This guest post is by Lior Levin.
One of the main reasons why any company or individual starts a blog is to demonstrate expertise and professionalism while courting new leads and customers. So failing to customize your blog or to learn some basic website management practices could do more harm than good. Here are seven rookie mistakes to avoid on your blog.
1. Using a common, unchanged theme
There are plenty of free, high quality website themes that you can use with a blog CMS such as WordPress. You don’t have to stick with the default website theme your blogging service provides. In fact, you really shouldn’t, as there are plenty of rookie bloggers who leave their themes unchanged.
Instead, use a unique, professional theme and then add your own custom tweaks or hire an HTML company to customize it for you.
2. Low-quality stock images
Whether you use a free service like Stock Exchange or pay for an account with a premium service, using high-quality stock images with your posts will help set your blog apart from the competition. If you use watermarked, blurry, or irrelevant images with your blog posts, no one will take your website seriously. While a great image can’t save poor content, a bad image can discredit great content.
3. Poorly aligned images
Even if you do manage to add high-quality images to your website, you also need to learn the basics of aligning them with your text properly so that the text wraps around the images and the images don’t crowd into the sidebar. It’s not hard to modify images, but before you hit Publish, make sure you preview your posts to make sure the images appear in the correct position relative to your text. A blogging program such as Windows Live Writer makes cropping, resizing, and aligning images easy.
Most of the time, you’ll want to align your images to the left or to the right at the top of your post, but if your columns are narrow for your main content, you could resize your image so that it runs across the whole column.
4. Meta information in your sidebar
When you first load up your new blog, you may see a “meta” information section with links to the blog’s administration panel and feed. This is unnecessary. You should include the link to your feed at the top of your blog and bookmark the login page on your own browser. Blogger, “There is absolutely no need for that widget to be in your sidebar or footer, leak link juice, and confuse people.”
5. Large chunks of paragraph text
One of the most important tips for blog readability is to avoid large chunks of paragraph text. No matter how good your ideas may be, you’ll look like a rookie if every blog post has enormous chunks of unbroken text.
Blogging is not the same as English composition in college. Keep your paragraphs short, use bullet points, and incorporate sub-headings when you can. All of these simple practices will make your posts easier to read and make you look like a competent blogger.
6. Neglecting your pages
There are two essential pieces of information that every website should have: an About page and a Contact page. Missing either of them will make you look either unprofessional or disorganized—that is, besides simply making it hard for readers to find the information that many of them want to know.
If you add a new page to your website, but you don’t have time to fill it in completely, there’s no problem with writing some “placeholder” copy, such as “More information coming soon.” Just make sure you follow up and fill it in.
7. Spam comments
Depending on the blogging service you use, spam comments may become a problem on your blog that could make you look bad. That doesn’t mean you should inundate your readers with hoops they need to jump through in order to comment—such as illegible captcha phrases or requiring readers to register in order to comment.
By adding a professional comment management service such as Disqus, you’ll filter out the spam comments and make it easy for readers to both leave comments and to follow up on the discussion. In fact, the advantage of Disqus is that it notifies commenters of replies so that they are prompted to return to your blog.
Get a handle on the basics
While it’s incredibly easy to start a blog, it’s even easier to manage a blog poorly and to discredit yourself and your business in the process. By integrating some basic blog management tools and learning how to use them effectively, you’ll be able to use your blog to effectively build your online reputation.
Lior Levin is an adviser to startup that created a passbook solution to follow credit card charges. Lior is also and advisor to firm that offers a shopping cart abandonment tool for ecommerce websites all over the world.