12 Common Blogging Mistakes To Avoid

by Jeff Quipp July 28th, 2008 

If Content is King in the world of search, then blogs are the kingdom!

For those of you who blog for the purpose of generating additional sales of your products or services (as opposed to making affiliate revenues from the traffic), and have not yet seen the benefits, there is hope. Below follow 12 of the most common mistakes we find when we take over an account where the current owner(s) is (are) blogging. This is important as most of these bloggers ultimately get frustrated at the lack of results and give up on blogging entirely.

Most Common Mistakes

Here are the most common mistakes:

1. thinking people will actually read the post. Jakob Neilson performed a study and found found that only 16% of people will read a post word by word … the rest only scan. The implication is that readers need to be able to extract the key message(s) of a post at a glance, and not have to work for it. This means posts must be made scannable. This also speaks to all the common mistakes found below.

2. using full paragraph format. Again, people don't want to read. They want to scan. If you can peak their interest first, then maybe they'll read, but almost certainly not if you present them with a mass of verbiage.

Not For Reading

3. not using or numbering lists. Since readers do not like long paragraphs, and like easy to interpret and understand information, numbered lists do exceptionally well, as do point form lists. At a glance, people know how to interpret such lists, and can generally extract key information much quicker and with much less effort than paragraphs.

4. trying to sell something in a blog post. Blogs are a passive tool and NOT a pressure sales tactic. Readers have the ability to remain anonymous, and accordingly will leave immediately if they feel threatened or pressured. Instead, use your blog to instill trust and credibility and build authority. If readers trust you and find you credible … then they may identify themselves as a sales opportunity.

5. not including facts. In reality, people do not really care about your opinion until you are more well known, and have established trust or credibility with them. The best way to do so and ultimately begin to establish trust and credibility is to reference other trusted sources, and to gradually expand on the concepts of those sources.

6. using improper titles. Titles are one of the most important elements of a blog post. They tell readers a great deal about the content, and often can be used to set expectations. All too often though, titles are too creative and vague rather than descriptive and enticing. Consider the human element too … sure your post may appear in the search results or on a social media site, but unless its enticing and descriptive, its not going to have the desired effect.

7. writing for pHds (ie. using big words). This is a very common problem. All too often bloggers try to impress others with their vocabulary, and loose their readers as a result. Its also common to see writers using industry lingo and acronyms (which isn't a bad thing necessarily) if they're accompanied by descriptions.

8. making the post too long (over 800 words). I'm as guilty as the next person, but the reality again is that people DO NOT WANT TO READ!, they want to extract the key messages at a glance. The more words in a post, the less likely this goal becomes possible. So, live by the mantra LESS IS MORE!

Edit: this point has been very contentious as can be seen in the comments. Accordingly, I'd like to ammend this post to say that if a post is to exceed 800 words by any significant amount, there are 2 main options:
a. break the post into 2 or more posts
b. write the more detailed information in a web page (not a blog page), and refer to it from the blog post. The blog post could then act as a summary, peaking interest in the topic, which can then refer to the web page for those who wish to read more in depth. But give people the option!!!!! Case in point; not everyone needs to understand the ins and outs of the math behind Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, though most should have a general understanding of the concept, so why not explain the concept in a post, and provide the supporting math and assumptions in a separate detailed page referred to from the post.

9. repackaging existing information. … but really adding nothing new or valuable to make the content truly unique! If readers continually find content on a blog that is written about elsewhere previously, and easily found elsewhere, why would they continue to read your blog? Instead, if you're publishing a post about recent industry news, add to it and show support for your perspective. Or alternatively, compile resources not already assembled.

10. no use of headings and subheadings. The use of headings and subheadings helps readers understand at a glance exactly how the post is organized and structured. Failure to do so often prevents readers from being able to determine what the key messages are at a mere glance.

11. highlight or bold important terms and concepts. Highlighting and bolding key concepts naturally draws the readers attention to them, making it easier for them to extract key post concepts. Failure to do so on the other hand means the reader has to work much harder to find the key concepts, and dramatically reduces the likelihood they actually will!

12. not using supporting images. So many people fail to use images, or use images that do not support their key messages. Again, readers need to be able to extract key messages at a glance, and if a picture can help convey that message using no words … success! The image below is a case in point. I used it in a post to support my point that you've got to look at things from a different perspective, and the image itself encouraged many people to participate.
Different Perspective

Edit: (thanks to Josh for suggesting this KEY point)
13. Introductory text should provide a very high level overview of the post. In order to manage reader expectations, proper descriptive titles are crucial, but so too are the first paragraph of a post. It should provide a high level summary of what readers can expect to learn, to entice them to continue on to look at more of the blog post.

In the end, if you're a blogger, try to make sure you're not making any of these mistakes and your likelihood of success increases substantially.

Ultimately it really comes down to "people want to be able to extract the key messages from a post in a glance", so give them what they want!

Question for you now … what was the key message of this post? Just want to make certain I'm following my own principles.

I'm off now for a 2 week vacation … yahoo! Enjoy … and happy blogging!

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57 Responses to “12 Common Blogging Mistakes To Avoid”

  1. Glen Allsopp says:

    Although that is true on a general level, there are certainly exceptions to the rule.

    Just check Steve Pavlina for example (http://www.stevepavlina.com) – some of his best and most popular blog posts are over 7,000 words.

  2. [...] a list of 12 common blogging mistakes you want to avoid. This bloggery was written by Jeff Quipp. 12 Common Blogging Mistakes To Avoid | Search Engine People Blog __________________ – Rob – Join Blog Affiliate Program | Blog Directory | Home Business Blog | [...]

  3. Douglas Karr says:

    I'm not sure I agree with the 800 words or less rule. I think consistency is more important. Many people use their blog much like twitter, with brief snippets. Some write multiple pages. I read both. It's more to do with my expectation as a reader. If I appreciate long copy, I may love blog posts with a lot of detail.

  4. Portland SEO says:

    I agree with all of your points. Particularly the ones about overall length and titles. As far as search engines are concerned, you only need your posts to be 250 words long. You should be sure to include keywords in your titles.

  5. maya says:

    great article! well written keep up giving articles like this ..
    thanx

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  7. Brian Clark says:

    >>All too often bloggers try to impress others with their vocabulary, and loose their readers as a result.

    And others lose readers by using "loose" when they mean "lose." :-)

  8. Food for thought. But, I read all of the posts that I read, every time.

  9. These are some really great things to point out! I have to disagree with the 800 or less rule, as when you're building "flagship" content, you want to go in depth. That's how you manage to create some more authority for yourself.

    I also think you should write as if people are reading. Make things interesting, use metaphors, but definitely break up the content. Include it all, just don't throw it at them.

  10. Great post! I need to follow some of these myself, particularly #12 about using supporting images in posts.

  11. [...] 12 Common Blogging Mistakes To Avoid | Search Engine People Blog [...]

  12. Eva White says:

    I agree with all the points. In fact I have been guilty of almost 6 of them myself. The key message would be make it easy on your readers!:)

  13. Really blogs on a site has a great importance.They play a very important role in getting high rank for your webpage in SERP's. I'd like to appreciate your 12 blogging related suggestions. Thanks a million and keep writing valuables like this.

  14. Jeff Quipp says:

    @ Glen – Agreed completely Glen … absolutely there are exceptions.

    @ Douglas Karr – Ohhh I like that direction Douglas ie. expectations of the reader. I think there's alot more research that could be done here. As I said to Glen above … success at more than 800 words in more an exception to the rule than a rule.

    @ Portland SEO – Keywords in title are indeed very important in many respects.

    @ Maya – thanks Maya!

    @ Brian Clark – thanks Brian … I stand corrected. Notice I didn't say anything about spelling mistakes in this list :)

    @ John – thanks for the comment. You are indeed an anomoly then John. I personally read very few word for word!

    @ Corey Freeman – agreed Corey, I was talking more as a rule of thumb. To be honest, most people can't get away with too much more than 800 words unless the topic is exceptional. Even so, you'll lose a good % of the potential readers. I would recommend breaking it out into different posts rather than having a 7000 word blog post.

    @ Del Mar Picks – it can be so hard to find a really god supporting image sometimes!

    @ Eva White – absolutely Eva … your readers are busy people. Respect their time and make the information as pallitable as possible.

    @ Web Services India – thank you for the comment.

  15. Tim says:

    I agree with your last point on not having supporting images. I guess it follows the same line of thought that a picture is worth 1000 words….

    Pictures are the best way to back up your point in my opinion.

  16. [...] 12 Common Blogging Mistakes To Avoid [...]

  17. gamermk says:

    found found?

    Anyway great list and a hard sell to many bloggers that believe that their readers are some how different.

    "OMG, but all MY readers read every word!"

    They don't and stevepavlina.com alienates that entire audience with his 1k+ posts.

  18. Anonymous says:

    12 Common Blogging Mistakes To Avoid…

    This post on the Search Engine People blog lists 12 common mistakes on blogging, and explain how to avoid them…

  19. Josh says:

    Jeff,

    I think you missed out on a valuable point: The importance of intro/summary paragraphs. It kind of ties in to points 1 (thinking that people will read the whole post) and 2 (using paragraph format), but it was never mentioned outright.

    The intro paragraph is absolutely critical to piquing readers' interest in the rest of the post. If I can't figure out what message you're trying to deliver in the first 30 seconds, there's no way I'm going to invest the next few minutes of my time reading through the article when I don't even know if it's interesting or will help me or whatever I'm looking to gain.

    The summary paragraph is slightly less important; it's mostly good for longer posts where you're expecting lots of scanning.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed your article, and I'm definitely still guilty of a couple of points. Thanks for the tips!

  20. Key message? People do not want to read. So enable them to scan and get the gist of what you want them to pick up. Make it interesting and do not try to sell!

    Great post. I made an effort to read rather than scan and am glad that I did.

  21. Samantha says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Nice post today. One thing I see that's missing is the voice of sounding HUMAN. It's always something we're encouraging clients to focus on — sometimes a hard thing for a company to embrace.

    Have a great day.

  22. Elishua says:

    Just wanted you to know that I read the entire post.

    You must be following some of these guidelines yourself :)

  23. Jared says:

    Great post. I think the title of a post is one of the biggest factors.
    My most viewed posts have noticeably the most enticing titles and I feel that alone will get someone to give a thumbs up on stumbleupon or a vote on Digg.

  24. Li Zhang says:

    Love the comic.

  25. Good post, I've certainly had to steer many of my clients away from this kind of blogging. I think in addition, I'd add "Blogging for the sake of blogging", in that people write just to keep updating their blog and have no opinion, no voice, just stale reproduction. I know I'm guilty of this sometimes, just to stay current, but I've read some blogs out there that really abuse the idea.

  26. I agree with you..especially with blogs that sell products..for me they'll just major turn off..^^

  27. Giovanna says:

    Thanks. I definitely agree with the lack of headers/sub-headers and not using images. In fact, one of the first commenter on my blog mentioned how he enjoyed the images on my post because I covered a product that wasn't available to the public yet. Right on!

    "(as opposed to making affiliate revenues from the traffic)"

    Interesting you had to mention that :)

  28. David Temple says:

    Okay this is a great list with actionable items. I agree with bolding or italicizing important concepts, breaks up the copy. Don't have time to read 800 word posts, let alone write one. Have a great vacation.

  29. Hi Jeff,

    Don't be too sure about your 800-word limit. You might even want to go to 3,000 words now and then to attract links. See http://performancing.com/screencast/screencast-here-easy-4-step-formula-create-linkworthy-content.

  30. Such a great post, and is a must-read for all bloggers. So many bloggers start out and try to build momentum not following these tactics, and it's much harder. Some are still successful doing it their own way, but following these guidelines would save them from a lot of headaches and they would earn much more money in the long-run.

  31. Simon says:

    Thanks for this post. Its made me realise that I've got to make my blog more user friendly and easier to read.

  32. VMOptions says:

    These are some great blogging tips. I can't tell you how many times I have seen blog posts that are nothing more then sales pitches. They should read your post if they want to get back on track and build their base.

  33. [...] 12 Common Blogging Mistakes to Avoid [...]

  34. jeflin says:

    I think it depends on the industry you are blogging about and the target audience.

    The 800 words rule is good for entertainment or personal blogs as readers love to look at pictures and juicy snippets of gossip.

    If you are writing on technical or analytical stuff, 800 words may not be enough. Some sophisticated readers may even be turned off by the shallow presentations.

    Jeflin

  35. Utah SEO says:

    Less is more for sure. I couldn't agree with that statement more. I can't stand extremely long and puffy blog posts.

  36. Metaspring says:

    I think this is a definitive check list for bloggers. Very comprehensive, thanks. Obviously i am not the only one who thinks that ;)

  37. Sunil Pathak says:

    Formating is very crucial for every blog scanable and user friendly text attracts more readers.

    but i dont agree with you about 800 words limit the length of your post depends on the subject. if your topic wants your post to go longer then 800 words then let it be dont stop your self just because some people will only scan it.

  38. Vincent says:

    Thanks for the Info! I can use this to guide me with my first blog article.

  39. Jimy Wong says:

    I agreed with some of the topics. Short and simple post are better to read. Numbering the paragraph definitely simplify the reading. The most important is images must be put into the post to make it interesting.

  40. chetan says:

    Highlighting or bolding certain keywords can make your article more understandable if your readers just scan your articles. But writing very good post titles can surely pressurize your readers to read every word of your article.

  41. I enjoyed your post and agree with all the points except that it's not always possible to find a picture relevant to your topic. Sometimes I used a picture generator to do this so that I could put my own text. The downside is that the image size may affect your blog loading time. Most of the time I just used a nice picture.

    Peter Lee

  42. Jeff Quipp says:

    @ Tim – thanks for the comment Tim. Glad you agree … it is amazing what a great image can do for a post isn't it?

    @ Gamermk – yup … set up for post so the main ideas are easily extracted. Those who have time and the inclination might then read. Those who do not have the time or patience, can then leave satisfied too.

    @ Josh – amazing point Josh … so much so that I will add an extra point to this post to incorporate it. Thank you!

    @ Comparison Shopping – Thank you … and yes you did extract the key point exactly! :)

    @ Samantha – Good point! The blog essentially gives a business web site a personality, so it must come across as human and 'warmer' if that is the business goal!

    @ Elishua – Very nice. Thanks Elishua. Now lets see how well I can stick to these principles.

    @ Jarod – Absolutely Jarod … titles are CRUCIAL! I've seen great posts go down hard because of bad titles.

    @ Li Zhang – thanks Li … comics are a soft spot for me. Suppose that's me trying to add more of a human element … humour.

    @ Kris Themstrup – agreed completely Kris. I don't have the time to read the same idea over and over … add something to it. We do this for clients sometimes with just in time blogging; we take the news of the day, and have the clients apply their spin to its interpretation and implications. This way its different!

    @ Internet Marketing Joy – I hear ya … it can be a tough thing for clients to wrap their heads around though. They think, why would I blog if not to promote my wares? I remember the day I learned that … it was a epiphany for me.

    @ Giovanna – thanks Giovanna! Headings and sub headings are crucial!

    @ David Temple – thanks David … the blog length seems to be a hot topic. personally, I think if you're going over 800 words, you need to split the post, or write the more detailed component in an article that is referred to from the post.

    @ Lucky Balaraman – hey Lucky, that link doesn't work for me, though I am intrigued.

    @ Contemporary Furniture – Thank you. I hope this post does help a great many people getting started with blogging.

    @ Simon – its amazing isn't it, how small things can add up. Thanks for the comment Simon!

    @ VMOptions – outright selling via a blog is definitely a turn off for me too … they immediately lose credibility.

    @ Jeflin – thanks Jeflin … yeah the blog length aspect is contentious. I'm going to ammend this post based on the feedback to suggest that if a post is to go longer than 800 words, it should either a. be split into 2 or more posts, or b. refer to a more detailed page/article on the subject elsewhere on the site.

    @ Utah SEO (Jordan) – agreed Jordan … nice succinct comment too btw :)

    @ Metaspring – thanks Metaspring … I really appreciate that!

    @ Sunil Pathak – I really like that the length issue is so contentious … I'll ammend the post to address this. Thanks again Sunil!

    @ Vincent – thanks Vincent .. good luck blogging, and enjoy!

    @ Jimy Wong – no argument for me … images are CRUCIAL! Thanks Jimy1

    @ Chetan – agreed! So many elements are important that no one alone can be singled out. Titles are crucial, as are highlighting and bolding.

    @ Work At Home Ideas – thanks Peter. Absolutely its not always possible to find the right image. And care MUST be taken to ensure that the page load time is not excessive due to the images. Thanks for the comment!

  43. This is a powerful list of don'ts for any beginners to follow. I admit I'm still making the mistake of not using images on my article.

    Yan

  44. [...] es una traducción al español de: 12 Common Blogging Mistakes To Avoid escrita por Jeff [...]

  45. [...] Don't be lame – Hopefully, you don't go to office parties or even conferences and talk about nothing but work. If you do, please don't come to any parties where I'm holding court. Yes it's important to "push out" what you're working, relevant links to industry buzz, etc. But if that's all you do it's akin to being Rain Man at the company BBQ. [...]

  46. chineseguy says:

    These mistakes are all about content, I agree that one should avoid these but I think the attractive design is something arouses the interest or loyality of the reader. Many times I just skip reading a blog just because of its ugly design.

  47. [...] 12 Common Blogging Mistakes To Avoid [...]1. thinking people will actually read the post. Jakob Neilson performed a study and found found that only 16% of people will read a post word by word … the rest only scan. The implication is that readers need to be able to extract the key message(s) of a post at a glance, and not have to work for it. This means posts must be made scannable. This also speaks to all the common mistakes found below. [...]

  48. I am totally agreed with you of the topics. Short and simple post are best to read. The most important is images must be put into the post. Thanks for all info

  49. Hicham says:

    Thanks a lot for the notes.

    I agree that the majority of bloggers just 'scan' the posts however I prefer to read because the author didn't waist his/her time for me just to scan :)

  50. I am always making mistakes in doing improper titles for my blog post. I also avoid posting too many words

  51. Joe Somebody says:

    I agree with all your points, and with my being new to blogging you have really helped me out so thank you.

  52. Great post, Jeff. I think you have covered most of the important ones.

    The only item I would have included is that you should be linking out to other credible sources. You should also link to others who have provided information to you. Spread the love. That is what it is all about.

  53. Justin says:

    These are great! I have definitely been making many of these mistakes in the past with my blogs, but happily I've been getting better!

  54. Jenn C. says:

    I read this post word for word and usually do. However, I quickly read the first couple of lines or check out the photo (if it's a food blog) if it's a blog I've subscribed to. I'm a struggling blogger though, so I make a point of reading posts and commenting. I get so discouraged by the lack of comments on my blogs. Thanks for the great tips. I'll start putting them to work on Monday!

    I try to use images as often as possible but I'm not really sure where to find them and which ones I can use. It seems like a hassle to wait for permission. So I usually use my own weak images or just I just skip it. Would you mind explaining where to get images? You may have answered this in the comments. I read the first 20 or so, but then I got tired of reading them.

  55. Blogging can be a lot interesting and profitable when we do it
    int he exact way you prescribed. All these 12 common mistakes
    could wreck a blog and cause disappointment. You've done well
    for sharing these tips. I'm glad I came across to it.

  56. Jeff, I came across this blog today… and picked up a couple of key tips.
    Thanks. (My web design team didn't initially include the ability to add an image – and now I've finally got it!)