You’ve decided to dive into the world of blogging for the first time. While you’ll learn about many different topics and connect with readers from around the world in this endeavor, you will also make early mistakes that could cause your blog to sink before it swims.
You don’t jump right into the pool without checking the temperature, right? Plus, you know, learning how to swim. In this post, we’ll get you floating before you sink. That’s not a fun way to learn for anyone, and a failed first blog is a significant de-motivator to move forward. Believe me, I know.
Here are five first-time mistakes many people make as a blogger, as well as how you can avoid them.
1. I Was the Auto-Loading Music Queen
I was around in the glory days of Myspace. I had fun playing with HTML coding and making stars rain down my page. I changed the music playing on my profile with my shifting moods. I also had a DeadJournal and a LiveJournal, but that’s a different story.
When I started my first blog, my experience with these sites came in handy in many good and bad, awful ways. Do not auto-load music on your website. It will undoubtedly drive your audience crazy, and they won’t become an established audience because they’re too busy trying to click-off of your site.
Maybe your version of this is auto-play video. Same deal. If you have videos auto-playing upon loading your page, at least make them silent.
Your reader could be anywhere — in the office, the library or the bathroom sneaking in some blog time out of boredom. Don’t bust them! They won’t forgive you.
2. You’re So Dark and Mysterious, OMG
By my mention of the stars falling on my Myspace, you will probably guess that my first template was light text on a dark background and all the gray gradations between. At least it wasn’t red on black — though I was very tempted.
You may be a very poignant and reflective soul like myself, but your readers came to your site to read. Legibility trumps mood.
Don’t make it hard for your readers to see your beautiful background, but don’t let that cute background overtake the actual content on your site. You spent hours on your content. Make it easy to read! And that doesn’t mean your site has to look dull, either.
3. Stop Cluttering Your Sidebar
Think of your sidebar as a navigational cheat sheet for readers, not the junk drawer — or room, no judgment — you hide from guests when they come over. Don’t clutter your sidebar.
White space is your friend — use it to your advantage.
Let awards and blogrolls have their own separate page or area. Ditch the meta widget. Your sidebar belongs to your audience. It’s the go-to spot for optimization and conversion — add thin borders and section headings to break up clutter and boost navigational power. Let your audience see and click on what matters to them.
4. Banish “Click Here” From Your Blog
Indicating “click here” comes off very spammy — ”Click here to learn more!” Can’t you see it as a big header in red letters? Don’t do that.
When you use this phrase, readers will associate your site with spam or at least feel very annoyed. They’re trusting you to link them to helpful information. For all your readers know, it could be spam they’re clicking on.
Make your links meaningful with specific and actionable word choices. Place links on statistics such as “20 percent of top bloggers prefer pizza” and keep the phrases short and relevant. Make your reader want to click on the link text to educate themselves further on the things they care about.
Plus, you are missing an opportunity when you use “click here” instead of some more keyword-rich anchor text. Including words relevant to the page you are linking helps Google understand what that page is about and help it come up for more relevant searches on Google. Win-win!
Don’t create click bait. Always announce if that link is an affiliate link or if you’re doing a sponsored post and the link goes to the client’s product. Trust is essential to establishing a loyal reader base.
5. Don’t Be Guilty of Accidental Plagiarism
Yes, accidental plagiarism is a thing. Don’t do it. Although you probably have, now’s the time to stop.
You can’t shift some words around on sentences from someone else’s post you “admired,” copied and pasted to rearrange and call it yours. Where’s the flavor and personality? Where’s your voice? Not to mention, you could also get sued.
Always, always, always check your copy in duplicate content search checkers that look for plagiarized content so you can fight accidental plagiarism in your posts. You can also check your original posts to search for content thieves in sites like Copyscape, which charges for premium, but free alternatives exist, such as Plagium, DupliChecker and CopyGator. Many don’t make you sign up for accounts, either — all you do is copy, paste and check.
You can’t hop on Google, put in a search term, snag a photo and credit it to Google or whatever website. That’s still accidental plagiarism, folks. People are guilty of snagging each other’s pictures and plopping them up willy-nilly on their blogs, and they get in trouble for it. Just because everyone does it doesn’t make it kosher or legal. Oh, and did we mention you could also get sued?
Always, always, always ask for permission from the original owner. If they don’t respond or you don’t know who it is, move on. You could license photos for a small fee from a photographer or stock photo site.
An easier suggestion is to go on sites like Pixabay and Pexels to search for royalty-free, copyright-free commerical use photos to place on your blog. The sites will need to specify each of those cases, and it’s still a smart idea to attribute photos to the person who gave them to the public to use freely and widely.
You can also do a Creative Commons license search for stock photos and clips, but it’s basically a search engine that also includes limited license works. Look closely — you’ve been warned.
Some social media sites will even restrict or remove you if they catch you doing it there — for content and photos. Remember, just because you attribute what you find to where you found it doesn’t mean you didn’t violate copyright — you need to obtain permission. Otherwise, look for the legally free and clear stock photos.
Typically, you’ll receive a cease and desist letter, either from an individual or lawyer, to remove the duplicate content or cause of the copyright violation, and that’s it. At the worst, you could get sued. So, don’t commit accidental plagiarism.
If you avoid those five newbie blogger pitfalls, you’ll do me proud and yourself a blogging solid. If you do mess up, remember to catch yourself, be accountable and proactive. It happens to all of us, even when we have the best intentions.
Now, go forward, young blogger, and create amazing content! May your audience be WOW’d!
Don’t forget to save these tips to your Pinterest board!