With blogging, first impressions matter in a huge way. Every day, people are going to land on your blog and interact with it. To say this in a more direct manner, they are going to land on your blog and interact with YOU, either directly or indirectly. That experience can make a lasting impression on a visitor, but it can also make no impression at all.
We all make judgements about the blogs we visit every day. We gauge the value of the blog within seconds. The problem is that for the most part, we make those judgements without thinking about them. For that reason, we sometimes have a hard time putting our own blogs through the same analysis that we use when we look at blogs that belong to other people.
To help eliminate that problem, I want to focus on some subtleties, things that can lower the impact you make on a visitor:
1. Don’t have pillar content.
Almost every successful blog I know of has epic content that sets them apart from the pack. You need to have at least one incredible project, video, e-book, or blog post! If you don’t, I’m afraid it’s hard to not look like a beginner.
Think about it. Is there a blogger out there that you really respect and follow that doesn’t have epic content?
Make sure that a visitor to your blog can easily find your best stuff, no matter what page or post they land on. If they can’t find it, they will assume that you don’t have it.
2. Use too many elements in your sidebar.
Some blogs I’ve seen have no less than 300 items in their sidebar(s). Most of the time, the majority of the items are links to other sites. I understand why it’s done – the blogger who does this is usually trying to give to other bloggers that they like. Do it too much, and it looks like a newbie move.
3. Have design from 1999.
I personally wish that we lived in a world where design doesn’t matter. Why? Because I have no design skill. I wish that people would focus 100% on my writing. Unfortunately, they don’t. The way your site looks matters and matters more and more as time goes on.
4. Have too many categories for your content.
This is a very effective way to look like a blogging newbie so make sure you don’t forget about this one! Adding a new category for every post is a powerful, advanced newbie disclosure method.
I’ve seen blogs with over 100 categories. You don’t need 100 categories. I personally need to go through my categories and get rid like five of them.
5. Lack topical focus.
Change topics every time you post. Consult with your readers about what kind of things they would like to learn.
Most of us fall into this trap at one time or another so don’t beat yourself up over this one. But, if you have a lot of interests that don’t fit together, you should have more than one blog.
I should say that I believe that there are exceptions to this. Mommy bloggers, for example, are able to successfully navigate a variety of topics related to being a mom, but they all fit under one main thing: being a mom.
6. Spread yourself thin.
Social media makes it all too easy to take focus away from your blog. It’s your blog that matters the most. No technique or amount of effort will be effective with social media unless your blog is strong.
7. Use meaningless post titles.
Titles like ‘Another meaningless Monday’ (You’ll notice that I’m ignoring title case for a double-newbie-effect.) and ‘Life sucks again’ are my personal favorites for looking newbieish. (Is newbieish even a word? Hmm.. Is newbie even a word?)
8. Beg for attention.
I see sites that literally scream ‘I want attention’. They have widgets asking people to review them here, there, and everywhere else. I hate to say it but if you’re annoyed that you don’t get enough attention, you are probably focusing too much on yourself! Make it about your readers and things will turn around.
9. Post erratically.
This has been my achilles heel and I’m working to turn that around. I don’t have a problem creating content that people like but I tend to be somewhat erratic. I always gain more traction when I’m steady.
10. Run around begging for links.
The most tell-tale sign that you’re a newbie is running around asking high-level bloggers for links. We’ve all done it, so don’t feel bad or anything. But, this isn’t going to work and it kind of reveals that you don’t understand how things work.
Links happens because bloggers are trading value. Sometimes they are trading guest posts or if a guest post has enough value on its own, one blogger publishes it in exchange for a link.
If a piece of content is truly epic, it will get natural links from all over the place.
Focus on developing friendships and links will come.