Bloggers: 5 major mistakes to avoid

This blogger learned the hard way that obsessing over numbers, thinking like a marketer, and copying other bloggers isn’t the route to success.


I’ve almost reached 1,000 blog posts on my blog. If I had to start all over, there are a few things I would do differently. Here are some mistakes I’ve made and, sadly, in some cases, continue to make:

1. Preoccupation with numbers.

It takes time, patience and hard work to find your voice and build a successful blog. I don’t have much patience.

A while back, I thought I wrote some good articles and was frustrated that nobody wanted to read them. I became preoccupied with adding my blog to directories, as well as other schemes to drive traffic.

It was a waste of time—there are no shortcuts. If you want to build a community, you have to do it one reader at a time. Give people a good reason to come to your blog, and then love them for it.

2. Trying to copy success.

When I arrived on the blogging scene, I found a few people who were doing it right, including Chris Brogan. I tried to be like Brogan, who posts several times a day. I nearly killed myself trying to be like him.

Trying to be like someone else is a rookie mistake. You have to find your own path, voice and wisdom. Trying to be somebody else is precisely the wrong way to be original!

3. Being a marketer instead of a blogger.

I grew up in big American companies. In these companies, marketing is about developing a “message” for the “target.” This is the way I started to blog. I tried to fashion a “message” for an “audience.”

This bored me, and the blog didn’t go anywhere. I started to relax and write about things that interested me to show more of my personality and take creative, intellectual risks. Then, something magical happened. Instead of me finding my audience, my audience found me.

4. Using posts that don’t work.

Posts that work are short, direct, timely, useful, and humorous or entertaining.

After much trial and error, I identified the posts that don’t do as well. These posts are cerebral, long (more than 1,500 words), and are videos.

I’m not going to stop writing cerebral posts or video blogs, but they seem to fall flat compared to other posts.

5. Not active on the blogging scene.

I love blogs and bloggers. I love the fun exchange of ideas, debates, and friendships that form online. Being active in this global blog community is how I built my blog in the first place. Regrettably, I’ve been largely absent for the past nine months. My new book was an ambitious project because it covers an entirely new subject—social influence as a commodity—and it took a lot of research.

Basically, I’ve had two full-time jobs for the past year. I know this has made a difference because many of the {grow} community regulars don’t visit my blog like they used to. This is because I don’t visit them. Lively blog community debates are happening without me, and I miss being part of it.

The other contributing factor is that my social media presence has grown significantly. Blog readership grew 400 percent between 2009 and 2010, and another 300 percent from 2010 to the end of 2011. How do I give personal attention to all of these readers and their blogs?

The cruel irony is that the more successful you become on the social Web, the less social you can be. All the best practices that bring success in the first place go out the window. I am fortunate to have my readers and don’t take them for granted. I just can’t repay the favor like I used to.

What mistakes have you made?

Mark Schaefer is the author of “Return On Influenceand blogs at grow, where this article originally appeared.

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