Before starting DDIY I made a mountain of mistakes with my first blog. Growth was painfully slow and it took me almost a year to correct most of these issues. I've learned a few things from other bloggers and I won’t be making these same mistakes twice. Try to avoid these pitfalls if you want to build a successful blog.
Blogging Mistakes I Made on My First Blog
- Not writing in the first person. I started out blogging in the third person like a corporate shill. My blog began as a boring advice column with no character. It’s so much easier to build an audience by sharing your personality and trying to develop a connection with people. I also suggest putting up a picture of yourself (even if you look as dorky as me) so your readers can identify with you.
- Not leaving comments with my own name. Part of building an audience is networking with other bloggers and leaving comments on their sites. It used to be common practice to stuff keywords into the Name field when leaving a comment. But since it’s almost impossible to find a do-follow comment link these days, those keywords are meaningless. And it’s very difficult to build a relationship when you won’t even share your name with someone…very impersonal. Leaving your name on a comment will get clicked just as often and will encourage other bloggers to come visit and say hello.
- Not having a test environment. I never created a test environment for my other blog and every time I made a layout change I'd pray that my site wouldn't break. When you set up a blog, create a second copy on a sub-domain or WordPress.com. Every time you want to tweak your theme, try it in your test environment first in case things break.
- Choosing an inflexible theme. As a new blogger, you’re going to make design mistakes. That’s ok, but when you change your layout to fix them, you need a flexible theme. I like the look of my other blog’s theme, but it’s impossible to make any significant changes. It’s worth it to pay for a flexible theme like Thesis or Genesis so you can easily make changes to fit almost any design.
- Not hiring a graphic designer for a logo or header. I started with a basic WordPress theme and no branding. If you want your website to look professional, at a minimum you need your own logo or header. You can find a graphic designer and get a new logo for less money than you’d expect. Or if you want to get serious, hire a designer to create a custom theme design for you (like the one on this blog).
- Worrying about no-following every link. When I first started, I put rel=”nofollow” on every single outbound link. I was scared to death of losing link juice in the eyes of Google. I’ve since learned to use that more judiciously. A “nofollow” should really only be used for advertisers. Hoarding links is just bad business. You can build a lot of good will by giving out links which will help you grow your blog.
- Not using a 301 redirect plugin. If you use any affiliate links on your site, you definitely want to use a WordPress plugin that performs a 301 redirect for you (like Pretty Links). When I first started, I didn’t know plugins like this existed and I manually entered 301 redirect rules for each link through cPanel at my hosting provider. Using a plugin is so much easier to manage and takes about 1/10th the time to setup.
- Not installing a CAPTCHA for comments. Spammers are out there in force. Unless you want to spend an hour a day scrolling through your spam folder to free your real commenters, install a CAPTCHA program. I personally hate using CAPTCHAs, but that’s why I use the Conditional CAPTCHA plugin. It applies some intelligence and only requires a CAPTCHA for comments first flagged as spam. I immediately went from 100 spam comments a day to one.
- Not doing keyword research before writing. Ok, I’m guilty of that for this post! You don’t want to get in the habit of writing every post for Google. That said, if you want to get some search traffic, you should take some time to do keyword research before writing. Don’t let keywords change how you write, but if you keep them in mind and subtly include them in the right places, you’ll do much better with the search engines.