As tempting as it is to start a blog, there is a lot more to it than meets the novice's eye. All that smooth, easy-to-read, and interesting writing that you've come to admire from your favorite bloggers doesn't just appear randomly or without a certain amount of sweat and a great deal of revision!

Blogging can be great fun all the same and it's an ideal learning experience for you if you're a budding writer, a knowledge-nik who has a lot to share on a topic or hobby, or you're just keen to encourage people to see things your way! This article is focused on helping you to avoid the common mistakes many learner bloggers make; while you may still stumble into them, at least you'll be more aware and know how to correct your future approaches.


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    Be original. More than anything else, what really matters about your blog is that it represents you and is genuinely unique. While you still need to attune your messaging to what people want to read, whatever you write must be infused with your unique take and style. Discard any notions that it's alright to harvest a bunch of news stories and drop them straight into your blog; nobody will want to read that when they've probably already read them somewhere else. Instead, take those news stories and add your angle to them – give people your opinion on the news story, providing your conclusions about the consequences or moral involved.
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    Don't copy. Directly related to being original is the issue of not copying. Don't assume that no-one will recognize "borrowed" material; they will without doubt. And think of it the other way around – would you want someone "borrowing" your hard efforts? It's common courtesy (and the law), to tell your readers where you got your information from. Blog readers are both discerning and widely read; they'll spot a copied story a mile off and won't appreciate it. Although it can seem very tempting when you're starting out to use the words of others, resist doing so and persist with writing original content. Start small and get into a rhythm; over time, it'll get easier.
    • Being original with your content increases your reader's trust in you. Your readers will soon grow to know, appreciate, and expect your writing style.
    • Cite your material. Not only is this decent morally but it also takes care of potential copyright problems - if you want to copy, do so by using quotes or paraphrasing with the referencing made very clear. Another benefit of referencing is that it enables readers to visit your sources and learn more for themselves, something that many blog readers appreciate and expect.
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    Understand the legal issues surrounding blogs. Even if you're not a lawyer or ajournalist, it's vital to understand how you might accidentally walk into a legal minefield if you make certain errors. The basics of main importance to grasp include copyright, trademarks, defamation, and illegality.
    • Another potential minefield is trusting one research source without backing it up with another one - basically, adding hearsay upon hearsay. If you're not sure, keep researching to have several sources boosting your assertions.
    • Check out the Electronic Foundation Frontier for good layperson's legal information on blogging.[1]
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    Do some research about blogging. If you're absolutely serious about becoming a good blogger, it's important to learn from bloggers who have already trodden this turf well and worked out what does, and does not work. If you're targeting people other than your very forgiving family and friends, knowing what other bloggers have done is vital. Read what the best bloggers have to say about their experiences of blogging and their advice to new bloggers. Some good bloggers to check out include:
    • Heather Allard, Darren Rowse, Chris Garrett, Corvida Raven, Tim Ferriss, Leo Babauta, Jessica Faye Carter, Dan Zarella, Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, Meryl K. Evans, Men With Pens, etc. There are plenty more great bloggers out there but this should be a good start for you![2]
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    • News blogs are also good to learn from. News blogs such as The Huffington Post, etc., take news stories and provide their opinions on the story. You'll need to discern for yourself the political and other agendas behind each blog. Sometimes the best blog is one that aims to be neutral or seeks to reflect both sides of the spectrum - look around before deciding how you'll approach your own blogging.
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    • Do a search for "Top Blog Posts", or "Top Blogs on Cars/Dogs/Babies/Skiing", "Top women/men bloggers", etc. Whatever your interest, there will be someone blogging on it already. You can also search for fields such as "Top mommy bloggers", "Top daddy bloggers", "Top celebrity bloggers", "Top farming bloggers", etc., to see who readers are voting as the best in their genre.
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    • Note that some bloggers are more willing to discuss their craft than others; keep an eye out for the bloggers who take the time to share blogging advice. Where possible, look for blogs that give advice without trying to sell you all the answers (it happens even with the best, so be prepared to cherry-pick and cobble together your advice tidbits!). Whether or not advice is offered, at least learn from reading the popular blogger's writing styles to work out what keeps them connecting with readers.
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    Consider your writing style. If you're used to writing in a technical, academic, or formal way, blog writing might come as a bit of a shock. Blog writing style tends to be more conversational, peppered with a lot of your own opinion (however outrageous!), and above all, it needs to be interesting. The writing style best suited for you will come down to the content of your blog and its likely readership. Clearly, a blog that is more technical in nature can carry more technical writing but even then, your readers will want you to break down the latest techno-whizz gadget to terms that they can understand and digest quickly.
    • Be careful to avoid preaching at your readers. For many blogs, readers are looking for you to meet with them eye-to-eye, not to sermonize, scold, or seem superior to them. Treat them as equals. Expect to be humble, and to share foibles that each of us experiences in daily life. A sense of humor and humility are always important for a good blogger.
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    • Political blogs can easily become bogged down in angry rants or intolerant tirades if you wear your heart on sleeve without involving your head. Seek to maintain a serious tone in such blogs without resorting to name-calling and deprecating comments.
    • Be very careful when cursing. If your blog fits cursing and the occasional "eff" word makes great sense in the context, then fine, go ahead and use it. But a blog peppered with abusive commentary and little else than cursing will put readers off. Letting off steam is one thing, being a swear-o-holic is quite another. And cursing all of a sudden when you've never done so before will lose some of your readership.
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    Think about your blog's layout carefully. Do a lot of research on this to find what works best. Use the lessons others have already learned; some key things to get you started include:
    • Genre: Generally it pays to stick to one genre per blog if you're an individual. For example, unless you have an amazing knack, readers are less enthused by a blog that combines political opinions, recipes, an examination of existential angst literature, your latest movie reviews, and how to sew clothes for kids all in the one blog. The exception is for instructional sites that put themselves out into the blogosphere with a cadre of writers writing across different fields. If you want to spread yourself more broadly, there are two avenues - either have a variety of blogs if you have the time to maintain them, or dedicate one blog to the "self-introspective" stuff for a hobby and maintain another serious single genre or topic blog separately, with an eye to making it popular with readers.
    • Length of posts: There is no hard and fast rule because it depends on the content, the quality, the message, and the audience. Certainly, a lot has been written about brevity being important but so is getting the full picture where this is warranted. Keeping in mind that most online readers have fleeting attention spans, judge length by how your readers respond, the utility of your information, and the subject matter. Consider mixing up lengths of posts, to give readers a break in between the more lengthy and "erudite" ones!
    • Layout: Headers are useful; subheadings help break up large topics and pictures and give the eyes a rest. Block quotes can work well, and leaving space allows the reader to feel relaxed, not rushed or overwhelmed. Try to use short paragraphs, no matter the length of the post. Use bolding to draw out important points and to capture the attention of the reader (bolding also interests the search engine but that's another matter).
    • Frequency: Too few posts and people will think you've wandered off; and so too will they. Too many and you'll wear readers out – remember that they have other things to read and do! Reader and writer burnout is a real issue when you over-post, so think through carefully what works best for you. Keep in mind the reality that search engines like a good frequency of regular posts.
    • Editing: Check your spelling and your grammar. Never underestimate the importance of this. Your expertise in the blog content won't shine if your spelling is questionable.
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    • Revise, revise, revise: Cut it out if in doubt and say it with less. The polishing aspect can sometimes take longer than the original write-up but it's worth the effort to ensure that your readers remain captivated.
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    Be creative. Even if you're a brilliant author, words alone won't make a blog. Most readers expect the blog to look impressive, and to be accompanied by at least one photo or image. Visuals add sparkle and capture people's attention. As with anything, don't overuse them – just seek to get the balance right.
    • Use your common sense when assessing how much is too much – if you're adding a photography, how-to, or recipe post, you'll be able to get away with more photos than say, a political or opinion piece blog post.
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    Think about what you're going to title your blog posts. You could have the most relevant information on the topic, but if it has a boring title, it won't be read. Useheadlines that draw in readers and that search engines latch onto. The search engine element is an art in and of itself which you'll eventually find yourself learning more about. For now, however, some key pointers to bear in mind include:
    • Use words that marketers use to capture attention. There are several "Top 10 English Words" lists available online used by marketers to grab attention (do a search for one). Adding words like "you" to the title may sound banal but according to marketing research, strategic use of the top 10 words can bring readers to open links to your post.
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    • Ask questions in headings or create dangling information that has the reader wondering what the next piece of information will be. Make your heading tantalizing so that it prods the reader into wanting to read more - if your heading speaks to a need in a reader, then they'll love it. Top of the list is "How to..."!
    • Keep the title simple. The simpler, the better, and try to keep the title less than 40 characters and the search engine will also love your blog!
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    Encourage comments. People will read your words of wisdom but they won't tell you what they think because the majority of people (and that means around 99 percent) won't unless prompted. You'll get a significantly larger number of comments if you ask for them.
    • Don't close down your comments feature. It's important not to fear comments - they're a pulse on your blog, letting you know that people are responding to your blogging, whether negatively or positively. If your blog is really good, you'll get both sides of the responses, which is ideal!
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    • Make it easy for your readers to comment. Readers don't want to jump through hoops. Balance making them sign in and using CAPTCHA fixes before they can say a single line with the fact that this will cause many of them to not bother at all. The fewer hurdles, the better, especially where personal information is concerned.
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    • Always end your blog posts encouraging comments by asking questions, or asking for experiences and suggestions from the reader.
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    • Without fail, respond to your commenters. Not only is that polite to the person who took the time to comment but it lets other readers know that you care and engage with them. They are looking! An obvious exception is spamming or flaming, in which case, either remove the comment (spam) as soon as possible, or let it stand on its own lack of merits (flaming) unless you have a witty and kind response.
    • Remove spam as soon as you can. It looks unprofessional. Invest in a way of keeping spam off - there are plenty of programs available. Find good ways to clean up spam that don't involve chasing off your genuine readers.
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    Spread the word about your blog and new posts. Use today's social mediato the max. There are many platforms to choose from. Use one, or preferably, many of them. TwitterFacebookDigg, and Tumblr are just a few.
    • Take time to visit other blogger's blogs and leave comments with your name and link in them. Get known as someone who cares about what other bloggers are saying and creating, and they'll repay the favor.
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    Encourage others to guest post on your blog. Guest posting is an excellent means for getting well-known, quality bloggers to increase the profile of your blog. Offer guest posts in return, so as to get your blog's link into other people's blogs.
    • Guest posts increase variety for your readers. And if you get well-known bloggers on your blog, this will help your readers to connect you with the guest poster, which will increase your profile.
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    Love your readers and give back to them. Show your readers that you appreciate them. Give back to them by:
    • Responding to your reader's comments promptly.
    • Visiting your reader's blogs if they have them. Leave supportive comments and even suggest they guest blog for you now and then.
    • Facilitating your readers' interaction through quizzes, competitions, surveys, featuring your readers, etc.
    • Always provide a quality read that is of interest.