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October 15, 2007

Blogging 101: Eight Mistakes That Are Killing Your Blog

The first year of keeping a blog is always the hardest. You’re just getting into the game and you haven’t quite learned all the ins and outs of playing just yet. While that’s understandable, if you’re making too many mistakes with your blog, you’ll never have a chance to get it off the ground. Here are eight common blogging mistakes, and steps you can take to avoid them.

1) Ignoring reader comments

You don’t have to respond to every single comment (especially if there are several), but if somebody makes an interesting point or asks a question, answer it. Commenting back encourages readers to start a dialogue and lets them know that you’re listening to what they have to say. Ignoring them sends off the statement that you don’t care about your readers’ thoughts on what you’ve written, and they’ll stop reading.

2) Straying off topic

It’s easier than you’d think to start a blog post with one idea in mind, only to drift away from that to a completely different idea by the end. However, while that rambling might work under some conditions, it’s not good for a blog. People aren’t going to want to read a blog post that wanders around eight different topics like a lazy river. Keep your posts simple and to the point, and you’ll keep more readers.

3) No countermeasure for spam

Spam has infested emails, MySpace, Facebook, forums and blog comments, and nothing will bring your blog down faster than looking in the comments to see that they’re all from somebody in Nigeria who needs to move $1.5 million to the U.S. A spam countermeasure is as simple as a verification box, where people enter a series of letters before they post. Or, you could ask a simple question, like “Is fire hot or cold?” Just do something to ensure that the person posting is actually a person.

4) Looking just like everybody else

You’ve got your blog on your site, right? So why does it look exactly like every single blog found on Blogger, Blogspot or Livejournal?

Using the exact same templates that come with every blog is boring. You don’t look special; you look like everybody else. A unique blog design that matches your website will keep brand consistency for your users. Plus, it will showcase your personality and taste, not the taste of the template designers. For a good example, take a look at this blog: http://www.sleepingtiger.org/blog/

For more ideas on how to spice up your blog, check out this excellent article at David Meerman Scott’s blog: http://www.webinknow.com/2006/09/pimp_out_your_b.html

5) Poor grammar and punctuation

You probably don’t worry too much about grammar, spelling and punctuation when you’re chatting online, but those mistakes in a blog can be a death sentence. Blogs with lousy grammar and punctuation and frequent misspellings come across as unprofessional, and that’s not the image that you want for your business. Edit your blogs and check them for grammtical errors before you ever post.

6) Stale or grandiose writing

Blogs are supposed to provide personal, human insight into your company. They shouldn’t read like bland corporate gibberish, nor should you use so many five-dollar words that your readers would have to hit a dictionary just to understand your post. The former makes your stuff boring; the latter makes it condescending, and either way, people won’t want to read it. Keep your writing simple and lively.

7) Personal attacks

Controversial ideas or topics are good for blogs, as they can spark discussion and attract a lot of attention. However, while controversy is good, stooping to personal attacks is not. You’re writing a professional blog, not picking a grade school fight. Personal attacks will reflect badly on both you and your company, so refrain from it.

8) Long absences

It’s all right if you can’t post every day. However, letting 10 days, two weeks, or even a month pass without updating is a big blogging no-no. A lack of updates indicates that your blog is on its way out, and readers will quit checking back. Even if you just link to an article or a video that you thought was worth sharing, make an effort to post frequently.

By avoiding these common blogging mistakes, you can keep your blog helpful, interesting, insightful and professional. Take steps to correct your mistakes now and you can make sure that your blog and readers will be around for a long time to come.

Author:  President and founder of Xeal Inc., Tony D. Baker is Oklahoma’s leading Internet marketing expert with more than 10 years of Internet marketing experience. You can catch Tony on the Xeal Radio Show on Sunday nights on 1170 KFAQ Tulsa. Sign up for a free 25-point website evaluation and pick up crucial tips at Xeal’s free Thursday webinar at http://www.xeal.com/webinar.

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