Beginning Blogger Checklist: 5 MORE Mistakes to Avoid

1.  Choosing an uninteresting or redundant blog name.

If you are starting a blog, whether you think you might be in it for the long haul or not, please consider your title seriously. Try to avoid words like musings, ramblings, thoughts, mommy, etc. Trust me when I tell you it’s been done. Your goal should be to set yourself apart from the crowd. Choose something reflective of your personality and niche, but be creative.

Some things to think about when naming your blog:

  • Is the title flexible? Does it allow you to grow your niche if you decide to? For instance, if you are starting a mommy blog and your title is My Pregnant Belly, what happens when you’re still blogging in 18 months and you’re no longer pregnant? The entire focus of your blog has changed, but your title hasn’t and it no longer reflects your topic.
  • Does the title reflect the blog’s topic? Your title is a great way to increase your SEO if you choose your words carefully to reflect your blogging niche.
  • Does the title match your domain name? Your URL should match your blog’s name. It’s terribly confusing and hard to remember if your blog is called The Nelson Three but the URL is maxlovespie.blogspot.com. They are totally unrelated.

2.  Not owning your domain name.

Your domain name is the URL, or address, of your blog. For example, yourblogname.com or yourblogname.net. There are several reasons to own your domain:

  1. It’s less than $10/year to own your domain and it’s an incredibly easy process.
  2. It’s easy for your readers or new contacts to remember your blog’s name & how to find it.
  3. As you build your blog, you build your brand. Your URL is an important part of that branding.
  4. Like it or lump it, people take you more seriously if you own your own domain name and use a .com or .net URL.

When you buy your domain name, it’s best to buy the .com and the .net. Most people are used to typing in the .com, but the .net is a close second. If, for some reason, you can’t secure the .com, go with the .net.

3.  Your header is huge.

Digital scrapbooking is wildly popular and I understand that. However, blogging is not digital scrapbooking. I see so many blogs (particularly mommy blogs) that have a header that takes up most of the homepage. The reader has to scroll down several times just to get to the content. In a book you have a title page; on a blog you have a title bar. The title bar should be visible and eye-catching, but it is not the thrust of your blog. Keep it simple and small. Focus on your content.

4.  Not considering privacy issues.

It’s important to consider how transparent you want to be online. It’s impossible to tell whether your blog will take off or not. If you’re insanely popular in a year, do you want people to know your child’s real name or where you live? For some people out there, it’s a game to see if they can figure out specific, private things about your family or your life. It’s creepy and it can be dangerous. I say this not to scare you, but to make you aware of the problems that can occur when you give too much to your audience.

On a lighter note, if you write about your family or personal life, you may wish to use pseudonyms. As you choose these names be aware that your baby is going to grow up. Calling them SweetPumpkin on your blog isn’t going to go over well when they’re old enough to know you’re writing about them and have a pet name for them. I called my children Max and Wild Thing (after characters in my favorite children’s book). As my second child grew older, she took exception to being called Wild Thing and insisted I change her name. You’ve been warned.

5.  Allowing blogging to become a chore.

When you begin your blog, you have the energy and the ideas for fifty posts. You have a shiny new toy and you’re ready to jump in with both feet. I say harness that energy and write those posts. Then put those posts on auto-publish and give yourself a break. As you write more posts, add them to the queue. If you only write your posts the day before, you may end up (as so many of us have) resenting the fact that you have to write a post or you’ll lose your readership (which isn’t really true). Finally, remember that blogging isn’t life. Many a blogger has found that she’s so wrapped up in blogging her life that she forgets to focus on the people in her life. Step back every once in a while and take stock of how things are going. Adjust as necessary. If you’re hitting a wall and can’t think of anything to write, allow yourself to take a break (just don’t apologize for it when you come back).

38 Responses

  1. Gina June 10, 2009 / 9:07 am

    I am definitely feeling #5 right now with the transition from school days to summer activities. I had a great schedule going, and now we’re all over the place. I want to be at the computer, but for less time, right when things seem to be revving up with my blog. I think I’m also guilty of #4, but that’s a project that will have to wait until I have more time to deal with it.

  2. Headless Mom June 10, 2009 / 9:31 am

    I was all about the #4 in the beginning. Do you have tips about revealing more? Yet staying true to the ‘brand’?

  3. admin June 10, 2009 / 9:51 am

    Gina,
    Summer is the hardest time for moms who blog (regardless our blog topics). I’ve had a hard transition every year! This year, I’ve also taken on a few paid gigs in addition to my regular blogging here at BB101–which makes time even more valuable. This week, the kids are at camp in the mornings so I have 4 hours to get things done, then I spend the rest of the afternoon with them. So far, this is working out. Next week I think I’ll just have to get up earlier, work for an hour or two before the kids are up, then let them have another 2 hours of free time before we start our day. It’s by no means perfect and some days are better than others. I don’t have an easy answer for moms. It helps that my kids are little older and completely self-sufficient. 😉

  4. admin June 10, 2009 / 10:00 am

    Headless Mom,

    Privacy is such a personal issue. I have pseudonyms for my kids at my personal blog, but I’ve shown their faces (I usually try to only share pictures that obscure their faces, though). In the beginning, any time I shared a photo of myself or my family, I Photoshopped Groucho glasses onto our faces or just showed a picture of them at a distance. Eventually, as my brand grew, the Groucho glasses proved to be a hindrance b/c no one knew me when I met them! So I evolved to using regular pictures. That meant changing my brand (the Groucho glasses had become synonymous with chilihead). What I found was that my readers were happy to see the change and evolved with me.

    My good friend Shannon (RocksInMyDryer.net) is very serious about privacy and does not use her children’s names or faces on her blog. She’s been able to share her motherhood journey, special stories about her children, and still maintain her family’s privacy and her brand.

    • Nicole June 5, 2013 / 7:23 am

      How transparent should you be with family/friends that you have for example, a “motherhood journey” blog. Do you tell your friends you started a blog and give them the pseudo name? Or don’t tell them?

    • Melanie Nelson June 11, 2013 / 8:45 am

      Nicole,

      That’s really up to you. It depends on how much privacy you want. However, even if you don’t tell people you blog or where to find your blog they can still find it via search. I can tell you many stories of bloggers who haven’t shared their information with others (though they weren’t really hiding it either) and then at PTA or other functions people have approached them about their blog.

  5. Emily @ The Pilot's Wife June 10, 2009 / 11:26 am

    Melanie-

    I’ve heard the above design recommendations before (title, header, url), and tried to keep them in mind when I had my blog re-designed recently. I think it looks so much better!

    Love all these tips, keep it up!

    Emily

  6. Sugar Jones June 10, 2009 / 11:36 am

    Thanks for this list. We chatted you up AGAIN on Chicks Who Chat. Hoping our listeners come and see the whole blog… cuz it RAWKS!

    • admin June 10, 2009 / 11:45 am

      Thanks, Sugar! Please come back and leave the URL for your BTR show Chicks Who Chat. I know my readers would love it. And, hello? If you’re talking about me I want people to hear it! LOL

  7. A Mama's Rant June 10, 2009 / 12:17 pm

    Summer camp is a blessing for moms who blog/work from home. My kids are there most of the day, so I get even more done than when they’re in school.

    About the .com and .net thing? I’ve been told that if you can’t purchase the .com, don’t go ahead and get the .net. People are going to assume that your blog is at .com and will type that in first. And what if the .com to your .net URL was a bad site (or turned into one when the domain was sold)? Too risky IMO.

  8. admin June 10, 2009 / 12:24 pm

    A Mama’s Rant,

    You make a good point about .com vs. .net. However, I still think it’s worth getting the .net if only to snap up the URL to help protect your brand. I also think having the .net is preferable to yourname.blogspot.com or yourname.wordpress.com. Heck, Problogger had .net for a very long time before he secured the .com version. My friend Shannon (RocksInMyDryer.net) has the .net for her site and it also seems to work very well. You can also get the .me or .us suffix.

  9. Elisa June 11, 2009 / 8:01 am

    May I add a point to #1? Goodgle your blog name before you start. There are so many blogs out there, it’s best to make sure there isn’t one with a similar title already!! In the past few months I found 3 blogs that use some form of “the unlikely housewife” in their title. It’s a little annoying.

    • admin June 11, 2009 / 8:04 am

      *Excellent* point, Elisa. Very good advice.

  10. Jerri Ann June 11, 2009 / 11:23 am

    I made the mistake of choosing a name that resembled others. Blogs with the word “mom” in them are a dime a dozen so…it’s definitely a hard call to make a good selection and decide if it is going to work long term.

  11. Kim June 13, 2009 / 11:42 pm

    Great advice, thank you!

  12. mannequin July 27, 2009 / 9:29 pm

    I’ve a question and I hope it’s okay to ask here, it seems like the best place. I’m dissatisfied with the name of my blog (Blogger). What’s the best way to handle a name change without affecting my subscribers?
    Is there a graceful way to make such a change or is it even possible?

    Thanks much for any help!

  13. Dawn Farias December 3, 2009 / 5:05 pm

    Oh, I totally agree about the too-big header thing!! I also am one that got too wrapped up in blogging. I’m taking a looong break right now (from my personal blog). I have to say I miss it already but it is good finding myself in the ‘real world’ (as opposed to The Matrix, I suppose).

    I just found your site (via Rocks In My Dryer) and I really like it. Thanks!

    • Melanie Nelson December 3, 2009 / 8:20 pm

      Dawn,

      Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll subscribe to my feed–I plan on updating a lot articles and adding new ones now that Shannon and I have finished the TypePad for Dummies book.
      Melanie

  14. Pixie February 25, 2011 / 6:15 pm

    I took #1 to heart and fixed it immediately. Thank you.

  15. Catherine McChessney May 3, 2011 / 5:41 pm

    Thanks for yet another great article. I’m just hanging out on your blog tonight learning a lot.

    I do have a question about the privacy issue. I don’t mind people know my full name and my city and state, even my email address. But when it comes to my kids I don’t want to post their names. I have already posted their ages though. For privacy, should I also take down my name and be less specific about my location?

  16. Melanie Nelson May 12, 2011 / 1:47 pm

    Catherine,

    Privacy is a very personal thing. Some people are OK with one thing, while others aren’t. My advice is to think ahead and consider all possibilities (and remember that you won’t be able to foresee everything) and do what feels right for your family. I don’t think listing the ages of your kids is the worst thing, I’ve seen many bloggers do that. And it’s usually better to blog as yourself rather than a fake entity. The one thing I’d consider is whether you want people to know where you are. It’s possible not to tell people your city or state and still have a great blog. You can also be sure that, when taking/posting pictures, you’re not inadvertently sharing your house number or the street you live on in the background.

  17. Wendy September 27, 2011 / 7:25 pm

    As far as privacy goes I made the mistake of not paying attention to the names of the pictures I uploaded and some had my child’s name on them. It took a long time to go through and fix them all.

  18. Krystle February 26, 2012 / 11:02 pm

    Hello. I just started a blog. I believe in my about me section I listed my sons’ names. Do you think I should change that? I didn’t see it as a potential problem till now.

  19. Susan January 13, 2013 / 5:16 pm

    Hi Melanie,
    Just ran across your article. Loved it. There are quite a few tips you touched on that I have felt intuitively. Tip No. 5 was something I never thought would happen. Until my father became ill and passed away. Then everything shut down for me.

    I haven’t blogged or kept up with my online newsmagazine for over 2 years. Talk about embarrassing. Well, getting back up to speed is an opportunity for growth. Looking forward to subscribing to your blog.

    Best to you in the new year and beyond,
    Susan

  20. Nicole June 5, 2013 / 7:11 am

    OK, what if Im blogging about personal things. Do most people tell their family and friends that they have this blog? If Im blogging about “mom”, do I tell mom I have a blog. Do most people keep their blog secret from family and/or friends? If Im blogging about personal things, is it better not to tell close friends, even if I change my name for safety reasons?

  21. Blog Writing June 24, 2013 / 7:59 pm

    Blogging is not a one time only work. You really need to devote time on it. Maintain and update your blog regularly or do a scheduling. Blog needs time and effort if you want it to be successful.

  22. Richmond September 30, 2013 / 10:22 pm

    Can a. “Niche” be an attempt at writing a partly autobiographic novel? The blog would be a great tool to know if I am on the right track, meaning if Readers are following the story. The question then becomes: if I want to really go ahead and finish the book on the blog, is the text protected ? Thank you for all your ideas and recomendations !

    • Melanie Nelson October 2, 2013 / 10:50 am

      Hi Richmond,

      If you’re writing a novel, your niche would be creative writing and your blog’s topic would be your actual novel.

      Regarding whether you text is protected: You certainly own the copyright to your writing, whether it’s online or not. However, you can’t stop people from stealing your content. When you find anyone who has taken your content, you can ask them to take it down and/or file a DMCA complaint. Check out our post on that: https://www.bloggingbasics101.com/2011/09/what-do-when-someone-steals-your-blog-post/

      I don’t recommend putting up your entire writing on your blog. I understand your goal, but to ensure your work isn’t taken (although it’s unlikely it will be) you should keep some things offline. Check out how Diana Gabaldon handles her FB page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDianaGabaldon — She shares some daily writing and gets feedback from her readers (some good, some bad — you’ll need to develop a thick skin any time you put your stuff out there).

      I hope that helps.

  23. Susan October 17, 2013 / 5:39 am

    I’m very new to blogging, and I’m using a pseudonym to protect my identity. (I have NOT started promoting my blog.)

    I read that using a pseudonym makes advertisers very wary of working with a blogger. Is this true? I would like to make at least a little money with my new blogging venture.

    Any advice on how to protect my identity and still seem viable to advertisers?

    • Melanie Nelson October 28, 2013 / 9:16 am

      Susan,

      I honestly don’t know. My opinion is that if your pseudonym is not a name (e.g., Susan or Melanie, etc.) and is more of a moniker (e.g., chilihead) then it may matter. Honestly, if you have the traffic and content the advertiser wants, then it’s not going to matter. They’re interested in your community and traffic more than your name.

      Hope that helps!

  24. Tina Marie May 23, 2014 / 10:58 pm

    I do not desire to make money blogging but I am so curious re how the cash flow works. I get that advertisers pay bloggers who’ve a lot of followers. Does the blogger get contacted by the advertisers? Is an agreement made? Do bloggers have to set up paypal accts for deposits from advertisers or are checks cut and mailed. Just have always been very curious. What kind of money do advertisers pay successful bloggers? Thanks a bunch!

  25. Denise June 22, 2014 / 6:46 pm

    You had said you don’t use your children’s real names… do you at all post pics of your children on your site?

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