In the past three weeks, I have gone out of my way to review a whole bunch of brand new blogs.
These blogs are by first-time bloggers who asked for feedback as they launch themselves into the blogosphere in hopes of having an impact and making an income doing what they love.
What I noticed after reviewing many of these newborn blogs is that I gave the same tips and recommendations over and over and over again. My feedback was nearly the same for everyone. Everybody made the same mistakes.
So here are 15 mistakes that nearly 100% of first-time bloggers make. (How many of these are you making?)
1) Don’t Do Date-Based Hyperlinks/URLs
Oh why oh why are date-based URLs (permalinks) so prevalent on many blogs? If your blog posts haves URLs that look like this: myawesomeblog.com/2012/04/21/my-rad-post/, you’ll look a lot less professional than if your blog post URLs looked like this: myawesomeblog.com/my-rad-post/ or myawesomeblog.com/[relevant-category]/my-awesome-post/.
You see, you DO NOT want to date your blog content. Putting dates in your URLs provides absolutely zero benefits to your readers, and it may cause people to pick a different result in the Google search results pages if they see that your content is old (yes, 2014 is practically the olden days as far as blog content goes.)
You can keep your blog posts looking fresh and relevant, with prettier URL’s by simply skipping the dates.
So either choose domain/post-name or domain/category/post-name options for blog permalinks in your WordPress settings.
Pro Tip: Remove the dates from your blog posts, too!
Some WordPress themes give you this option under the “Appearance/Customize” menu in your WordPress Dashboard. Otherwise, you may need to get some technical help to tweak your theme files.
This is not urgent if your blog is brand new. However, once your posts turn two years old, it’s best to remove the dates so they don’t look aged.
2) Hide The WordPress Meta Links Widget
I don’t know why WordPress makes the login and other back-end links a default widget. Let these links remain in your blog sidebar and you’ll really sell the amateur look.
This is a simple fix, really. Just delete this widget from your sidebar and put something else there that actually serves your readers.
You can always bookmark your WordPress login and admin pages.
You want your main blog navigation to be simple and user-friendly.
Your main site navigation should have a link to your blog or recent posts page and/or categories, an about page, a contact page, and a couple other super-relevant pages that you really want your visitors to read.
4) Ditch The Date-Based Archives – Use Category Archives Instead
One of the most useless features of WordPress are date-based archives.
Yes, it’s kinda cool to see an archive of your blog posts dating back to 2009, or whenever you started blogging. But your readers will NEVER use these links. So just get rid of them.
Nobody is going to browse your blog posts in chronological order by year and month. As interesting as your blog is, your readers are not going to paw through your site like this.
A much more user-friendly way to entice readers to browse your archives is to give them category-based archives. That way, they can browse by the topic that they are most interested in.
5) Don’t File Posts Under “Uncategorized”
You’d be surprised at how many times I’m reviewing a new blog to find that some of the posts are filed under “Uncategorized”.
You should NEVER have an uncategorized blog post – unless you are blogging purely for the fun of it with no desire to be all button-downed and professional about it.
If you truly have blog posts that don’t fit your main categories, either find a proper category or consider whether this post should even be on your blog to begin with (ie: Does it really serve your readers? Will it be relevant five years from now?)
6) Delete The “Tag Cloud”
Nobody is going to click on that big “cloud” of tags on your sidebar.
For that matter, nobody is going to click that string of tags at the end of your blog post, either.
So feel free to remove the tag cloud, or don’t even tag posts.
7) Wait For It…Wait For It…
If your blog has just barely launched, I get that you haven’t shelled out the big bucks for high-end, upgraded hosting.
That’s fine. You don’t need more than a basic, $5/month shared hosting account to get started.
However, you do need a site that loads in under three seconds – or as close to that speed as possible.
It is not uncommon for me to see blogs that take a whopping 15-28 seconds to load! That’s way too long. That’s like trying to run a race in quicksand.
If your site is loading slow, it could mean that:
- You are running way too many Plugins,
- Your WordPress theme is super bloated and just loads slow,
- Your images are not optimized,
- Your hosting company sucks.
Visit GTMetrix and run a test on your blog’s load time. Test your main page, a blog post page, and, if you have one, a critical landing page like your sales page, or an opt-in/lead magnet page.
Then follow the suggestions the test results give you.
A great way to speed up your site is to only use WordPress plugins that are absolutely necessary.
You can also dramatically reduce load time by and optimize your images (don’t upload/post an 8,000 pixel image if your theme will only display it as a 400 pixel image), and use an image optimization/compression plugin like TinyPNG or WP Smush.
8) Ad-Rich & Content-Poor
I know you’re eager to monetize your blog. I mean, we all want to make money. But you need to have some actual content and value on your blog before you go slap ad banners everywhere.
In general, I strongly recommend holding off on ads until you have AT LEAST 30 blog posts on your blog. Any less than that and you just look a tad spammy.
If/when you do put ad banners, don’t surround your content with them. I’ve been to blogs that have an ad in the header, sidebar, footer, and IN the content. That’s too much – especially if you only have a few posts!
Here’s a better idea – just ditch the ads (including affiliate ad banners), and actually create content that serves your audience. Pair your readers with solutions to their problems (affiliate products), or create a transformational e-course or program that will get your readers a better result (while making you more money.)
9) Excuse Me, But Your Default Is Showing
Your blog is not ready for the spotlight if you have “Uncategorized” posts.
It’s definitely not ready if you have default text in any widget areas, or sample pages/menus/comments. (I actually see this a LOT!)
Don’t link to “under construction” or “coming soon” pages. If it’s “coming soon”, it’s not here, so don’t publish the empty page or link to the section of your site that does nothing more than serve up a huge helping of disappointment.
Get it done, get it made, and THEN link it from your navigation bar.
10) [Don’t] You Take Me To…Funkytown!
You don’t want funky on your blog. And by funky, I mean:
- Day-glow color scheme,
- Black background, white text (no, it doesn’t look “classy”, it’s hard to read!)
- Tiny images stuck in among your paragraphs,
- Anything that spins, blinks, wiggles, jiggles, or changes color. This ain’t no disco, it’s a blog!
11) Tear Down This Wall (Of Text)!
While not as intimidating as as concrete and barbed wire, a massive wall of text will send your readers running.
So break up large paragraphs (five lines or less when viewed on a laptop), separate them, add sub-headers, and bold important points.
Make your post skimmable. Make it easy to read. Pull your readers through your content. Whatever you do, don’t wall them off with a massive block of text.
12) Give Me A Reason To Follow You!
Over and over and over again I see the same simple e-mail opt-in forms that offer up a simple “subscribe for updates”.
But that’s not enough to entice me, or anyone else, for that matter, to hand over my e-mail address.
I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you this, but a first-time blog visitor doesn’t care about you, or your blog, or your future posts that they might miss.
They care about one thing and one thing only – answering a question, solving a problem, or basically satisfying the reason that brought them to your page in the first place.
But they won’t subscribe to your e-mail updates because they liked one article. You have to give them a compelling reason to do so.
To do that, you create what’s known as a lead magnet. That is some valuable, exclusive piece of content that you ONLY share with your e-mail subscribers. It should be relevant to your main blog topic, and solve a mini problem that your readers have.
Think about it – which is more likely to get you to hand over your e-mail address to a stranger:
1) Subscribe to get updates to my blog.
2) Lose up to 5 pounds this week with my FREE 7-day plant-based meal plan ONLY for e-mail subscribers.
While we’re on the topic of e-mail list opt-in forms, keep it simple!
Don’t ask for first name, last name, e-mail, letter from third grade teacher…
If your form is too much work (and yes, three form fields is too much work these days!), your opt-in rate will plummet!
If you NEED to send out personalized e-mails, then ask for first-name and e-mail address. Otherwise, just ask for an e-mail address.
That’s really all you need to get from your e-mail subscribers.
14) Use Your Own Domain
If you’re serious about blogging, and turning your blog into a business, then you need a DOT COM (not a .net, or a .org, or a .whatever).
You need a .com because:
If your blog/website name is available as a .com, chances are the name is yours, and you’re not setting yourself up for legal headaches because your .net is infringing on a trademark,
Everyone expects a .com, so you don’t want to go through life correcting everybody on your unusual name extension,
You don’t want to look like a hobby blogger with a URL that ends in wordpress.com, blogger.com, or weebly.com.
Is your .com available?
15) Are Ya Sleepin’?
I understand that blogging is busy. There is so much to do and your list never gets done.
But if you have links to social profiles like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, then you had better have some unique, original content there (and not just links back to your site content.)
The worst are empty profiles! If I click on your Twitter link and see an empty account with no tweets yet, that’s a big bummer.
So here’s the deal:
DO set up an account with EVERY major social media network and YouTube. Be sure to secure your website/blog name as your username (and get the vanity URL if you can.)
But DON’t link to social profiles that you don’t actively use, or that are so new that you don’t have anything on them yet.
If you feel overwhelmed, then just pick one or two to work on. It’s better to build a good following of engaged people on two social networks than to phone it in after getting overwhelmed on six.
Take some time today (or this week) to make the recommended changes outlined in this article.
I promise that if you follow these tips, your blog won’t look so newbie(ish) and you will get more traffic, more engagement, and you’ll look more professional.
Your readers will respect you more.
PS: If you want to learn more about how you can turn your blog into a six-figure online business like Tracy and I did with ours, I’m offering a free consult to show you how it’s done.
About Davy & Tracy
Hey there! We're Davy & Tracy Russell, the husband-and-wife team behind this website. We help trailblazers break through barriers so they can turn their passion into their life's work through entrepreneurship. How can we help you?