Blogging is really hard work. I quickly realized this about 3 months after starting a travel blog when it became apparent I’d made some big blogging mistakes. Mistakes that caused so much rework. Mistakes that derailed my SEO progress (and in one case, killed all of my SEO progress – sending me back to zero). Mistakes in keyword focus and toolset configuration and much more. They were hard lessons to learn and I am still recovering from them. That’s why I created this guide on Blogging for Beginners. I am sharing them with you – the beginning blogger – in the hopes that can avoid the dumb mistakes I made when beginning my blog.
- Hey…over here….you might like my post: Travel Blog Tips: 6 Ways for Travel Bloggers to Drive More Blog Traffic
PS…you might like our blog memes section which is fully of funny memes about the blogging life!
These are the 9 biggest blogging mistakes I made starting a blog. If you are starting a blog, you need to keep reading this guide on Blogging for Beginners which is full of great blogging tips and tricks designed to help you avoid my blogging mistakes! Read on, fellow blogger!
Some Background on Me: Travel Blogger by Night / Business Traveler by Day
I travel almost every week for work. These years of “service” to the “road” have resulted in oodles of travel wisdom, travel tips and travel hacks that I’ve decided to impart of my fellow business travelers in the form my blog, the CBoardingGroup.com.
I also have written professionally (albeit part time – on assignment or for journals, magazines, etc) for almost 2 decades now. But..and a big but…I’ve never run my own blog. However, I finally broke down and made the leap into travel blogging starting my business travel focused blog. It’s been a whirlwind and I am by no means successful yet. Emphasis on yet.
Because I’ve also got a bit of a technical background and have run or assisted successful websites before I was a bit overconfident (ok a lot!) heading into this work. This led to simple (but big) mistakes that could have easily been avoided and could have save me tons of rework, meant less waiting (for traffic) and reduced frustration. This is precisely why I am sharing the 9 biggest blogging mistakes I made starting a blog for all of you beginning bloggers.
Let’s get into them!
9 biggest blogging mistakes I made starting a blog (a guide on blogging for beginners)
- Not using permalinks
- Not researching SEO before hitting go on the first 40+ posts…ugh
- Not researching my keywords better
- Not naming my images descriptively and then using the alt tag
- Not getting on Pinterest sooner
- Rushing through my Yoast SEO config
- Forgetting my Amazon Affiliate account was linked to an older, now defunct website and having Amazon kill my account (and then having to update like a thousands URLs/Links w/ my new account).
- Not writing longer posts
- Trying to do a little of everything (instead of a lot of a few things). Wide vs. Deep
Blogging Mistake #1: Not using permalinks
I use WordPress for my blogging backend and it’s great – really great in my opinion. Many beginning bloggers use WordPress because it’s easy. However, there is one important “out of the box” setting that beginning bloggers often miss (as I did!).
By default, WordPress uses a system for your URLs that is based some random, shortened equivocation of your URL instead something more aesthetic. It looks like this:
instead of this:
Why WordPress does this by default is beyond me, but having more visually appealing URLs is not only useful for viewers (we want to know what we are clicking on), but will make it easier for SEO crawlers to understand what the post is about. Thinking I was smart, I changed it right away…but I changed to the “date” URL stream, which looks like this:
Using the date method for your URLs is not catastrophic by any means, but every little bit helps in the SEO game and if you do what I did and publish like 50 posts AND THEN change my URL structure you wind up with a ton of broken links (from all your social media posts, or backlinks, etc) and now you have to deal with redirection. Not an insurmountable problem, but a SERIOUS time suck.
Besides, users want to see “current info” – not something 8 months old.
Yoast SEO, a company provided a WordPress plugin for SEO notes this:
“At Yoast, we recommend using a simple and clear permalink structure. Ending your URL with the post name is the preferred method.”
My blogging tip to the beginning blogger? Change your permalink structure to Post Name (see below), and whatever you do, don’t use the default (that’s a classic beginning blogger mistake!). Do this early to avoid rework and improve your SEO game.
Impact of this Beginning Blogger Mistake: Rework, and delayed SEO progress. Exactly the kind of thing a beginning blogger would do! Ugh!
Blogging Mistake #2: Not researching SEO before hitting go on the first 40 posts…ugh
Several years ago my wife ran a very successful online business selling Cowboy Hats. While she’s since shut it down, I did most, if not all, of the SEO work for her, helping her to get the front page of Google and staying there in the Top 3 Links for her keywords.
Thinking I “knew this” – (I’m no “beginning blogger!!!!”) I made no effort to update myself on the current best practices for SEO. Turns out Google has significantly changed it’s algorithms. Keyword stuffing? Not really a huge deal anymore. Meta Keywords? Largely Irrelevant. What does matter? Exactly the kind of thing a beginning blogger would say.
Lengthy, Consistent, Quality posts, optimized for mobile viewing are what’s important. Sure there are lots of other elements important too like putting your keywords in the title of your post, using it many times in your post (but not too much to where it’s spammy), minimizing obtrusive ads, linking to authoritative domains (like Wikipedia…see what I did there). and of course, backlinks which still matter.
Instead of researching what Google was looking for today, I blazed ahead. And then I wondered why was I not getting ranked on Google? I thought I had good content. I had crap tons of keywords, and I was employing some grey-hat methods on backlinks. What the heck!?
Blogging tip: Check out Backlinko’s definitive guide on backlinks here.
After realizing what I was doing was not working, I spent hours researching the latest SEO practices. Articles like the following were incredibly helpful (note: I receive no compensation for linking to these folks – they just have good SEO content):
As a result of my overconfidence I had to rewrite (and am still rewriting) many posts. I had to change titles (including the URLs) of posts which then meant I had to get up to speed on Broken Links and redirection. It was a cascading series of events. I am not out of the woods yet – but I am seeing progress finally. But slowly.
Impact of this Beginning Blogger Mistake: Slower than normal progress on ranking for my keywords in Google and LOTS of time consuming rework.
Blogging Mistake #3: Not researching my keywords better
This mistake is a fundamental business mistake. You wouldn’t go into business with a new product that only 19 people in the world care about per month, would you? Probably not. Same thing applies with keyword search numbers.
It matters what people are searching for. They are your potential customers. As a beginning blogger, you might want to find out if there are actually any customers!!
When I started my travel blog I just assumed that there are people out there interested in certain things. I did not take the time to research what the volume and competition is. That meant that the content I was creating may not be targeted towards volumes that are big enough to matter financially (from a traffic perspective) or that there might be a lot of competition for a particular key word. This is wasted content (and time).
For example, I originally wanted to make the keyword for this article “Biggest Blogging Mistakes” – however after doing some research, I quickly realized no one is really searching for that keyword (although there are plenty of articles with that sort of title).
Instead I decided to change my focus to “blogging for beginners” which shows a search volume of about 5,400 a month and a relatively non competitive price for ads, etc. My secondary keyword is beginning blogger which was slightly smaller, but theoretically big enough for my shot at it.
Impact of this Beginning Blogger Mistake: When starting a blog, if you don’t do your keyword research you might find yourself in a field of one…just you and your content and no customers. Like I did. As a beginning blogger, do the research.
Blogging Mistake #4: Not naming my images and then using the alt and descr
Google is pretty darn smart. But it can’t read text on a picture (yet!). As a result it needs a little help which comes in the form of a properly named image file name and proper use of the different attributes available to images when you upload them.
Let’s start with a name first.
Which is better, you think?
Yeah, you get it. Name your images something descriptive. I did NOT do this and since I focus on travel memes on one part of my blog, I loaded several hundred images with terrible names. I am still fixing this. It’s painful.
The other important thing to do with images (that I did NOT do at first) was use the Alt tag, which exists, according to Wikipedia.com for this purpose:
“In situations where the image is not available to the reader, perhaps because they have turned off images in their web browser or are using a screen reader due to a visual impairment, the alternative text ensures that no information or functionality is lost.”
If you’ve ever hovered over an image and had a little box pop up w/ a description (like a tooltip almost) that’s the Alt tag showing. And Google loves Alt tags. It’s an additional tidbit of information that it can use to index your image.
And since Google does a tremendous amount of Image searches each day this is important because it can help drive traffic to your site by images. After adjusting many of my Alt tags on my most important articles I now regularly show up in the Image search on Google on the first page (still working on the other parts of Google Search, but I got some traction on Images!).
My mistake, though, was not paying much attention to images at all. This cost me time and created rework (noticing a trend here!). There are some other suggestions folks have about images like compression, and optimization. You can read Yoast’s thoughts on images here.
So how do you add an Alt tag to an image? Most blog editors have a way to do this. Since I use WordPress (and it is popular with lots of folks), I’ve provided a picture, below that shows you how to add this field. Essentially, you upload an image, and then edit it. Or with an existing image you simply edit it.
Impact of this Beginning Blogger Mistake: Rework! And delayed gratification on getting ranked in image search. But I caught it quick so it’s mostly all of my Travel Memes that I am redoing and some of earlier posts (which were shit anyway). By the way, this is a very common mistake beginning bloggers make.
Blogging Mistake #5: Not getting on Pinterest sooner
Listen, Pinterest’s audience is primarily something like 80% female. I had signed up for a Pinterest account years ago and basically it was all recipes and workout pictures. #hardpass for me. I quickly deactivated my account.
It never even occurred to me to consider using it as a means of driving traffic for my blog though. However, while searching for SEO Best Practices I kept running into other bloggers saying “You have to get on Pinterest” or “Pinterest is driving 70% of my traffic” or “I went from 20 views a day to 2 bazillion.”
So, I signed back up, made a business account and starting pinning. The thing about Pinterest is that is a search engine. A visual search engine though. But still a search engine. As you can see below, I am up to 42k viewers a month and still growing. That took less than 2 months to do.
My first few pins were basically shares from my website of horizontal images I’d made in powerpoint. Turns out that’s dumb. Pinterest is best optimized for vertical images which display better on mobile devices and stand out more. See the picture below for an example. And notice how hard it is to see the smaller pins or even read them (even though they were huge images). BTW…the 3 larger, vertical pins have been my most viral!
Not being a graphic artist (or having any tools) I turned to…Pinterest (not Google this time) for tips on how to use Pinterest. Turns out there’s a great tool available for folks to build great pins which you can then use to drive more traffic: Canva. Canva is amazing. Let me tell you…a-m-a-z-i-n-g!
It’s incredibly easy to use, and has a free option that allows you a tremendous amount of latitude to create great pins. They tease you with upgrades to better imagery and tools by showing what you are missing when you search for something, but I’ve been able to get by on the free version — for now.
My son, a big Instagram guy, tells me there’s a cutoff somewhere where you will HAVE to upgrade, but I’ve not hit it yet. And since I am trying to keep my expenses low while I build traffic, the free version is good for now. I will upgrade though.
Anyway…if you are a beginning blogger, GET Canva. And then the real work begins. You will spend a ton of time creating images (pins)…but it’s worth it. For each blog post I create 3-4 images which I then cylce through in pinning to Pinterest.
The keys for me have been:
- Good quality pins (eye catching) – and I did a lot of experimentation here
- Good SEO techniques on Pinterest – using hashtags, properly named boards, completed Pinterest profile, following others in your niche, etc
- Joining group boards – basically “boards” that have multiple pinners pinning and usually have thousands of followers.
Joining group boards has been the hardest thing to do as it’s difficult to get added. Each board’s owner may have a different way to get a hold them to get added (e.g. some say email them, others say leave a comment on a pin, others take you to a form on their website). And most don’t return their email. But stick to it, you will find someone who will add you! And it’s worth it.
I actually got tired of waiting so I just created my own group board and starting inviting others. It’s been slow, but I am seeing progress on that board. If you want to join…email me: smittyjl25 at Yahoo dot com.
Anyhooo…Pinterest has been a real boost for my traffic. Once you get cooking (about 30 days) and you start to see real results and when a pin or two goes viral (or even min-viral) it’s a GREAT feeling.
I initially used (and still do for many items) Amazon’s affiliate program for my revenue generating income, however, I’ve just started using another affiliate program called MagicLinks, which is going quite well. They seem to have a higher commission payout, longer cookie life (30 days, IIRC) and just as easy to use as Amazon. Might be worth a look (and you can pin images right into Pinterest with it!):
A MagicLink Ad: I use MagicLinks for all my ready-to-shop product links. Check it out here
So yeah, Pinterest is amazing. But, that said, I feel like Pinterest is a temporary boost for traffic (just an opinion I have right now) and that SEO will remain the proper long-term strategy. It’s a lot of worth to stay on the “top” of the Pinterest boards and feeds or your pins get drowned out (and you have to rely on Pinterest SEO).
That is probably why the company Tailwind has been so successful. Tailwind is a company with a tool that automates your pinning to Pinterest (and Instagram). It adds a bunch of analytics (which is helpful for honing your pinning strategies) and it has something called Tribes which is sort of like Groups of pinners helping each other out…in Tailwind.
I’ve only used the trial version and been very impressed so far. I will buy this tool so stay tuned for an update…but I need to keep my costs down for now. So it’s manually pinning for me!
So to wrap on Pinterest…it’s huge. But don’t neglect SEO for the sake of Pinterest traffic only. Pinterest can be a great jumpstart to the first few months of blogging while you get your SEO sorted (or make a bunch of dumb mistakes like I did). And if you do it right it seems like it could drive longer term sustained traffic too.
Here’s a few articles to read on getting started on Pinterest:
- Pinterest Traffic: 7 Bloggers Reveal How To Get 100k Visits from Pinterest (Per Month)
- 8 Proven Ways to Get Traffic From Pinterest
- How to use Tailwind Tribes to explode your blog traffic + 25 Tribes to join!
- My Pinterest Board on Travel Blogging has a bunch of other great article saved. Work a peek.
Impact of this Beginning Blogger Mistake: Missing out on early traffic – and big amounts of traffic while I waited for SEO to kick in. Not to mention, there is a lot of traffic here anyway…you might as well get your piece! If you are a beginning blogger – you MUST BE ON PINTEREST.
And please consider using MagicLinks for your affiliate program.
Blogging Mistake #6: Rushing through my Yoast SEO config
Ask any blogger and they will tell you Yoast is the shiznit! And they are not wrong. It really is – once you figure out how the F&#K to use the thing. If you have a techie background like me you don’t waste time on tutorials or instructions you just the dive the hell right in. Classic beginning blogger mistake. #sigh.
Yoast SEO is a free plugin that can be added to WordPress. It gives you a fair amount of control over how you represent yourself to search engines like Google. For some idiotic reason, WordPress has chosen to obfuscate much of this from a user (even if you upgrade to the higher versions). It used to be that you’d just go in and edit the code directly…change your meta tags, and you were good. Not so much with WordPress. As a beginning blogger this is SUPER frustrating.
But Yoast is here to help. So, I loaded Yoast. Everyone kept saying how great it was and how easy it was to use, and how you can use it validate your keywords in your post, check for readability, etc. Sounds super duper.
Well, I loaded it in. Did zero training or research. And promptly F-d up all my meta tags for posts. I didn’t take the time to understand how Yoast uses snippet variables and how the Yoast interface injects them into the HTML code. What happened was my blog posts were showing the wrong snippets and summaries (every post was showing the same damn summary…). So I fixed that. Whew. That was lame.
But I kept hearing about the keyword tool…but I couldn’t find it. I’d write up a post like I am doing now in the WordPress editor…but nothing. Yoast was nowhere to be found. WTF. I figured, well maybe it’s being done behind the scenes or something. So I’d go to the Yoast config in the Plugin directory…and hunt, but alas. Nada.
Finally I accidentally discovered (via some Yoast config Googling) that I was in the wrong editor. Apparently, WordPress has two major areas you can go to deal with stuff. The Editor and WP-Admin. When you create a new WordPress account you get dropped right into the editor and it’s SUPER easy to navigate. You don’t really think you need to leave it, honestly. It *seems* like it has everything you need to run your blog – and it does have a lot.
However…WP-Admin, the hardcore administration console of WordPress actually has some other stuff. Some stuff the beginning blogger will need! Like the editor that allows you to use the Yoast SEO keyword tools. Holy mother of god…
Once have WP Admin open, navigate to a blog post you’ve created, and open it. It will look something like this:
Then click on all posts…and open up a list of previously published posts, or drafts. Then find the post you want to check for keyword validity, and open it. Then scroll ALL THE WAY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE POST until you find something like this:
And then fix your S%*T#y blog post (like I have to do in the image). When I found this it was like the lights opened and Jesus came down and landed on my shoulders and whispered sweet nothings into my ear. Then the realization of all the freaking rework I now have to do set in. I am working on it…but it’s going well.
This is the real power of Yoast SEO. Not only can it rep you correctly in the form of updated meta tags, descriptions, etc, it provides the ability to analyse your post (or page) for readability, key SEO mistakes, and keyword density. HUGE. Seriously, HUGE.
So don’t do the beginning blogger mistake I did and rush through it. Take the time to understand Yoast SEO and set it up right. Had I simply slowed down and not been so arrogant, I could have saved SO MUCH TIME.
Yoast SEO Blogging Tip: Do your blog editing in the prettier, nicer, easier to use WP editor…then when you are about to submit it, switch to the WP-Admin editor and do your SEO stuff. The WP-Admin editor SUCKS. But it has the Yoast SEO plugin – so that’s cool.
Impact of this Beginning Blogger Mistake: Jacked up Meta tags, no leverage for Keyword analysis. Rework. Seems like a trend. The kind of trend a beginning blogger would establish.
Blogging Mistake #7: Forgetting my Amazon Affiliate account was linked to an older, now defunct website and having Amazon kill my account (and then having to update like a thousand URLs/Links w/ my new account).
This blogging mistake was probably the dumbest blogging mistake I could make. And it was TOTALLY avoidable had I just been paying attention. I’d been screwing around with Shopify on an unrelated effort and had created an Amazon Affiliate’s account that pointed back to that site. I quickly realized that I wasn’t interested in doing anything on Shopify and decided to do a business travel blog instead.
However…I forgot that Amazon was still pointed to that older site. Apparently Amazon checks the existence of your site…and when my Shopify trial ended the site died. And Amazon closed my account. No appeal. No reopening. Just gone.
By that time I had thousands (yes thousands!) of Amazon Affiliate links scattered throughout my blog. And there was nothing I could do but manually edit each one with my new Amazon Affiliate account.
Note: this happened, btw, the morning I had a really solid post going live (massive healthy travel post that was all keyworded out and everything).
It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r. OMG. I was so pissed off. But I did the edits (most of them anyway). I used some link review tools that WordPress gives you to validate them and I think (emphasis on think) I got them all (although I did find one yesterday…ugh).
Don’t do this please! If you are starting a blog, don’t make this mistake. It might just cause to want to give up on blogging altogether!
Impact of this Beginning Blogger Mistake: Completely had to redo all of my affiliate links throughout my entire site. Massive time suck, lost opportunity for click through revenue. Brutal.
PS, here’s an interesting book on Affiliate sales: Affiliate Marketing: Launch a Six Figure Business with Clickbank Products, Affiliate Links, Amazon Affiliate Program and Internet Marketing (Online Business)[2nd Edition]
Blogging Mistake #8: Not writing longer posts (quantity vs. quality)
When I first started I was on a tear. After years of traveling for work, the tips, hacks, and content was pouring out of me. I think I did more than 40 posts in the my first 20 days or something. It was an avalanche. However, in addition to the SEO mistakes I mentioned earlier, many of my posts were not that long. They were shorter and underdeveloped.
Google seems to like larger posts as an indication of quality. I’ve heard folks suggest a minimum of 500 word posts. Some suggesting at least 1000 and some even higher. It’s hard to find a definitive answer, but there seems to be some consensus around the 1000 word mark and no penalty for going WAY over that.
As a result, I had to go back and touch up many posts – especially my product reviews – adding more depth and detail. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was (and still is) time consuming. Again more rework.
Impact of this Biggest Beginning Blogger Mistake: More rework and retooling of previous posts. Delayed rankings in SEO as posts were lower quality.
Biggest Blogging Blog Mistake #9: Trying to do a little of everything (instead of a lot of a few things). Wide vs. Deep
When I started out I tried to be on every social media platform and participate in as many forums or threads as I could. What happened is I spread myself too thin. I had quantity not quality and not a lot of depth.
For example, I would rotate through: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Quora, Google+, Mix, Pinterest, etc. However, only a few of those actually yielded traffic. For example, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter have drive the most traffic and highest engagement.
Quora? Totally. Useless (despite a significant amount of time invested in answering posts and getting upvoted a lot – plus tons of views). Maybe Quora will work for you – I’ve seen it work for others, but it has yet to work for me. I may come back to it at some point – but only when I am getting reliable SEO results.
Reddit? Too many weirdos and while the traffic was better than Quora, it still wasn’t great. And honestly, their interface is shitty. I mean, come on.
I should have went deeper on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter which is exactly what I am doing now. All I did was get crazy busy! The beginning blogger would be better served by focusing on the blogging tips and tricks noted above, writing better content, and focusing on only a few social media platforms and activities. Time management, as a blogger, is important.
Impact of this Beginning Blogger Mistake: Wasted time on platforms with no return. Could have double down on platforms that really drove results and probably got even more. The beginning blogger can’t afford to spread themselves too thin.
Blogging for Beginners – my final thoughts, tips and tricks for the beginning blogger
So if you are starting a blog, my final blogging tips and tricks to offer you are these three blogging tips:
- Slow down and have a plan – don’t go so fast. You can afford to take your time, create plan. Get organized. Get up to speed on what’s working today.
- Research – do your research. What are your keywords. Are they profitable? Too competitive? What’s going on in SEO these days? Avoid rework.
- Go Deep, not Wide (at least at first). Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Pick your areas of focus and go deep there first. Then, if needed, come back and tackle page 2 of your list.
Bonus Tip: My mother gave me a book when I was in College that forever changed my writing. I highly recommend you get this book too. It will change your life. On Writing Well, by Zinsser, is the gold standard for books on writing. #highlyrecommend.
Another book that may be of interest to is: “The Essential Habits Of 6-Figure Bloggers: Secrets of 17 Successful Bloggers You Can Use to Build a Six-Figure Online Business”
I trust this Blogging for Beginners guide of the 9 Biggest Blogging Mistakes I made when starting a blog was helpful! I truly hope you can avoid some of the dumb mistakes I’ve made and can get your site ranking quicker, earning money faster, and really enjoying the blogging experience.
It’s looking great for me…but man I made it hard on myself! As a beginning blogger, you are faced with enough challenges already – don’t give yourself anymore!
Ps…if you are looking for some great travel hacks & tips, please check out some of my other content:
- Travel Blog Tips: 6 Ways for Travel Bloggers to Drive More Blog Traffic
- A Daily Blogging Checklist – 10 Things to Do Every Day for your Blog (in 2 hours)
- 105 Business Travel Tips Every Traveler Needs to Know
- The Number 1 Travel Hack of All Time
- The 7 Habits of the Healthy Business Traveler: How to Stay Healthy While Traveling for Business
And for some laughs check out my blog memes section.