I’ve been blogging since 2005, and that means I’m sort of an expert… at least an expert on what not to do. As I’ve tried to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, I’ve seen that I tended to make some really big, terrible, stupid mistakes because I fancied myself a pure, idealistic writer who does not bow to the conventions of the blogging world.
After changing a few things in my approach to blogging, I thought I should confess my mistakes so that you can avoid making them too.
Titles Don’t Matter for Blog Posts
I used to think that writing was all about writing amazing stories and sharing super-helpful ideas. If you spelled out the basic ideas clearly, the discerning reader would SURELY recognize my genius, brilliance, and value. These savvy readers don’t demand click bait. In fact, they’re most likely sitting by their computers right now just waiting for me to post something amazing.
But oh gosh, if Buzzfeed has taught us anything, which I highly doubt, it’s that people LURVE click-bait headlines. I should have totally titled this post: “You won’t believe what I used to do on my blog!” or “I teared up after reading the second sentence” or “This is better than tap dancing kittens on YouTube.” You get the idea. You were probably clicking all over those fake headlines just now even though you knew I was making them up and they didn’t have any hyperlinks. Admit it.
While we don’t have to give in to the Buzzfeed headline writing buffoonery that is ruining the Internet for the sake of advertising clicks, titles still matter a great deal. Every serious blogger I know spends a lot of time on their titles. These days I begin my blog posts with a title that plainly states the focus of my post for the sake of personal clarity, but then hack it to pieces and work through a bunch of different options before picking one.
Here’s the thing, there’s a ton of stuff out there on the Internet, and you really, really can’t afford to put up a bland headline that’s something like: “Musings on Stuff I Like.” First off, never, ever use the word “musings” ever again on your blog. In fact, WordPress developers, we need to add a mandatory plugin to the next build that automatically deletes blogs that use the word “musings” in contexts other than Greek mythology. But back to my point, please, for the love, spend some time writing a good blog post title. If you love your little blog posts as much as you say you do, then you need to give them good titles. Otherwise, very few people will be tempted to read your precious little posts.
I Don’t Have to Be Vulnerable on My Blog
Blogging used to be about ideas for me. In fact, it was all about ideas for about the first six years or so. I’d rant and rave about things from time to time, but I spent so much time believing that people just wanted to read my little nuggets of wisdom that I rarely inserted myself or my “feelings” into my posts.
I don’t know how I could have missed this for so long. I mean, yeah, people want to read smart ideas, but it would have helped if I wrote with the voice of a real person and share a little bit from my life.
Having said that, I also feared being one of those bloggers that shares all the things from his/her personal life online. I’m not quite in the Ron Swanson school of personal privacy where I’m tossing my cell phone in the sewer and burying gold bricks in undisclosed locations, but I find it really hard to determine when I’ve crossed the line from being authentic and real (in the sense of, “Keepin’ it real… yo”) into overdramatic over-sharing that violates the privacy of my family.
I can see now that vulnerability is essential for writers. Writers really do have to face our demons and set down at least part of that battle on the page.
Writers have to take risks. We don’t have to over-share or compromise the privacy of ourselves or loved ones, but we have to take big, vulnerable risks if we want people to care about our work. We have to work on stepping up to that line that divides authentic vulnerability from over-sharing, wherever it is, and give it a firm poke—just like old school Facebook.
And even if you aren’t particularly vulnerable, you have to at least care a lot about your topic. I’ve labored for hours over posts that I thought had tons of great ideas, only to see a passionate post I’ve dashed off in 20 minutes become the most popular post on my blog for all time. I’ve you aren’t personally invested in your writing, then your readers probably won’t be either.
Announcing “Here’s My New Blog Post” on Twitter
No one cares that I’ve just posted a blog post. No one. Probably not even my mother most days, especially if my titles are terrible. And yet, I used to complement my vanilla blog post titles with tweets that I plunked down like dry, crumbly, bland wafers.
One day I saw someone quoting from my blog post on Twitter, and I was like, “That’s awesome! I should try that!”
Now, some bloggers go a bit overboard with the Twitter quotes. They highlight the tweetable parts of their posts in bold, set up “Tweet this” links on their posts, or create little lists of tweetable quotes.
OK, I’m not here to judge anyone. This is personal confession time, and I’m confessing that I’m terrible at tweeting from my blog. Do whatever you like. I’ll just say that I saw some folks doing that, and I was like, “Oh come on! Just write something good!”
What can I say? I was born in the wrong age. I’m all “Get off my lawn!” with these new fangled marketing tactics. Even using a typewriter feels a little edgy some days. But back to my main point about the Twitters…
TWEET THIS –> “Even using a typewriter feels a little edgy some days.” @edcyzewski
I’ve still seen that people want to share helpful little quotes. Even if I tend to think in 1,000 to 2,000 word chunks, it won’t kill me to share a quote or two from my latest blog post if folks could find it helpful. Mind you, I don’t write for Twitter and may God banish me from all NHL arenas for life if I ever do. I’ve just realized that my resistance to posting a blog post quote on Twitter wasn’t all that smart of me
TWEET THIS TOO!!! –> “I don’t write for Twitter and may God banish me from all NHL arenas for life if I ever do.” @edcyzewski
In conclusion, I’ve made some really huge, terrible, stupid mistakes as a blogger. These are all pretty basic, simple, run of the mill blogging tips that you can find all over the Internet. And still, there are tons of bloggers like myself who have resisted them. It’s time to get with the program. Adopting a few best blogging practices won’t hurt… too much. We may even get a few new readers along the way.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a blogger?
11 thoughts on “3 Terrible, Stupid Things I Used to Do on My Blog”
I’ve been blogging since 2004. It’s completely different now. I remember when the trend was to have airy-fairy one word titles, like “Being” or “Stark.” My biggest mistake was being a late adopter of other social media platforms, even though I was into blogging earlier than most. Blogging is still alive, but comments have plummeted as people engage elsewhere. for a long time, I fought that and it caused me to reexamine why, exactly, I persist.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who really resisted all the social media stuff! However, I still believe blog comments can be important since social media companies will always change their terms and such.
I love the suggestion of tweeting a quote from your blog!
And ABSOLUTELY about the vulnerability. My post popular posts seem to be the ones where I share about my sex life or getting dumped!
Ha! Well, I suppose we all have to sort out where that line is for each of us! Thanks for retweeting the post!
Thank you for the simplicity of this. (Sometimes writing about social media gets overwhelming to deal with.) I’ve only been blogging for a year and am not upgrading my site. I’ve known that about vulnerability but find my writing is reserved, mostly focused on beauty. I think, though I’m getting the hang of opening up properly. Sometimes other threads or blogs can spark that vulnerability in me. My audience isn’t growing super fast though.
I love this tweet idea too. You set it up very simply. And titles are hard…
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I’ve been blogging for 359 days so this was helpful. As was your piece on why you won’t do a book review. Practical advice from someone who’s been there. Ten years! My biggest blunder has been thinking that my friends would become my advertising agency. Content is king. If your writing is good, you’ll get there through hard work.
Glad you realized that now! I realized that when I published my first book. It’s OK if you’re ready for it.
Brene Brown warns against “floodlighting”, over-sharing without connection. I def. see this in bloggers, those who try a little too hard to use vulnerability as click bait. You can’t force vulnerability, it’s obvious to readers when you do. I find it much healthier to share stories of vulnerability if it’s something you’ve already worked through, not while you’re in the process of going through it. (I also learned this from BBrown).
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Well we all know that Brene gets all of her best ideas from me… I mean, wait, no. It’s the other way around. yes, good word on vulnerability. And I think it’s soooo important to be done processing big stuff before writing about it. Sometimes the small stuff too, but definitely the big stuff!
Vulnerability. That took a while to get out. Starting to get the titlte thing.Thanks for this.
Oh, I really like this post. I’m laughing at your “tweet this!” moments, because that kind of drives me nuts when I read that on blogs, even the ones I love. The thing is, if I want to tweet something from your blog, I’d rather choose it myself 🙂 But, on the other hand, I love the idea of using a quote to tweet about your own blog post! My own vanilla titles don’t do anything for me and certainly not if I use vanilla flavored tweets about it.
I also agree about the fine line that exists between honesty, vulnerability, and accountability. No need to over share especially at the risk of harming people you care about. Some writers feel you have to be honest above all, and you do, for yourself, but you also have to be responsible, for yourself and those you may be writing about.
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