5 Common Mistakes That Even Longtime Bloggers Make

blogging mistakes

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

Note: On Thursday, July 7, I’m teaching a 2-hour class ($89) on how to be a more effective blogger. Find out more.


Several times per month, I consult with authors looking for an evaluation of their online presence and often that includes their blog content. Sometimes they’re wondering why they don’t have more traffic, or they ask if they should continue the effort at all.

Given the time and energy that’s involved in meaningful blogging, it’s an important question. Here are five things that I often discover when I evaluate authors’ blogging efforts.

1. Blog post headlines are too vague or general.

Writers, being creative and imaginative people, can be tempted to get clever, poetic, or metaphorical with their blog post headlines. Unfortunately, this is exactly the wrong tendency. Post headlines need to be dead literal and specific, for several reasons:

  • Google and other search engines don’t understand metaphorical or clever headlines, so vague headlines can hurt the potential for your content in search.
  • If you or others share the article on social media, people may only see the headline and little else. Will readers have enough of a reason to click based on the headline alone?
  • People reading and discovering content online are typically speeding through lists and articles. They’re unlikely to slow down and pay close attention to your content unless your headline is compelling or your name carries significance.

It may seem boring to be direct and literal with your headline, but I guarantee better headlines will result in more traffic and more engagement. To be sure, I’m not advocating clickbait (a headline that is sensational and doesn’t really deliver), but an accurate headline that “tells and sells.”

2. The blog post includes no images.

Every blog post should have an image included, even if it doesn’t appear to directly relate to the content. Having an image will increase the perceived value with readers as well as engagement. But there’s another reason beyond this to ensure you’ve got an image: social media shares.

Every time your article is linked to on social media, a “card” will automatically be generated that includes the article headline, the key image for that article, and sometimes a 1-2 line summary of the article. If you don’t include an image in your post, your “card” may also be without an image, and it won’t attract as much attention when shared on social media—where visuals rule.

Read Kirsten Oliphant’s post to learn more about creating images for your blog.

3. The overall blog lacks any cornerstone content strategy.

Cornerstone content includes the content that consistently attracts traffic and attention through search or other types of sharing. For example, one of my cornerstone posts is How to Get Your Book Published. I also have a cornerstone post on how to get started blogging.

Your job as a blogger becomes immensely easier when you have a few of these posts consistently bringing in a fresh readership who may be interested in all of your new posts going forward. To develop cornerstone content, think through what problems or challenges your readers have that they might use Google to search for. Or, think about the most popular topics, events, or issues that your work centers around. You can also consider building resource lists, interview series, or link round-ups on a regular basis that get shared or talked about in your community.

4. The blogger doesn’t thoughtfully share their posts on social media.

Some bloggers set up their posts to share automatically on the social media accounts where they’re active. But this is a huge mistake and missed opportunity to share your content along with a personal message, question, or other means of engaging people on each social media network.

If you value your blog content, then value how you present it and introduce it to people. Don’t just dump the link and walk away, and expect people to care about it. Share with them why it’s important to you, or why it might be important to them.

5. The blogger doesn’t identify who will help spread the word in advance of writing their posts.

Social media sharing is important for new blog posts, but if you want to expand your audience beyond those you already reach, you need to go a step further. Before you dump a ton of effort and energy into any blog post, consider: Who will help share it and spread the word the content exists? Come up with specific, individual names, then respectfully contact them via email or social media with a personal and brief note. Explain the value of the post, why you think their audience will be interested, and make a specific suggestion: “If you think this post would of value to your readers, I’d love a tweet” (or whatever is appropriate given their platform). You’ll have more luck with this strategy if you’ve already been sharing their content.

Final note: Authors who are disappointed with the results of their blogging usually haven’t given much strategic thought to the content they’re producing, or even why they’re producing it. Take a look at my beginner’s guide to help redevelop your strategy if needed.


Note: On Thursday, July 7, I’m teaching a 2-hour class ($89) on how to be a more effective blogger. Find out more.

Wondering why you don’t have more blog traffic—or if it’s worthwhile to continue your blogging effort? Here are the mistakes that commonly afflict authors.

Posted in Digital Media, Marketing & Promotion, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

Join the conversation

25 Comments on "5 Common Mistakes That Even Longtime Bloggers Make"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Michael LaRocca

This is an excellent summary. Brief, clear, spot-on accurate, and I wish I’d seen it back when I was blogging. 🙂

Angela Noel

Thanks for the post! I read several of the linked articles as well, including Kirsten Oliphant’s on images. I’m a new blogger. I love the opportunity blogging gives me to share stories of awesome people living adventurous, creative, and passionate lives with my readers. I want people to know and connect with their stories as much as possible. Your post helped me find a few more ways to honor them through honing my craft. Thank you!

Julie Reich

Thanks, Jane! I don’t have a blog, but this is useful in case I start one. Speaking of which, at a recent writers’ conference I heard that blogs are on their way out, maybe because people don’t have time or patience to read long-form writing anymore. What do you think?

Benjamin Thomas

Hi Jane,

Wonderful learning points here. I’m sure I’ve made these mistakes. I like what you said about the title and building cornerstone content to draw in readers. Good stuff.

Benjamin

trackback

[…] Mistakes Even Longtime Bloggers Make  – Jane Friedman can help you fix your mistakes. I choose to remain in denial. ? […]

trackback

[…] Wondering why you don't have more blog traffic—or if it's worthwhile to continue your blogging effort? Here are the mistakes that commonly afflict authors.  […]

joanna elm
Hi Jane, absolutely terrific pointers. I am a newbie having set up an author website just earlier this year, and of course, I have probably missed the proverbial boat on blogging as a useful device for authors. However, since I was a journalist & editor before I became a published author ( I am now working on my third novel) I am drawn more to posting articles on all sorts of subjects which I find interesting rather than posting around one topic. I therefore found your pointer about cornerstone posts immensely helpful (one just has to find a subject for… Read more »
Marielena
Thanks, Jane, for some sound advice here about blogging. Great pointers. Although my writing is almost non-existent these days because of caring for my dad, I do write a blog “Stories for the Journey: Reflections on Life and the Spirit” https://mezuniga.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/catch-the-wind/ and have maintained it faithfully — although only one post a week. Writing my blog brings me great joy. As a retired professional award-winning journalist, I feel my blog has “something” deeper to offer readership, focusing on the inspirational and spiritual — and life. I’d love to gain a wider audience. My question: Is it possible to compile my… Read more »
Linda Thorne

This was good. Some of it I sort of knew. Other things I learned, but all of it sounded very accurate.

MooseNotes.com
My website MooseNotes.com has gobs and heaps of words and no ads or flashing bling — and no photos. I write essays, and they aren’t standalone and random. Together they make sense, considering they’re all coming from me and my unique perspective. But I said farewell to social media earlier this year, so I have almost no readers. And it’s very lonely. I also don’t allow comments. Basically, I’m breaking all the rules. It’s going to take considerable patience to grow a readership. Since I write to be read, I’m kind of wobbly on the patience. I’m just not going… Read more »
trackback

[…] 5 Common Mistakes That Even Longtime Bloggers Make […]

trackback

[…] 5 Common Mistakes That Even Longtime Bloggers Make (Jane Friedman) Given the time and energy that’s involved in meaningful blogging, it’s an important question. Here are five things that I often discover when I evaluate authors’ blogging efforts. […]

trackback

[…] extensive enough to keep it going any longer.  And beyond that, I saw an article by Jane Friedman here which suggested it was not a productive idea!  So we have a functional title […]

trackback

[…] “5 Common Mistakes That Even Longtime Bloggers Make” on Jane Friedman […]

wpDiscuz