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Blogging Tips

My Top Ten Blogging Mistakes

Mistakes I’ve made a few.

Blogging for me has very much been a case of learning on the job. There’s been months of trial-and-error and days of try-it-and-see. I’ve made a fair few mistakes over the last 5 years and have decided to share them with you here so that you don’t have to do the same!

1. Not setting up a self-hosted site

I started blogging on Blogger, them experimented with Tumblr (for a day), then moved onto WordPress and only after several years did I finally work up the courage (and effort) to go self-hosted.

My advice to beginners would be that if at some point in the future you see can see yourself wanting greater control over the functions, features and design off your site, set it up as a self-hosted blog from the start.

I use the self-hosted version of WordPress for all my sites now, having endured the painful experience of exporting 40before30 from blogger to wordpress.com, then wordpress.com to my hosting company. It would have been much easier if I had simply chosen the right platform from the very start.

(NB I’m hosted by Dreamhost and you can get a 20% discount by quoting GIRLTWEETSWORLD at checkout. More info here.)

2. Not investing in a decent theme/web designer

If you do decide to self-host your site you will have more flexibility with the theme you can use. There are heaps of good free ones out there but if you really want to stand out (or are a sucker for details like I am) then consider paying for a professional one. (I’m a fan of the designs found on Themeforest.)

When choosing your theme pay particular attention to the small details, like how the social share buttons are displayed on the theme (if integrated) and how users will navigate from one post to the next. (I spent hours searching for a theme that had a ‘Next’ and ‘Previous’ buttons at the end of the post for Travelling Shopaholic. Eventually I found one I liked and didn’t have to pay a developer to customise the theme at all.)

If you have a set vision for the look and feel of your site consider engaging a designer. Just make sure you are confident they can deliver what you want; ask for samples of previous work, get personal recommendations if possible and ask thorough questions about their work process and delivery times.

I would also recommend working out a payment plan so you pay a certain amount up front and the rest on successful delivery. (I learnt the hard way about not paying 100% up front!)

 3. Not picking a site name wisely

Whilst changing your site name several years down the line is not impossible (hello, case in point 40before30) it would definitely have been easier for myself in the long run if I had chosen a name for my site that didn’t expire on my 30th birthday!

When picking a name it might help to visualise saying it out loud and introducing it at a networking event; basically, make sure you have a name that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to put on a business card! Also picture what sort of brand and readership you may be looking to build around this name, as well as how the logo or header for the site will look. Check that a relevant username is available on Facebook and Twitter and that the domain is available to buy. All these elements are so intrinsically linked; don’t just consider the blog name in isolation.

4. Not auto-renewing my domain

So here’s a newbie mistake I didn’t expect to make after four years of blogging. There I was about to jet off on a big live-blogging project, I had content and tweets all pre-scheduled to go and the brand I was working in association with had also planned updates that linked back to my site. Except when I casually looked at the blog on my phone that morning to see if my post had gone live there was a white page of death and an advert to buy the domain! Despite receiving numerous emails from Google 1 month prior saying my domain name was about to expire I never did quite get around to renewing it. (I know! What a rookie!) Luckily for me no one swooped in to buy it before I realised and I had my site back up and live before the end of the day with no one the wiser.

If you can’t afford to buy your domain name for several years all in one go, select an auto-renew option or set calendar reminders (many of them) to make sure you don’t forget. Don’t risk four years of work like I did!

5. Not having a logo/branded header

I don’t know about you but I tend to judge a blog by its cover (home page) and a Facebook page by its cover photo (what can I say, I’m shallow!) I highly recommend putting a bit of moolah behind getting a good header and logo designed for your site.

I hired a freelance designer to work with me on Travelling Shopaholic. He asked me questions about the site and what I wanted the header to convey, plus things I had never even considered before that point. He was also familiar with bloggers so once we had picked the logo he sent me versions that could be used as a blog header, Facebook cover, Twitter profile, business card layout and a favicon (that’s the little pic that shows up on the tool bar tab when someone is on your site.)

Logo Travelling Shopaholic Final vector color variant 3

Ways to source a designer include looking at freelancer sites such as Elance and People Per Hour. Also reach out to bloggers whose headers you like and ask who did them (if it’s not already stated at the bottom of their site). If you are looking for something a lot simpler (like your name) then Etsy have a lot of headers out the box for less than a tenner (that’s where I got the one on jaynegorman.com – but just pretend I didn’t tell you that!)

6. Not building an email list

When I launched Travelling Shopaholic I was quite intent on building the social media profiles and gaining an audience on these as it had worked so well for 40before30. But over time I have noticed that it’s my email subscribers who are more loyal – reading every post and giving me permission to be in their inbox.

Make it easier for people to sign up to your blog by embedding a subscription box in the sidebar or footer. If you don’t have a fancy widget you can do this very easily by grabbing the HTML code from Feedburner or Mailchimp (depending on your email provider.)

For an example of the Mailchimp sign up form see here or the box on the right. And why not join the list whilst you’re at it 😉

 7. Trying to sell advertising instead of skills

Every blog/blogger is different and there is no one best way for making money from your blog but I can say that in my experience it has been far more lucrative to sell my blogging skills than make money from advertising or affiliate sales. A lot of new bloggers are often tempted to add banner advertising to sites but in my experience unless you have the traffic of the Daily Mail this is not the quickest way to get rich. My advice would be to think more strategically about what you want your blog to sell – if its content, skills or consultancy based, a sidebar full of adverts may not be the right approach.

(I’ll be touching on monetization – both on and offsite – a bit more in later posts. I’m still experimenting with different methods myself but if anyone has an example of their travel blog doing really well with Google Ads or affiliate sales I would love to hear from you.)

8. Not reading other blogs

At some point last year I got so bogged down in trying to produce content for my own sites as well as clients that I stopped reading other blogs. This was a huge mistake as whilst I was busy looking the other way the blogosphere was continuing to evolve without me. Whilst it is not healthy to constantly compare your site to others, there is a lot to be learnt just from reading them, from both a content and function perspective. The best plugins I use on my sites are ones I have seen being used by other bloggers. When you read other blogs think about how you use their site – what bits you like about it, the bits you don’t – and use that to shape the development of your own site.

Some of my favourite travel blogs

Some of my favourite travel blogs

9. Forgetting how to use social media

Social media can be a brilliant traffic source for a blog but that is not its main purpose. At some point, I ashamedly admit, I lost sight of why sites like Twitter and Facebook were created and stopped being social on them.

I wrote a whole ode to the twitter of old, when people were random and had banter, rather than strategic and salesy, and have made a conscious effort to follow my own advice. Not only am I enjoying the sites much more by being more natural but my following has seen a boost because of it. Sometimes it is better to sit back and let your content and community do the promotion for your work, rather than self-promoting and plugging posts all the time.

10. Forgetting to love what I do

It may be the best job in the world but it is still a job. The admin of running a travel blogging business is just as dry as any other. So every now and then I have to slap myself and say ‘Hello, your job for today was sampling and writing about cakes in Sydney, quit your griping woman!’

I think it’s important to step away from your blog sometimes and look at what you are doing and why. By stepping back, moving away from the keyboard, popping my blogging bubble; I’m reminded how much I love it.

Have you made any blogging mistakes that we can all learn from?

 

23 Comments

  • Reply
    Janice Stringer
    August 22, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Hi Jayne,
    This is a brilliant post. Building relationships I think is key for the long term and hitting on those trending items can quickly connect a Blogger with readers. It’s taken me about a year to work out how I want to move forward as I’ve been blogging.
    Yesterday I wrote a post and titled it ‘A Touch of Soft Porn’ it was a picture montage of the ‘cloudporn’ photos I’ve taken over the past month in Southend. As much as I stand by my decision to call it this and the (hopefully) jokey way I put the content together. On the local community sites – it wasn’t shared. Lesson here for me – not everyone will understand the humour or maybe even look to see what it is and the context the post is written. Headlines can be great or damning sometimes!

    One thing I’d like to ask you is – ‘Are the audience reading your blog, different to the audience you thought would read it?
    Janice

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      August 25, 2014 at 12:04 am

      Hi Janice,
      Good question! I have noticed recently that there are different types of audiences. For example, the readers who comment a lot tend to be other bloggers. I think bloggers enjoy reading and commenting on blogs and do so more than the non-blogging public.
      My core audience are the people who have been following the blog for many years and come back often to see what I’m up to because they enjoy the personal aspect and will read the posts whether they are planning a trip to the destination featured or not.
      And then there is the Google traffic which seems to bring in traffic in droves for a handful of my posts. These people read the info they need but do not tend to stick around and read more as they are looking for a specific piece of advice or information. Interestingly the posts that do well on Google for me are the ones with holiday advice i.e How expensive is Ibiza and Best Restaurants In Skiathos also airline reviews are heavily searched terms. I think sometimes there is a tendency as bloggers to forget that the average reader will not be constantly travelling themselves but taking a holiday once or twice a year and want to know some good advice about where to eat and how much it will cost. Although it is more exciting to write about the off the beaten track destinations, in my experience, it is the popular holiday spots around the Med that people search Google for.
      It will be interesting to see how your cloudporn post does in Google. It might bring in a lot of traffic although perhaps not the type you would want…

  • Reply
    Amy Lynne Hayes
    August 22, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    I have made so many of these mistakes!! I started at WordPress.com, and luckily had a friend who helped me migrate to self-hosted for the cost of one dinner lol. I have experimented so many times with my design, and think I have settled on one that I can love for bit now (finally!). I have gotten to the point where social media felt like it sucked out my soul, and lost my love for writing because I felt the pressure of not being good enough. But at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun and enjoying the process. Mistakes will be made, in any endeavor. So cheers to imperfection, and still having a blast! 🙂

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      August 25, 2014 at 12:07 am

      Haha I love your last line! I think we are all learning on the job and the great thing about blogging is that you can change and evolve your site and strategy as you go. Sometimes I get caught up in wanting everything to be ‘perfect’ but I have to remind myself that for many years I had a very crude (ugly) site which no one seemed to mind reading! Cheers to having fun and being imperfect 🙂

  • Reply
    Kirsten
    August 22, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    SUCH great tips. I’ve been at this for years and still needed this kick in the pants. Blogging is not as easy as it looks. And thank you so much for sharing mine as one of your favorites!! xx

  • Reply
    Jayne Gorman
    August 25, 2014 at 12:10 am

    You’re welcome and you are so right about it looking easier than it is. If we didn’t make it look fun (and enjoy doing it) I don’t think anyone would enjoy reading it, but at the same time we often end up making light of what has been years worth of hard graft. That’s why it’s lovely to connect with other bloggers – we truly appreciate what each other do 🙂

  • Reply
    Elle Croft
    August 26, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    I have made SO many mistakes, many of them listed above.
    I would also add not taking my blog seriously from the start. I wish I’d just begun my blog with some sort of strategy, it would have saved me a couple of years of embarrassing experimentation!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      August 27, 2014 at 12:23 am

      O yes I used to think that too but now I think that embarrassing experimentation is all part of the process 🙂

  • Reply
    Natasha Amar
    August 27, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Great post Jayney!
    I’ve made so many of these mistakes but realized and learnt from them in the past few months. It can get quite hard to manage all of this together with actually writing good content. Social media, trying to gain and maintain an interested audience, blog design and building relationships take up so much time that before you know it the entire week’s gone by without a new post.

    By the way, I love the design of your blog!
    Cheers,
    Natasha

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      August 27, 2014 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks Natasha, I guess we are all learning a lot as we go along but you make a good point about quality content – I guess that should always be the main focus and everything else will follow

  • Reply
    Claire Robinson
    August 28, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Another great post, thanks Jayne – I’m probably guilty of at least 5. Damn it. But my biggest challenge at the moment seems to be getting Google interested.

    I’ve flirted – nothing. I’ve offered free gin – nothing. Apart from one or two visitors from Google I’m struggling to get picked up.

    I have some plug-ins up my sleeve, I know how to SEO, and I hear it can take a while to be noticed, but any other tips from you would be welcomed!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 2, 2014 at 12:57 am

      This could have been called 101 blogging mistakes but I didn’t want to bore you all!

      Google is a bugger isn’t it. It sounds like you have a good approach though. Plug ins like Yoast help to get the site indexed and prompts you to add SEO friendly titles and meta data. Joining Google+ and sharing your articles on there is said to help with getting the posts indexed faster too (and helps your posts turn up higher in the search results of those in your circles.) Apart from that my only advice is to keep at it. My knowledge of SEO is frankly minimal but by consistently blogging over time I’ve got away with it! Good luck 🙂

  • Reply
    Abi
    September 2, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Lovely post, certainly can relate to these especially getting bogged down and not reading other people’s blogs as much. A loss on many levels!

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    September 23, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Great article! I couldn’t agree more. This is my second attempt and I think I’ve finally got it down. There’s so much that goes into developing a great blog and it’s easy in the beginning to think these things kinda become successful due to luck, etc. Hard work is definitely the cornerstone! You have a beautiful site btw! – Stephanie

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 23, 2014 at 10:55 pm

      Thanks Stephanie! I definitely felt more confidant in what I was doing with subsequent blogs I’ve launched but everyday is a learning curve. I look forward to reading you site – love the name 🙂

  • Reply
    Clare Jensen
    October 10, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    As a new blogger, I find all of these tips very useful, thank you.

    Isn’t theme forest just brilliant?

    Thanks Jayne 🙂

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      October 11, 2014 at 12:32 am

      You’re welcome! Yes, I do love to browse a good theme 🙂

  • Reply
    Travel Talk with Jayne of Girl Tweets World + Her New Guide to Sydney
    July 9, 2015 at 7:56 am

    […] made a lot of mistakes when I started out and shared some in this post to help others avoid […]

  • Reply
    Emily
    February 11, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    I just started a small blog for myself and found this really helpful! I’ve already made majority of these mistakes embarrassingly enough haha! Thanks for the wise words 🙂

  • Reply
    Fiorella
    March 3, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    I just landed on your site through Pinterest and this is the 4th blog post I’ve read since I found it a few minutes ago. Thank you for your insight! Love you blog! I just became a fan of yours haha

    If you’d like, I would appreciate if you could visit our travel blog (www.nuoric.com). We just started this year, but we’re really inspired and excited to see what this year brings.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      March 3, 2016 at 10:40 pm

      Thanks so much! I look forward to checking your blog out 🙂

  • Reply
    Ugur
    March 25, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Hello Jane,
    Greetings from Istanbul! Thank you for consolidating all those precious tips. I found them very useful.

  • Reply
    Kim Gardner (Snowflakes, Palm trees & Pretzels)
    October 8, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Great tips!! Thanks so much!! I’m only new to blogging…so much to learn and to keep learning.

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