The vast majority of blogs are business failures. It’s harsh, but it’s true.
Why do these blogs fail?
It’s because they make the same mistakes over, and over. Sadly, many of these mistakes are based on misconceptions taught to them by blogging “gurus”.
These 5 tactics aren’t “mistakes.” They’re slow and deliberate strategies to make sure you can never build a business out of your blog, and you’ve probably been taught to think that they will actually help.
Read on to learn the secrets of blogging failure you need to avoid.
1. Prioritize social media over email
Without a doubt, one of the easiest ways to doom your blog is to put social media first. Here’s why:
- The average Facebook post currently makes its way to just 6.15 percent of your audience. Meanwhile, according to Mailchimp, the average email gets opened by more than 20 percent of your audience. And that’s not even apples to oranges, because I’m pretty sure nearly 100 percent of your audience will at least see your email subject line.
- The average click through rate on Twitter is 1.64 percent, and that was back in 2012. If you have more than 10k followers, you can expect that click through rate to drop to 0.45 percent. Meanwhile, the average email has a click rate of about 3.5 percent according to the Mailchimp study mentioned earlier.
- Email allows you segment your audience by their behavior and only send messages that are relevant to the recipient. This isn’t possible on social networks.
- Social media sites are built around bite-size, visual pieces of content, not blog posts. In fact, a recent study found that there is “effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading.” Sharing and reading are two very different activities, and a blog post that gets shared often isn’t necessarily going to get read by anybody.
- Average conversion rates are only 0.71 percent on social networks. The average conversion rate through email is 3.19 percent. That’s almost five times higher.
For all of these reasons, it’s a dramatic waste of time and energy to put social media ahead of email as a way to stay in touch with your audience.
Social networks are terrible as a customer retention tool, and they shouldn’t be used for that purpose. Social media isn’t for retention. It’s for exposure.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with asking visitors to Like your Facebook page or follow your Twitter account, these calls to action should always take second place to email.
Take Jeff’s sidebar as an example. At the very top, you see an offer to sign up for updates and get his free eBook. Below that, you see a link to the webinar he’s hosting with Alex Pirouz, then a link to the post he wrote about setting up a blog, a call to action to buy his book, and a search bar.
Finally, after all that, you see a call to action to follow his social accounts.
Meanwhile, in the left sidebar, you see social networks being used for their proper purpose: as sharing tools. This helps get the word out so that more people can actually find out about his blog. But those visitors probably won’t be worth very much unless they sign up for email updates.
That’s the important distinction.
2. Choose a “niche” (instead of a USP)
This is one of the best ways to ensure blogging obscurity, bonus points because everybody seems to make this mistake.
Before you jump down my throat, I’m not saying you shouldn’t choose a niche. I am saying that “niche” puts all the emphasis on the wrong thing, and it can cloud your judgment. Niche comes second, if at all.
What comes first is your unique selling proposition.
If you’re already selling a product, I’m sure you know that it needs to have a USP, something that separates it from the competition. A USP doesn’t make your product “better” or “cheaper” than the competition. It makes it different in a specific way that is appealing a particular kind of consumer.
I’m asking you to do the same thing for your blog.
See, most bloggers choose a “subject” or a “niche” and start blogging about that. Then they start asking themselves how they can be “better” than the other bloggers in their “niche.” This gets problematic fast, and not just because “better” is such a vague term.
- Who is going to promote you? Usually, it’s other bloggers. If “niche” is the first thing on your mind, you’re going to spend most of your efforts convincing other bloggers in your niche to promote you. But those people are your competitors. On the other hand, if “USP” is the first thing on your mind, you’re going to think about potential customers and ask yourself where those people are spending their time. You’ll quickly realize that they are spending their time in many places besides other “niche” blogs. In fact, some bloggers are potential customers themselves.
- Who are you writing for? With “niche” on your mind, you’ll usually end up writing for other experts. You need to be able to impress the other niche bloggers, after all, or they aren’t going to promote you. In contrast, with “USP” on your mind, you’re going to write for the people that matter: your potential customers.
- How will you come up with new ideas? Niches are limiting. New ideas usually come from some combination of insights from several different subjects. If the subject of your blog is too narrow, you will have a very difficult time coming up with new ideas.
- How will you avoid boredom? No matter how obsessive people are about a subject, the human brain craves novelty. If you don’t mix up your subject matter at least a little, you will bore your readers. More importantly, you or your writers will get bored, and it will show in the quality of your work. If you want to “niche down,” focus on a tighter group of people, not a tighter subject matter.
- A USP means you don’t have to be “better” than the other bloggers in your niche. It simply means that you are more attractive to a specific kind of reader with a specific set of needs.
Jeff’s blog is successful because he writes for bloggers, instead of writing about blogging. See the difference?
3. Assume building more links is always the solution
If you’re determined to fail, try to solve all of your problems by building more links.
You’ve probably heard before that “links are the most important ranking factor” that Google uses to rank web pages. So, if you build more links, your rankings go up, and you get more visitors. Right?
I’m sure you already know that overzealous link building can get you penalized by a Google employee or hit by an algorithm update like Penguin.
What you might not have considered is this. Google’s position on links has always been that “any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”
More importantly, from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines: “Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?” If the answer is no, you’re pushing the limits.
In short, you shouldn’t build links unless it makes sense for reasons outside of SEO.
But there’s actually another reason why you shouldn’t place so much emphasis on building links.
Links aren’t the “most important” ranking factor.
Why? For the simple reason that there is no single “most important” ranking factor.
Look at the search results for any query. They’re never going to be arranged from the page with the most links to the page with the least, or even by some related metric like Moz’s Page Authority. There are hundreds of other ranking factors at work, and which one matters the “most” is always going to depend on context.
Let me put it this way. If your Moz Domain Authority is at 25 and you aren’t getting at least 5,000 unique search visitors per month, you’re probably placing too much emphasis on links. It’s time to diversify your subjects, stop chasing competitive search terms, focus on building a repeat audience, and start publishing more often.
4. Chase the news
Sometimes the best way to doom your blog is to copy the successful strategy of mainstream publications and start reporting the news. It works for them, right? Most of them aren’t even breaking a story. They’re just regurgitating something they found in a press release or read in another mainstream publication.
Here’s the problem. Your blog isn’t the New York Times.
Big publications can get away with regurgitating the news because they have established credibility and massive audiences. The good ones also occasionally break a story here or there before anybody else.
As a small time blogger, it’s a very bad idea to simply report the news. There’s no reason for readers to take it from you when they can hear it from a major news source.
The only way this can work is if you actually do some real investigative journalism and break a story of your own.
In general, people don’t subscribe to small time blogs because they report the news. They typically follow a blog because it offers something useful or entertaining, preferably both.
If you do discuss the news, it should be in that context. You need to offer a unique spin on it that will make it useful or entertaining in a way that fits your USP.
5. Try to be BuzzFeed (instead of learning from their example)
You’ve probably read at least one blog post titled something like “How to Copy BuzzFeed and Crash Your Server With Traffic that Resembles a Small Scale DoS Attack.” Some of these posts are pretty good, too. But trying to do exactly what BuzzFeed does is a very bad idea.
- “Virality” is overrated. After analyzing a billion events on Twitter, Microsoft Research and Stanford University failed to find a single tweet that broke out of the “subcritical” regime. In other words, even the most popular tweets can’t really be considered “viral” in the sense that, on average, each person successfully shares the content with more than one friend. Instead, the most successful tweets made their way to an influential “node” in the network. In other words, it’s more about reaching influential people than it is about creating something intrinsically viral. Think “poisoning the waterhole,” not “viral pandemic.”
- While curated content can help expand your reach, it’s very transparent that you played no role in creating the content. If you don’t provide any value of your own, audiences will go straight to the source. You can’t beat sites like BuzzFeed or Reddit at curating viral content.
- While almost any good blog has some appeal to mainstream audiences, focusing too much on mainstream appeal will land you an audience that has no interest in buying from you. Don’t neglect your core audience.
- Pure entertainment is a poor motivator to subscribe to a blog. There are simply too many sites with too much entertaining content. Between Cracked, YouTube, BuzzFeed, Hulu, and Reddit, most consumers have more than enough content to keep themselves entertained. Unless you have it in you to be a professional entertainer, you can’t compete with entertainment sites.
You can learn a lot from BuzzFeed about how to get clicks and shares, but outright copying BuzzFeed is a bad idea. Your USP comes first.
Put it to work
I’m probably safe in assuming that you’re not reading this because you want to guarantee your blog fails. So let’s recap what you can actually put to use:
- Put email before social media. Email is the best channel to stay in touch with your audience. Social “subscribers” are close to useless.
- Define a USP, not a “niche.” Put another way, write for your ideal customers, and promote yourself where your ideal customers spend their time. Don’t write for niche experts and try to convince your competitors to promote you.
- There’s more to the search engines than links. Diversifying, choosing less competitive subjects, and publishing more often can do just as much to improve your search traffic.
- Write “evergreen content” that stands the test of time, as opposed to regurgitating the news. When you do discuss current events, it’s best if you add your own unique spin, draw interesting connections, or break your own stories.
- It’s more important to provide actionable advice than it is to be entertaining. While your content will perform better if it is entertaining, entertainment should be used as a garnish or a spice, not as the main course.
Use these insights to become a genuine blogging success.
Guest Author: Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of The 20 Media, a content marketing agency specializing in content & data-driven SEO and PRmention, a digital PR agency. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Digital PR. Pratik has spoken at 80th Annual Conference of Florida Public Relations Association, Accounting & Finance Show, Singapore, NextBigWhat’s UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, SEMrush Meetup, MICA, IIT-Roorkee and other major events. As a passionate SEO & content marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge in publications like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web, YourStory and Inc42 to name a few.