Blog Clinic: Blogging mistakes and how to avoid them
Want your blog to look a bit more professional? In this week's Blog Clinic, Alice Elliott shares some handy tips for beginners.
There are always some tell-tale signs that indicate to me that the blog I'm looking at belongs to a beginner, or someone who doesn't know very much about blogging.
Whatever stage you are at with your blog though, it's always worth doing some regular checks to make sure your blog is in tip-top condition. Here's a rundown of common mistakes - and ways to avoid them!
1. About page
This is the most important page on your blog. It is vital that you have made an effort to complete it as best as you can. Don't just bang on about how wonderful you are, but also bear in mind who is reading it: your ideal reader. So – what information can you give them that's useful, and what will they want to know?
An 'About' page that relates to your blog's readers, tells them what you can do for them, and makes them feel welcome, needed and comfortable, will go a long way towards gaining their loyalty.
2. Contact page
Your contact details could easily be added to your blog's banner or in a text widget on the sidebar - they don't only need to appear on a page.
However, it is a good idea to have some sort of mechanism that allows your readers a chance to make contact, even if it's only to ask a question. It can be irritating for them if they want to get in touch, but can't find a way to. If you're worried about spam, there are contact forms with CAPTCHA available to weed out the robots.
3. Responsive theme
A responsive theme will show off your content beautifully on all platforms - mobile, desktop and tablet. You do need to be using one, because search engines are starting to penalise blogs with outdated, non-responsive themes, and especially those that are difficult to read on a small screen. If you're not using a responsive theme, you can expect to see your blog's visibility drop into oblivion. Furthermore, if you haven't yet ventured away from the default theme you first had when you created your blog, it's definitely time to start exploring new horizons.
4. Sidebar contents
It's time to take a look at the widgets in your sidebar. Remember though that a cluttered sidebar is as bad as a neglected one. Have a good think about your sidebar's purpose, about what your readers want to see, and then strategically place the most appropriates widgets on there. Some bloggers prefer not to have a sidebar and instead use a footer. Whatever you choose, make sure to remove the 'archive' and 'meta' widgets as these aren't essential and scream at me that the blogger hasn't yet thought about their sidebar and its contents.
Any posts that are allocated to 'Uncategorized' definitely show that the blogger doesn't understand categories. Make sure to categorise your posts - and if your category widget still sports the 'Uncategorized' link in its listings, it's time to think about changing its name. You cannot delete it, however, only rename it.
6. Social sharing
Social media is such an important element within blogging, it is unthinkable to not show any evidence of it on your blog. (Unless you live as a hermit in a cave.) You should have the social networking buttons on your sidebar to encourage your readers to connect with you. That's how you maintain a good relationship with your readers and gain their loyalty.
You should also place social sharing buttons under your posts (or floating on the side) to again encourage your readers to share your posts on their social networking streams. This is a great way to increase your audience and exposure.
7. Blog subscription
There are plenty of reasons why you would like your readers to subscribe to your blog, even if it's just to receive notifications of when you next publish a post. So you could either pop in a 'Follow' widget (available from the JetPack plugin) or sign up to a newsletter system and use their code to place a form on your sidebar. The best place for this is at the top of your blog's page, so that it stands out and encourages your readers to sign up.
8. Hello World!
Lack of content suggests to me that this is a beginner's blog. This is very easy to remedy – get writing! It doesn't really matter how much you write, or what you write, the idea is to practise until it gets easier. The more you do, the better you will become. Now - if you've still got the default example post on your blog - delete it! Your readers don't need to see it.
Lastly, do take a look at this handy checklist to be sure you're avoiding the common beginner mistakes.