Last updated on July 12th, 2022 at 01:35 pm
When writers decide to take their writing dreams online they tend to make a lot of rookie mistakes because writing for a reader and the type of technology they use as well as for search engines is quite different from writing for a book or print publication.
And even when writers become seasoned bloggers, they still fall back on old bad habits that won’t help their online writing dreams come true.
Today, my focus is to help you to avoid the common mistakes many writers make online.
20 Mistakes Writers Make Online
1. You don’t know who your visitors are.
You think you know what your reader wants, but if I were to sit you down and ask you the following questions, could you answer them with certainty?
Describe your ideal reader –
1. What is his/her age? No range. The age – period.
2. Sex? Not both.
3. Number of children? Their ages? Their sexes?
4. College educated … or not?
6. Scared? About what?
7. Happy? About what?
8. Depressed? About what?
9. Height and weight?
10. Eye color? No, I am not kidding.
12. Bad habits?
13. Sleeping habits?
14. Driving habits?
15. Computer habits?
16. Cell phone habits?
17. Dine-out or in?
18. He/she lives where?
19. Disposable income?
20. Married? Single? Divorced? Widowed?
21. Conservative? Liberal?
22. Spiritual or atheist?
You must be able to answer these questions before you go build your blog, your Tumblr space, or pitch a story to a popular website. It will make all of your writing and publishing decisions much easier. Instead of trying to communicate to a mass visitor base, you should use these questions to create an image of a real reader, so when you do communicate online you are talking directly to this one person as if you were sitting in a restaurant chatting one-on-one.
I’ve had people tell me their blog is for written women over 55, yet they use some dark distracting background and font the size only an 18-year-old can read and chat about bikini season — then wonder why their perfect visitor isn’t interacting with them.
Do you know who you are writing to?
For more understanding of your customer see:
2. You call your website something people won’t easily understand.
What search terms will your perfect visitor use to find you? Will they use Google? Bing? DuckDuckGo? Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Reddit? Buzzfeed? Will they be using a Smartphone? What kind of Smartphone? Will your business name and domain name work in all these places?
I love Auto Body shops. They tend to call themselves names like Franks Auto Body Repair, Joe’s Best Auto Repair, Precision Auto Repair, etc. There is no question when you read their logo about what they can do for you.
Why not call one of their websites: www.(name-of-city)bestautorepair.com?
How many people use the term “best auto repair” along with the city when they search? How easy it would be to find them.
Naming your bike riding stories website “belle.com” before you’ve built an established brand under that name won’t bring you the same traffic as bestbikestories.com.
When you start your online venture, no one is going to be searching for ‘Belle’, unless you have a large and very loyal client base who knows you by that name. But in using just that name you will miss the opportunity of getting that first shot at a new visitor looking for bass-ass bike stories.
Your website may never be found because the domain name doesn’t resonate with how your visitor searches online. The same goes for Facebook, or anywhere your visitor hangs out and searches for information. You do know that there are over 150 million blogs out there. It’s an entire country in itself.
Please name your website something the world can spell. Leave the complicated names for naming your pets.
For more on naming your domain see:
3. You ignore your keyword marketing phrases.
Once you’ve figured out how these people will be searching for you … such as by city, by name, by product, or by service, then not using this information every time you place content online is a sin.
I can tell you with certainty that someone else is doing this and getting your visitors.
Nothing drives me crazier than to see a title online that says, “How To Grow ‘Roses’ in 48 Hours” and the word ‘roses’ is not used in the opening sentence of the content, in sub-headings, in the closing sentence, or used more than two times throughout the page. The image doesn’t even look like the rose. In fact, the story ends up really being about a girl named Rose who grows up quickly due to a life-changing event.
Did I sign up for a “guess where you are” game show?
When your visitor is uses their 4 seconds of an attention span to glance at your story, will they see what they came for, or will they leave because it looked like you were talking about pajamas and 40 cats?
Your potential visitor is not reading a book and walking the halls of the library looking for your best-seller, so show them some kindness and place your keyword in the first sentence (tell them again why they are there), get to your point in the first three sentences, and close with your keyword phrase to remind them why they stopped by.
Because your post is what your title told them it would be… right?
For more on keywords see:
4. You refuse to learn how search and social media work and refuse to apply those principles.
I wish I had a dime for every entrepreneur who thought they had the most amazing idea or story to tell and trusted that just putting it on the Internet would change their lives forever. On the Internet, there isn’t such a thing as street traffic or window shoppers randomly passing by your amazing article because you “pushed it live.”
Running a website requires real work and you must promote your work every single day–both online and offline.
You must discover where your visitor hangs out online and engage with them there in a supportive way and encourage them to come to visit your blog to get more (where there is hopefully more) of wonderful you.
This may mean being on Facebook. Or Twitter. Pinterest. Get over it.
For more on SMM see:
5. You make everything you put online all about you.
I am blown away by the writer who tells me what it is they want on their website instead of telling me what it is their visitor wants.
“But I want to tell my story, my way!”
Would people at a party stand there and listen to you tell this story? At this length? With that opening?
Are you sure?
Have you tried it?
Some writers want to dump their feelings about a particular incident onto their visitor without realizing the visitor doesn’t care–no matter how great of a writer they are. If you are a writer reading this who thinks you’ve never made this mistake, then you are the worst kind of online writer: one who doesn’t question your writing.
I’ll quote Seth Godin here, “When you are busy telling stories to people who want to hear them, you’ll be tempted to tell stories that just don’t hold up.”
For more about you see:
6. You don’t bother to make your content easy to read.
Not understanding the rules of how people read on the Internet and thinking that you can bend these rules because your ‘rose story’ is so amazing is bullshit.
Ever go into a grocery store when they’ve moved around the merchandise and you can’t find what it is you normally buy? Doesn’t it just piss you off to the point of crazy?
What happens when you attempt to hunt it down and you can’t find anyone to ask? Have you ever walked out of the store? Then you do know what kind of a hassle that kind of irritation can be. Why wouldn’t your frustrated web visitor leave when it’s just a click of a button to go?
Oh, and those annoying pop-ups. They disengage visitors too. Marketers will try and tell you otherwise–don’t believe them.
To read more on readable content see:
7. You neglect staying with a basic structure or topic.
You must define a topic for your website, just like you must decide on a USP for a business. A USP is your unique selling proposition. Having one sets you and your blog apart from your competition.
The most successful websites have a well-defined niche with a target demographic in mind.
Starting out talking about swimming, then switching to candle-making, then on to discussing your fear of flying will only confuse your readers. You won’t develop a following. And you have to watch that this isn’t a sign that you quit things too quickly before they’ve had a chance to develop, or it’s another way you set yourself up to fail.
You also won’t be able to link your blog posts together to form a cohesive storyline. Your storyline matters to search engines and your readers even if it doesn’t matter to you. Don’t be one of those people who has a website where you are a “Life coach/graphic designer/make-up artist/author/part-time chef.”
Choose a topic! One. Uno. PERIOD. You can create 5 blogs targeted to each of your passions and link them to each other, but stick with just one topic on each site.
And make sure the topic you have chosen is something you have a real interest in promoting. Because for your blog to become a success you will need to be able to blog regularly on your topic for years. You will need to live it every day. You need to pick something that you are willing to write about for at least 3 years.
Can you do it?
For more on niches see:
8. You give up on your writing dream too soon.
Building a successful online presence takes time. It can be an agonizingly slow process.
Every successful blogger knows about the 3-month itch — the point at which you run out of things to write about and you become bored with your topic. You grow tired of updating your Facebook page, your website, and your Twitter feed.
You thought it was going to be easier.
It’s okay to only publish something once a week. Just know that your site won’t grow as fast as others, but it is better to have a schedule and stick to it, than to only post a story twice a year.
But understand that there will be times that you hate it. When you do, you’ll probably write your best story ever.
For more on giving up your blog see:
9. You don’t interact with commenters on your stories.
This is the same as not responding to emails or phone calls about your topic/product or service. You should visit other blogs and websites where your perfect visitor hangs out and engage with them in a real (non-selling) way.
Commenting in your own comment section and interacting with readers who bother to leave you a message is a sign that you are a professional. You don’t have to comment on every single interaction on your website, but showing up in your blog comments once in a while says you are not a poser.
Answer questions online.
Help other people solve problems.
Help another struggling blogger by being the first to comment on a post they’ve written. Treat people online the way you’d like people to respond to you. Promote blogs, websites, writers, and entrepreneurs who share your niche and are just starting out.
Reading popular blogs and websites in your niche helps you understand your target audience and gain new perspectives on what you could be doing wrong.
Another way bloggers blow their interaction with visitors is to moderate comments or have people jump through hoops to register to interact. Don’t put up an extra wall between you and your visitors.
Your visitor has the right to voice their opinions in your comments — even if you don’t like what they have to say. Negative comments can give your blog authenticity and a reason for someone who might not usually comment to speak up and defend your position.
And NEVER engage with your commenters in anger — ever.
For more on commenting see:
10 . You write bad post titles.
Ad man David Ogilvy once wrote that “5 times as many people read the headline as read the body.” Crafting a great title may be the only chance you get to sell someone on clicking through to read your content.
If you don’t stop readers with your title, 99% of your time spent on content will be wasted. The purpose of a title is to get people to click through and scan your page. From the title, they typically read only the first 120 characters of the first paragraph before they begin scanning.
Are you reaching out from the page and grabbing them by the throat? Does your title shout, “You must read this!” Is your keyword phrase included?
Think about how you read and interact on the web. Do you really think your visitor behaves differently?
I like what Victor Urbach says about this topic,
“The only purpose of the first paragraph is to get them to read the second paragraph, and so on. A headline is an engine that pulls this train.”
Don’t make your titles so long that it makes it impossible to tweet your post and share your article. Always count your headline and try to keep it under 70 characters. Make it easy for people to help promote you.
For more on titles see:
11. You display your content like you are writing a book while ignoring the basic Internet rules.
A. You don’t bother linking your content.
Linking is important because it helps your content behave like a resource for your readers. Don’t put a title of a book in your content without linking out to where they can read more about it, or purchase it.
Help search engines understand what your topic is about by linking your keyword phrases so that the people who are looking for your topic can find you in search. Link to authors, bloggers, and other websites to alert their webmasters with a trackback. They quite often will stop by and see what you have to say about them.
B. You write in long paragraphs and don’t use bold or sub-headings.
It is hard to read on the Internet (which is different from reading on a Kindle) don’t make it more difficult by having paragraphs longer than three sentences. Break your content up with sub-headings in bold so it helps keep the visitor’s eye on the page.
Don’t combine a bunch of font styles and font colors, or use italic styling all over the place. It’s distracting. Keep it simple and easy to read.
And stop with all the !!!! and CAPS!! Let your words communicate your feelings.
For more on web content see:
12. You are too nice and never write anything controversial.
People want to hear a unique voice when they are reading the Internet. Don’t talk in corporate-speak, lawyer-speak, or sales-speak. Talk to your readers like they are sitting next to you. Have a strong opinion. Don’t be afraid to piss people off.
Say something bold! Say something outrageous! But mostly – be original.
Allow your readers to tell you that you are wrong, you missed the boat, and point out your faults. It’s what makes for engaging web conversations. But do not let anyone insult you with cruelty.
For more on why you should have a strong blog voice see:
13. You look to making money too soon before you’ve built a trusted readership.
You need to concentrate on perfecting your message and your content first before you think about asking for money.
Work hard at discerning what your reader wants to read from you first. Too many people begin their blogging venture thinking about the money instead of solving problems, entertaining people, or adding value.
Don’t get sucked in by claims that you can make six-figure incomes in your first year online — what they may not be telling you is that the owner of the blog in question actually failed at 6 other ventures before this one and has been at this in some form for years.
Proceed with care.
One of the best articles I have ever read on this subject is:
14. You won’t accept constructive feedback and lack a critical eye when it comes to your work.
Everyone tends to ignore their weaknesses. This is a common human trait, but when you want to sell to the public you must understand your weaknesses. You must be able to look critically at what you are putting out for people to digest.
Constructive criticism can assist you in bridging the gap between your perception of how wonderful you think your content is and what others are really seeing. Having a critical eye helps to make you a better dreamer.
If someone tells you that your website is hard to read — ask them why. Then go look at it from their posit of view.
If people tell you that they don’t like it every time you write about your dog’s death, consider putting that story to rest.
Care about what your readers are saying. Quit looking at everything from “… but this is what I want to say …”
You should always read your online reports like a detective to see your flaws, which brings me to my next point …
For more on this constructive criticism see:
15. You don’t bother with analytics reports or looking for flaws on the pages of your website.
You should dissect your analytics reports at least once a month to see where you are missing the boat. Look at what your content is doing for the visitor.
–How long are people reading your content?
–Do you have pages with a high Bounce Rate?
–What are your popular exit pages and why are people leaving your site from there?
If someone is staying on a page or posting less than a minute–go back and fix it or delete it. If you aren’t sure what is wrong ask a stranger to read it.
If you do not care enough to analyze your blog then you shouldn’t engage with the public. Go ahead and make your website private and keep it to yourself. Give search engines a break.
Some of the best articles on web stats are:
16. You make it difficult for readers to contact you.
There are many valid reasons for building an email list, especially if you are planning product launches — but you should build one even if you’re not.
Search engines and social media sites like Facebook change their practices all the time.
You do not want your web traffic controlled completely by search engines or social media sites. Your email list belongs to you and no algorithm change can affect your list. Your list should be more important than your traffic. Having an email list offers you the opportunity to further interact with your readers by offering them something special that they won’t get by dropping by your site.
Have a clear way for readers and visitors to contact you.
Not having a contact page sends the message that you don’t want to hear from your readers. Visitors often find broken links, missing images, commenting issues, and old posts with problems.
Offer them a way to tell you.
For more on making your blog easy for your readers:
17. You don’t bother optimizing images or understand how to use photos effectively on the Internet.
I don’t care if you are a writer, you take lousy photos and your phone camera is the worst–add photo elements to your stories. People LIKE images with content.
And when you add images, remember that images are content too. You need to help search engines understand what they are about.
Learn how to use Alt tags.
Learn how to set your vertical and horizontal spacing, placement, linking, and the ability to open your images in a larger webpage. Create simple edges or borders around your images so that people will see you as a professional.
My favorite image pet peeve is when someone uploads an image to the Internet with the name of something like “4869874472000.jpg”. Now how on earth does this benefit anyone? If it is a picture of a sailboat name it “sailboat.jpg before you upload it and place it in your content.
Come on you have to look at your image DPI anyways to make sure it will load quickly for your readers. Renaming the image from what your device named it is just one extra step! What often sets a blog apart is how well they place their images and understand how images work on the web, which includes naming them something that relates to what they are positioned next to.
For more on prepping and optimizing images for the web see:
18. You have music start automatically or set videos you share to auto-play.
People read websites at work and don’t want to disturb others in the room. Allow your visitor the choice of when they want to hear your message.
Auto-playing music is just plain annoying — along with anything voice-activated. I don’t think I need to say anything more.
For more on website annoyances see:
19. Not testing your website on other platforms.
You need to check out your website/blog on other people’s computers with different operating systems and browsers so you see how others see your site. This is also true of Smartphone and IPad testing platforms.
For more on browser testing and web compatibility see:
20. Thinking just because you have a great idea people will automatically flock to you.
Ever since we all saw the movie, Field of Dreams, entrepreneurs on the Internet, writers dreaming of publishing contracts, and all manner of start-ups have dreamed if they “build it” visitors “will magically come.”
I don’t know what it is about putting up a website that makes people think Google will love it and index the content to the number one spot of whatever glorious search term and people from all over the world will flock to see what you are all about. And in a month you are a millionaire.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Unless you are Madonna.
There are more than 14.3 trillion pages live on the Internet.
Please read that again.
The world is distracted. Why do you think if you build something people will automatically come to see it?
Are you remarkable? And when I say remarkable … like Philippe Petit Man on A Wire remarkable?
–Do your images take a viewer’s breath away?
–Does your content make grown men cry?
–Do you get angry, hateful emails?
–Does the media talk about everything that you do?
–Are you scared when you hit the publish button on your blog posts?
–Do you believe in something so passionately that you can’t sleep at night for wanting to write about it?
–Does your web design or logo win awards?
–Do you want it so badly that your stomach hurts — does this come across on your blog?
How does a piece of art stand out in a museum; a house stands out on a street; a car attract your attention, or a beautiful woman (or man) catch your eye in a nightclub? It’s because something about the experience of seeing them is remarkable. It’s worth “remarking” or talking about to other people.
The web is no different.
The web universe is fair. There is no such thing as overnight success. The universe requires that you pay your dues and prove just how badly you want it. You will be tested at every turn.
Don’t believe me? Then ask every successful online entrepreneur.
Roll up your sleeves and get a job that supports you while you are building your online reputation. Connect with a blogging network that will support you. Band together. You can rise faster if you connect with a top blogging mentor or a group of websites working their way up online.
Guest post on each others’ blogs. Link your websites. Quote each other. Help each other get found online. Don’t try and do it alone. Stop believing that a bunch of baseball players is going to walk out onto your “amazing” field and want to buy something from your website just because it’s there.
Have a backup plan, a plan B, and an emergency exit plan.
For more on why no one is visiting your great website see:
There you have it.
This is what I have learned in 6 years of blogging and helping businesses with their online presence. Have I made these mistakes? Absolutely. That’s why I know so much about them.
One of the most important factors in dream achievement is that you look at the realities of your situation–not what you wish it to be–and make decisions based on those facts. It may make dreaming a little less glamorous, but I promise you that it will make your dream journey more realistic and likely to come true.
Catherine Hughes is the founder, content director and editor-at-large of 8WomenDream. She is passionate about helping women step out of their own way and strike out into a world waiting for their special talents. She’s a published author and a former award-winning mom blogger. Catherine has helped companies both large and small create engaging web content, social media narratives, and unique blogging platforms. She claims to be a redhead, but don’t hold that against her.
Note: Articles by Catherine may contain affiliate links and may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link.