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Blogging for Beginners

17 Tips to Follow & 14 Mistakes to Avoid

Blogging for Beginners: 17 Tips to Follow & 14 Mistakes to Avoid

To say blogging is big business is an understatement.

To date, there are more than 500 million blogs in existence and each month 70 million new posts appear on WordPress blogs alone.

With so many blogs out there, it can feel like pretty much every niche is already covered.

  • How do you break into this apparently cutthroat world of blogging?
  • How do you write posts that actually get read and raise your voice above the din?

Quite simply, you have to be better than everyone else out there.

But being the best is no walk in the park. Just ask Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt, Beyoncé, or anyone else at the top of their game. Being top dog involves hard work, strategic thinking, mastering certain techniques, and making use of the best tools.

Wondering whether it’s worth it? It definitely is. Businesses that blog experience twice as much email traffic as those that don’t and produce 67% more leads.

Here we break down the 17 best blogging tips to help you start generating content that gets noticed. And once you’ve perfected these do’s, take a look at our do nots with the 14 blogging mistakes best avoided.

17 Blogging Tips to Follow

Find Your Niche

This is one of the most significant stages in building a blog and has a major impact on how successful your blog is in the long run.

Choose a subject with too many people writing about it and you’ll face constant competition and an uphill struggle. Choose something too obscure and you’ll hardly get any traffic at all.

To choose a niche, brainstorm specific things that you’re interested in. Then use Google Trends to see how many people are searching for your chosen subject.

Next, see if you can narrow your topic down further. For example, rather than writing about ‘gardening’, could you write about ‘gardening on a budget’?

Finally, determine whether you can make any money from the niche by looking to see if any competitor blogs are engaging in paid marketing.

Give the People What They Want

Your niche will have an audience and this audience will have interests, likes, and dislikes. Identify the traits of your target reader using social media or even encourage them to do a survey. Who are they? How old are they? Are they professionals or students? What do they want? What problems are they facing?

Consider the questions your audience is asking on social media. Check out the keyword trends related to your niche to get a sense of what they’re looking for. Use these ideas to craft blog articles that give them the answers they’re seeking.

Interact with Your Audience

A blog isn’t a monologue. It’s a conversation. Listen to your audience. Read and respond to their comments on the blog, via email, or on social media, and do so quickly. They’ll appreciate a fast response.

You also want your readers to feel like you’re speaking directly to them. Address them explicitly. Show empathy and keep it conversational and personal. End your blog posts with a question, showing them that you’re interested and that you care.

See Blogging as an Investment

You may be reluctant to spend money on your blog but what if we told you that you could reap major rewards? The following things aren’t free, but they could make all the difference between an average blog and an exceptional blog:

  • Custom domains. They’re not that expensive and immediately make you look more professional.
  • Blog design. You need to stand out. Hire a designer to take your blog from amateur to awesome.
  • SEO specialist. You may want to employ someone to take care of SEO if you don’t have time to get to grips with it yourself.
  • Mailing list service. If readers join your email list, you can reach them directly in their inbox. This has the potential to massively boost traffic.
  • Paid social media. You may also want to invest in paid promotion tactics, sponsoring content to allow you to reach more people.

CTAs Are Still Required

If you’re looking for more conversions from your blog, getting a diverse range of CTAs integrated into your page is essential.

What’s the next step that you want your audience to take after reading a post? Do you want them to share it on social media and comment? Join your mailing list? Comment below, engaging and taking part in a discussion? Maybe you simply want them to read another article on your blog.

CTAs help move readers down the sales funnel and boost engagement.

Write Posts for Other Blogs

Guest blogging can be a smart move for businesses. Writing and publishing a post on another party’s blog or website related to your niche helps them promote their products and simultaneously shares your expertise and builds awareness of your brand.

In fact, 60% of blogs write 1-5 guest posts a month. You get more exposure as your post gets more interest— especially if the post is shared on social media pages with lots of followers.

Get to the Point

Modern life is fast-paced and hectic, and our attention spans are shrinking. If you want to keep readers on your page, you need to get to the point—pronto.

Try to write as concisely as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your post needs to be short, but every word should be essential. Every sentence should make a specific point.

Create a clear structure and plan your article before you start writing to make sure you stay on track. A few rounds of revision will help cut out any fluff. Pay particular attention to filler words.

Feel Free to Make Things Personal

Even if yours is a business blog rather than a personal blog, using a relaxed and conversational style makes readers more receptive and open to what you’re saying.

You don’t want to be seen to be pushing products. You want it to be relatable. This might mean speaking in the first person, addressing the reader directly, using humour, asking questions, and telling anecdotes.

We’re not suggesting that you air your dirty laundry on your company blog. Instead, write about experiences with clients, keep it light-hearted rather than heavy and technical, and speak as you might to a friend.

Size Matters (Well, Usually)

The best length for a blog post is always changing but they seem to be getting longer. These days, bloggers who write articles of over 2,000 words are more likely to have strong results.

That said, according to research from Medium, the ideal length for a blog post when it comes to holding reader attention is 1,600 words. But other studies have disputed this. HubSpot data, for example, says the ideal blog post is between 2,100 and 2,400 words.

All in all, you probably want to be writing at least 1,600 words. However, your word count matters less than concision and relevance. 1,600 words of waffle aren’t going to keep anyone interested.

Don’t Be a Flash in the Pan

When it comes to blogging, consistency is the name of the game. You may have had one incredibly successful post, but you can’t rely on a single one-hit-wonder to provide all your traffic from here on out.

Post regularly. Going weeks without blogging is one easy way to lose readers. Your content should be delivered in a timely manner—and it should all be relevant.

Outline a clear strategy for posting and stick to this schedule. Post more frequently if you want to boost traffic. If you’re interested in building brand awareness, post less frequently but with a more diverse range of articles.

Reuse and Recycle

After a certain amount of time, even the best blog posts stop getting attention. Search engines stop ranking them because they get too old.

But the good news? You can update old blog posts and continue to drive organic traffic. You simply need to make them more relevant, helpful, and up-to-date.

Take any well-performing older post and give it a few tweaks and it will typically rank even higher than your new posts thanks to the authority it’s already built up.

Don’t forget to add internal links to encourage readers towards other relevant content and improve rankings.

Spread the Message

As nice as it sounds, blogging isn’t as simple as posting an article, then waiting for readers to come streaming in. You have to get the word out.

The best ways to promote your blog?

  • Share on social media
  • Keep keywords in mind when writing
  • Incorporate your blog URL into your email signature
  • Grow your email list and send regular newsletters with links to your blog
  • Answer relevant questions in forums with links to your post
  • Network with other bloggers, agreeing to share each other’s content

Grab Readers with Your Headlines

A good headline is all about specificity and simplicity. It tells the reader exactly what the article is about—and has a catchy flow to it.

Adding in numbers is a good idea i.e. 17 Best Budget Cross-trainers. Using brackets, hyphens, and colons is another way to catch people’s eyes. Turn it into a question for a bit of variety. And while ‘the best’ or ‘the easiest’ format for headlines is often effective, you could also consider making it a negative i.e. The 13 Biggest Mistakes Backpackers Often Make.

Adopt a trial-and-error approach. Test out different headlines in your email list, sending one version to some people, another version to another section of the list, and seeing which performs best. You can also use different headlines for social media or SEO titles.

Keep Readers Hooked with Awesome Intros

After the headline, the intro is the next most important piece of text in your post. Humans aren’t great at paying attention, so you need to hook them immediately.

Here are a few ways to begin your article:

  • Use a relevant and surprising fact. Statistics are always a winner and give your post some credibility and authority.
  • Start with an intriguing or mysterious opener. For example, “You won’t believe what happened when…”
  • Open with a quote. As long as it’s not a total cliche. Plus, it’s better if it’s from someone fairly well-known.
  • Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Imagine what they’re going through i.e. “You’ve spent weeks trying to get to grips with…”
  • Go straight to the conclusion. Cut to the end of your article immediately and your readers will want to know how you got there.
  • Get controversial. Everyone loves outrage. Be the devil’s advocate or say something unexpected. Just be careful not to offend anyone.
  • Offer up an anecdote. Preferably something funny, sad, or insightful.
  • Ask a question. Open questions make your reader think and keep them reading. Avoid obvious questions like ‘Do you want more website traffic?”

You may find your introduction easier to write after you’ve written the rest of the piece and you know exactly what the takeaway message is.

Cite Data to Support Your Arguments

If you’re making claims and statements, it’s best to back them up with data, statistics, or any findings from surveys, reports, experiments, and tests. Citing other sources gives your blog extra credibility by referencing experts, lending it additional authority.

While words can sometimes feel ambiguous, numbers come across as clear, precise, and persuasive, effectively reinforcing your argument. Just make sure any evidence you use comes from a reliable source and you make sure to credit it properly.

Optimise for Mobile Users

In a world where more than half of web traffic is on mobile, your blog needs to look as good on a phone as it does on the desktop. Not only could a blog that looks clunky on mobile make your site seem amateur, but you’ll also pay the price in Google rankings.

To optimise your blog for mobile, try the following tricks:

  • Break up long sections of text with headers and bullet points.
  • Keep everything minimal and remove clutter to allow for fast loading times.
  • Avoid Flash and Java.
  • Avoid heavy graphics and images that might take too long to load.
  • Choose a responsive design that adapts according to the size of the screen.
  • Keep any text entry boxes simple so they translate onto a mobile screen.
  • Run tests to check the blog works well on different operating systems. Ask customers for feedback too.

Use Images – But Only in The Right Way

Endless text isn’t going to keep anyone interested. Add visual excitement to break it up and maintain engagement. Images also work as helpful explainers to clarify a complex argument.

But if you’re going to use images, make sure that they’re relevant, high-quality, the file size isn’t too big, and they are legal to use. Check out sites like Unsplash or Pixabay for free images.

Avoid those that feel too much like stock images. Infographics and screenshots are good options too.

14 Blogging Mistakes to Avoid

Forgetting About the Reader

When you’re in the throes of writing—thinking up witty sentences and hunting for the perfect adjective—it’s easy to forget what you’re actually trying to do. Remember that you’re writing for real people who have come to your blog looking for answers to specific problems.

Make sure your writing is user focused. Ask yourself constantly what the reader is looking for and whether you’re giving it to them. What is their pain point? What are they struggling with? And how can you help them with that?

Changing the Subject

Don’t start writing until you have a detailed plan. Otherwise, you’re in danger of falling into free-flow—waffling, meandering, and losing your reader with long convoluted sentences.

We recommend starting with a mind-map of all your ideas and everything you want to cover. Then condense this into a plan with an introduction, several subheadings, and a conclusion. Work out how to link these points in a logical way to create a nice flow.

Publishing Straightaway

You’ve slaved over a blog post for hours and it’s finally finished. It can be tempting just to hit ‘publish’ and walk away. But checking over your article before sending it out into the ether is vital if you want to avoid bloopers and ensure your hard work has an optimal impact.

Proofread all your content for mistakes and typos. Use an editing tool like Grammarly if necessary. Check all the formatting is consistent. Verify that you’ve included all necessary keywords. Check the meta description rather than letting Google pull an excerpt automatically. And remember to create an SEO-friendly URL, as you don’t want to do this after already publishing.

Ignoring Aesthetics

How can you make your writing more aesthetically pleasing and easier to read? How can you make important information quick to identify?

Mix up paragraph lengths. Add bullet points. Add a variety of headers. Add images and other visuals. Consider a ‘table of contents’ so readers can skip to the section that’s most relevant to them. Play around with the layout and white space to create something easy on the eye. Change the column width to 80 characters per line at most. And choose the same font for all your blog posts—preferably something simple.

Skipping Keyword Research

Given that 53% of website traffic comes from organic search, you really want to get your keyword strategy right.

Keywords are the language used by your audience when they’re searching for your particular content, services, or products. Keyword research helps you understand what things people are putting into search engines so you can write content about these things and get noticed.

Start with your seed keywords—the most obvious words associated with your niche. Type these into a keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner to generate a list of keyword ideas.

Next, work out what keywords your competitors rank for by plugging their websites into a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. And for even more keyword ideas, you can check out forums and Q&A sites like Quora or Reddit to see what else prospective customers are asking.

Writing for Google

As important as keyword research is, you don’t want to sound like a robot. Your writing needs to be entertaining.

Cramming keywords into your article—also known as keyword stuffing—will not just sound weird and cause you to lose possible customers, but Google will also penalize you for it, bumping you down the rankings.

There’s no point in having a massive keyword density if your writing suffers as a result. Instead, slot in keywords as they arise naturally and focus on creating high-quality content that people actually want to read.

Opting for Clickbait Titles

Good content is all about building a relationship with your readers. You want them to trust you by being upfront and honest. This means writing titles that actually reflect what your post is about.

Clickbait titles are intentionally misleading and opt for controversy over truth. They’re often fear-mongering, playing on people’s emotions in a manipulative way. And while you might get people to click, once they discover the title has little to do with what your article is about, they’ll feel tricked and your credibility will suffer.

Make sure you deliver on the promise of your title and keep it engaging without exaggerating. Oh, and lay off the superlatives.

Neglecting Links

Internal and external links help boost your article in Google rankings. For internal links, link to your most important and essential content or pages (such as your main service or product category pages) and to other posts on similar topics.

For external links, link to studies and reports that you reference and anything that provides the reader with more information—although obviously don’t link to competitors.

Internal links make your site easier to navigate while external links boost authority and create connections between your blog and established websites, expanding your reach.

Lecturing Readers

Write like you talk to your friends. Keep your writing accessible and avoid too much jargon or pontificating. Writing in a more conversational tone will make you seem sincere, human, and create a connection with readers.

Use “you” and “I” to make it feel more personal. Keep sentences and words short. Use slang (but not to excess). Make jokes. And don’t stress too much about writing in complete sentences.

Going Solo

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And the same goes for the blogging world.

To grow your audience, you need to connect with other bloggers. Join a blogging network like Acorn. Join Facebook groups for your particular niche. Connect with people on Twitter. Attend conferences. Connect with people and trade knowledge, tips, and tricks. Offer to guest blog on their platform. Consider different partnerships. Ask contacts for feedback on your blog. All this will help you to build your reputation as a trusted authority in your particular niche.

Being Too Spontaneous

We’ve already discussed the importance of blogging consistently rather than erratically.

One easy way to ensure a continuous and steady stream of articles is to create a content calendar for a couple of months or even a year at a time. This way you can plan ahead, releasing content according to important dates—such as Halloween, Christmas, or Black Friday sales.

Don’t set the bar too high. Create a schedule and try to keep on top of it so you’ve always got content in the pipeline ready to be published.

Getting Caught Copying

Plagiarism may be rife, with 30% of the 5.1 billion web pages in existence featuring duplicate content. But you don’t need us to tell you that it’s ethically wrong. Not only that but in many cases it’s also illegal. Plus, it will hurt your rankings. Google can identify duplicate pages and will push one of the pages further down.

To ensure you avoid even accidental plagiarism, always check multiple different sources when researching and keep track of all of them. If in doubt, quote directly from your source and credit them clearly. And run your content through a free online plagiarism checker like World Essays to be 100% sure it’s all yours.

Getting Hung Up on Analytics

Analytics aren’t everything. Sure, they give you a sense of how much your audience is growing and can give you insights into who exactly your readers are and what they’re doing.

But don’t forget about other important success metrics such as where you rank on a Google search, the number of email signups, reader comments, and shares and clicks on social media.

Feeling Disheartened

Growing a blog takes time. Don’t imagine that every post you write will go viral. You may never have a viral post. It doesn’t matter. A small group of loyal readers is worth far more than a large number of one-time readers.

Blogging for Beginners – Final Words

Adopt a continuous improvement mindset when it comes to blogging. Don’t check the stats every day. Instead, focus on trying new things, testing new strategies, asking for feedback, implementing changes, and chatting with your readers, maintaining these important relationships.

After all, building these connections is the reason for blogging in the first place.

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