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11 Reasons Your Blog is on a Road to Nowhere (And What to Do About It)

This guest post is by Henneke Duistermaat of Enchanting Marketing.

You’re smart.

You got drive.

You’re blogging, and blogging, and blogging. You’re producing good content. But somehow your efforts are not rewarded.

Your enthusiasm for checking your traffic stats is gone. Because the trickle of traffic makes you feel down, lonely, and maybe a little desperate. Are you wasting your time?

Let’s be honest.

Building a blog is hard work. It’s tough. And you need to be business savvy. That’s right. You need to treat your blog as a business. You need to get serious about marketing your blog. Because if you don’t market your blog, it’s going to remain lonely out there.

Let’s have a look at 11 common blog marketing mistakes. Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll gain more traffic, more shares, and more comments. And eventually, you’ll be able to make serious money.

Mistake 1: You’ve jumped straight in

Of course, it’s great to get started.

Get a domain name, a web host, a theme, a topic you love writing about; and you’re ready to go. Right?
I don’t think so. You need to know what your audience likes; what they want to read about, what they’re passionate about.

Before launching Social Triggers, Derek Halpern knew exactly what his audience wanted: fact-based advice on how to grow web traffic. That’s why he combines academic research with blogging tips.

Before you start your blog, research your audience. Read comments on the big blogs your audience is reading. Which topics resonate most? What are readers passionate about? What questions do they ask? What do they struggle with?

Mistake 2: Your audience is too diverse

When you’re writing your blog posts, who do you write for? Are you trying to write for as big a crowd as possible? Are you trying to appeal to as many readers as you can?

Writing to a crowd makes your writing bland; writing to one person makes you engaging and fascinating.
Start by describing your ideal reader. Have you seen how the Word Chef describes her ideal client? You don’t have to publish your ideal reader. But you need to know who you’re writing for.

When you write your next blog post, imagine writing to just one reader: your ideal reader.

Mistake 3: You’ve picked the wrong topic

Do you think you need to avoid the big topics, because they’re too competitive? Think again. If you pick a topic nobody has written about, then most probably hardly anyone is interested in your topic.

The truth is: the big topics are the topics people want to read about. Finance. Personal development. Blogging. Parenting. Marketing. Gadgets.

Yep, those topics are competitive. Hugely competitive. But you can be sure there’s an audience waiting for you. You just have to figure out how you’re going to stand out from the other blogs. And that’s why you need a purple cow.

Mistake 4: You don’t have a purple cow

A purple cow is what makes you different. If you’d see a purple cow, it would draw attention, wouldn’t it? You’d be fascinated by it and you’d remember it, wouldn’t you? That’s why you need a purple cow—a term coined by Seth Godin.

Why would people read you blog rather than a competing blog? A few ideas:

  • Your personality appeals to your readers.
  • Your passion attracts followers.
  • Your writing style is special.
  • Your opinion is appreciated.
  • Your experience is unique.

You’re not Walmart or Target. You don’t need to appeal to everyone. If you create something truly different, some people may think you’re crazy. But that doesn’t matter. As long as other people love your blogging, that’s absolutely fine. Don’t be afraid to put readers off. Because you’ll build a stronger bond with your core audience.

Apple has raving fans who queue up to trade in their iPhone 4S to an iPhone 5 as soon as it’s launched. But Apple also has its haters, who avoid buying Apple products.

Do you know Johnny B Truant? He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, because he tells it as it is and he swears a lot. But he has hugely passionate fans, too. You see? You don’t need to appeal to everyone. You just have to build your own tribe.

Mistake 5: You don’t know how you want to change the world

You can’t create passionate readers if your message is lame. If you want to fascinate people and create a loyal following, you need a mission. Strong brands are on a mission. Think Nike, Apple, or Harley Davidson. Popular bloggers are on a mission, too.

Leo Babauta at Zenhabits teaches people to live simply, to keep themselves centered and at peace as they make a slow journey to creating good habits and achieving their goals. A clear mission, isn’t it?

How are you going to change the world?

Mistake 6: Your design puts people off

If you want to be taken seriously, then you need to look professional. Your blog is your brand. What impression do you want to leave? Professional? Full of fun? Warm? Corporate? Artistic?

Compare these two social media blogs: Simply Zesty looks fresh, but rather corporate. The {grow} blog from Mark Schaefer looks just as professional, but a little more fun.

Also, keep in mind that your design has a large impact on readability. Use white space, large fonts, and sub headlines to guide your readers through your content.

Mistake 7: Your blogging voice is erratic

You’re a blogger. You’re a writer. You communicate through your content.

Your brand is not just your blog design; and not just what you’re blogging about. It’s also how you blog. What’s you’re writing style? And does it match your blog design? Does it match your brand?

You need a unique voice that reflects your brand. Have you read the Aweber and MailChimp blogs? Aweber is quite serious and a bit corporate. MailChimp is cheeky and more personable. One is not better than the other. They’re just different. And their tone of voice reflects their brands.

Jon Morrow and Darren Rowse both blog about blogging. Jon Morrow is like your favourite high-school teacher. He tells you off when he needs to and uses strong language, but inspires you to study harder. Darren Rowse is like a friendly neighbour. Full of useful advice, helpful when you’re stuck, and he never says a bad word about you.

How are you positioning yourself? And does your tone of voice match?

Mistake 8: You’re hiding yourself

As a blogger, you are an important part of your brand. People connect with you because of who you are.
Nobody enjoys phoning a call centre. Nobody wants to get in touch with a boring corporation. Nobody wants to chat with a faceless company.

To build a loyal following you need to be human and get a little personal. Show your passion, mention some titbits about your life, share your experience, and let your passion shine through.

Even though I mainly write about copywriting and content marketing, my email subscribers know I love cycling, because I use cycling analogies to explain copywriting tricks and I’ve even included cycling holiday snaps to illustrate points. That’s how I’m building a connection with my readers.

Mistake 9: You think your traffic will snowball

You need to market your blog to gain an audience. Overnight success doesn’t exist.

Generating traffic is hard work, and no shortcuts exist. Social media and SEO can generate traffic, but guest blogging is often the best way because guest blogging allows you to borrow the audience from a big blog.

Don’t have enough time for guest blogging? Reduce your own blogging schedule, post once a week rather than daily; post once a month instead of weekly. And use the time you’ve freed up to post on other blogs.

Mistake 10: You’re not enticing people onto your email list

Getting blog readers to sign up to your email list should be your priority. Because once they’re subscribed, you can email them when a new post goes live. And when you’re ready to sell, your email list is your most precious marketing asset.

Email is more powerful than social media, especially when it comes to selling. Have you seen this graph from Darren?

Email drives profits

That tells you enough, doesn’t it? Get an email subscription form on your home page, your about page, and each blog post. Consider removing the option to subscribe to your RSS feed, because it distracts from your email subscription form.

Mistake 11: You’re a dreamer

Of course we’re all dreaming of success, of more readers, more shares, more comments, more money.

But dreaming about success isn’t going to get you there. You need plan. Not a Soviet-style ten-year plan. Just a plan for your next month. Decide on your mission, define your brand, your design, your voice, and think about how you’re going to grow your audience during the next month.

And then in a month’x time you can see what worked, and what didn’t work. And then you can write another one-month plan. To increase your traffic. To grow your audience. And to build your email list.

The truth about building your audience

Let’s be honest.

Growing your audience is hard work. It requires energy, enthusiasm, and guts. Dare to be different. Build your own unique brand. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Your most loyal followers, your raving fans are reading your blog because your style suits them; because your message inspires them; and because you are you.

Come on. What are you waiting for? Start marketing your blog, your brand, yourself.

Henneke Duistermaat is a marketer and copywriter. She is on a mission to make boring companies charming, and dull products exciting. Sign up for her Enchanting Marketing newsletter and receive free tips on copywriting and content marketing.

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Comments

  1. Wow! Thanks for including my Ideal Client page as an example. Funny you should point to that because it’s a topic I’m focusing on big time this week over at Prosperity’s Kitchen (aka the reality web series that’s really a class on how to market yourself online). Our contestants are all building Pinterest boards for the Ideal Client profiles. It’s a great way to brainstorm who your blog readers are and what they care about, where they hang out, etc.
    You’ve got great tips here!

  2. Roshan says:

    What an impressive article. This just made my day. People often said that starting a tech-blog was a bad idea but I did it anyway and I’m still walking along that road. And You’re right. Someone could win even in that category if he/she could put more effort into it.

    Like you said, growing audience is hard work. And I believe it also takes time, for a blog to get recognized by search engines and readers.

  3. These are all soooo true – and I say that as someone who’s totally failed at blog creation for many of the reasons described above. I’m finally working on a project that feels like the right fit, and the difference between this time and my past failures is like night and day. It’s great to be working on something that suits me, my skills, my voice and the needs of my audience.

    One thing I’d add to this list is thinking that blogging is a business plan. Unless you’ve started your site for entirely altruistic reasons, simply publishing content to a website isn’t going to make you any money. Having a good understanding of different monetization and blogging business models – as well as which one suits your particular brand and income expectations – is really important to making blog creation sustainable in the long run.

    Thanks for sharing – great tips!!!

    • Yep, those are all good points, Sarah.

      I believe it’s hard to fake it as a blogger, so it works much better if you create a blog that suits your voice and your skills.

      Thanks for your comment and good luck with your project!

  4. Matt Brennan says:

    Love this post. I think people struggle with the diversity a little too much. You need to know who you’re talking with, how to narrow it down, and how to appeal to them. It’s the only way to stand out!

  5. I had once created a technology niche blog which generated descent traffic but people people didn’t click other pages because I was writing posts of different topics on that blog which not all people were interested in.

    And now, I decided to change the niche because I couldn’t come up with new post everyday on my previous blog.

    Regards
    Thejas Kamath

  6. David Fraser says:

    There I was, quite happy with my jump in traffic and now I’ve just read all this. I’m probably making all these mistakes.

  7. I think mistake #8 is one that many aspiring bloggers fall victim too. It was not that long ago that the internet was viewed as a place to be anonymous and keep an eye on your personal details. Nowadays, everything is online. If you want to build an audience and connect with them, you have to step out behind the curtain and show them who you are.

  8. Fantastic post!

    Keep the Tail Wagging is my 3rd blog. What made it different (more successful) than my other two was that I started by researching topics where I could rank. I wanted a micro-niche (littermates, multidog household, rescue dogs) that could separate me from the ocean of pet and dog bloggers out there.

    From there, I created goals and stayed true to my voice. I finally stopped accepting unsolicited guest posts, because these people never take the time to read your blog and pick up on your tone. These guest posts stick out like a sore thumb on my blog, never get comments, and act as a parking space for free business links.

    So now, I actively seek out bloggers to write for Keep the Tail Wagging who have a similar writing style and who I think my readers will enjoy; I still write 90% of my own content and do 99.9% of my PR.

    I want to change the world by encouraging people to Adopt, Not Shop. And for those who want to buy a puppy from a breeder – I want to show them what a reputable dog breeder looks like. Having goals and milestones made a huge difference with my blog.

    Kimberly

  9. mohd akbar says:

    I agree with you.We have know what audience likes to read when they come our blog. And i avoid these mistakes. Thanks…!

  10. Wow, I hadn’t seen that pie chart before. I always emphasize email to my clients, but even I am shocked by just how important it turns out to be. It would be interesting to get a similar comparison from an e-commerce website, to see how much email marketing can increase regular product sales…

  11. mohit says:

    Ya,I was dreamer and this is what only help me to achieve my Goals,I was dreaming what I was wish to earn and today I have all those for which I was dreaming.

  12. Eric says:

    I really enjoyed this post! You have really hit some major beginner mistakes, and how quickly if we don’t have post like this can we as bloggers drift from our main focus and objectives!

    Defining what you want and how you want to get there is a huge hurdle for any business, blog, organization. And why do we continue to miss some of these easy starting points that you suggested such as what and how do you want to change the world or to leave a legacy.

    Also, I love the mention of the Purple Cow, and if you have not read that book it’s a must read!

    Great post!

    Eric

    P.S. Where is the link love for Seth Godin!

  13. Erwin says:

    Hi everyone,

    very good and very true! Your list of mistakes opened my eyes.

    Thank you and I hope I will use it and not forget it.

    Erwin

  14. Steve Faber says:

    Having a blog plan is huge. Are you blogging to support a business, or is your blog the business. Defining your purpose and objectives will let you plan properly.

    After all, if you don’t know where you’re going and why you’re going there, you won’t be able to plan the best vehicle to use or route to take.

  15. There are a few reasons why your blog will not rank high on the search engines. You need to be on an authority site. I do not recommend Bloggers blog or some type or free site simply because you are not in control or your own site. Google has a bad rep for wanting to ban your site for anything that they think may go against penquin and panda. I had a friend that was ranking very high with Bloggers Blog and because he posted an affiliate link Google didn’t like he was banned and got shut down over night. Luckily, he had another blog and had all of his information backed up, but the bad part was he lost tons of traffic and his ranking! It is so important and actually critical to your blogging success to use a site with authority. A paid hosting is my recommendation so you have complete control over your destiny. Authority equals power and Google loves it! It also helps boost up your search engine rankings. For more information on powerful blogging and how to get ranked come and visit my blogging site.

  16. David Fraser says:

    Mistake 1, yeah I did that, but now I actually enjoy it. I would actually prefer to write and express my thoughts, however that may be another blog and I’m still thinking about it and have been for a long time.

    Mistake 2 is interesting. I went through my most popular posts and they too are completely diverse, it’s a hard choice , more and then more of the same or a bit of diversity. I guess I cater for people who like interesting images. I’ll stick to that.

  17. This is an interesting survey. Many beginner bloggers have remained stagnant for a long time and i think it all has to do with lack of proper and clear plan of their goals and objectives. Nothing works out well without proper planing and i think this is suicidal for any blogger. You must state clearly what you want to achieve for both long term and short term plan. This should include having a defined audience and understanding their specific needs and how to plan to achieve that. This way you can make something meaningful out of your blog and also ensure that there is sustainability.

  18. Taline says:

    You have definitely given me some food for thought as I never would have thought email was that powerful! Maybe I need to redirect my focus…thank you!

  19. Ehsan Ullah says:

    Nice list of mistakes Henekke,

    In my opinion, a blogger’s personality also plays a big role and how your readers think about you has a big impact. I also kinda agree with the last point, most of the bloggers just dream of having a successful blog without working hard and planning for it.

    • I fully agree, Ehsan. A blogger’s personality makes a difference. It’s important not to hide and to let your personality shine through. That’s a great way to connect with reader.

      And a blogger’s personality may also be a good way to differentiate one’s blog from other blogs.

  20. Rahul says:

    very helpful tips this is very benificial for my blog thanks for sharing..

  21. Matt says:

    Do you really think that all types of sites can rely that heavily on email marketing? I know it is extremely important for affiliate type sites but 87% of profit. Could it be that the sale was simply a trigger and not necessarily the real cause? I am a true believer that social is critical if done right. The problem is that most people jump in head first without a plan and wonder why it didn’t work. Planning is key.

    • Social can also work. However, email is a great way to drive traffic to your website.

      When announcing a new blog post – how easily does a tweet get lost? An email remains in someone’s inbox until it’s deleted. I’m using email to drive traffic to my website and to build a relationship with my subscribers and have found it works extremely well.

      Bloggers like Jon Morrow and Derek Halpern also strongly advocate building your email list.

  22. David Shaw says:

    I enjoyed reading this, definately sparked some new ideas for me. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Amanda Prior says:

    Wow, what a list! I dread to think of how many I’m guilty of:-(

    This is a post to print out and refer back to.

    The email profits diagram is a real eye opener.

    Thanks.

  24. rania says:

    Great post! It’s opening my eyes.. Can’t wait to fix some of those mistakes on my blog ;)

  25. Robert Smith says:

    I agree with you, I really enjoy your post. In this post, you have to hit some major mistakes. great work…

  26. Very helpful and eye opening. Thank you now I need to do my homework and make sure I have a clear plan.

  27. Amanda Adams says:

    Blogging is s skill that needs planning, patience and hard work. This is not something you wake up one day and you feel like you can blog. I believe with a proper plan of your goals both short and long term and how you plan to achieve them is all you need to remain as a relevant blogger. You also must have a charming personality and tone or you will only end up repelling your readers. I love the way this article has addressed some of the issues that many a bloggers take for granted. Thanks for sharing

    Amanda