Blogging can be a true springboard to the career and life you want. It has helped me grow my software business and get booked for speaking engagements. It has empowered my friends to get books published and even launch their own conferences. It has helped dozens of people I know to make money selling online courses and training programs.
Yep, blogging is awesome. But these benefits are only possible if you blog intelligently and really wow your readers. Bad articles won’t help you reach your goals. In fact, writing them can be a huge waste of time.
So in this article, let’s look at 5 of the most common mistakes I see newbie bloggers making and how you can avoid them.
Mistake #1: Writing with No Clear Goal
The best writing is intentional. Your mission isn’t simply to get another post up. It’s to deliver value, impress your readers, and grow an army of true fans who can help you reach your goals.
The best way to make sure you’re writing effective content is to start with the end in mind. Before you write even one word of your next blog post, try asking yourself these questions:
- What do I want my readers to know after reading this post?
- What do I want my readers to feel after reading this post?
- What do I want my readers to do after reading this post?
No matter what type of article you’re publishing, from “how-to” all the way to memoir or short story, finding clear answers to these questions is crucial.
Here are my answers for this article:
After you read this, I want you to know how to avoid 5 common mistakes that turn potentially great blog posts into mediocre ones. I want you to feel more confident as a blogger and more prepared when you write future articles. As for what I want you to do, I want you to reference this checklist before you publish your next article.
Here are answers for an article that could be story-driven, like a piece of memoir:
I want readers to know that diabetes doesn’t have to be a death sentence if you manage it properly, as illustrated by my personal story of living with the disease. I want readers to feel encouraged and hopeful as they see me thriving despite diabetes. As for what I want readers to do, I want them to take their doctor’s advice seriously and immediately start making the changes their doctor has recommended.
When you start with the end in mind, you consistently create valuable content with an intentional tone. It’s that simple.
Mistake #2: Not Making a Clear Promise of Value
It’s not enough for you to know your article is valuable, your reader needs to know it too. The internet is full of very tempting headlines — everything from celebrity gossip to get rich quick promises. While the articles behind those headlines might not be particularly helpful, they still get a lot of attention. If you want to rise above the noise, you need to stand out and do so quickly. The easiest way is by making the value of your article clear in your title and introduction.
When it comes to headlines, clear is always best. You can be clever and funny in the actual article, but in the headline, anything that distracts the reader from wanting to click is self-sabotage. That doesn’t mean headlines have to be short or boring. For example, here’s a recent headline on CNBC.com:
“Harvard professor says ‘winning a $20 million lottery won’t make you happier’ — but 4 things will”
That’s a super long headline, but it’s also clear and compelling — a lot more compelling than something bland like “4 Tips for Being Happier.”
And your headline isn’t the only place you should sell readers on your content. Your article's introduction should reinforce your headline and deepen people’s interest.
One strategy I love to use is including bullet points in my intro listing what people will learn. It’s a succinct way to show people why they should keep reading all the way to the end.
If you look at the full review of ProWritingAid from my website, you’ll see that each of these bullets corresponds with a section of the article (more on that further down).
Mistake #3: Not Delivering on the Article’s Promise
If you’re starting with the end in mind and writing compelling headlines and intros, delivering value in the article will become a lot easier. So I won’t spend a lot of time on this, but I do want to be clear: Don’t let your headlines write checks your articles can’t cash. Get the two in alignment before you click "publish."
Every time you change your headline or your promises, make sure your article still lives up to them.
And when you do keep a promise in your article, make it obvious and easy to find. That has a lot to do with the next mistake we’ll talk about.
Mistake #4: Not Making Your Articles Skimmable
People don’t read the way they used to — at least not on the internet. These days, most people skim more than they read. As bloggers, we need to write in a style that matches people’s “reading” style.
One of the best ways to do this is with very clear subheads. Just like your title tells readers what to expect from your article, your subheads should tell them what to expect from each section. Making the value of each section obvious pulls readers out of a skimming mindset and motivates them to actually read the words you worked hard writing.
Good subheads also pair nicely with the bulleted intro trick I mentioned earlier. Your subheads will make great bullets, and readers will always know where they’re at in the article.
Another pro formatting strategy is finding visual ways to communicate information quickly. My friend has an article about the cheapest meal delivery services. While he took the time to write a very detailed article, he opens with a table that quickly shows the prices per serving. This gives people an easy answer to their question “which meal kit is the cheapest?” before diving into more detail.
Readers appreciate that, and while it might seem like including visual aids will distract from your words, it will actually pull people in and keep them from leaving in search of a more skim-friendly article.
Mistake #5: Not Paying Attention to Grammar
The internet can be a weird place — home to scams, fake news, and worse. That makes it all the more important to always look professional on your blog.
When a new reader comes to your site, they don’t have much information to go on. They won’t know if you’re really an expert. They won’t know if you’re telling the truth. They won’t know if you have their best interests at heart. The only way they’ll have to evaluate you and your skill is focusing on your writing.
Would you trust a business coach who can’t spell “entrepreneurship”? I wouldn’t.
And many readers are even more perceptive than that.
I recently received an email about one of my old blog posts. The reader thanked me for the great information, then said:
“I learned a lot. However, I noticed some ‘typos’ you might want to be aware of.”
She proceeded to list out six different errors in my writing!
That’s why it’s always worth running your writing through a proofreading software. For me, that means ProWritingAid. I’ve noticed a huge difference in the quality of my posts since I started checking them with PWA. In fact, I’m now going back through older articles and putting them through the software because I’m trying to cut down on the emails pointing out my grammar mistakes!
I’ve publicly listed ProWritingAid as one of the best pieces of software for writers. If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, I encourage you to do it.
Blogging has been a total game changer in my life. If you want it to be a win for you too, take the time to do it well by avoiding these all-too-common mistakes.
Alright, before I sign off, let me make sure I did what I set out to do.
I wanted you to:
Know how to avoid 5 common mistakes that turn potentially great blog posts into mediocre ones.
Feel more confident as a blogger and more prepared when you write future articles.
Reference this checklist before you publish your next article.
Ah, forgot that last part. Use this checklist when you publish your next post! You’ll be glad you did.