In "Field of Dreams", Kevin Costner was told "If you build it, they will come." In reality, it takes much more than just building something, even a blog, to keep it healthy. Unfortunately, many would-be bloggers out there make the same mistakes repeatedly. The secret is to learn from mistakes - those made by yourself and others.
1: Lack of Focus
Keep your blog directed at a specific subject. Do not write about about politics, religion, blu-ray players, and baseball. Remember that when someone comes to your blog to read about baseball, that is what they want to read about. If they find only one post on baseball, they will quickly leave and never come back.
2: Getting Your Facts Wrong
If you have an occasional factual error, that is simply human error. If your facts are continually wrong and tainted with personal opinion, it will not be long before readers figure this out. You will lose credibility and soon be left without readers. When addressing facts, keep personal opinion out of it. Remember, you want readers to see you as an expert so give them reason to believe you are an well-versed in your subject. If you disagree with another person's interpretation of the facts, make a strong argument as to your own interpretation. This will give you credibility.
3: Lack of Writing Skills
While the majority of readers will ignore the occasional misteak (pun intended), if your blog is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors it will quickly become more a chore than a pleasure to read. Want to drive people away? This is probably the easiest way to do it. Learn to write well. It is not easy and it will not occur overnight, but you can learn to write and to write well if your are willing to read, learn, and practice.
4: Lack of Humility
So you have focus, you know your facts, and you can write. Do not let that go to your head. There is a difference between being confident and being pompous. Show a little humility. Do not treat everything you say as absolute fact - especially when it is an opinion. You must realize that other people may have opposing opinions or interpretations of facts. Invite them to discuss these, but don't put them down or call them names just because their ideas are not the same as your own.
5: Lack of Understanding the "Whole Blog Thing"
Have you ever watched "Kitchen Nightmares" with Gordon Ramsey? Each week he goes into a failing restaurant. Each week he faces an owner that knows there is a problem, but refuses to see the problems even when they are being slapped in the face with them. Each week he virtually beats the owner until he gets through to them as to what the obvious issues are. Blogging is not just about writing. You need to design your blog site, you need to provide something the readers want. If they do not get what they want, off they go searching until they find it. If someone complains about something, listen to them. Do not just write them off as an "idiot".
6: Poor Design
Your blog site needs to be well designed. Garish color schemes, obnoxious banners, and/or little or no navigation are killers. It is bad if a visitor has to scroll to find you have written because your header is roughly the size of your dining room table. It is worse if they cannot find what they are looking for. Worst of all is if they get a headache from a bright, contrasting, flashing colors that are the equivalent of a poke in the eye. Take some time and look at a dozen or more of the most popular sites - and some of your favorite sites - and dissect what works. Take what you learn and incorporate it into your own design.
7: Lack of Security
Make your blog secure. Do not allow commenting without review. Do not let spam advertising to post - and they do this a lot. Keep your site free from hackers. There is a learning curve here, so be prepared. The more you know and understand about security, the safer your blog will be for real readers.
8: No Maintenance
A blog is something akin to a garden. It needs watering, fertilizing, and pruning. You must add to it regularly, whether it be daily or weekly. When an old post is no longer applicable to what you are writing, get rid of it. This doesn't mean just throw out old stuff, but the old stuff that just doesn't matter anymore. Keep your blog fresh, clean, and up-to-date.
9: Little or No Search Engine Optimization
This, in a way, goes back to 1. If you have little or no focus, the search engines have no way to tell what your subject might be. Learning even a little about SEO can go a long way towards moving your blog up in the Google and Yahoo rankings, and, thus, gaining you more visits. More visits can turn into more regular readers. That's what you want.
10: You Have Nothing of Interest to Say
If you are not interested in what you are writing, why would anyone else be interested? Be interested, be informed, be happy to share what you know and what you learn. Have some enthusiasm. It all adds up to more interested readers and more regular visitors.
This guest post was brought to you by Tom Walker, a writer who works for a UK based specialist in HP supplies. When he isn't guest posting, Tom is a regular contributor on their blog where he posts about print media advertising and art.
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