26 Jan 11 Blogging Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur
Lots of Etsy sellers are starting blogs to promote their craft, connect with other artists and bare their soul to the world. Writing is hard work, so it’s easy to get distracted with all the bells and whistles you can sprinkle on your new blog. It’s also hard to know what blog features are going to be useful when you first start out.
I’ve witnessed too many amateur bloggers making the same mistakes; I’ve made several of my own over the years. There are plenty of articles telling you how to create a great blog – but not enough stopping you from sabotaging your blog before it starts. I’m here to save you from yourself.
Fresh, new blogs without many posts can feel a bit dull. It’s tempting to spice things up with a colorful or eye-catching background for your page. While subtle backgrounds can add a touch of class and texture, it’s easy to go off the deep end and wind up punishing the eyes of your visitors.
Stand up and walk across the room with your blog up on the screen – what catches your eye? If the answer is anything but your posts, it’s time to tone things down. Large, beautiful images within blog posts are becoming the norm – it’s a much better way to add visual interest than a busy background.
I honestly have no idea why bloggers do this so often.
Centered text is hard to read, since our eyes can’t return to a reliable spot to start the next line. Centering can be used effectively for headlines and other short pieces of text, but centuries of type-setters roll over in their graves when you center the entire text of your blog.
There’s something about the asymmetrical edges of left-aligned text that throws off bloggers when they first start out. Trust me, making your blog harder to read won’t result in readers feeling more accomplished when they read it.
Advertising is something to worry about after your blog is moderately successful, not before. It’s easy to start a blog with lofty aspirations, imagining a future where your blog has achieved fame and recognition. The time spent adding advertisements in anticipation of your upcoming success would be better spent writing.
It’s best to wait until you have a modest readership before plastering your blog with ads. The two dollars a month you’ll receive in ad revenue when your fan base is still growing isn’t worth hitting your blog with an ugly stick.
Are your blog posts flanked on both sides by a collection of friend boxes, affiliate links, sponsor promotions, button sharing, and country flags? I feel like I’ve had too much coffee when reading cluttered blogs; I can’t focus on one paragraph without my eyes being drawn out into one of the sidebars.
Remove the clutter and let your blog breathe. It’s okay. People will follow and share your blog without a parade of widgets. For each section of your blog that isn’t the actual text of a post, ask yourself if that widget is worth distracting someone from your content.
Blogging about not blogging
No one cares how long it’s been since you last blogged. The last thing anyone wants to read is guilt-ridden apology for not blogging. If you haven’t blogged in a while, the best thing you can do is post something worth reading.
Regular updates are one of the most important parts of running a successful blog. If you find yourself frequently apologizing for not blogging, it’s time to either crack down on your schedule or throw in the towel.
Tons of fonts
Fonts are best used sparingly, since changing fonts or even having text in a different size or color is distracting to a reader. Fonts should be used for visual hierarchy, such as headers versus the body of a post. Switching fonts all over makes it feel like your blog has schizophrenia. Fonts and busy backgrounds often go together as a new blogger “over-spruces” their site.
Nearly every amateur blog has the famous Archive widget somewhere in the sidebar, showing blog entries by month and year. Please tell me who comes to your blog and desperately needs to know what you posted in July 2013. It doesn’t make sense.
Many themes and sites include the Archive widget by default to have something in the carefully-designed sidebar. It’s better to put post categories or tags there instead of the classic date-based archive; beginning bloggers may even want to consider removing the sidebar if you find you’re putting things there just so it’s not empty.
Please don’t put music on your blog – or if you do, don’t make it start automatically. It’s extremely unlikely that you can pick a song that everyone visiting your blog will appreciate – unless you happen to be running a Bonnie Raitt fan club.
It’s intrusive and will quickly turn away those that happened upon your blog while at work, or while the baby is sleeping, or while listening to their own music. It makes your page slower and it’s almost certainly unrelated to your content. Make your blog your own with your unique writing style and original posts, not a tacky soundtrack.
Go to the shortest post on your blog and see if your sidebar extends past the length of the post. If so, you have a problem. If the sidebar is four times the length of the post, you have a serious problem and we’ll need to stage a sidebar intervention.
If your posts are short, you might not be bringing enough value to keep readers coming back. If your posts are long but the sidebar just goes on for days, cut down on the clutter. What’s so important in the sidebar that it totally eclipses your actual content?
Unless you have exceptionally attractive people following your blog, it probably isn’t doing much good to show off their beaming faces alongside each of your posts. More likely it’s just distracting from your post. I don’t need to see all your friends on Google+, Google Friend Connect, Networked Blogs, Linky Blog and Facebook.
It is important to give readers options to follow your blog, but there’s a difference between a follow button and a distracting grid of 20 random people.
Social media overload
It’s great to give readers ways to share your posts on social media, but it’s a bit presumptuous to think someone will want to share your knitting patterns on LinkedIn. Make sure you’re judicious in choosing the right social media share links to provide. Who uses StumbleUpon? Did you know Google Buzz doesn’t exist any more? Just because ten social links are available doesn’t mean you should use them all.
What blogging faux pas have you learned to avoid? Leave a comment below.
[flickr]Cover image by ashleigh290 on Flickr.[/flickr]