Earlier this week, I spent a day reviewing writer’s blogs for free. I promised I’d boil down some of the common problems I saw into a handy guide — so here it is.
The 10 most common mistakes I see writers making on their blogs:
- No picture of you. My motto is “people hire people.” They don’t hire a Web site, or subscribe to a blog. They hire or follow you. They want to see your smiling face so they feel a personal connection with you. Mine’s on my About page. Which brings me to…
- Weak, invisible or missing ‘About’ page. One of my biggest learnings in A-List is that your About page is really important. Many readers visit it before deciding whether to subscribe. I didn’t believe this when I started out, but now that I do Google in-page analytics, I can see that my About tab is the most-clicked item of anything on my home page. I used to give it short shrift — it was actually just a link to my writer site! Lame. I believe I’ve seen a real difference in my subscription rate now that I’ve taken the time to write a page specifically for my blog site, about who I am and why I write this blog.
- No testimonials. Somewhere on your site — your About page is good, or even in the home-page sidebar — include a testimonial from someone who loves your blog, or your copywriting, or whatever you’re trying to market. Those firsthand quotes are very impactful to visitors.
- Visually unappealing. Many blogs I visit are hard on the eyes. For instance, they’ve got a black background with tiny little white letters — near-impossible to read, and if you ever try to cut-and-paste a paragraph to quote, it comes out invisible. Or they’ve got three columns, including one on the left-hand side. My second big learning from A-List is that design and usability really matter. Include a nice photo with each post — it’s amazing how much more interesting your post will seem. Unclutter your site of anything extraneous. Have just one, righthand sidebar. See Zen Habits for an excellent example.
- Too much advertising. Ideally, you shouldn’t have any ads on your blog, or maybe just one or two. At this point in the blogosphere, I think ads are a real turnoff for many readers. If ads are working for you, great — just tread carefully and don’t overdo. But if you’ve got Google ads slapped everywhere and you’ve made $12 from them this year, take them down! This was another big insight from A-List for me, that there’s a better way to monetize your site. You can affiliate-sell products you personally use and love on a “tools and products I love” page. This makes me feel like I’m not a sleazy shill, and that instead it’s another form of useful information I’m offering my readers. It’s selling with integrity, and it’s on a tab that doesn’t clutter up your blog page.
- No free stuff. You will not believe how many more subscribers you get when you add a free report. People love free stuff! Wish I had gotten my free product together a year ago, but thankfully, I finally got it up as of last week.
- It’s anti-social. I can’t believe how many blogs I’ve seen that have no retweet button, no way to share on Facebook or other social sites. Without the social-sharing buttons, it’s like you’re blogging in a dark closet. It’s very hard for you to get discovered. Yes, the odd reader might hand-carry your link to bit.ly and put it on Twitter, but make it easy and you’ll get a lot more promotional mileage out of each post.
- No regular updates. If you can only post once a month, then do that — every first day of the month. People are creatures of habit, and they want to be able to count on seeing a post from you at a specific time. If you post twice a week, always do it on the same days and even at the same time of day. Show readers they can count on you.
- You don’t engage readers. Many bloggers have complained to me that they can’t get any comments. You can change this by asking your readers questions, and by posting entries that are all about them…like the blog laboratory post. Then, double your number of comments by responding to every single comment you get. Those commenters will feel noticed, and come back and comment again. Blogging is not a one-way broadcast — it’s a conversation. You can get more ideas from this Blog Herald post on how to create posts that get more comments. Like Capt. Jean-Luc Picard always said on Star Trek:Generations, “Engage!”
- Sloppy, rambling, or typo-filled writing. This should go without saying, but with a bazillion blogs in the naked city, people are looking for you to blow their minds with your writerly skill. No typos, please, and keep your posts concise. Honestly, write the heck out of each post, as if it were a $1-a-word magazine article, and your blog will take you far.
If you recognize yourself in here, don’t feel bad. I’m constantly learning new things about how to make my blog better, and changing it yet again. Even really successful bloggers make mistakes and have to learn from others. For inspiration, see this great video from Mary Jaksch of Write to Done about how her Goodlife Zen blog sucked initially.
Speaking of blogs…and Mary Jaksch…the A-List Bloggers Club reopens tomorrow! If you’ve been wanting to get amazing amounts of help monetizing your blog for just $20 a month including group support, now’s your chance.
(A weekend reminder — I do not moderate comments on Saturdays, but if you sign up for IntenseDebate or WordPress, your comments won’t be held up.)
Photo via stock.xchng user jaylopez