Thursday, July 14, 2011

Seven Common Blogging Mistakes

Okay, I've been blogging now for - what? more than three years. In addition to Beyond Romance and my group blog Oh Get A Grip, I do guest appearances on quite a few other blogs. I also make a point of visiting and commenting on blogs created by fellow authors, whenever I have the time.

Blogging is a powerful marketing tool (as well as a lot of fun). However, I've seen a number of authors who shoot themselves in the metaphorical foot with their blogs.

Here are the top seven blogging mistakes that I've observed (in no particular order). As usual, this should be viewed only as my opinion. "Your mileage may vary".

1. Failing to put your name in your blog header: A headline on a recent list post drew me over to an author's blog. The blog owner wasn't someone I knew well. I wanted to address her personally in my comment, but when I looked around on her blog, I couldn't find her name! If you view your blog as a marketing tool, get your name up there, front and center, where readers can't miss it!

2. Not updating regularly: You don't have to have a new post every day. In fact, I think it's more effective to leave each post up for a couple of days, to give people a chance to see it. However, if readers hop over to your blog and discover the same top post as you had two weeks ago, they aren't going to come back.

3. Overloading your blog with promo: Clearly you want to use your blog as a marketing medium, to announce releases, awards, contests, etc., and to whet your readers' appetites. However, readers aren't likely to interact much if you serve up a steady diet of nothing but blurbs and excerpts. The strength of a blog is the readers' ability to talk back - to be able to start a conversation with your readers and help them get to know you. Thus, posts about a variety of topics, topics that really engage readers, work better than straight promo.

4. Using your blog like Twitter: I recently visited a blog where each post was no more than a short paragraph, an announcement of some event or a link to some other location. Personally, I don't think this sort of post is effective. You have the space to expound a bit on subjects near and dear to your heart. Use it!

5. Loading your blog page down with multimedia: I'm sure not everyone will agree with me about this, but I avoid blogs where sidebars are full of videos, animation, slide shows, dozens of images, and so on. I have an old computer and a less-than-lightning-speed Internet connection. Busy pages like that slow my browser to a crawl. It's frustrating and unpleasant. It's great that we can include images and even video in blog posts, but I at least consider a blog to be primarily a written medium. Just my opinion.

6. Making graphical design choices that reduce readability: I've seen blogs that use 8 point fonts and others that use 20 point fonts. Both make reading really difficult. I've seen black backgrounds with gray text, and pink backgrounds with neon orange text. Oh, my head aches just from the memory! Remember, too, that not everyone will access your blog on a big screen. My laptop has 1024 pixel resolution. Lots of blogs I visit use more than this space and don't adjust gracefully to a smaller screen. As a result, I see garbled layouts or some of the content gets cut off. Lest you think that I'm just an old fogey still in the dark ages (though I may be), I should mention that many of my readers have commented on their slow (dial-up!) Internet or old computers.

7. Posting entries with spelling, grammar or formatting errors: Oh, my! What does it say about you as an author, if your posts are riddled with errors? Obviously we all depend on our editors to find those nasty typos and grammaticos in our books, but still, your blog is an advertisement for your writing skill. If you're dyslexic, or you know you're weak in spelling or grammar, have someone proofread your articles before you put them online. When I read a post by an author who punctuates incorrectly, misspells common words, uses sentence fragments, and so on, I tend to mentally cross that author off my "to read" list.

Formatting can be a problem, at least with some blogging platforms. Blogger lets you preview your post, but the final result does not necessarily look identical to what you see when you're doing the writing. The only solution I've found is to check each post after it actually appears on the blog, looking out for things like breaks in the middle of paragraphs, garbage characters, unexpected changes in font, and so on.

I've found that blogging serves as an excellent marketing activity. However, if you make the mistakes above, I think you are undermining your own efforts. I might not be typical. Some readers might not pay attention to these problems. But I wouldn't bet on it!


Unknown said...

Excellent advice, Lisabet. I know my spelling and typing is abysmal. I double, triple and then check again before I post, and even then, I find errors when i come back later, but a trick I've found works for me on that score is to read the post again in the preview mode. The different font and background colour makes the text look different and I almost always catch a typo or two.

Hope you don't mind my adding another point: Comments. I'm terrible for remembering to go back and check for comments on blogs that don't email me responses, and readers like to engage. One of the reasons our Four Strong Women blog is so successful is that we're religious about responding to comments. Plus, it makes the whole experience more fun to actually chat a bit with readers.

Unknown said...

Excellent post. As you know, my blog is one that you have problems with as far as downloading, and I intend to remove a lot of stuff as soon as I get home and back to a computer other than my netbook. My other "guilty as sin" admission is probably mistakes. No matter how hard I try to proof read, I find misspelled words I've missed. Despite how old the post, I do go back and correct them. I seemed to pass on the other issues you mention, and I totally agree with your assessments. I don't frequent blogs that don't identify the owner, and I really don't like those that "tweet" instead of blog. :)

Janice Seagraves said...

Good advice. I've have a blog for seven years now. And I've seen it all.

My advice is--before you post, read it two or three times to make sure you have it down right. Then view it posted. It'll look a little different and you might spot a mistake or two.


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Jaime,

Yes, responding to comments is critical ( ;^) ) That's actually hard for me because of my job and my time zone, but I try.

Lisabet Sarai said...


I've never noticed a spelling or grammar error in your posts. Now maybe that's because I'm having such a good time, laughing so hard, that I just miss them. Hey, that's a good strategy!

Don't worry too much about the problem I mentioned to you. Now I feel bad that I brought it up, to be honest. If your other readers are not having difficulties, you should just chalk it up to my weird configuration.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Greetings, Janice,

An occasional mistake is inevitable. What really bothers me is a post that is riddled with them. The message that I get from that sort of post is that either the author doesn't know any better, or doesn't care. Either way, that's not a positive impression.

Anonymous said...

Lisabet - thanks for the post. I'm a newbie to the blogging world - almost a year old now (smile), and am still learning the ropes of good blogging.
I appreciate anything and everything that would make it easy for a reader/commenter to come and visit my blog site.
I try to do what 'I' like to see when visiting a blog. You have a classy, elegant in apprearance, blog - simple, pleasant to the eye and full of wisdom (smile).

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thank you, Kay Dee!

Having an old computer has some positive aspects!

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