5 Beginning Blogging Mistakes You Can Fix


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.”

So take a minute to find out about and understand the issues of plagiarism and copyright. You may also want to know about Creative Commons.

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)?

We can help you find information on the most popular blog hosts.

For information on blog hosts click here.

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.

What would you add to his list?

48 Responses

  1. Anna O'Reilly June 8, 2009 / 11:44 am

    Very helpful! I enjoyed this post and am happy that I am already doing most of these.

  2. Selfish Mom June 8, 2009 / 3:56 pm

    Fantastic info! And thank you for #1, I really can’t stand that.

  3. Melissa June 9, 2009 / 12:56 am

    Love these tips! Thank you so much for posting #1- I really can’t stand sites with music since many times my kids are near the computer or I’m listening to my own music. I don’t think I’ve gone back to many sites with music, either, so if people are trying to gain new readers, it isn’t the best option.

    I’ll add that there are a few sites I’ve gone to with talking ads and those are just as intrusive. It is similar to watching a tv show and having random commercials interrupt you watch (read) your program (blog).

  4. Prevention Through Puppetry June 9, 2009 / 10:22 am

    Yes, that was great advice — esp. about plagiarism. I also thought if you cited the work and gave credit that it was ok. So great tips!

  5. Sarah Mae June 9, 2009 / 12:59 pm

    This is absolutely excellent advice! I think I’ll be adding this to my weekly “what I’m reading” round-up!


  6. Tiffany June 9, 2009 / 1:47 pm

    Great advice. I have never thought about your last point on SEO and links. That’s going to change the way I do things.

  7. admin June 10, 2009 / 11:10 am

    Sarah Mae,

    I’m honored. Thanks for spreading the word!

  8. Andrea @ Mommy Snacks.net June 12, 2009 / 7:02 pm

    Hi there 🙂

    I have a question. On tip #4, wouldn’t both examples be valid for SEO word strings? Even with the “click here” and “vendor guidelines” – both are keywords strung together, right? Are you saying because it says “click here” there are millions of others that do that and I am cataloged with those when I have that as well. But, if I’m also cataloged with the keyword string like “vendor guidelines” AND “click here” is that just better because I’m in both searches, right?

    Seriously, I really want to better understand this one 🙂 Thanks!

    • admin June 18, 2009 / 5:34 pm


      It doesn’t do you any good to be cataloged with the “click here” crowd because a) no one is going to search for that and b) there is no context to put with that keyword string. No one will find YOU when they are trying to by searching “click here”. Using keyword strings that mean something to your audience serves two purposes: 1) it tells the user what they can expect when they click on a link and 2) search engines have a usable context for your search terms.

      When I attended Blog World Expo last year, I listened to Dave Taylor discuss how search engines find you. Essentially, SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) finds you via semantic and contextual analysis to figure out the themes and topics of your blog and its posts.
      * Semantic Data is concerned with what are you writing. The search bots look at which words you are using, how frequently certain words occur, etc.
      * Contextual Data is concerned with who links to you. The bots want to know what other blogs or web sites link to you and how they link (what words they’re using, etc.).

      It’s that semantic data and keyword density that you are going for when you use keyword strings with relevant words.

  9. Kim June 13, 2009 / 11:39 pm

    Thanks for the heads up 🙂 It is always nice to know these things!

  10. Antique Mommy June 24, 2009 / 7:45 am

    Excellent excellent advice. I also hate blogs where the header is so big you have to scroll down half a page to get to content. And posts that make you click “more” to finish reading. Apparently I’m lazy.

  11. Jamie July 4, 2009 / 4:57 pm

    I disagree with #1. I have added music & had positive comments & I enjoy going to blogs with music. If you don’t like it, simply click stop.

  12. Stephanie July 22, 2009 / 11:57 pm

    I agree with all 5 of these tips, Melanie. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  13. Trish Mullen September 9, 2009 / 12:34 pm

    Lots of experience and great tips I was able to pick up on there Melanie, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  14. Katie January 7, 2010 / 3:37 pm

    So, this may be a dumb question, but how DO you get photos for your blog? Do you only use pictures you’ve taken yourself?

  15. Nancy January 7, 2010 / 10:12 pm

    Thanks for the advice. I better go and scratch my blog now! Just kidding.

  16. heimelijk January 19, 2011 / 5:41 pm

    what a great help, especially for me a starter… lucky to find this post as my best start.
    thanks, more power to you

  17. jil February 7, 2011 / 11:21 pm

    This is such a helpful guide. Re: #4 are we able to post other peoples photos, from Flickr, on our blogs? Or do we need permission as well.
    Thanks for any info you can provide!

    • Melanie Nelson February 8, 2011 / 7:08 am

      Jil, that’s a great question. Flickr allows people who post pictures there to attach a Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/) designation to their photos. Many people choose to attach a CC agreement to their photos that allows you to use the photo on your blog as long as a) you provide attribution with a link back to them and b) aren’t profiting from the use. However, you’ll need to check each photo you use. If it doesn’t have CC attached to it, you’ll need to ask permission from the owner. If it does have CC attached to it, you’ll need to double-check with permissions they allow. There is a plug-in for WordPress called Photodropper (http://www.photodropper.com/wordpress-plugin/) that you can install (if you use WordPress.org) and you’ll be able to search Flickr for CC-enabled photos right from your post dashboard. It’s pretty handy.

  18. Vanessa Jensen March 3, 2011 / 7:05 pm

    Thanks for the tips!! Such a help to a beginning blogger like myslef 🙂

  19. Fran Casselman March 29, 2011 / 10:30 pm

    Melanie, as someone who is barely thinking of thinking of starting a blog, even this “beginner’s guide” is a bit ahead of where I am at the moment. However, I always think it’s helpful to know what I don’t know so this is a first step, and I appreciate it.

    Since I’d like to return the favor, I’ll mention that the correct spelling is “rite” of passage, not “right.” Other than that, kudos as well as thanks from a former editor.

  20. kimberly persyn September 9, 2011 / 9:14 am

    I haven’t started a blog… I am a real newbie on the computer. I am on a journey to a healthier life. I am about to embark on a world with out tobacco. I thought that doing a daily blog could help. I want to do this in a humorous way. I also thought I could slip in a bit of drama … just my drama of course.
    I am a bit limited on funds 1: reason for quitting. so buying your books may be a bit hard.. are they available at the library? Of course I may not be ready for the library till my carvings and side effects dissipate a bit.

  21. Wendy September 27, 2011 / 7:20 pm

    Ah! The click here is always one that gets me and it definitely is more effective to rewrite the sentence.

  22. Hamlet August 25, 2012 / 11:54 am

    LOL! I already made some of these. And still doing some of them like number 4.

    This post will help new bloggers. Hope i will not use any Google picture in Future. Thanks.

  23. Tebogo "Gypsie Gyal" Ramagaga September 12, 2012 / 3:32 pm

    Gracious,just what I needed to know as i’m about to embark on this blogging platform.It has been long over-due.Thank you a million times,one of the reasons I haven’t published my blog was that I wanted to take time and do it proper.It’s either you do it 100% or don’t do it at all,hence I opted to do research first then create a blog.You have been very helpful,so now I gotta put what I have learnt here to practice.Let BLOGGING BEGIN…1 more question,which blog site would you recommend that can handle uploads of videos and pictures?I feel most blog spots(free) have lots of limitations and restrictions,eg:limited number of pictures to upload,no video uploads,designs and themes,etc.

    • Melanie Nelson September 13, 2012 / 8:24 am

      Tebogo, definitely start with WordPress. It’s the industry standard. Blogger does have limitations and TypePad is really out of the running these days. Thanks for commenting and good luck with your new blog!

  24. Max Alvarez January 18, 2013 / 10:13 am

    Thanks for your tips. They’re really useful.
    Now, I wonder what the scientific basis that back up tip No. 2 are.
    Wouldn’t a dark background with light text involve less tension on the iris making the reading experience less demanding and tiring?
    Then, what about the font?

    • Max Alvarez January 18, 2013 / 10:14 am

      sorry, I meant ‘scientific BASES’ in the sense of data 😉

    • Melanie Nelson January 28, 2013 / 12:33 pm

      Thanks for your question, Max! There are cases made for both white backgrounds and black backgrounds. For usability, my experience over the last 20 years has been that most readers complain vehemently when they see a blog with a black background and light text. That alone is enough for me to endorse using a white background with dark text because I want my readers to stick around. 🙂

      I’ve also had many a discussion that people usually click away from a blog that has a black background because it simply doesn’t look professional. That, of course, can be debated. I think the exception to that rule is photography sites. I see many photo sites with a black background and they do well. However, most of their content isn’t text based.

      Here’s an article discussing when to use white or black backgrounds (though, when Googling, as I said, you can find a case for both options): http://uxmovement.com/content/when-to-use-white-text-on-a-dark-background/

      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  25. april March 22, 2013 / 7:19 pm

    I did make one of these mistakes in one of my blogs. I am so glad I came here. They were pics a friend sent me via email but was so amusing. I know that they did not belong to him. Also is there a way to make sure folks that visit your blog (because some of my pics will be on my blog) cant copy and paste pictures there. I am a newbie with the blog and have no real knowledge of html…so something like “creating blogs for dummies” wording would work for me. 🙂

    • Melanie Nelson March 22, 2013 / 7:44 pm

      April, there are ways you can disable the copy feature (Google ‘disable right click’ and you’ll find instructions on that). However, people can always find a way around those fixes and they aren’t fool proof. Remember that anyone can take a screenshot of an image and have it on their computer. A better idea is to watermark your images (Google ‘how do I watermark an image’) in a way that even if someone copies the image, your watermark is still clearly visible and it’s obvious the image isn’t theirs.

  26. James McAllister May 24, 2013 / 12:18 am

    Before you even get the blog online, one mistake you should definitely avoid is choosing a bad domain name. After all, once you put your blog online, it’s pretty hard to change the domain name that it’s on.

    Good domain names should be short, easy to remember, and it’s also helpful to have your websites keyword in the url. By having it in the url, not only is it better for search engine rankings (sometimes, although not so much anymore), but your visitors can instantly tell what the website is about by simply looking at the URL.

  27. janie October 26, 2013 / 11:57 pm

    omg…lol do i have some stuff to fix. Thanks again!

  28. Kelly Wheelhouse February 9, 2014 / 8:18 am

    So this popped into my head tonight…Maybe I should start a blog. Heres why, I have a lot of passions. I know a little about a lot of things and A LOT a few things. Ive seen the darkness and I chose to go back into the light. I annoy myself writing my ideas and such on social media cuz I think its ignored and under appreciated because I think I have A LOT Of GREAT and helpful things to say I want to reach people. Im passionate about teaching…I take a lot of time learning things and I want to share them. Im passionate about Yoga safty and benefits and I am certified to teach tho I dont practice…i know its weird. Im passionate about HAIR Im a cosmetologist of 23 years and I know what I know really really well and I love to learn more and seek it out. I tell the newbies their biggest mistake doing hair is having and EGO it gets in the way of learning and being humble and willing TO learn. Im passionate about mental health issues because Im Bipolar/depression and I want to help and make a difference build bridges of understanding as they say. Also Fibromyalgia…which I also suffer from and I read A LOT about and want to help people with what I know. NOW that being said…as a Hair Stylist I have learned a lot…about people about their jobs familys health drama sadness and stress. It is what they want to talk about or end up talking about when I do their hair. It gives me my fix helping them listening to them and also making them happy and feel beautiful. But now Im not working…health issues…and I want to help people….SHOULD I START A BLOG? Im going to research more but I really enjoyed your’s the best straight forward no self-aggrandizing fluff. What do you think….

  29. Butch Seroto April 2, 2014 / 5:38 am

    GOD BLESS YOU Melanie Nelson… I am About to start my own blog. This Article… I love it, I love it, I love it. Old BUT still quite relevant. Although I intend creating a platform for Consumers to vent and share Bad Service Experienced from Companies, given the generally bad service levels in South Africa – and more so the Acceptance of this by consumers (Shockingly). Your tips were great and re-assured me of what I have in mind.

  30. Dustin Garness April 26, 2014 / 11:13 pm

    These are some really good tips. The thing I have struggled with the most is finding images that are free to use and don’t cost me an arm-and-a-leg. Do you have any recommendations of places that provide good free images to use?


  31. Anna May 13, 2014 / 10:24 am

    I would like to use a quote from a book in a blog post. After reading this post I went on a research spree and have not found any satisfactory information on whether or not I can or cannot use quotes. Some say cite your sources and others say ask for permission. Many blogs I visited used quotes and cited the author, book, publisher, year – all the good stuff. Is this ok? Do you have any material on how to cite sources on blogs, any dos and do nots, that goes more in depth than this post?

  32. Bethany May 25, 2014 / 9:56 am

    Thanks for this its really helpful!

  33. tahle October 21, 2015 / 6:43 am

    wow , very easy to understand #thankyou

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