems, not solutions, and not implementation, but symptoms – the symptoms of the problem that the reader has, that you’re going to show them how to get rid of (like I did at the top of this post: “…unfortunately, most blog posts don’t fit this description. They don’t lead to action, they don’t evoke interest, and in many cases they aren’t even read past the first paragraph.”).

It’s that simple. Describe the reader’s reality in painful, excruciating detail. That’ll get their attention.

Then you can get to the meat of the post and show them how to fix it.

How to Avoid the Blunders

If you can avoid these three blunders, you’ll be way ahead of the curve – but of course, these aren’t the only blunders to avoid.

There are many, many more – too many for me to list in a single post.

The good news is that they aren’t all that hard to avoid, as long as you know what you’re looking for, and how to navigate around them… as all successful bloggers have learned to do.

There are two ways for you to learn it, too.

  1. There’s the time-old route of trial-and-error, which is great if you’ve got some time, and you’re good at paying attention to what is working and what isn’t, and improving with every iteration.
  2. You can adopt a system that guides you towards a successful finish, without having to worry about the pitfalls along the way.

You can probably guess that I’m an advocate of systems.

Not just my own, but any good one – just like crossing on green eliminates the hassle of navigating traffic, a good system will take the guesswork out of the process, and let you focus on great writing, and enjoy great results.

So find a system that works for you, and then fire up your word processor, and start writing!

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) skyrocketed his industry-leading marketing blog to success by writing 80+ guest posts on major blogs in less than a year (earning him the nickname “The Freddy Krueger of Blogging”). Now he teaches others how to do the same in his Write Like Freddy blog writing training program.

Do you have questions about how to earn more from your writing? Learn more in my community Freelance Writers Den — take ecourses, attend live events, ask writing pros your questions in our forums, and use our exclusive Junk-Free Job Board.


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44 comments on “The 3 Worst Blog Writing Blunders — Don’t Make These Mistakes!
  1. Keith says:

    Danny

    Some interesting things that you have highlighted. I have just started off with my solo writing / blogging career. Doing it full-time since February 2012, so still an infant.

    You have drawn my attention to some aspects I will definitely look into before just proceeding on my way.

    Thanks for Sharing.

    Keith

  2. Carol, thank you so much for the opportunity to share this with your wonderful audience!

    I’ll be hanging around the comments, so if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask, and I’ll do my best to answer. :)
    Danny @ Firepole Marketing recently posted..How I Wrote 14 Posts and 17,481 Words in 6 Days

  3. Okto says:

    Thanks for this post,

    You are awesome, I just wondering is there any chance for a newbie to get attention from A list blogger at the first impression ? Or maybe it wise if newbie blogger wait for sometime to submit the draft post.

    I just have insight if I (a newbie) start make connection with the same level blogger there will be more chance to be accepted as guest blogger rather than targeted the A list one …
    Okto recently posted..Keyword density : Friend or Foe

    • It actually doesn’t matter all that much – if you do the approach properly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a chance, even if you are a newbie. You should be on the webinar tomorrow – I’ll tell you all about it! ;-)
      Danny @ Firepole Marketing recently posted..How I Wrote 14 Posts and 17,481 Words in 6 Days

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Okto —

      I actually just did a training with Sean Platt where he revealed that his blog had been up a big two months before he started pitching A-list bloggers and getting guest posts. I encourage people who think they’ve got the chops to go for it early on. There is no long dues-paying process in blogging, that’s one of the beautiful things about it. If you’re a strong writer, you can write your way to wherever you want to go. No college degree or previous qualifications required.

      The caveat I’d put on that is it seems like you are still working on your English skills…you’ll want to get them top-notch before you pitch the top English language blogs. But maybe there are some thought leaders in your native language that might be good places to start.

      • Okto says:

        Thanks Carol,

        You right about language issue :( . Need more practice on that :)

        But there is one more that really disturbing me all along. I ever give it a try to send some of guest post to A list bloggers. But none of them respond to it (there is even no rejection confirmation). So I don’t know exactly what I have done wrong or can I submit it to other blog since there is no respond at all.

        Somehow this situation could discourage a newbie bloggers, because we don’t feel appreaciate by the A list blogger.
        Okto recently posted..Keyword density : Friend or Foe

        • Hey Okto, that really sucks, but unfortunately, it’s also understandable. A list bloggers get a huge amount of guest post submissions, to the point that it can be hard to even read and respond to them all – that’s why it’s so important to pitch effectively and grab their attention.

          I’m not saying it’s okay (it’s not, it’s rude, and I answer all my emails), but it’s just how it is.

          I think that if you want to change this situation, you really need to get some outside perspective on what you’re doing. This can be in the form of my writing program, someone else’s program, or even hiring a mentor – but you’ve absolutely got to get an outside pair of eyes on what you’re doing, otherwise you’re going to just keep on spinning your wheels.

          Does that help? Will you be on the webinar today?
          Danny @ Firepole Marketing recently posted..How I Wrote 14 Posts and 17,481 Words in 6 Days

  4. This is a great post! I am so thankful for it as I was committing two of the biggest blunders! It makes sense, but I never thought to analyze which posts seem to get the most attention and readers. As you mentioned, I spent more time studying my target audience as opposed studying the most popular posts on my blog.

    I also have to thank you for that headline formula. Creating headlines have always been the most difficult part of blog writing for me. A formula will definitely help for future headline creations.
    Terri Huggins recently posted..The Right Way to Connect on Linkedin

  5. Tania Dakka says:

    Love this post! Thank you for the “Hook” explanation! I knew what the hook was, but it didn’t click until you said “symptoms!” Thanks so much! Now…Off to write a blog post…Headline first, hook second:) And I WILL do the headline first, this time!

  6. Nice post, Danny. The only blunder I occasionally make is with the headline, and that’s mainly because I have a strong background in publishing (consumer magazines), so it’s a tough habit to break. :)

    The best point you get across in your intro is about the writing. Why don’t people like my writing? That’s usually THE first thing bloggers will start thinking when there’s no traffic or comments on a post. But as a blogger, you need to write for yourself. Be yourself. Otherwise your writing will come across as quite stilted or boring, and people will definitely stop liking your writing. Concentrating on the other blunders you mention is where bloggers need to focus; not on trying to write to please others.
    Andrew Kardon recently posted..Show and Tell

  7. Sarah Allen says:

    These are some fantastic, fantastic ideas. I think I could do some more homework…

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

    Sarah Allen recently posted..How to stop yourself from dying your hair blue

  8. Great read; buzzwords & advice bombarding my old brain like gladiators in a vacant arena, each striving to impress the viewing public.
    Looking forward to the webinar.
    Richard J Lester recently posted..My first participation in free Webinar.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Richard — saw the note on your blog. To clear up any confusion this event is at NOON PACIFIC, 3 EASTERN. On our current daylight savings time. I had a wrong time listed when this went out on email…so sending a followup tomorrow to make sure everyone’s clear on the time.

  9. You’re just everywhere Danny. I’ve discovered something about your writing that I would implement. It seems you talk about guest posting efficiently, and you simply come from new angles all the time. I read the one you wrote at Problogger and FreelanceSwitch. I see a lot of professionalism in your approach.

    No extensive research so to speak, but ideas are exceptionally unique and helpful. You’ve shown me that writing doesn’t have to be “mountain climbing.”

    Nothing can stop me from making a mark in the writing world. Thank you Danny, Don’t Give up in helping us – I’m watching your back all the time.
    Michael Chibuzor recently posted..Guest Posting 101: The A-Z Of Guest Posting That Works For Me, It Can Work For You Too!

    • Hey Michael, you’ve got it – or at least, part of it. I don’t always talk about guest posting – I’m just doing that now, because I’m promoting my new training program.

      But yeah, you can take your field of expertise, and spin it to a different insight for each audience. :)

      P.S. Watch for my guest post on Copyblogger tomorrow! ;-)

      I’m looking forward to seeing you on the webinar!
      Danny @ Firepole Marketing recently posted..How I Wrote 14 Posts and 17,481 Words in 6 Days

  10. I’m glad I ran across your post, I was getting a little frustrated with my blog. Recently I changed up the subject matter but I know I still haven’t found my audience yet. I’m going to try your suggestions and sign up for your live webcast. I enjoy writing so I’d hate to give up my blog before giving it another try. Thanks for your suggestions.

  11. You sure are ALL over Danny & am glad you had him over Carol!

    Great lessons Danny!

    While I do agree to what you mentioned about selecting your best posts that are based upon what people are liking and writing your posts based on it. However, that isn’t possible everytime I think, even if we do want it to work that ways. Speaking of my case, I know what people are wanting but as I have other niches also to cover, I take things by rotation. But yes, this is indeed a very valid point.

    Regarding headlines, I loved your idea, though I normally try to have something diffrent each time for a variety on my blog (as I haven’t yet ventured into guest blogging yet!) But yes the headline, as I learnt recently should contain the keywords within for better SEO- yet I have often seen people use just about any headline and do wodners with their blog. I guess it really depends on what your content is about, though I feel the headline is important as well.

    And to be very honest, I still need to find my target audience, though in my case it sure is going to be a mixture! But yes, for my writing blog that’s targeted just for freelance writers, I know where and who to target.

    Thanks so much for this wonderful reminder about not making these blunders! It’s always a pleasure to learn from you & Carol. :)
    Harleena Singh@Freelance Writer recently posted..Steps to Resolve Family Conflict

    • Thanks, Harleena! And speaking of being everywhere, check me out on Copyblogger today! ;-)

      Writing what people want to read isn’t about pandering, it’s just a matter of angling whatever you’re trying to teach to connect with existing interests. Otherwise, people aren’t going to take the time to read, and what’s the point of that?

      As for variety, the truth is that it’s over-rated. You don’t want variety, you want results, right? ;-)
      Danny @ Firepole Marketing recently posted..How I Wrote 14 Posts and 17,481 Words in 6 Days

  12. Marcy says:

    This has been such an enlightening post. I love both systems and analysis. Learning how to do both when writing a blog post is exactly what I have been looking for. I write speeches, press releases, and more, all with a system. Having read a bit more about your blog approach at Firepole Marketing, I can analyze this great post and see how it’s done. I hope I can get to your webinar later in the day, Danny! And thank you, Carol, for your continued wealth of information.

  13. AizzaMarie says:

    Mistakes are really unavoidable but sometimes, we have a control with it…Especially if it is in writing or blogging…We should really be aware with this…Thanks!
    AizzaMarie recently posted..Biometric Gun Safes

  14. Carol and Danny- Couldn’t agree more. I tried in first months of blog-writing to be provocative and cheshire-cat-ish on my titles but then did what you suggested–looked at my top posts. They had simple, clear titles…no head games…”Just the facts, ma’am,” as Dragnet’s Joe would say. And you know something else? My all-hands-down reader favorite was a post on bunker-building (Now, I didn’t even know these shows were on TV). Yep..there it was–absolute proof positive that that one post brought the house down (pun intended), and it had the simple title of “Bunker Building”…However, I will add: that same crowd isn’t exactly into commenting, as there were few of those responding. Maybe they want all to be on the sly–to be expected, I guess. But it corroborates your message in that great post. Thank you both….
    Colleen Kelly Mellor recently posted..“If It’s Artistic, I Missed It”

  15. PS…I like your tack-on at end of my first comment that mentions my recent post…How clever! Carol, I think we ‘spoke’ a long while ago (I’m 18 months now as blogger), learning…learning. You were kind to me then, and I’m finally reconnecting, reaching out to other bloggers, networking. This blogging sure has a long learning curve.
    Colleen Kelly Mellor recently posted..“If It’s Artistic, I Missed It”

  16. Thank you for the advice on bad headlines. My college essay days make it difficult for me not to use a clever headline, but it makes sense to make it as clear and concise as possible – and to save the hook for the first part of the blog.
    Rachel Sullivan recently posted..Dealing with Distractions – A Writer’s Worst Nightmare

  17. susan scott says:

    Thank you so much for this and all the interesting comments – WOW indeed (Words of Wisdom)! I will note it all … and apply. I am new to all of this. I have a blog: http://gardenofedenblog.com (psychological, philosophical).
    susan scott recently posted..The Black Madonna

  18. I agree that headlines are important, but I think we are getting to the stage where formulas are becoming overused. Every second headlines has the same formula and so readers are likely to skip them. We recently did a piece on headlines and discovered in interesting way of putting a new spin on old formulas. See the link below.
    Daniel from Design Quotes recently posted..Conquer Headlines and Shine!

  19. Yes, it’s so easy to believe that they’ll like it because it is a great post. But what amounts to a great post in one niche won’t even be a good fit for another niche — Yes, we should make sure we do our research of our target blogs if we want to get an engaged readership (and even have our guest post accepted in the first place).

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  3. [...] Danny Iny of Make a Living Writing says to do the research and post something that hasn’t been covered. Also, a headline has to be eye catching. [...]

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