I’m not up for any blogger awards by any means, but my likes and dislikes in blog entries have been gradually honed over the years and I know what I’m looking for in an entry – I learned the hard way!
If you want to be a good blogger, the most important foundations for improving your writing are: 1) knowing what you find interesting and 2) being inspired by the entries of bloggers you love.
Having said that, there are a few mistakes that crop up repeatedly. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t need to have a degree in English to be a good blogger – in fact, it’s probably better if you don’t.
Mistake # 1: Writing like you’re a broadsheet journalist
This is pretty easy to spot as it’s normally results in blog entries that are dry and heavy going for readers. Ask a friend for their honest opinion; if they struggle to reach the end, your blogging is probably suffering from this problem. You don’t need to use complex words and involved analogies because blogging by its very nature is informal. Strip your writing of all its affectations and keep it simple and interesting.
Mistake #2: Trying too hard
You don’t need to write your blog posts with a punch line in every sentence (or in fact, in any sentence). A lot of people won’t publish posts unless they’re witty or have a deep philosophical debate of some description, but there’s really no need. You don’t need to write blog posts that are two thousand words long…if your posts are naturally long that’s fine, but there’s no point forcing them into an essay. A hundred interesting words make for a far better read, even if that’s a bit shorter than the search engines would like.
Mistake #3: Not knowing when to stop
You can carry on editing a single blog entry forever. Every time you look at it you’ll tweak a bit, or find a section that doesn’t read properly, or just leave it as a draft forever because you aren’t happy with it but can’t bear to part with it either…
This is a pretty common thing with people who have some kind of writing background but aren’t very familiar with blogging in particular, or perfectionists coming from another web angle such as design or development. When you’ve written enough blog entries, you won’t care as much. Trust me.
Mistake #4: Blogging when you have nothing to say
Pretty much every blogger has suffered from this at one point or another. It’s often the subconscious urge to write, or the need to update your website so your visitors know you’re still alive rather than because you have an actual idea in mind that would make a great blog entry.
The simple way to avoid this mistake is to just not blog. No blog entry at all is better than a poor one, or a couple of lines saying, ‘I’m going to write a proper blog entry soon! Promise!’
Mistake #5: Going overboard with styling
If you’ve ever visited an affiliate blog, you’ll have noticed that they read like the web equivalent of a cheesy infomercial, for example:
I made this one simple mistake…
…and Google instantly penalised my site!
The formatting is non-standard, the line breaks are frequent, and each sentence is designed to hook you in. Ironically a lot of these techniques are aimed to push you into reading (and eventually buying a product or signing up for a newsletter), but they get annoying pretty quickly. Just write normally, use emoticons sparingly, and it’s all good.