Congratulations! You’ve decided to join the ranks of bloggers. You’re going to love it! Before you get too far into it, though, I’d like to help you avoid some common beginning blogging mistakes. These mistakes are almost a rite of passage, but why waste that time with mistakes you can easily avoid?
1. Auto-loading music.
Please. I beg you, your readers beg you: ditch the auto-loading music! Auto-loading music is not only annoying and surprising, but it’s a bandwidth hog. It makes your blog load slowly. Do you really want to lose a reader because she couldn’t wait for your site to load? And if she waits for your site to load, will she be annoyed because she didn’t know there would be music, accidentally had her speakers on high, and a sleeping husband (or child) right beside her? I can tell you this: She won’t be back.
2. Using a design with a dark background & light text.
This issue is less about your aesthetic (though that is part of it) and more about usability and readability. Reading online is harder on our eyes than reading traditional paper. Using a dark background with light text makes it even harder on your readers’ eyes.
3. Too much sidebar clutter.
A sleek, uncluttered design goes a long way with readers. The less clutter, the more white space you have. You can use this white space to help lead your readers’ eye toward specific content. Your images and headlines will stand out more.
Are you proud of your awards, badges, and various trinkets and show them off on your sidebar? That’s OK, those things are a rite of passage too. You don’t have to get rid of them, but why not put awards on their own page and link to it from your main page? You’ll trade 20 links for just one link and de-clutter the sidebar. De-cluttering your sidebar eases navigation for your reader. When there are fewer items competing for your reader’s attention, they’ll be drawn to what’s important.
TIP: Want to learn more about how light backgrounds & clearing clutter affect how your audience uses your site? Blog Design For Dummies is a great resource. I highly recommend it.
4. Accidental plagiarism (even with photos).
Very few legitimate bloggers plagiarize on purpose. Most likely a new blogger won’t realize what they’re doing (but that doesn’t make it OK). Plagiarism applies to using any content that isn’t originally yours, whether it’s words, photography, music, pictures, or anything else.
Many new bloggers will Google a picture, then save it and use it in a blog post. That’s plagiarism — even if you cite where you found the picture — because you haven’t asked the owner if you can use it.
The U.S. Copyright Office bluntly says: “Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.”
What about your words being used without your permission? You can check to see if anyone has copied your content with Copyscape. And if you find that someone has used your content without your permission, click over to What to Do When Someone Steals Your Blog Post.
5. Using “click here” instead of keyword phrases for links.
Choose your link words carefully. When you are writing a post and need to insert a link, consider how you are going to write that sentence and where you will include the link. For example, which of these is more effective (potential links in bold)?
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The top sentence is more effective because it has a keyword phrase that helps with SEO and is more descriptive for readers. The words “click here” or even just the word “here” linked to other files or pages are everywhere on the web. When was the last time you did a search for “click here”?
Wait, there’s more! Here are five more beginner blogging mistakes to avoid.