Throughout my long career as a business blogger, I’ve learned many things. I’ve learned how to captivate a reader, communicate information effectively, and adjust my writing to my audience. That said, during this process, I’ve also learned what not to do. Here are 25 mistakes I’ve learned to avoid in my 15+ years of small business blogging.
1. Being Unpredictable in Style
For business blogging, consistency is crucial. Subscribers want to know what to expect. If you confuse them by being funny in one post and dead serious in another, by writing at an 8th grade reading level in one post and at a college graduate level in the next, readers become confused about your brand and whether they are even a potential customer.
2. Covering Too Many Topics
This goes together with having an unpredictable style. Typically, business blog readers come to a blog for insights on one topic. If you try to position yourself as an expert on several topics, you’ll probably earn the reputation of being a jack of all trades and master of none. This is not conducive to building credibility and generating sales leads.
3. Posting Infrequently
Out of sight, out of mind. Once a week is a good benchmark for posting frequency. If you post every two weeks, every month, or even less frequently, subscribers will forget what your brand is all about — and they may interpret your spotty publishing schedule as a sign you are not totally committed to your business.
4. Having an Overly Ambitious Editorial Calendar
The flipside of #3 is starting off with posts every two or three days — and then realizing you can’t maintain that schedule. Creating good blog posts is much more time-consuming than most people realize. Start slowly.
5. Not Selling
Selling on your blog is OK — in fact, readers expect it. As long as you’re not selling too hard or too often, sell! Generating leads is a legitimate goal of blogging, and one of the more sensible ones at that.
6. Being Too Self-Promotional
The flipside of not selling is too much selling. Readers expect a more low-key sales approach than what they encounter on standard website pages, with email marketing, and in paid advertising, etc. Remember: Blogs are a form of social media.
7. Not Having a Comment Policy
Some blogs should have comments, others, maybe not. Regardless, think through your comment policy carefully. In all cases, moderate first-time commenters. If you allow new user comments to be published without reviewing them, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise when you read them.
8. Not Publishing Your Comment Policy
Having a comment policy is not enough. You must make readers aware of it. Let readers know, in a post linked-to in the footer, what is permissible and what isn’t. This prevents you from appearing arbitrary when you delete certain comments.
9. Continuing to Allow Comments When Nobody Comments
A lack of comments makes your blog look unpopular or unengaging. But if nobody comments, don’t panic — simply eliminate the option to comment. Not all blog publishers and blog readership communities are interested in commenting and discussion, so a lack of comments does not necessarily mean your blog is ineffective.
10. Not Responding to Comments
Non-response is a cardinal sin of blogging. When readers comment, they expect a response — and the sooner, the better.
11. Getting Emotional, Defensive, or Combative in Comments
Some comments will ruffle your feathers. Don’t take them personally! Business blogging is social, but it’s also business. And in business, being professional always reflects well on you and your brand. Professional responses to challenging, negative comments give you credibility and build trust.
12. Not Having an Internal Search Engine
You must make finding old posts easy for visitors. Internal search is one of the best ways to accomplish this. Make the search box a prominent part of your page template designs.
13. Not Using Images
Plain text is boring. Images bring attention to your blog in social media shares and engage readers when they land on your post.
14. Using Generic Stock Images
Using images is not enough: Your images must be interesting and relevant. Bland stock images give readers the impression you are just going through the motions.
15. Burying Your Email Subscription Signup
Subscribing to your blog must be as easy as possible for visitors. Perhaps the most prominent design element on every blog page template should be the email subscription box.
16. Not Displaying Contact Information
Can readers see your phone number? Is there a contact form prominent in the blog’s main site navigation? If not, you are missing out on sales leads.
17. Not Linking to Pages of Your Main Site
Most of the hard selling takes place on your website’s product/service pages. Linking to these pages in relevant blog posts creates another path prospects can take to becoming customers. In addition, those links enhance your SEO results, since internal links to target product/service pages are a positive ranking signal for Google.
18. Not Using External Links
Some business bloggers dislike linking to other sites because doing so takes readers off the blog. However, linking to sources of factual statements builds credibility and gives credit where credit is due. In addition, external links are often noticed and may generate valuable links back to your site and improve SEO, trustworthiness, and brand perception.
19. Poor New-Post Emails
When your email subscribers receive a new-post email, they should know who the sender is and see a big enough excerpt of the post to make them click through to your blog. Poorly designed emails confuse and disappoint subscribers, reducing blog traffic and engagement.
20. Poor Editing
Great writing with poor editing signals a branding disaster. Readers notice spelling errors, grammatical gaffes, lack of clarity, wordiness, and other editorial details that separate professional business blogs from the wannabes.
21. Poor Typography
Hard-to-read fonts, poor contrast, large blocks of text, multiple subhead styles, and other design complexities make understanding your message harder for readers. The best typography and blog design approach: Keep it simple.
22. Poor Mobile Design
Most of your readers possibly, or even likely, will be using mobile phones to read your blog. Mobile-first design is appropriate even for blogs in industrial B2B verticals where desktop viewing is common.
23. Not Having KPIs
Is your blog getting results? You won’t be able to answer that question unless you have KPIs you can accurately measure and analyze. Of course, to define KPIs, you need an overall blogging goal.
24. Not Having Clear Blogging Goals
Your blogging goals may change or expand over time, but starting out, you need at least one specific goal. Often, business blogs are intended to establish “thought leadership.”
25. Making “Thought Leadership” Your Main Blogging Goal
In my experience, “thought leadership” is simply too hard to define and too hard to achieve to make sense as the main business blogging goal. More effective options are to generate sales leads, establish trust, engage customers and prospects, build brand awareness, or contribute to an SEO campaign.
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Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing company that specializes in SEO. With decades of marketing, sales, and management experience, Shorr has written for leading online publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur, and for the American Marketing Association.