4 Common Mistakes Bloggers Make That Hurt Traffic and Engagement

How to build a nonfiction platform

I spend a lot of time looking at blogs and websites. Maybe too much time. Sometimes I feel like if I have to see one more watercolor Facebook icon or read one more About Me page, I will just flop over, dead from too much Interneting.

But 95% of the time, I just love it. It’s fascinating to see the front end of a blog or website and then talk to its owner and learn more about their back end stats and strategies. I guess it’s sort of like seeing how the blog sausage is made. (“Blog sausage” sounds wrong. In a hilarious way. I will now have to dedicate my remaining years to proliferating this phrase.)

ANYWAY. It’s become so incredibly important to have a strong online platform before you launch a book that it’s impossible to overlook the power of a well-done website or blog. Yet if there’s one thing I’ve seen from speaking to hundreds of bloggers, it’s that very few of them know what the heck anyone else is doing. Sure, there are plenty of online courses you can take that could help you build traffic, but there’s nothing like seeing how that traffic converts into real business (as in product sales) to show you how important certain overlooked areas are.

There are 4 areas that I think are especially overlooked, and where I think many people are stifling their engagement, throttling their traffic, and overall slowing down the growth of their businesses. Here are the mistakes I see most often:

  1. Ignoring Your Email List. This is a huge one—it’s not uncommon for bloggers with millions of page views per month to have just a few thousand email subscribers. As Joel Friedlander says, this is the biggest mistake you can make in your business. But it’s also an incredibly easy one to fix—just set up your list through a service like MailChimp or Mad Mimi, then set up a campaign so that new posts get sent to readers who sign up. (Many of my clients see the most success with sign-ups when they add a pop-up or scrollbox to their home page that prompts visitors to sign up for the email list.) There’s no need to make extra work and write an original newsletter each week–the email list is just about making it more convenient for readers to keep up with your existing posts. (And I have a free printable here that provides more information on why having your posts go to readers is important for launching books!)
  1. Holding Back Your Voice. I know so many funny, sweet bloggers who sometimes clam up when it comes time to write their posts. And I get it—it’s takes so much work just to create recipes, or projects, or photography, that when it comes time to actually talk about it, it’s hard to get all the words out. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in publishing, it’s that information is available anywhere for free, but voice is what brings it to life. Every time a visitor stops by your site you have the opportunity to share a little facet of your life and what you care about with them. So don’t be just another bland, packaged writer! The people who are on the same wavelength with you will become your true fans, and the others will at least get the information they need before they move on.
  1. Posting Too Often: I know, I know. For years the credo in the blogging world was to post every single day, or as frequently as you could humanly muster while still showering and feeding yourself. This was the only way to build your blog, we were told. But as the blogging world has changed and evolved, there have been far too many success stories that poke holes in this theory. Leo Babuata of ZenHabits posts just once a week, and his blog is one of the Top 25 blogs according to TIME. Michael Hyatt is also a perfect case study—he started out posting 5 days a week years ago, and now posts only 2 times per week. He’s seen no negative effect on his traffic. The truth is that we all have limited hours and energy in the day, so every hour spent creating new content is an hour taken away from spreading the content you already have. I’ll write more about the best ratio of time spent creating/spreading next week!
  1. Not Evolving Your Site Design: As I’ve written about on Jane Friedman’s blog, you should think of your website as your online home. Is it welcoming, attractive, and functioning? Just like your own home, it should evolve as your tastes evolve, as trends evolve, and as the way you need it to work for you evolves. However, many bloggers set up their basic, straight-out-the-box template and then don’t touch it for years. It’s hard to quantify how many potential fans you could be losing if they don’t find your online home to be welcoming and attractive, but I think we’ve all felt that shudder when we stumble upon a particularly unkempt online property. My recommendation is to reevaluate all your branding every two years or so. Does your logo still reflect your style? Is your tagline still relevant? Does your website still look appealing and easy to navigate as compared to others in your space? If not, it’s time to create a space you’re excited to show off.

I’m sure other people have things that turn them off when they arrive at a blog or website. What sends you running for the hills when you’re browsing online?

13 thoughts on “4 Common Mistakes Bloggers Make That Hurt Traffic and Engagement

  1. Hooray for not posting too often! I adore this advice. I can’t think of anyone that I want to hear from on a daily basis, and besides, I think writing ought to take time.

  2. I loved this post in particular! Such great info. Sometimes I find it hard to scale back on my posts because I have SO many ideas I want to get out there, but it’s hard to put an appropriate amount of time into promotion when you have so many posts being published.

    1. I know–it can be so hard to balance it all and spend the right amount of time when it feels like there’s SO much to do! But I’m glad this was helpful! 🙂

  3. I’m a virgin! Thank you for the practical, honest advice. Until very recently, I had no idea I had to have a platform. My first dalliance into writing was sixteen years ago and I guess there just wasn’t this kind of social interactivity back then. I was still of the old school that egotistically worried that someone would steal my ideas if I put them out there! Here’s to dancing on the bar instead of shuffling in the shadows.

    1. I love that–“dancing on the bar instead of shuffling in the shadows”! Such a fabulous way of looking at it. Thanks for reading and stopping by, Lily!

  4. Maria, I’ve just found your blog, the information you give is interesting. I’ll keep following your blog. I found it difficult to post a blog every week, even though I’ve enough material to do that for the next couple of years. I am not being lazy; I just feel many people don’t have the time to read every blog, so I post my blog twice a month. Maybe I’m wrong?

    1. Thank you for reading, Ken–I’m glad to hear you’ve found my site helpful. It is true that people may not have time to read every single post, but they may enjoy hearing frequently from you even if they don’t read every word. But of course, it’s most important to stick to a posting schedule that feels realistic to you, and I know many bloggers are successful posting every other week. There aren’t hard-and-fast rules for this!

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