Do You Know How to Avoid These 3 Blogging Mistakes?

by Joel Friedlander on August 5, 2013 · 27 comments

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You’ve read the articles, heard the incredible success stories and seen other authors burst on the scene attracting interest, gaining authority and making waves.

You know that a lot of these authors have used a blog as a means to get these great results, and everyone says you should start blogging as soon as possible. Marketing gurus like Seth Godin say you should start blogging three years before you publish, and traditional publishers are encouraging their authors to blog, too.

So off you go to start your blog. Maybe you have a good idea of what you’ll write about, or maybe you think you’ll figure it out as you go along. Hey, there are lots of roads that lead to success when it comes to blogging.

But there are even more roads that lead to failure. And that’s too bad, because many of the mistakes authors make when they dive into blogging are easy to avoid if you know how.

There’s nothing I find more depressing than running across blogs that have been abandoned by their authors. You see the archives: lots of posts for a couple of months fading to a trickle, until there’s one post left that starts with something plaintive like, “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while…” and then silence. I don’t want that to happen to you.

Let’s take a look at the 3 biggest mistakes I see authors make when they start blogging. If you can get these things right, you’re much more likely to stick it out, find readers and build a community you’ll enjoy—and profit from—for years to come.

Three Ways to Fail at Author Blogging

  1. Not knowing who you are writing for
    The most important question to ask yourself when you start blogging is “who am I writing for”? Exactly who do you have in mind that will read your articles? I don’t mean to say that you won’t discover more about your audience as it grows and learn exactly who is attracted to what you’re writing about. But if you don’t know who you’re writing for, how will you know what to write and how to write it?
  2. Not marketing your blog
    Even if the author has studied blogging and has written excellent content, the biggest problem with many author blogs is that the author never markets them. Half of blogging is writing, and the other half is marketing. Contrary to what seems to be many people’s expectation, even good content does not magnetically attract hordes of readers. After all, if they don’t know about it, how can they discover, read, enjoy and share it?
  3. Not making a clear offer to your readers
    Early bloggers started out writing what amounted to personal journals, so lots of authors think that writing a blog is about telling the world about their own day-to-day activities. This casual approach to blogging extends to the frequency of their posts, and some of the authors who write these “personal” blogs seem to post whenever the inspiration hits them. One day they write about how their work is going, the next day about what happened to their daughter in pre-school, and the next about how to find a good editor.

    Sometimes weeks go by without an article and sometimes they’ll post every day for a while before going dormant. To be successful at blogging you need to make a clear offer to readers, and that includes both the content focus and the posting schedule. You wouldn’t subscribe to a magazine if you never knew when—or if—it would arrive, and what kind of content you were going to receive, would you?

Luckily, it’s not that hard to get a grip on these problems when you first get going with your blog. Here are some suggestions that will help you avoid these newbie mistakes and encourage your blog to grow.

How to Avoid Those 3 Big Mistakes

  1. Your audience. This is easier for nonfiction authors, because you can research your audience, find out where they like to hang out when they are involved with your topic, and then “listen in” on their conversations. For instance, searching for online forums, discussion groups, Twitter chats, Google+ communities and other places people gather will lead you to ongoing discussions in your field. You can also research successful blogs in your field and take a look at the guest authors and the readers who leave comments to get a good idea of the audience. After all, these blogs have already succeeded in the same field, so they are a great place to learn more about your audience.
  2. Blog marketing. The research you do on your audience is going to lead directly to the beginning of your own blog marketing. Why? All those forums, discussion groups, blogs and other places you found your audience are the same places you’re going to start marketing your own insight, expertise, knowledge – and blog articles. They will also supply you with great opportunities to contribute to your community and to meet and network with other bloggers and thought leaders in your community. You’ll turn up guest blogging opportunities, and lots of communities where you can start to become known, leaving links that will build into a steady stream of traffic to your own blog.
  3. Your offer. Setting a schedule and a clear topic focus that offers something to readers is foundational decision you make about your blog. Having a regular schedule is one of the best ways to de-stress blogging. Set a schedule that you absolutely know you can stick to no matter what. If that’s once a week, start with that.

    As you get more proficient as a blogger, you can always increase the frequency of your posts, and that’s usually a good way to increase your traffic and readership. An easy way to do this is to have specific features you publish at specific times. For instance, you can add a shorter post every Tuesday with tips for your readers. People will start to look forward to your “Tuesday Tips” posts, and you’ll have pretty effortlessly increased your schedule. You also can create several of these posts and use your blog’s scheduling function to schedule them all at once, another great way to maintain a publication schedule.

    And when it comes to your offer, travel some of the more popular blogs in your category, niche, or genre. Lots of bloggers try to communicate their offer right at the top of the blog where they know you’ll see it. The offer on this blog is included in the header: “practical advice to help build better books.” A glance at the blog also communicates my interest in interacting with readers in many ways. What offer does your blog make? Your clarity on this subject will be rewarded with appreciative readers.

Sometimes looking at your blog in a new way really helps. Blogging is one of the greatest marketing and engagement devices ever invented. Authors are perfectly positioned to make the most of blogging technology, so building on a solid foundation makes sense.

Do these problems sound familiar to you? Do you have ways to solve them that would help others? Please share it in the comments.

Does your blog communicate your offer to readers? Do you know what your offer is?—Click to Tweet

Photo: bigstockphoto.com. Originally written for and published in a slightly different form by CreateSpace as The 3 Biggest Mistakes of Beginning Bloggers

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    { 23 comments… read them below or add one }

    Roger Drego November 9, 2013 at 2:44 am

    Hi Joel,

    I am new to this blog but if i look at my past work i was trap too, which was destroying my blog presence from organic search and loyal visitors. Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply

    Shruti September 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    I read most of your articles about blogging and i always saw you talk about reading your articles to check grammar and spelling mistake which is perfectly fine because u said no one is going to share poorly written article.. My major concern is i am not very good in English. I do lots of mistake in writing but i am improving day by day. In your words if i am not good in English which means i need to take support from professional writers or i stop blogging until i wouldn’t became perfect in English… I hope you understood my concern. How a person can became a good blogger if he/she not good in English..!!

    Shruti

    Reply

    Jason Kong September 18, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Shruti: Sure, putting additional focus on your English will make it better. Lots of ways to do that.

    But I would think the act of blogging also helps a lot. The intent of putting the best article you can out there, on a regular basis, will really improve your command of the language.

    So yes, you can study English more and get additional coaching, etc. Not sure if quitting blogging is the best idea, however, since one of the best ways to get better at something is to actually do it.

    Reply

    Linton Robinson August 5, 2013 at 10:22 am

    One you missed… blogging about writing. I get so sick of that. Nobody ever seems to think that they should be aiming at READERS, not other writers (who are a hard sell and don’t have any money, anyway). Do musicians pitch their promotion only at other musicians?
    What makes it worse is that most are new writers… so you get newbies telling you how to write and market. I’ve seen blogs on how to write books by high school kids.
    Other than the absurdity, this worsens the plague of second-hand advice being parroted around the internet, with compounded errors.
    I might read a high schoolers blog about life in high school. Why would I read their blog on how to be an author?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 5, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Really good point, Linton, and one that seems almost impossible for authors who are new at blogging to avoid. Focusing on readers is what I was trying to get at with #1, but you’ve made it much more specific.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus August 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    This seems to be a particular problem with novelists (who probably should be content with a website and forget about a blog).

    After a third post about post-apocalyptic albino lesbian vegan teenage sex, there’s nothing left to write about — except writing.

    A nonfiction author who specializes in bicycles, baking or investing will have much more to say without discussing writing.

    Reply

    Linton Robinson August 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    One thing novelists can do is run exceprts.
    Or “which sounds better” or does this paragraph work or character goofs or things about their books and using their writing ability.

    One big question I have about blogging in general is the assumption that people will “follow” all these blogs. Do they really? Does anybody here faithfully follow a bunch of writer blogs?
    I see a blog as a place to hang content so you can link to it from elsewhere, not an attempt to build a viewing audience.

    Reply

    Bridget Whelan August 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I agree that design is important and I am very happy with the Surburbia Theme on Wordpress. I changed a few months ago and I’ve noticed that visitors stay on site much longer because 14 posts are displayed at anyone time so browsing is easy. They come to read one specific post and stay to read more.
    In response to the last comment, I was a little concerned Linton to read that you use your blog as a kind off storage facility with public access. This may not be relevant, but that counts as publication and may be a barrier to selling your work or submitting it for a competition in the future. Just thought I should flag it up…

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Interesting feedback Bridget about how the design of your blog can have an effect on readership, thanks for that.

    Michael N. Marcus August 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    >>Does anybody here faithfully follow a bunch of writer blogs?<<

    I regularly read a dozen or more blogs by writers — but not about novels. I've probably read 1.5 novels in 45 years. I don't care what novelists have to say about their books, but will read what they say about the book business that is not specific to fiction.

    My own http://www.BookMakingBlog.com "discusses writing, editing, publishing and sometimes other things" and has attracted 1,200 – 1,400 daily visitors recently.

    That's not the NYTimes' circulation, but I'm not complaining. Traffic grew slowly and steadily since 2007 (initially about 120 visitors per day), and then I had a huge spike this year.

    My most popular post had 4,064 page views and condemned Xlibris.

    My second most popular post had 2,832 page views and was about LensCrafters — not about publishing. Apparently its traffic came mostly from search engines, not regular readers.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    I think it’s really hard to compare the blogs of fiction authors and nonfiction authors. If a writer already has a substantial readership, it seems like a blog is a good way to keep them engaged and introduce your new work. But before you have readers, it seems more difficult, although perhaps by posting samples and giving away shorter works, a writer can try to grow the beginnings of a readership amongst people who will be enthusiastic enough to help promote their books.

    John Sheahan August 5, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Hi Michael, and All,
    re your comment concerning blogs v websites:
    –[This seems to be a particular problem with novelists (who probably should be content with a website and forget about a blog).]-

    I want to set up one or the other before I ePublish a novel. I aim to continue writing and publishing until I’m dead, but at 55, time might be limited and there is so much to learn! I don’t know which way to jump and have no experience in managing either.

    I wonder what you see as the main advantages/disadvantages of the two formats?

    Sorry if I have jumped in where I am not wanted, but this looked like a fine place to start.
    PS Teen indie sex and Facebook are equally off my radar.

    Reply

    Katy Mann August 5, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    On WordPress, you can have a website with a blog page included. You don’t have to choose.

    Reply

    Jason Kong August 6, 2013 at 10:55 am

    John: To add on to what Katy said, you can use blog software such as WordPress to create your website. Many people do that because WP allows a fairly user-friendly way to manage your site.

    The act of blogging, referenced in Joel’s article here, refers to creating updates in a blog, which then displays those entries in reverse chronological order. Joel is the primary blogger here, at The Book Designer.

    So if you chose to have a blog, you also have a website. You get to decide whether *to blog* or not. The earlier comment about “This seems to be a particular problem with novelists (who probably should be content with a website and forget about a blog)” really refers to the act of blogging.

    Hope that makes sense.

    Reply

    John Sheahan August 6, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Yes, it does. Thanks, Jason & Katy.

    Derek Murphy (Creativindie) August 5, 2013 at 6:10 am

    The other issue I’ve been coming across over and over recently, is authors who want to design their own websites according to their flights of fancy. I’ve tried making nice, clean, stylish websites but they insist on plain, unorganized, unintuitive and yet oddly specific site demands. I’ve given up.

    Sticking with Wordpress basic TwentyTwelve theme and getting a custom header made is better than what many authors are coming up with…

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 5, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Derek, interesting. I didn’t even start to deal with blog design issues, but I think I’ve seem some of the site you’re referring to, and yes, they should have paid more attention to their designer.

    Reply

    Linda Katmarian August 5, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Hi Derek,
    You’re sounding a little frustrated. You did an excellent book cover for me, but I never thought to get your opinion of my website. I’m afraid I probably fall in the flights of fancy category, but feel free to drop by an offer up a critique.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus August 5, 2013 at 2:20 am

    I know of some useful blogs that have not been updated in so long that I seldom even check to see what’s new — and may miss what’s new. You mentioned that it’s important to keep a schedule, but I’d like to add a few tips:

    (1) Before you “go public,” publish five or more posts. This way, when you do go public, people who find you will spend more time on your blog, and people who are not interested in a particular topic are more likely to read your other posts than to merely dismiss you and go elsewhere.

    (2) Don’t be reluctant to publish reruns, particularly of popular posts, updated if possible and with a new title. You should be constantly attracting new readers, so don’t assume that someone who sees a post on 8/4/13 also saw it on 11/7/10. Some items may be tied to the calendar and deserve annual or more-frequent publication.

    (3) Build up a backlog of posts (some complete, some almost complete and some that may be just concepts or titles). If you come up “dry” on a particular day, look at your pending post list.

    (4) Read, read, read and listen, listen, listen. New blog posts won’t always pop magically from your brain. You can publish your reaction (which can be praise, condemnation or amplification) of what you’ve read online or on paper, or a movie or TV show you’ve watched, even a conversation you’ve overheard.

    (5) Periodically change the way your blog looks. You can change a background color, change the title typeface, move the sidebar from one side to the other, change the sequence of items in the sidebar. Don’t let readers think, “same old same old.” This goes for websites as well as blogs.

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.com
    http://www.CreateBetterBooks.com

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 5, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Great tips, Michael, thanks for that. And to amplify on #2, sometimes a post can simply be a curated list of links to your own content on a specific topic.

    Reply

    Katy Mann August 5, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Wow. Great tips. Especially writing 5 before you “go public.”

    Reply

    S. A. Hunt August 6, 2013 at 10:42 am

    This one comment had more specifically informative content than the blog post itself. Good work, Michael.

    I’m sick to death of admonishments and $6 self-help ebooks that tell you what you’re doing wrong in generic terms, but don’t give you any specific methods of overcoming them. “You’re doing this, this, and this wrong, so I’m going to give you a vague idea of how to deal with it but I’m not going to go into any specifics. Here’s a slightly irrelevant anecdote that might or might not illuminate my point.”

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 6, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Perhaps Katy and S.A. will benefit from the specific steps in this article: Top 10 Tasks to Get Your Blog Ready for Prime Time

    Reply

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