After 2 years of blogging, I’ve probably made every blogging mistake in the book. While I still don’t really feel as though I know what I’m doing, I’ve learnt so much. Which means it’s about time I owned up to all my newbie blogging mistakes and shared them in the hope of preventing others (maybe you) from doing the same.
With all that said I’m not an expert and what works for me and my blog might not work for you and yours. While some of these tips are book blogger specific, most are about general blogging and may be helpful for bloggers of all niches.
Blogging is hard! It’s confusing, there’s a huge learning curve and for the most part it’s a pretty solitary activity. While there is an amazing blogging community at your fingertips, you’re largely on your own to make decisions and try new things.
Blogging Mistake #1: Putting too much Pressure on Myself
When I started blogging, it was an all or nothing thing. I wanted to have a post written everyday, I wanted to engage with others and promote every post all over social media. There was no middle ground, it was very much a black and white all or nothing situation.
I put a lot of pressure on myself. In some ways it felt like if I didn’t follow my schedule, if each post wasn’t a certain length, or didn’t get enough engagement it wasn’t worth doing.
All of this pressure, the expectations I had of myself took the fun out of it. It felt like a job. I’m sure it will come as a surprise to no one when I say after only 4 months I was ready to give up.
In the end, blogging felt like a chore. It was a job, but without the paycheck. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t relaxing. It wasn’t something i enjoyed doing.
Solution: Just Don’t
Don’t worry about it, don’t put pressure on yourself. This is a hobby not a job.
Think about your favorite blogger…. do you remember that time they didn’t post? No? I didn’t think so.
It’s happened, I promise you. No matter the blogger, no matter how big their blog is, they’ve missed a deadline, they’ve skipped posts – probably multiple posts. The world didn’t end.
Why should it be any different for you? No one expects as much from us as we do from ourselves. It’s ok to not be perfect.
Blogging Mistake #2: Obsessing over Design and Branding
This was probably one of the hardest things I had to learn to live with as a blogger. Your blog is never going to be perfect – there’s certainly things I don’t like, even now.
If you’re a hobby blogger like I am and trying to do this around a full time job and (admittedly lacking) social life, it’s important to spend your time and direct your energy toward the things that matter most.
Content is the bread and butter of a blog. Design and branding don’t need to be on point or exactly what you want. Without quality content, no one is going to have the opportunity to see your design. As long as you have good content and your user experience doesn’t totally suck, no one is going to care.
Solution: Focus on Content
Content is the most important thing. When people find their way to my site, it’s ALWAYS because of my content. I don’t talk about design, or branding. I’ve chosen to focus on what I’m good at. People come to this blog for book lists not CSS tips.
Blogging Mistake #3: Email Lists – Ugh!
Every time I read a list of tips for new bloggers, it always advocated focusing on building your email list from the beginning. When I say email list, I don’t mean subscribers on WordPress who get notified when you publish a new post. I’m talking about a list of email addresses belonging to people who can’t get enough of your content.
I’m talking about a list of people you can email to share what you’ve been up to for the last while or offer an exclusive promotion or product. I use Mailer Lite and for the first 9 months of Love, Sawyer I hustled to get those sign ups. Every month I spent hours crafting an email to send out to my 50 some subscribers. Every month about a quarter of them would actually open it, who knows how many actually read it.
Solution: Start an Email List after you’re established
Firstly because when you start blogging you have about a million more important things things to worry.
Think about when you give our your email address to bloggers. It’s because they offer something you appreciate, something that adds value to your life. The blogger needs to be someone you trust, you have to actually want to see their content. It takes time to get to that point.
When I first started this blog, I spent 9 months growing my email like to 50 subscribers. I spent hours crafting my emails. I didn’t have the views or the reputation to effectively build a list. It was pretty frustrating if I’m being honest. I gave up on it.
Almost a year later, I decided to try again. Now that I have the views and reputation to back it up, my email list is growing faster than I could have ever imagined.
If you’re interested, I use MailerLite for my email list. It’s super user friendly and free if you have less than 1000 subscribers.
Blogging Mistake #4: Designing my Blog for Desktop Visitors
Yes, this is related not obsessing over design and branding. But also very different.
I do all of my blogging on my laptop – always have. So, when I first started my blog, I assumed people would be viewing my blog the same way.
Which means I spent hours upon hours making sure everything look good on my laptop. When I finally learnt to understand the charts and graphs on Google Analytics I realized I was focusing on the wrong group of visitors.
As you can see, most of my traffic comes from people on mobile devices. These days the vast majority of web traffic is from mobile devices.
Solution: Understand Your Blog
Learning to use your time wisely is some of the best advice I can offer a hobby bloggers. Our time is scarce and it’s important that we use it for what matters most to us.
My time and energy is much better spent focusing on making the user experience amazing for people who come to my site on mobile.
While I still do all my blogging from my laptop, I make sure everything looks the way I want on my mobile browser before I hit that publish button. Honestly, if it comes down to it, I’ll sacrifice appearance on the desktop to make sure the mobile experience is as good as it can be.
Blogging Mistake #5: I Relied on Facebook groups for Traffic
When I first started blogging, my audience was almost entirely other bloggers from Facebook groups. Not because my content was especially valuable to them but because I joined a whole bunch of blogger engagement Facebook groups. Those groups rely on reciprocation – I’ll comment on your post if you comment on mine … I’ll follow you if you follow me.
While this was a great way to get views and engagement on blog posts right away, it was a lot of work, took a lot of time and in the end, people often didn’t reciprocate like they were supposed to.
I’m not suggesting anyone not use those groups, they are awesome. I still go to them from time to time. They’re a great way to meet other bloggers and see what’s working and what’s not working for everybody else.
They also take all the hard work out of finding blogs to comment on when you’re in that sort of mood. However, it is not a sustainable source of traffic.
Solution: Focus on Organic Traffic Sources
Other bloggers are amazing people, I’ve become good friends with a couple of them. However, they consume and interact with blogs differently than most people. Almost 100% of the comments and likes on my blog are from other bloggers.
Most of my views are from casual readers who found me on Pinterest or search engines. While there is no real way to be sure, I’m pretty confident that almost 100% of my income from affiliate sales and ads are because of those non-blogging readers.
This might be a book blogger specific problem, but with a to-read list that’s 1000 books long and many authors and publishers just waiting to give them free books, I don’t think book bloggers are purchasing the books I recommend.
You know what? That’s ok, other bloggers, other book bloggers aren’t the audience I should be targeting. The people who buy the books I recommend are generally casual readers. They’re people who read a couple books a month and want to make sure the book they pick up is going to be worth their time and money. Generally these people come from Pinterest.
Blogging Mistake #6: Too Much Social Media
My blog has a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Mix, GoodReads and Pinterest account. Facebook aside, I don’t use any of these platforms in my personal life so there was a huge learning curve. I worked tirelessly promoting each blog post across all the platforms, tried to interact with everyone and grow my follower count. It was exhausting, frustrating and lead to me comparing myself to other bloggers and feeling like my follower count wasn’t enough.
Solution: Focus on what works for You
These days, most of my social media energy is directed to Pinterest, it’s where I have the most followers and get most of my views. Spending a couple hours a month creating and sharing pins is going to have a much bigger pay off in terms of views and affiliate sales than any other social media platform.
That doesn’t mean I ignore every other platform. I just told you all I’m a member of some Facebook groups, I get a lot of great book recommendations from Twitter and I love looking at pictures on bookstagram. Occasionally, I’ll engage over those platforms.
It just means that I use these platforms for fun not because I expect them to help better my blog. I engage because I like the content not because I expect anyone to reciprocate.
Blogging Mistake #7: You don’t know what you want out of your blog
What does success mean to you? Why are you blogging?
There are a lot of equally valid reasons to have a blog. Perhaps you want to share your love of books and encourage others to read. You might want to make a little (or a lot) of money out of it. Do you want lots of views or followers?
Knowing why you do this and what you want to get out of it will help you decide where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.
If you’re looking to make new friends you’re going to be spending more time commenting on blog posts and engaging on social media. Where as if your goal is to turn your blog into a side hustle, you’re going to need to focus on activities that will generate traffic and income – SEO and affiliate marketing.
Solution: Make a Plan
Things didn’t go so well for me when I was trying to do it all for no particular reason. I decided I wanted to make some extra money with my blog and came up with a plan to do it.
I’ll be honest it was a pretty specific plan at the beginning. It included things like how many unique images I was going to pin each day, how much I would repin, scheduling and posting frequency.
Truthfully, I’ve been a really bad blogger for the last year or so. I went weeks without posting, and on more than one occasion I only posted once in an entire month.
Regardless, each month I sat down for a couple hours to create pins to share over the next several weeks. Because of that, even when I had next to no new content to promote, my views were never dramatically impacted. Since my goals are traffic and income that was ok with me.
Blogging Mistake #8: Not Being Myself
Blogging is hard. It’s not easy to write something and put it out there for the world to see. Publishing a blog, sharing our thoughts like we do every time we hit that publish button, makes us a bit vulnerable. We put ourselves out there in a way few are used to.
Sometimes, I feel especially confident and share all sorts of things about myself and my life. Other times, I don’t want anyone to think of me as more than a book list. The fact of the matter is, whether I like it or not, there’s a bit of me in every single blog post I write. Obviously sometimes I share more than others and if you actually read my posts you’ll probably get to know me better than you ever wanted to.
Solution: Learning to be Myself
One of the best things that have come out of this blog are the friendships I’ve made because of it. Which is a strange thing to say because I’m pretty standoffish and incredibly awkward – online more so than in real life. I’m a private person, I’m not used to being vulnerable and sharing parts of myself.
One of the most surprising parts of this whole things is how well my readers have gotten to know me. The absolute most surprising thing though is that they like me, and they care. While other bloggers leave public comments, my non-blogging reader send private emails when they want to talk about something.
It’s such an amazing feeling when someone takes time out of their day to email you. There’s no expectations other than starting a conversation. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m far more comfortable talking to people over email than the comments section. The friendships I’ve made as a result of these emails make even the worst parts of blogging worth it.
Blogging Mistake #9: I Expected Results Overnight
Whether your goal is making money, getting more page views, growing an email list, gaining social media followers, or making affiliate sales nothing happens over night. It’s all a process – the result of hard work and determination. Like with anything else, blogging takes a lot of consistent work.
As a new blogger, I read all sort of how to guides. Things like how to grow your email list to 10 000 in 7 days super easy ways to make a full time income blogging. Surprisingly enough, those guides didn’t work. The left me feeling defeated, frustrated and insecure.
Solution: Keep at it
Some progress is better than no progress at all. For the last several months where I’ve barely been blogging I did my best to keep up with Pinterest which kept my views pretty steady even though my blog content was lacking. Notice how I say steady, while I haven’t lost traffic over the last year I haven’t really gained any either. I’m willing to take the success where i can find it.
It’s not possible to do everything at once and success does not come overnight. Set your goals, determine your priorities and work your butt off to get where you want to be. You’ll get there!
Blogging Mistake #10: Comparing Myself to Others
This is something I talked about a year ago when I did a traffic and income report.
I said earlier that blogging is a very solitary hobby. You’re largely left to your own devices, you do it on your own and you are your own boss. Speaking for myself, I’m pretty competitive to begin with. I spend more time than I should really admit comparing myself to others wondering how I measure up.
It’s probably not the most healthy thing I do. But, I do it and I don’t know how to stop. I just want to know, it motivates me to work harder to do better and to learn from what others are doing well – that’s not exactly a bad thing, is it?
With that said, it also leads to feelings of inferiority and defeat.
Solution: Learn from Others
Taking the time to pay attention to what works for other bloggers is, in my opinion, one of the best things a blogger can do. Not just book bloggers but bloggers in general.
I’m not saying go out and copy anyone, but if hot pink pins seem to be doing really you can bet I’ll go make a few.
People are spending more time than ever online. Another view for another website isn’t a view I didn’t get. There are an infinite number of page views out there.
And my goodness do we need more bookish folk on Pinterest, I feel like I repin the same 5 bloggers over and over again and it’s always very exciting when someone new comes along and joins in all the pinning fun.
Blogging Mistake #11: Worrying about SEO
One of the first things any blogger should do is install the Yoast SEO plugin and let it help optimize your posts. That’s just smart blogging. My blogging mistake came when I expected to be able to SEO every post to the first page of Google without understanding how it worked.
Solution: Focus on the things you can control
I’m not suggesting anyone forget about SEO completely. But especially as a new blogger it was not a good use of my time. Firstly, brand new sites don’t show up on search engines, unless you’re writing about something incredibly niche. Secondly, SEO is confusing, no one really understands it and it often happens organically.
Follow the accepted best practices. Write for long tail keywords, produce valuable content that people want to read and you’ll do fine.
Blogging Mistake #12: Being Afraid to Branch Out
When I started my blog, I did book reviews and only book reviews. It was fun, for a while but eventually I realized book reviews weren’t what I wanted to do and books weren’t the only things I wanted to talk about.
It was hard because I had started to establish myself as a book reviewer. I had no idea what would happen if I branched out, would I lose all my followers? Would I have to start over again? Would people even like my content?
Those were all very valid concerns.
Solution: Do what Makes you Happy
In the end, after a lot of deliberation, I decided to go for it and write about whatever I wanted.
Did I lose followers? Maybe, probably. But to be completely honest, I didn’t have all that many to begin with.
The more important question though – did branching out open up a new audience? Did it lead to more followers? More page views? It absolutely did.
But even more important than all of that, I’m a much happier blogger. I enjoy making book lists and writing about things that have nothing to do with reading. When push comes to shove, this is my blog and I do whatever I want with it.
What are the biggest blogging mistakes you’ve made? Have you done any of these things? What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt?
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