Whether you are a new blogger or an older one, you have stumbled upon lots of well meaning blogging tips. The advice, or rather rules, are given to you so that you can improve your blog, get more audience, shares and comments, and optimise your posts for search engines. Every blogger has given this advice, myself included. According to the advice you should always include a call to action to your blog posts, ask for comments and shares, write snappy titles and format your posts in certain ways. However somehow your blog is still not really gaining new readers, comments, shares or getting more visibility around Google searches. There's a good chance you are totally messing your blog up by following the rules.
One of the most common rules is to format your blog posts in a way which will make it really difficult to read. You will use excessive amount of subtitles, short paragraphs, lists and emphasised text. Because that's what you've been told to do. This sort of formatting does make sense, sort of. Website owners have noticed most people barely skim through articles. Funny enough, we even share without reading the articles we are sharing. I do that too, I have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. So do you. Human attention span is now only 8 seconds, goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds. We used to have higher attention span, a whole 12 seconds. It wasn't that much either, was it? In that sense it's really smart to use subtitles, short paragraphs, lists and shout to your readers in every other sentence. This is good for skimming, but it really makes reading your posts difficult, especially on mobile devices. Every new paragraph, list or subtitle kind of cuts the flow of reading. Additionally that sort of formatting is making your writing appear immature. Like an entry from a diary of a 15 year old. "I'm using a gold pen to emphasise my point. Oh, and draw hearts with the red pen. Now I'll write this with bigger letters and, oooooo, I'll make a list why the cute guy is so cute. What is a paragraph anyways? OMG LOL!"
The SEO enthusiasts remember to tell you to pay attention to the "keywords" in your content. Sure, but search engines are getting more and more picky about what they include in searches. They want quality content, rather than keyword riddled text, which doesn't really make any sense to the readers. I keep seeing blog posts which are obviously written around certain keywords and in them the content is less than good quality. Concentrating on one thing, such as a keyword, makes you forget to concentrate on the quality of the content you are creating. Actually paying too much attention on SEO in general is going to hurt your blog. You don't even really know all of the way how search engines, Google or any other, are ranking sites. And the search engines are punishing websites which try to play them. Your concentration on keywords can backfire, if the search engines start to suspect you are gaming the keywords. Keywords stuffing is a sure way to get your blog punished. Additionally keywords are only a little part of how search engines find and rank content. Search engines rank content for many different reasons. It includes keywords, but there's much more to it than that. Website speed, metadata, frequency of updated content and inbound links are amongst the crawling and ranking factors, and the search results also depend on who's doing the search. They are tailoring the results according to each user, their search history, location and language, social media profiles and then some. Don't give up the quality of your content to the Game of Keywords.
Blog rule makers love to talk about titles. According to them there's such thing as a perfectly worded right length title, which will induce clicks. They are half right. As with keywords, too much concentration on your blog post titles is hurting you more than helping. It is true that lots of people share blog posts only based on their titles. I've noticed that when those people share my blog posts, I don't get that much traffic through their shares. Why not? Well, I'm sure their followers have learned to avoid clicking the links they share. You know the term clickbait? It refers to an online content, which has alluring title, but the actual content isn't accurate or is low in quality. If you concentrate too much in creating the perfect title, you are in a risk of creating content which then is viewed as clickbait. Of course if your title is fitting to your high quality content, then that perfect title is helping you. However, never build your content around the title, unless you really really know what you are doing. Build the title around the content.
Including calls to action to all blog posts is pretty bad too. It is about equally as bad as trying to format them for skimming or stuffing them with keywords. It's annoying and salesy. You are yelling at your readers and pushing them. Plus after a while you will start to sound pretty desperate. Yes, some of your readers aren't recurring. For the random readers the call to action isn't repeating or desperate. For the recurring ones you are appearing overly eager and needy. You can add those calls to action to some of your posts. Just don't go overboard with them. You don't need to ask for comments every time, you don't want to appear to be selling something in every post. Too many calls to action will definitely turn off your recurring readers. As the smart business owners know, the recurring clients are easier to keep around than trying to lure new clients. In your case the clients of course are your readers. This brings me to the next rule.
Amongst the favourite rules of blogging advisors is to always write to your readers. Holy bullshit! For one you don't really know what is relevant and interesting to your readers. You have some data, but the data is incomplete for many reasons. For one, majority of your online audience is silent. They don't comment, they don't share, they don't possibly even appear in your analytics. And the loud ones, they are also giving you only half of the truth. You might know that a reader of your blog is pretending to be mainly interested about self employment, but did you know she also is really into pin up? Possibly not. I also have first hand experience on how trying too hard to please the readers can make you detest blogging. This is a slightly divided subject though. As I mentioned before, it's easier to keep the recurring readers than to gain new ones. Although, if you have lured the "wrong" readers in the first place, then you are in trouble. See rather than writing to your readers, you are better off writing to the readers you wish to gain. Your current reader and your ideal reader may turn out to be completely two different people.
Blog post length is a highly covered subject. Are long or short blog posts better? There are many different advices about this, each giving good reasons for going one way or another. Most popular bloggers don't really care about this too much, they have the traffic either way. When you start to try and keep your content short or fill it to a preset length, you are in the danger of forgetting the quality of your content. In reality, some content requires longer format, some shorter. The subject matter affects the length requirements. Most of all your style can work better in shorter or longer format, which ever suits you best. Therefore following any rules about the content length is likely to hurt your blog. It will become soon very clear to your readers you are doing something which doesn't really come naturally for you. Long posts work for some people, short for others. Whichever length fits you best and helps you create better quality content, go for it.
As you can see, I have in this post linked to some of my older posts and a couple of posts by others. This actually is amongst the rules of blogging. Link to your old content to create backlinks, and also link to other's posts to show the generosity. You will also seem like you have researched the subject you are covering, when you refer to other articles about the same subject. If you don't know what irony means, you will say it's ironic I mention this in a post which follows the rule. As with all those other rules this can hurt you when you follow it even when it is not a natural way to go. Too many links, especially when they aren't relevant enough to your post, makes you seem spammy. Are you linking only for the sake of linking, or are you creating the links to provide more information? In case the linking doesn't make any real sense, don't do it. Yes, you can always write a blog post without adding any links in it. Try it, I dare you!
Due to Visual Web becoming a big deal, everyone is including tons of images to their blog posts. Infographics, screenshots, charts, mood pics. Anything goes, more the better. But as with using too many lists, short paragraphs, subtitles and emphasis, each image cuts the flow of reading. Not only that, sometimes the images seem annoyingly unnecessary, which can make your reader decide not to read further or share the post. Most of all, the website speed is increasingly important, for your readers sake, as well as for your SEO efforts. Every and each image is slowing down your website. Some more, some less, slowing nevertheless. For mobile visitors this is even more evident. Since the attention span of your blog visitors is short, it's also important that your articles load fast, before the visitor gets frustrated and leaves. I do add an image on each blog post, mainly for sharing reasons. Images are especially important for shares on Pinterest and Facebook. However I try not to use too many images in the post, because I'm one of those people who rather read than try to understand a cryptic chart or infographic. I also hate slow websites with too many heavy images. Your infographics and charts are difficult to encrypt on the small screen of my old iPhone anyways.
While some of the rules and tips you are following are good, there are lots of harmful blogging tips. Following the bad rules you will drive your readers away and affect the search engine visibility, to mention some of the issues. Besides that, following the rules of blogging too meticulously and implementing the tips to every single post hurts your blog. Even with the good tips, excess is to be avoided. Too much is too much. The blogging tips and rules are best implemented with caution and moderation.
Have you stumbled upon harmful blogging tips? Which rules have hurt your blogging the most? Do tell in the comments area below this post!
I'm Mervi Eskelinen
I'm an artist, nerd and creative business wizard, dedicated to help you build the business of your dreams, market your creativity, and find a meaningful way to support your lifestyle.