Seven Common Blogging Mistakes?!

Seven MistakesI was crawling around KeriLynn Engel’s website, looking for something to work on. She’s a far more serious freelance writer than I am. And I’m trying to learn some things from her. But I am much older and much more cynical. So there is only so much that I’m willing to learn. In fact, as a result of reading the site, I was looking at downloading the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. But I watched the video on it and I thought, “Do I really want to take time away from my frenetic writing to deal with this?” I still don’t know. It will probably take me a week to say, “Yes.”

But Engel recently worked on an infographic, Seven Common Blogging Mistakes to Avoid. And it has some very good advice. But I thought I might punch back against it just a bit. Note, however, that I don’t think Engel wrote the infographic; I assume that she simply edited it. And I know from experience that you work with what you’ve got. My common reaction in these situations is never accepted, “Let’s start from scratch!” I may have developed my own fallacy: anti-sunk costs. But it is nonetheless true that it is easiest to start over. Few people who manage the money ever thinks that’s true.[1]

That’s not to say that this infographic is bad. I rather like it. But if you think it sucks, you shouldn’t blame Engel. Anyway, let’s go through these blogging mistakes and see what I think of them.

Blog Every Day

This one annoys me. It isn’t that I disagree with it. But I have a problem with the “Do This Instead.” And that is, “Post regularly: that might be 2-3 times a week or once a week.” Clearly! When people tell you to blog every day, it is like telling a writer to throw out the first three pages of her novel. The point is not to throw out pages of writing; the point is to get on with the story right away. And telling a writer to blog every day is the same as telling her to post regularly.

Clearly, I post six things every day. Why? Because I’m insane. It’s also because I’m addicted to writing. I enjoy it. But I didn’t start out this way. And it isn’t necessarily a good thing to do. But ultimately, everyone needs to decide what it is they are blogging for. And I am blogging so I can figure out what I’m blogging for. Also, I’m doing research on a new book, “Make $10 a Month Blogging (Before Expenses)!”

Search Engine (Over) Optimization

My only real quibble with this is the word “over.” The truth of the matter is that if you use a good platform (like WordPress), a lot of your major SEO mistakes will be avoided automatically. If you really want the search engines to get to know you, let other website owners and bloggers know you. And that depends upon your having content that is worth while. What I think people should remember is that search engines will only get better. Any effort to specially tailor your content to search engines will only be helpful for a while.

If You Write It, They Will Come

I don’t especially buy this one. The truth is that if you write enough, people will start to notice you. But again, I come back to the need for interacting with other writers. I know most people think that social media is really great, but if no one is reading your blog, then no one is following you on Facebook. In my early years, I spent a lot of time commenting on other blogs and adding links to my own articles. But it’s like anything else: you can’t try to scam it. If you add thoughtful comments on other blogs, people are more likely to check out what you are writing.

Blogging Is an Easy Way to Make Money

I’ve been wanting to introduce pull-quotes. But admittedly, all of that is a lot of work.

Does anyone believe that? Again, I come back to my new book, “Make $10 a Month Blogging (Before Expenses)!” Blogging is no way to make money directly. But taken seriously, it can lead to other kinds of (paying) writing and even speaking. But I’m serious about just how bad blogging is for making money. This blog now gets over 500 unique visitors per day and it brings in about $10 per month — before expenses like hosting. How much does hosting cost? About $10 per month.

No One Uses Email Lists

I used to use email lists on the old platform. I don’t now because I need to figure out a way to put out a digest or a newsletter. Yeah, I know it’s easy. But I’m very busy making money and writing stuff like this for $10 per month (before expenses)!

Only Write Short Posts (Or Long Ones)

Ah yes, variety is the spice of life. But I think this “mistake” is overstated. People want to know what a blog is all about. So they don’t really like sites that have one sentence “articles” followed by 20,000 word discussions of the Battle of Marathon. Much of the appeal of Frankly Curious is knowing that I provide articles that are long enough to get a good idea of what’s going on, but not so long that readers have to waste a bunch of time. I think the main thing is that a blog should be whatever its character dictates.

Words Are the Only Part of a Post That Matters

Well, this is one I’ve been complaining about for a long time. Most blogs are very boring to look at. Unless your words are really in demand, break things up. I continue to increase my use of graphics. And I’ve been wanting to introduce pull-quotes. But admittedly, all of that is a lot of work.

And that’s really what’s more important: blogs are generally things done by single people. They don’t have editors and designers. And there’s a catch-22: if you don’t have many readers, you can’t afford to make your blog great. A lot of bad blogging is the result of ignorance. But I suspect that most of it is the result of lack of resources.


[1] I used to deal with this when I did programming work. People would come to me with websites they had sunk a bunch of money into that needed to be fixed. “Can we start all over?” They didn’t have the money. “Can we at least get a new logo?” They not only didn’t have the money for it, they loved the old logo. Ugh.

6 thoughts on “Seven Common Blogging Mistakes?!

  1. Why, why, why do so many websites seems to think it’s a good idea to put light grey text on a white background?

  2. Are you familiar with the careers of John Scalzi and Andy Weir? Both were aspiring writers who used their blogs as a means to exercise their creative writing. In both cases they published books online, a chapter at a time, for free. Both of them ended up getting book deals.

    Scalzi’s book was “Old Man’s War” and Andy Weir’s was “The Martian”. I suspect that their cases are exceptions rather than examples of a new model for a career path. I just wonder if there are lessons there that might be generally useful.

    I’m not an aspiring writer, just a reader who found both of their back stories interesting.

    • I do know Scalzi’s work and I like him — although I’m not that into science fiction. I think blogs can be really helpful in a lot of ways. I discovered Corey Robin’s blog before I discovered his books. But I’m not complaining. I’m just seriously thinking of writing, “Make $10 a Month Blogging (Before Expenses)!” I think it is funny as hell. But the idea is more to discuss people’s narcissism and delusion. The main thing, however, is that for the right person, blogging is incredibly rewarding. I like the format a lot. But many people come to me for advice about starting blogs. The name of the book could just as easily be, “Don’t Start That Blog!” For a normal person, it is not a reasonable thing to do.

      • You should look for some of the Andy Weir interviews on Youtube. It’s cool how he went from code monkey/science geek/part time writer to best selling author of a book that’s now a Major Motion Picture. NASA is really thrilled with the book/movie and they’re helping to promote them both in the interest of getting the public excited about manned space flights. Now Andy is rubbing elbows with Hollywood A-listers, NASA bigwigs, astronauts and scientists. If you’re not familiar with The Martian, it’s hard science fiction. Near future and very plausible. If you ignore the fact that the threat of the martian wind storm is the least plausible part of the story. He’s pretty up front about that but he figured that the whole martian sandstorm is so deeply ingrained in the public perception of Mars that he could get away with it.

        • Slow down! I’m still basking in the “people paying me a living wage to write crap” phase of my life!

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