New to Blogging? Avoid These Mistakes New Bloggers Make and Set Yourself up for Success
As a new blogger, you’re probably spending hours searching the internet on how to start blogging, niches, keywords, SEO, analytics, and everything that comes with a new blog. It can be pretty overwhelming and confusing to say the least. Much of the information out there isn’t necessarily for a new blogger, but it’s easy to get sucked into the details and trying to do it all at once.
However, building a successful blog takes time, lots of effort, and some good up-front basics to ensure you’re setup for success in the long run. I’ve highlighted below what I think are the top mistakes new bloggers make when they start blogging. Avoiding these mistakes will help you set a good foundation for getting the most from your blog.
1 – Choosing the Wrong Blogging Platform
This can be a tough decision when you’re getting started, but in my mind the only choice is WordPress. One of the mistakes new bloggers make is to choose the easy to use platforms because of their easy to use drag and drop platforms, but this could hurt your blogging success in the long run. I’ve already written several times about this, and why you want to choose WordPress for your blog. Yes, the learning curve is slightly steeper, but the benefits in the long run far outweigh any of that time spent learning WordPress. Keep in mind, there’s still no coding required to use WordPress, there’s just more options and areas with settings to look at, so the learning curve doesn’t mean anything technical or an expectation to learn any code.
If you still haven’t chosen a platform, here’s our step-by-step guide on starting a new self-hosted WordPress blog.
2 – Focusing On Site Appearance
Success in blogging is directly related to the quality of your content, NOT what your site looks like. Many new bloggers make this mistake and tend to go for the Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly platforms because they have more bells and whistles. But guess what, Google DOES NOT CARE! If you’re going to be successful your blog needs to rank on Google, and Google crawls your site to see what your content is all about, not what your site looks like.
So instead of spending time perfecting every color, font, logo, layout, etc on your new blog, focus on writing. The sooner you start writing content, the sooner Google crawls your site, which means you get more traffic sooner. You can tweak your site appearance as you go along.
Blogging is not about appearance, its all about content!
3 – Not Writing Quality Content
This is the corner stone of building followers and a successful blog. If you write good content, content that people are interested in and want to keep reading, then you WILL be successful. It’s that simple.
In the past you could stuff keywords throughout your posts and trick Google into ranking you higher, but this is no longer the case. On the contrary, those techniques of the past will get you penalized.
Don’t write for Google, write for people! Google is smart enough now to know what quality content is. Write it and they will come!
4 – Monetizing Too Soon
Another mistake new bloggers make is trying to monetize too soon, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it takes away from your focus on actually trying to create good content. The other issue you’ll run into when trying to monetize too soon is you won’t get approved for the many ad or affiliate programs out there, like Skimlinks for example. Those programs will check your site popularity and traffic to see if it’s worth bringing you on, and you’re most likely to get a rejection email on your first few applications if your blog doesn’t meet the traffic requirements they’re looking for.
Stick with the message in the first three points of this article, write quality content, stick to your niche, and start building your search ranking and a few dedicated followers.
5 – Obsessed With Page Loading Speed
This is one I see so many people also waste time on, they’re wrongly focused on their GTmetrix scores and trying to get down to a loading speed that’s just not reasonable on the shared hosting plans running the standard WordPress installation. Many times these are the same people that spent a month setting up their blog to be just perfect, and in doing so have bloated their site to the point of +10 second loading times.
Google has made it clear, going from a four second to two second loading time is not going to make any noticeable difference in your ranking, so don’t obsess over it. Focus instead on quality content, this will have a much greater affect on your ranking compared to a one or two second load time improvement. If your site is loading in four seconds or less, then you’re fine. Once you start ranking your content, then you can look at refining your page loading speed.
If you are getting up to 10+ second loading times, then you’ve got some work to do. Have a look at the next point.
6 – Too Many Plugins
If you’re on a self-hosted WordPress site the temptation to install lots of plugins can be huge. But keep in mind, more plugins=slower loading times. You need to ask yourself, “do I really need this plugin, is it going to help me rank my content better?”
Not every plugin is going to slow your site down, but it might slow it down enough that the aggregate loading time from each one of those individual plugins starts adding seconds to your page loading times. It’s worth it to start taking a serious look at your current plugins to decide what you really need and don’t need on your blog.
The other major issue with too many plugins are conflicts. This is more common than you think, and can easily bring down your site. Between poorly coded themes and plugins, the ever changing updates to WordPress, themes, and plugins, this is bound to happen at some point. Even if your site is running normally, a plugin or theme update could trigger a conflict, bringing your site down. The fewer plugins you have installed, the lower the chance of your site being brought down due to a conflict.
And the last word on too many plugins – don’t use multiple plugins that perform the same purpose, it’s pointless due to the reasons mentioned above, but it’s something I see all the time.
7 – Avoid Email Popup Sign-up Forms
Email signup forms that popup on your site are just annoying. Let’s face it, you’re reading a how-to article on how to do something, or some other interesting post, and BAM! in your face. Honestly, I just leave the site at that point. If the site is really interesting, and worth me coming back, then I’ll look for the sign-up box in the sidebar myself and signup.
I know you’ve probably read a ton about building your e-mail list, and it is important to some extent. But is it worth it to be paying for a big email list if you’ve got people on there that don’t care about your content? I personally would rather have a smaller but more focused following than a large email list that doesn’t perform and only costs you money. Not to mention the readers you drive away with the annoying popup window that could actually hurt your ranking with Google if folks leave right away – causing your bounce rate to increase.
If you’re insistent on having a popup, try to keep it discreet, like a slide-in form at the bottom of the page, or the top, as long as it doesn’t interfere with user then you’ll be OK. I personally let Jetpack handle it for me with the Follow button, so much easier and unobtrusive, free, and no hassle. Here’s how you can add the WordPress follow button to your self-hosted WordPress site or blog.
8 – Your Image Sizes Are Too Big
By too big, I mean your file size, which is generally related to the pixel size of your image. I’ve seen so many new users complain about slow page loading times, or posts they can’t even edit because their browser can’t handle the post size. This is another one of those common mistakes new bloggers make. You need to optimize your images before you upload them to your site.
When you take a picture with your favorite digital camera, even your fancy new mobile phone, the image size will be well over 2,000 pixels wide, in many cases over 5,000 pixels with a digital camera. Consider your average user is on a mobile device, or any other device with a screen size that barely comes close to even 2,000 pixels. So there’s no point in uploading the full size image. Try to keep the images as small as possible and you’ll see huge improvements in your page loading times.
If you’re not all that great with editing your photos before uploading, consider a plugin that will do it for you. WP Smush is a popular plugin, however the free version will make a copy of your original image in your media library when you resize it, keeping the original on the server and using your precious drive space. One of my favorites is a plugin called Imsanity. The plugin will resize the images as they’re uploaded, doing all the hard work for you, and saving you drive space in the process.
My recommendation is to keep images less than 2,000 pixels wide, even less if you can. On this site I aim for the featured images to be between 1,000 and 1,500 pixels wide, and a maximum of 1,000 pixels for images in post content.
9 – Worrying Too Much About SEO Early On
Yes, on page SEO is important. Make sure to structure your content properly, make your posts long enough, and make sure it’s interesting enough that people want to read it, and post regularly. If you hit those points, Google will take care of the rest.
One good post with the best on-page SEO structure that took you hours to finesse, is not going to get you traffic from Google. Google is smart enough to understand what your article is about if it’s well written, and knows when to show it in the relevant search results.
I’m not saying don’t write with SEO in mind, but don’t obsess over it as it won’t get you any additional traffic early on. Focus on your writing, and have a look at this article to help increase your Google ranking naturally in four easy steps.
10 – Buying Traffic or Backlinks
It might make you feel better, but it’s worthless. If you truly want to make money from your blog, grow your traffic organically.
Seriously, you still see these posts in Fiverr and other spammy emails promising a higher ranking and more traffic. The methods used by some of these shady gigs to get you more backlinks or traffic could get you penalized by Google. Not only would the traffic hide your actual traffic stats, making it harder for you to know if your traffic is increasing organically or not, but it’s useless if you’re monetizing your blog or trying to build followers as its empty traffic. Think empty carbs – it might taste great and make you feel better, but it really just sets you back when it comes to progress.
Starting out as a new blogger can be overwhelming with so much information out there and telling you what you should do to optimize and build traffic. As a new blogger, keep it simple, just write good content. Google will index you, show you on relevant search results, and the traffic will come.
After you’ve built a solid base of content, then you can start tweaking to optimize it. You can’t rank without content, so over-optimizing early is pointless.