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I Made Mistakes So You Don’t Have To

This is a guest post by Musing, cataloger of great blogger sayings

My blog is nine months old. You’d think I wouldn’t have had time to make too many mistakes. Wrong.

Though, overall, it’s been an awesome experience, if I could go back and do it again here are three things I’d do differently:

A helping of planning to go with that passion, please

When the idea for my blog first hit me I was 1010% excited. Which was great. But, it would’ve been good to match that enthusiasm with the same amount of preparation.

Instead, the timeline went like this: Saturday morning have the aha moment, for two days work like a woman possessed, Monday morning launch the site! I jest not.

I wish, now, I’d channeled some of that energy into planning—like setting a few goals first!

You can judge a blog by its cover

Black background, no real header, undefined layout. Could I have done anything more to create a poor first impression?

Now, I must say I actually like black backgrounds (I’m weird that way) but when readers told me it made their eyes twitch I got rid of it, along with a lot of other things.

I took my time with the new look, though (I’m learning!) and it was worth it. My readers love it and I do, too. Still, I can’t help but wonder how many potential readers I turned away with that first template.

Oh, another reason I should have given more thought to the design—that eye-crossing black template was shown on sites like Technorati for weeks (and is still showing on StumbleUpon), even after I’d updated the image through Snaps.com.

“If you build it, they will come”… Not

Though I’ve read ProBlogger for years and should have known better, I guess I thought that somehow I’d be the exception. My idea was so awesome, so original, so entertaining that it would naturally attract a huge following.

The first months have been encouraging, but I think the response would have been much greater had I introduced the site better. Like networking with other bloggers and putting social media in place…beforehand!

So, when you get that next great blog idea STOP

  • Think about your vision for the site. Write down some short and long term goals.
  • Create your design carefully. Looks really do matter on the web.
  • And consider how best to share your blog with others. Don’t just tiptoe in through the backdoor. Make the grandest entrance you can.

Musing a.k.a. QuoteHunter is a freelance writer who highlights great blogger quotes at Blogtations. She also got the title idea for this article from her friend JD’s blog.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Jeff says:

    Musing wrote simple but common mistakes we really do.
    How many times I’ve changed the design without looking
    some other blogs with those design before decide.
    And did not plan the tags and categories too.
    Thanks

  2. Patrick says:

    Best way learn I reckon. I look forward to making the same mistakes!

  3. I was right in the middle of redesigning my layout when I took a break to read this, not knowing it would address exactly what I needed to read.

    Thanks for the info and I like the links you included in the article as well, for networking and goal setting.

  4. JOE GELB says:

    great points, i have also launched some new ideas and learned from some of my terrible sites that are now nothing more than redirects lol

  5. JR Griggs says:

    Yeah I definitely have some regrets from my first couple months. Hopefully I do not make the same in the future.

  6. ShriNagesh says:

    Quote: “If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake” – F. Wikzek

    Good thing about blogging mistakes are, they are addictive and loads of fun. (that is, If you are my type).

    BTW, you’ve got a nice blog.

  7. mike says:

    A lot of time has to be spent promoting the blog. Something I never did at the start.

  8. Blog Expert says:

    Some of the problems you talked about having yourself are the ones that so many people continue to have. I wish people could read something right before they start their blog so they know what they really are going to have to do. Too many people create a blog and think people are just going to come.

  9. I must say, I applaud you on your approach to blogging. The Ready-Fire-Aim method works quite well in the blogging world.

    Everybody is going to make mistakes, and of course you can plan all you want. But there comes a point where you can over think things and talk yourself out of what you want.

    Instead, just put something up. Try it out, if it doesn’t work then change it, if it still doesn’t work then revise it again. Keep at it until you hit gold for a design. The only way to learn how to be a blogger is by doing it. Don’t get too caught up in the details right away, the best part of blogging is the journey!

  10. se7en says:

    Great post. I am a “Let’s dive in and do it” kind of blogger and to have someone say “Slow down and think about what you are doing.” is exactly what I need to hear!!! Also, you can only go as fast as you learn… Thank heavens for blog gurus like the Problogger!!!

  11. Tasha says:

    I’m giggling at the “If you build it” line. We came, crappy layout and all! Congratulations on a great site, Musing! XO

  12. Bash Bosh says:

    Very nice post,
    Also some very good and interesting point of view! I will try not to make these mistakes in the future! Thanks!

  13. Mike Nichols says:

    I planned for a year (really!) before I put my blog up. Partly due to health problems that I wanted to make sure wouldn’t get in the way, and partly because I actually over-planned.

    I think you can actually spend too much time planning, as I did. It leads to a certain kind of paralysis and fear of actually going live.

    But just diving in without much thought has led many to give up on their blogs after only a few postings.

    Good post!

  14. Great post! And good advice. Altho, when you have an idea as great as Blogtations, it must be hard to reign in the passion. But you did, and the result shows in your site, which is nice to look at, easy to navigate, and most important, fun to read. Addictive, actually. Congratulations!

  15. This is perfect timing for me. I’m thinking of starting another site and this advice to stop and really think it all through before jumping in and buying a URL, setting up the blog, etc. It’s hard to fight the urge and not ride the excitement of this new thing, but I know it’s for the best. As for the design, that’s one mistake I made with TWC, and one I hope to not repeat it again.

  16. geno says:

    Ha! I did the same thing a month ago for my poker blog – http://www.virtualfelt.com! Black background, had no idea what I was doing, I just wanted one 125 x 125 ad up! I thought those things looked so money! I just wanted to publish that bad boy! It was weeeeak! It’s amazing how slowly but surely you learn, but that’s like anything in life! We look back and say “what was I thinking?” Nice post.

    Geno

  17. I know the pains of first designs still coming up on social media sites. I look back and am much happier with the clean and simply design I have now.

  18. I really relate to this post. I did the same thing. I am still in the process of constantly refining my sites, but my feedback has increased 1,000%. A great idea needs to be planned well to get other people as excited about it as you are. Great information, please keep it up.

  19. Carla says:

    I know most if not all of us go through some growing pains (I’m still experiencing mine). Its good to learn from others mistakes though. :)

  20. As someone who’s been reading Blogtations from the beginning, I’m just happy you went forward with the idea; personally if I sit and “prepare” for an idea too long, I get bored and move on so sometimes it’s better to plow ahead, making mistakes along the way. We learn by making mistakes, and that’s part of the fun of blogging and life (when you look *back* on them) ;)

  21. Rohit says:

    Well, some common mistakes are highlighted in this post. I personally believe that it’s common to do mistakes no matter how your preparation is. Some can only be overcomed with care.

  22. Tim Bowden says:

    Nice post, I completely agree with all your points there. I must admit I spent ages on the design of my blog but in the end got a bit bored of CSS and rushed it at the end. I think my design came out alright in the end although there are bits of it I would change. I did start 2 blogs rather too quickly and they have fallen by the wayside. With my current blog though I have taken a bit more time.

    The only thing I would do differently too is the ‘making a big entrance’. I am only now starting to make people aware of my blog and am beginning to see the increase in visitors, slowly but surely.

    I guess ‘good things come to those who wait’.

  23. Neville says:

    This all sounds pretty familiar. Who hasn’t dived in headfirst and then found that a bit of planning might have been a good idea? After a couple of attempts at blogging I have decided that it would be good idea to find a mentor who sets out the steps to follow. Well that’s what I’m trying to do now with blogging. And it seems to be working.

  24. Kathy says:

    I would be nothing without networking. It wasn’t until the 3rd month of blogging I learned how and where to reach out. My other mistake was starting with Blogger. Had I known how much work it would take to move to self-hosted WordPress, I would have started there. Live and learn.

  25. Toma Bonciu says:

    Good planing is always the right way to do it. Usually if you figure out the big theme and then brake it down into more secondary themes you should have a good understanding of what you want to do.

    Planing will also help you to develop your idea and to really see if your idea has potential or if you really know something about it.

    I would also recommend trying to figure out ways of monetizing your blog. I mean, if you’re interested in getting readers and traffic then you’re thinking of monetizing your blog for sure. You should have at least 3 ways of monetizing.

    Thanks,
    PS :I’m WebOptimization on Twitter

  26. As someone who recently started a blog, I would also suggest doing the following:

    Write 1 – 2 weeks worth of posts BEFORE launching your blog so that you have a cushion.

    Pick out 2 to 3 social media / networking sites you will use to promote and network with others. Then create your account and begin to mingle with other members to help build awareness for your future blog.

    Leave X number of worthy comments on popular blogs to also help build awareness of your name

    Just some ideas.

    Wesley
    The Geek Entrepreneur

  27. Yanto says:

    It’s easy starting a new blog, but it isn’t easy for me to get it into a nicer shape. I took quite a lot of time searching for templates for my blog, searching for the images for creating the header, doing the design and redesigning. Though, I don’t think it’s not really optimized especially for adsense.

    But after getting done in design, we still have to put a lot of work on contents. It’s really quite easy to get through posting and posting regularly. But it’s still a must to keep the blog rolling, isn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge cause I learn quite a lot from you through this website.

  28. Vinayak says:

    Nice write up!
    My blog used used to have a black background when it started out. And I got the same feedback from readers…it’s too hard on the eyes. Since then I have found reader feedback to of great help,

  29. I made every one of those mistakes when I started out. I guess blogging becomes perfect as you keep doing it again and again.. :)

  30. JGH says:

    Yikes. I didn’t realize until I read this what a huge mistake the black background was. As a beginner who is just a few months in and knows very little about design, I would like to change my header and design, remain on Blogger and still maintain some of the little identity I’ve established. Is there any hope for me?

  31. Neil says:

    Some great tips. I am not good at the social media aspect of things. I’m getting some of it done, but other aspects are lacking and I just haven’t seen the traffic that I would like. I’m going to need to find a detailed ‘how to’ guide on it.

    Thanks for the tips, it’s always nice to hear someone indicate the things they’d do differently.

  32. Momo Fali says:

    Great tips! I, too, wish I had done more thinking before launching my blog. For instance…maybe picking a name that people don’t have trouble pronouncing!

  33. It is ok, those mistakes will make your blog even stronger. We have all made them, its all about the growing pains.

  34. izzat aziz says:

    that mistake i been doing all alone, it took me more than two years to realize my mistake. but some time i learn the mistake in very hard way, but even so i feel fortunate because at least i can learn my mistake.

    about setting goal, i do write about it in my blog, for me setting goal is very important like doing business. Blogging is just like doing business you failed or success all depend on how your customer/reader felt.

  35. Matt Gio says:

    I love this article! I love when someone shares their own experiences and doesn’t mind pointing out their own flaws. Excellent!

  36. Andre Arnett says:

    I think you are so right. The excitement of building a blog can be so overwhelming. It looks so easy how can you not jump right into it. Thanks for the honesty with the post.

  37. Great summary of beginner mistakes bloggers can make..I think as far as the “eye-twitching” background goes, that can be a potential asset in some instances. If you’re looking to create a blog to make money with Adsense, that just might prompt visitors to click away ;)

  38. BloggerSavvy says:

    Thanks for mentioning how important the design style of a blog is. I remember when I launched my first blog, I thought it looked great. However, my first post that got traffic on Digg, also got me a lot of negative comments about the design. So, it also goes to show how the community can provide valuable input in this area. (An yes, I changed the design a few days later).

  39. Steve says:

    Good points. However, from my experience The Monetizer is right when he says the eye twitching background can be an asset. When we changed our website, http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com, from black background to white background people loved the improvement. But adsense revenue dropped 30%. It’s worth noting that prettier isn’t always better.

  40. uwak says:

    nice experience…..we never do well before doing some mistakes…..most people success cause..learn from their own mistake…..success for you…thanks

  41. Who does not commit mistakes. I have had my share of stupid and enlightening mistakes that have helped me provide better services to my clients. Which is why I took almost 2 months to get my personal website design to match accepted standards.

  42. Takumi86 says:

    I agree with this one, a blog design does helping you to get more visitor but not all good blog come from design, there are several blog i seen that have good design and template but all of them have less post and none seems to be interesting

  43. Just multiply those mistakes by nine. Because with my nine blogs (I kid you not) I am making every mistake in the book. One of my sites literally has a black background with blue links. Nice…about the excitement factor. I am totally gong ho about my site Divorce Saloon. As a New York Divorce Attorney, I’m supposed to be “excited” about divorce, right? Well, there is a side to divorce that can be quite entertaining. I say that with the best intention. I mean, generally it is not a laughing matter. But what are you going to do? Kill yourself? You have to learn to see the humor in these things….I think the layout on that one is the best of the nine. But I don’t know if I”m the best judge.

    Leslie, the Geek Entrepreneur, nice tips!

    By Marion TD Lewis, Esq.
    Blogger
    http://www.divorcesaloon.com

  44. Millard says:

    My blog has a gray background, similar to the background exterior of this site, with white text. I find it easy to read, but then I am not the audience. If anyone would be kind enough to check it out and give me their opinion, it would be greatly appreciated. I probably need a custom header tool.

  45. earnword says:

    i agree with him. We always make mistake and hard to admit it.

  46. I think these are all great tips. One thing I find helpful and easy to manage is setting up mini goals. Monthly works well. Set some targets, traffic is a bit unpredictable but you can set goals for link building, how many posts, how many forum contributions and maybe a short checklist on mechanics (fix sidebar, fix subscription area etc). It enables you to look at your blog a little more seriuosly (if it’s not just a hobby blog).

    Bruce

  47. Karen says:

    Some of the fun of blogging is the sponteneity, the enthusiam, the passion, and running in headfirst.

    But you are absolutely right, for a money-making blog, it’s good to think through things a bit. That’s why my “great idea” for a second blog isn’t going to happen now when I’m very busy with three small children.

    Then there’s a good saying, perfection isn’t profitable… so take some time to plan but you have to also be willing to try to experiment and to change.

    I’m hoping to learn from mistakes and also have a lot of fun along the way.

    http://favoritechildrensbooks.blogspot.com/

  48. Shirley says:

    Very useful tips. In retrospect, I think we all have lots of things that we would have liked to have done differently.

  49. Dare says:

    This is a mistake many people make they focus most of their time of the design because some new douche (nah I didn’t mean about you Musing, I just think you still haven’t realized this) and say…WOW THE DESIGN MATTERS IT LEAVES THE FIRST IMPREEEEESSSIOOOON.

    OK, this is OK, I don’t say the design doesn’t matter.

    BUT DOES IT BRINGS THE TRAFFIC?

    Heard of 80/20 rule?

    I think when you all guys mention that the design is matter you should also mention that it SHOULD NOT BE THE PRIMARY THINK YOU SHOULD FOCUS ON. It should be in those 20%…

    What you should focus on is those 20% that bring you 80% of your blog overall performance…and that is ASSETS.

    CONTENT, NETWORKING…if you focus your time 70% of content, 10% of networking and 20% of design, fixing some small bugs and stuff like that I think you would get very far.

    So, tell the design matter but that not be the thing they should focus on most of their time.

  50. Jay Simcic says:

    I have to agree with you on this. But it fits in to almost anything you do that’s going to reap rewards.

    Planning has to be part of your plan. It doesn’t matter if you’re nichi-fying or creating a blog for fun, it should still be planned to some degree.

    I’ve struggled in the past because the plan starts in my head but never makes it to paper or the computer. That’s when things fall apart. It’s almost like writing down goals.

    If you never write them down, they may never come to fruition. I’ve started planning everything that’s important to me and that includes blogging.

    So in all thanks for a great post and I hope people take your recommendations. If they don’t we’ll just have more blogs and websites on the web that aren’t being kept up with.