11 Blogging Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur

on Jan 26th, 2014 | in Editorial | 14 Comments

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.

Busy backgrounds

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.

Centered text

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.

Premature advertising

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.

Clutter

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.

Blog archive

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.

Music

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.

Huge sidebars

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?

Friend lists

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.

Cover image by ashleigh290 on Flickr.

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14 Responses

  1. Brenda Smith says:

    I would must say that you just rocked in this article. 😀

    It doesn’t matter, In which field you are working. You would definitely make mistakes and these mistakes will help you to learn something new. So we should never afraid of doing mistakes.

    In this article, the blogging mistakes which you have mentioned above are very much common which most of the bloggers or webmasters make when they start their blogging career.

    When bloggers like me do mistakes then It is obvious that they can’t generate that result which they want because of that mistake. When It happens, they again start doing all the things and tries to find what they did wrong in previous turn and then they find their mistakes and learn from that mistake.

    So some how, mistakes helped us to learn new things. Right? 😀

    Most of the people think that doing mistakes will give them failures which they never want but they should understand that every successful person makes mistake at their initial stages and learn from them.

    Every successful blogger copied others article once in their blogging journey but later they learned and started writing by themselves.

    I would like to give a great Thanks to you for covering these amazing blogging mistakes which people can use to learn from them. 😀

  2. Rubel says:

    Hello Great Post Indeed about Mistakes, bloggers make these days.

    Personally, when I started my career in blogging, I was not sure, for whom I am writing for and what I need to provide to attract readers.

    Also, i was focused on writing for search engines as I wanted my posts to rank, but actually it was a big mistake from my side.

    As, I have learned over the past few months, we just need to cover the topic by maintaining quality and rest will be ok itself..

    But I sadly believe, many still not aware of this fact, they are still making tons of mistakes in blogging.

    So, they need to start reading more to get more knowledge and then proceed in blogging the right way.

    So, brilliantly described points.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Chetan Gupta says:

    Hi Brittany

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article here with us.

    Actually these are those mistakes which almost every blogger do.

    I had also did so many mistakes like copying articles from other blogs.

    I can remember those days when I was very much new to this blogging world and I purchased a domain name without thinking about the niche of the blog.

    I purchased the domain name and then I thought that On which topic, I should make my website then I thought that I’ll create an another Wikipedia.. Haha lol

    And I started copying articles from Wikipedia. After putting efforts so many days, When I saw that no result is coming out then I decided that I’ll make a top 10 lists site where I can list top 10 things of every topic and again I started copying articles from a site named Listverse.

    I did like this till 7-8 months because I was very much new to all this things and I even don’t have any experience of writing articles. My English was also not good.

    Haha I know It still not good But currently I am able to write few lines But at that time, It was so difficult for me.

    I did copy pasting till 7-8 months and when I noticed that I am just wasting my time and nothing then I started finding the reason behind not getting traffic on my site.

    Then somewhere I found my mistake i.e. Copying articles from other site.

    On that day, I learnt that Google never ranks copied articles.

    So I made a decision that I’ll never copy any article and will write article myself.

    In starting days, It was so difficult for me to write an article. I first write article on my notebook and then later type in WordPress.

    After doing this few days, I tried writing directly in WordPress and any how I completed my first article in WordPress. Later I continuously did practice and it became common and easy for me.

    Now I am complete able to write in WordPress directly because Practice makes perfect. Right? 😀

    There are also so many mistakes which I am still making which you have listed in this article and I am trying my best to stop doing those mistakes.

    Thanks for sharing such a great piece of content with us.

    Happy Blogging 😉

    • Brittany says:

      Chetan, thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience here. I’ve been guilty of a few of the things on this list as well. It is good to hear how you have kept working, learning and growing as a blogger. Happy blogging to you too!

  4. Chitransh says:

    I really wonder that why I haven’t notice such things before ??? Thanks a lot brittany. Thanks so much !!!

  5. Denise says:

    Brittany I have no idea of what to blog about, nothing at all.

    • Brittany says:

      Denise – in my experience, you need to LOVE your topic! Find something you have a lot to say about, and then think even more if you’re ready to dedicate serious time and attention to blogging about this topic. The best bloggers think non-stop about their next blog, how they can improve their writing, and how to attract more readers. Best of luck with whatever you decide to do!

  6. Thanks for the insight! I never would have thought about making sure not to “blog about not blogging”… it just seems so instinctual when you feel like you’ve been busy. But you’re right, it doesn’t do much for the reader or your cred! We would love any tips on our new blog, we are only a few months in and love learning more 🙂 xo Kristin and Maria

    • Brittany says:

      Kristin and Maria, what a fun blog! The photos are professionally shot and compelling, and the design is clean. I’d recommend putting a little bit of intro before the images in each post to give the reader some context before they look at the beautiful photos. A great resource to get some free advice is the Peek service from UserTesting. Most of all – KEEP AT IT. It can be a long slog before you find your audience. Best wishes.

  7. Nessa Jay says:

    Great post! I just started blogging last month and this is exactly the kind of advice I’ve been looking for. Straight forward and in line with the kind of blog I hope to run. Also, you practice what you preach, (nice clean sidebar you got there! heehee) which is harder to find that I would have expected. A lot of blogs tell you to keep it simple and yet cram as much stuff onto a page as possible regardless of rhyme or reason.

    I’ve made about 2 to 3 of the mistakes on your list and I’m getting to fixing them ASAP.

    • Brittany says:

      Nessa, I think your blog is off to a fantastic start – I really enjoyed reading your posts! I think you have found a great niche to sell on Etsy as well. Good luck to you in all your endeavors!

  8. Eileen says:

    {Gulp} Holy smokes.. do I dare say I’ve made 8 of 11. 😉 When I first started blogging, I was following a lot of blogs and I had dreams of being like the power bloggers I adored. They were (and still are) very inspirational to me, but I sure put a lot of pressure on myself – to the point where I was easily overwhelmed trying to make my little blog look big (and it most certainly did not make it read better). So I just – stopped. These are really great tips, Brittany! Thank you! I can definitely makes these changes pretty easily. It makes me want to clean up and get back to basics and remember why I wanted to blog in the first place!

    • Brittany says:

      Eileen, I hope that you are encouraged to continue blogging. I found that when I focused less on my “popularity” as a blogger and more on what I really wanted to put out there for others, everything fell into place. It is still a struggle sometimes but still fun.

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