Like nail biting or knuckle cracking, bad blogging habits are easy to develop—and difficult to break. Here are the five areas in which bloggers most often find themselves falling into ruts:
How often you post new content depends on the niche of your blog. A site devoted to celebrity fashion foibles might update multiple times each day, while an industry insider blog might only update once a week. Posting too infrequently gives readers time to forget about you, so develop a schedule that will keep you fresh in their minds. However, posting too often can actually turn away readers who find themselves overwhelmed by new content, as well as flooding subscribers’ inboxes with unwanted messages. Finding a happy medium between the two is a challenge, but the most important thing is to develop a schedule and stick to it.
Just remember that posting inconsistently is the best way to lose readers. Not only do you leave them wondering when—or if—you’ll post next, but you also damage your reputation. You don’t want to be seen as unreliable or flighty.
Different social media platforms lend themselves to different lengths. Twitter, obviously, limits you to 140 characters. Traditional blogs give you unlimited space in which to ramble, but your readers don’t have unlimited attention spans. Experts disagree, but depending on the content, between 500 and 1000 words seems to be sweet spot. Significantly shorter posts may not explore a topic fully enough to be worth your readers’ time, while longer posts are almost certain to skimmed or skipped entirely. If you find too many readers are replying with “TL;DR” (that’s “Too Long; Didn’t Read”), consider breaking the post into a series.
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While keywords and trending topics may position your blog at the top of the stack, robust, valuable content is what converts casual visitors into subscribers. Beware of off-topic posts that dilute your message or self-serving updates that offer little value to your readers. Always ask yourself if your post serves your target audience.
The biggest content mistake bloggers make is omitting images. Every post should have at least one relevant image; not only do they add color and visual interest to your site, but they also have the potential to drive extra traffic via image searches and to increase shareability by appealing to Pinterest users.
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Categories and tags identify your content, but while categories are primarily used to sort posts, tags are more useful for attracting readers in search of a particular topic. Lazy tagging and unhelpful categorization defeat the purpose of these tools and make your blog much harder to find and navigate. Be consistent with your tags—avoid tagging some posts as “TV” and other as “Television”—and use search-engine friendly keywords as much as possible. Limit the number of categories on your blog, and assign each post to the most appropriate one. Try to make categories intuitive; ultimately, they are more for your readers’ benefit than yours.
For more help with categories and tags, be sure to read this guest post by Michael Martin at problogger.net.
It is called “social media” for a reason. Neglecting to link your sources is a very bad habit; not only does it open you up to possible plagiarism concerns, but it also limits your ability to network and grow with other bloggers—including your competitors. Outbound links add richness and context to your posts.
Finally, the number one bad habit for bloggers is not responding to comments. While you don’t need to reply to every single comment, especially if you have a high-traffic blog, leaving the comments section to fend for itself robs you of the opportunity to engage with your readers, build relationships, get inspired, and receive valuable feedback. If you’re not sure how to respond to comments, Jeff Goins has a very informative post here.
Like any bad habit, these will take time and practice to break. Set reasonable, measurable goals for yourself. If you’ve been posting once a month, it’s unlikely that you’ll suddenly stick to posting five days a week. Aim for gradual improvements, and keep track of your progress. You’ll be kicking your bad blogging habits before long!