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The Most Successful Blogs Avoid These 13 Mistakes

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Successful blogs can be measured by data. That includes numbers of page views, returning visitors, new visitors, email subscribers, SERP results, bounce rate, time spent on site, comments, and social shares … to name a few metrics. You can also measure your blog’s success by another concrete number: how much money it makes.

But a blog’s success can be tracked with less objective methods, too.

Maybe your blog doesn’t get many hits or make much money, but it serves a specialized group of readers with inspiring or helpful information. For instance, let’s say your blog chronicles your achalasia journey. It becomes a valuable resource for fellow sufferers — a tiny group of readers who have this esophageal disorder. These followers now have a safe space to dialogue about their struggles and offer solutions for each other. That’s a success, wouldn’t you agree?

An unsuccessful blog, however, produces no such fruit. Its analytics show little to no traffic. Low numbers of posts prevent you from monetizing. And somehow your content has not hit a nerve with a specific group of readers.

There are reasons why successful blogs get that way … and unsuccessful blogs fail. Fortunately, the most common blogging mistakes can be fixed. Much of the time, it’s because your blog lacks one of the elements below. Fill the voids created by these mistakes, and your site can join other successful blogs to have an impact.

How successful #blogs avoid 13 common #blogging mistakes with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips

Fix these 13 common blogging mistakes and join the ranks of successful blogs

1. No purpose

Why are you blogging? Answer that question clearly, then you will avoid one of the biggest beginner blogging mistakes: unfocused content.

You can blog to extend your online reach … share your knowledge … establish your authority in your field … create content to later assemble into a book or course … or simply share your story. Regardless, write down your goal. When you define the reason you’re blogging, you have a guideline as you write. All your content should advance that goal.

When I started writing, I was confused and overwhelmed by the deluge of information for new freelancers scattered across libraries and the internet. Aspiring freelancers like me want to write well, but most of them don’t have a lot of extra time to dig through all that information to find simple how-to’s. I started my Word Wise blog to make content writing simple. My goal is to simplify the writing process with tips and shortcuts. I only post content that helps achieve that goal for my readers.

2. No defined audience

“Just start a blog. You’ll make a lot of money.” And with that advice, you start blogging about your dog’s antics or your frustrations with commuting.

That’s a mistake. Readers care very little about your day-to-day activities. (Sorry. I know that sounds harsh, as the truth often does.)

Avoid the error of an ill-defined audience when you identify who you are writing to and the kind of content they’re looking for. To do that, you need to narrow your focus to a distinct group of readers. “After teaching French in Korea, I decided that it could be fun to try to create a blog helping English speakers learn French,” says Benjamin Hony, who operates French Together. English speakers who want to learn French: that’s a hyper-specialized audience segment. Yet the site is successful. It makes six figures a year.

My blog targets new writers, busy writers, leaders, entrepreneurs … these folks have great ideas. They’re smart. They’re hardworking. They want to write more (or need to), but they don’t have a lot of extra time. Clear tips give them what they need.

3. Thin content

A corollary mistake to #1 and #2: thin content. These are posts with little or no value for your reader. Thin content leaves users hungry to answer their questions or provide the information they need. Quality content, on the other hand, provides information that is relevant or useful for the reader.

Take the post about your dog’s antics, for instance. It’s useless when it simply describes how your golden retriever pushes around his food bowl with his nose before eating. A useful post, however, describes the problem, presents different ways to help your golden retriever develop good eating habits, and invites users to share their dog nutrition ideas, too.

4. Keyword blunders

Keywords act as “flags” to search engines. They are terms that you use in your content to target a specific audience. Search engines recognize well-chosen keywords and return your post or page favorably in search engine page results rankings.

But a common blogging mistake? Using weak keywords — or worse, no keywords at all. Do that and your posts are buried in the search engine results. On the other hand, successful blogs use carefully chosen and placed keywords (preferably high demand, low supply) that drive readers to their site. That means you need to learn a little bit about SEO.

While we’re on the topic of keywords … the most successful blogs avoid keyword stuffing. Stuffers load extra keywords on a blog’s back end and in content, attempting to trick the search engines to return strong results. That practice can misfire. For page rankings, search engines look less at your blog’s back-end meta tags and more at your post’s content and credibility.

Moral of the story: choose a keyword or two for each post. Concentrate on delivering quality content centered on that keyword. And your blog will gain credibility.

Check out Lee Ann Fox's SEO for Bloggers course to learn the fundamentals about SEO.

5. No (or few) links

“My blog is like an online island. It can stand on its own.” That’s a myth. You don’t fly solo on the internet. You need traffic to be successful.

Links work alongside SEO to build traffic. The most successful blogs offer three types of links:

  • Inbound links: a link from another site to yours (to build your traffic from other sites and to raise your blog’s credibility in the eyes of search engines)
  • Internal links: links from one page on your blog to another (to encourage a reader to get more information on one of your other posts and to increase the amount of time he spends on your site)
  • Outbound links: links that point to other websites or blogs (to provide value for your reader and build relationships with other site owners)

6. Improper formatting

It’s a mistake to paste a sea of text and publish it as a post. Proper formatting for headlines and subheads allows readers to skim and get the gist of your post. That includes bullet lists to offer plenty of white space on the page. Successful blogs also format images with alt-text descriptions that include keywords. Search engines love that.

7. No long content

Just 15% of all posts today clock in at more than 1,000 words. Long, well-researched, and well-optimized posts (1,000 -2,500 words or more) boost your search engine results and return higher rankings on results pages. Be different. Write substantive content.

8. No short content

And at the same time … increasing numbers of readers access content on mobile devices. They find shorter word counts more appealing. Plus, more users comment on shorter content because they have time to finish reading the whole post and add their two cents.

The average adult reads 200–250 words per minute, which means a post of 1,000 words or less can be consumed in just a couple of minutes. While long content generates goodwill with search engines, short content gives your blog more visibility and garners more reads from users. That leads to more comments and more interaction — a mark of successful blogs.

Long or short? Write both.

Save nearly 60% with the Blog Builder's Success Bundle, packed with 12 printables and checklists to help your blog succeed.

9. Inconsistent posting

One of the common blogging mistakes you can make is an erratic or non-existent publishing schedule. Inconsistent posting means readers don’t know they can count on you. And if you don’t continue to add valuable content to your site regularly — whether long form or short form — you limit your reach.

Oh, readers may still adore your content and gobble it up. Yet why not give them that experience on a regular basis to pull in even more readers and to build trust? “While keyword optimization — both human and search — is important, it’s equally as important to publish something of value as often as possible,” says blogger John Bonini. “Each post offers a new opportunity to gain residual traffic over time.” A consistent posting schedule builds traffic and enthusiastic fans.

And it does something else, too. A blogging schedule forces you to continue to add useful information to your blog week after week. You get better at blogging … and your blog stays fresh.

To post consistently, you need a steady stream of content ideas. Otherwise, when it’s time to write, you’ll stare at a blank screen. You can solve the “no blogging schedule” problem with a simple content calendar. Use it to gather ideas for future content, list the date you’ll post, and record “back off dates” to give yourself deadlines.

10. No sharing

Don’t make the mistake of believing, “Post it and they will come.”

Promote your new content across all your social media sites. And do so more than once when you use a social sharing platform like Hootsuite. Schedule your new post several times in the weeks and months to come and you’ll generate more traffic over time.

Check out this fillable and  re-usable Content Calendar Template.

11. No opt-in

All that sharing, combined with optimized pages, ensures that a successful blog collects hits. But will one-time visitors keep coming back for more? The internet is a big place. It’s a mistake to let those readers come and go without offering them a regular seat at your table.

Successful blogs capture visitors and their email addresses with a valuable opt-in. In exchange for your freebie, the reader gives you his email address. Then you send an email newsletter to those readers every time you create a new post (hopefully on a regular schedule, as pointed out in #9).

Email newsletters keep you in front of your readers, which builds your fan base. And since your newsletter has links to your new post (and past posts), it boosts traffic, too.

12. No call to action

Successful blogs always offer a call to action. Of course, the biggest is your opt-in lead magnet (#11) which you can feature in a sidebar or pop-up window. But that’s not the only way to
invite visitors to interact with you. You needn’t be pushy, but you must be clear. Tell your reader what to do, and make sure your call to action is clickable, as in …

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13. No long game

Within a few days or a week or two of publishing your new blog, you’ll start to see search engines indexing your site. Those hits send a thrill through your typing fingers. You’re certain that soon, you’ll see a traffic snowball.

But after that initial recognition, traffic typically crawls for a few weeks or months. At this point, do not panic. And don’t make the mistake of giving up on your blog. Building an online home is a long-term project.

“It takes an average of 24 months to start making money with a blog,” says Eb Gargano at Productive Blogging, citing her recent Blogging Income Survey.

Part of the long game is building at least 30 quality pages before monetizing your content. Any sooner than that and you won’t have the following to support a money-making proposition. Plus, the search engines get suspicious when a new site is tossed onto the internet … one that lacks quality, in-depth content but that’s packed with ads.

A truly successful blog can take even longer than 24 months to gain traction. “Building up a successful niche site can take years. Scratch that. Will very likely take years,” says Jon Dykstra at Fat Stacks blog, who has published 16 sites that earn him thousands of dollars a month. “Not 20 years mind you. More like two to five… depending on how much time you put into it and how you go about it.”

Successful bloggers understand this. Along the way, they may tweak their blogging plan, but stick with creating quality content consistently over time. They’re willing to look at blogging as a long game. Be one of them.

Make yours one of the successful blogs

If you’re just starting a blog, your chance for success rises dramatically when you avoid the most common beginner blogging mistakes listed here. And if you’ve been blogging for a while, take heart — and take a look at the above list. Choose one element, make the necessary changes, and then move on to another mistake and correct it. And repeat.

“Anyone can start a blog,” says Lindsay Kolowich Cox at Hubspot. “But many will never give blogging the attention that it needs to be a successful part of a business.”

That needn’t be you. Fill in the spaces where your blog has fallen short … and you’ll see what I mean. Over the long haul, of course.

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