I 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.
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
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.
 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.