There’s no getting away from it. You’re busy. Your customers are busy. We’re all in danger of suffering information overload thanks to the staggering deluge of articles published online every single minute of the day. If you’re going to the effort of writing a blog, it’s essential that it gets heard above the noise and engages the reader; otherwise you’re wasting their time, your own time and missing valuable opportunities to connect with your customers.
So what are the blogging mistakes you need to avoid? These are the biggies that I think are bad for business.
Blogging mistake #1: You don’t know your audience
When you write your blog, do you just write as the mood takes you? Do you pluck a topic out of thin air based on your latest interests or what you fancy writing about in that moment? This approach can work well for some personal and even business blogs, but it can also backfire badly.
As with all copywriting, I think the number one rule of effective blogging is to know your audience.
- What keeps them awake at night?
- What are they interested in?
- What do you know that they would find really helpful?
- What gets them talking?
- What do they love?
- What do they hate?
- How does that tie in to your business?
If you’re not writing your blog for someone specific, the chances are it won’t resonate as strongly as it could with anyone.
My advice: Understand your customer and talk to them. The most successful blogs make people feel as though they’ve been written for them.
Blogging mistake #2: You’re writing for Google
With so much being said about the SEO benefits of blogging, it’s easy view blogging as a vehicle for better search engine rankings and lose sight of the customer.
One of the most common things I hear is “I want to be at the top of page one of Google for my search terms, how can I make that happen?” My honest answer is to say, “No-one can guarantee the Google top spot but a good start is to stop writing for Google and start writing for your customers.”
Yes, search engine optimisation is important for the visibility of your website but I think it’s foolhardy to put all your eggs in one basket. Your SEO efforts can’t and shouldn’t be the only way you drive traffic to your website. Instead, it’s so important to focus on building relationships and creating content that people read and love. If what you write is entertaining, informative, engaging, readable, people will want to share it and the search engines will take these social shares as evidence that yours is a site or blog worth ranking highly. It’s a win-win situation.
My advice: Have a focus keyword or phrase in mind for your blog. Put this in the SEO title, meta description, URL and alt tags (see last week’s blog about small SEO steps if you’re not sure what I mean), but then concentrate on writing a relevant, high value article. If you stay on topic, your keyword should appear naturally.
Blogging mistake #3: You’re over complicating things
In writing your blog, you may find yourself wrestling with ‘the curse of knowledge’, i.e. you know a topic inside out but have almost forgotten what it was like to know nothing about it. This might make your articles overly technical, too detailed or packed full of jargon.
Another scenario might be that you want to pack so much content and value into each article that you go into too much depth.
Even if you’re writing for people with a similar knowledge level or industry background to you, keep your blogs scannable (because of how we read online copy) and to the point (because your readers are busy).
Some helpful advice I was given when I was starting out as a copywriter is to aim for copy with a Flesch Reading Ease of 60% or higher and a Flesch-Kincaid Level of 9 or less (you can check this in Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checker).
My advice: Keep things simple. By simple, I don’t mean you need to dumb things down. Just keep your content relevant and cut any waffle.
Blogging mistake #4: You’re blogging too often
There are plenty of articles online advising you to blog every day. I can understand the reasoning. If you blog every day, you get into a strong writing habit, you have seven new reasons to get in front of your customers every week, and you quickly build up a resource bank of articles.
Let’s be honest though, unless you make your living from blogging or have the support of a team, writing a high quality article every day is a tall ask that can soon become impossible when you have a thousand and one other things to do.
Your customers may feel that you don’t have anything fresh to say, or even that you’re contributing to the noise of their news feeds with half-boiled ideas. Sometimes less is more.
My advice: Go for quality over quantity every time.
Blogging mistake #5: You’re not blogging enough
On the flipside, you could also be damaging the impact of your blog by not blogging frequently enough. One of the benefits of blog writing is it gives you a way to regularly connect with your customers and show the depth of your knowledge or experience by giving them high value content. This is also good for your SEO efforts.
If you blog sporadically, you’re in danger of falling off people’s radars. Your customers may soon lose interest if they never know when to expect a new blog from you. Also, if you go months between blogs, you risk new website visitors (and the search engines) thinking that you don’t bother updating your site.
My advice: Create a blogging schedule that works for you and stick to it. Whether you blog two to three times a week or once a month, it can work well for your business as long as you’re consistent.
Blogging mistake #6: You’re worrying about word count
At least once a month, I get a message asking me what the ideal word count is for a blog. My answer is always, “As many words as it needs to be”.
You’ll find all sorts of advice out there about optimal blog post lengths but I personally think you should use as many words as you need to write your article. If you’ve got a magic number in your head (500 words, for example) and you don’t plan on writing a word more or less – or you’re struggling to get to that word count – then you’re probably not writing about a topic that engages you, let alone your readers.
Certainly, it is important to be aware that Google may view a blog of fewer than 200 to 300 words as ‘thin’ content, which could negatively affect its SEO performance.
Stats show that long copy generally out performs short copy. According to a recent study by Medium, the optimal blog post takes seven minutes to read and is 1,600 words in length. Remember that people read on-screen copy in the shape of a capital F, so think about how you can present the most important points within your blog post to fit this reading pattern.
My advice: Forget about word count. If you need 4,000 words to talk about a topic, then use 4,000 words. If you can get your point across in 400 words, that’s fine too.
Blogging mistake #7: You’re hiding your personality
I think a lot of blogs are held back by the writer’s desire to be safe, to not make waves or a fear of being controversial. You might worry about how informal you can risk being or how you can communicate your tone of voice.
With so many blogs out there, it’s essential that you let your personality shine through in every article. The harsh reality is that loads of people blog about the same topics every single day. While they might have similar thoughts and ideas to you, what they don’t have is your personality. You are what makes your blog unique. Your readers will love it when you embrace that. They’ll enjoy hearing from you and come to recognise your style.
In fact, that’s what I love about blogging, the freedom to be a bit more informal and speak as you find.
My advice: Have fun with blogging. Imagine that all-important ideal customer sitting in front of you and have a conversation with them.
What do you struggle with when it comes to blogging? Do you have a blogging schedule that you stick to? Do you worry about word count? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Tangled wires photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/6b7M3N