6 Sure Ways to Commit Blog Suicide – Part 2

Oct 31, 2011   //   by Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe   //   blogging, SEO Blog  //  15 Comments

Last week, I got all teary and vulnerable as I spilled the beans on how I miserably failed with my first blog.

Admitting defeat is the first step in the “12-Steps to Getting Over a Blogging Failure” program. Step 12 is to learn from your mistakes and start all over.

Last week we talked about failing to pick the right niche, do your keyword research, and pick the right domain.

Now let’s move on to the final three reasons I committed my first blog suicide.

4. I Failed to Make My Blog Look Professional

Yes, blog design does matter, especially when your readers have a sea of other blogs to choose from.

Most of your first-time visitors will spend but a few seconds on your blog, deciding whether they should read on or move on.

The last thing you want your blog design to do is to scream out “I am an amateur!” in the face of your audience.

When I say “professional design“, I don’t mean to make it sound like you need to spend an arm and a leg hiring a professional designer, which could run you about $1,500 to $2,000.

No, you don’t need to spend MUCH money on your blog design, but you do need to spend SOME.

Here’s what I recommend you do to take your blog design from lame to polished:

  1. Stop using free themes. You don’t want to look like any other blog out there, plus you don’t want to ruin any chances of getting search engine traffic because of poor coding.
  2. Get a premium theme. They usually cost under $100, are SEO-ready (some better than others), and are fully customizable, even if you want to do it yourself. I personally use Thesis theme on my blog for those specific reasons.
  3. Customize the theme. You’ll have 3 choices here: A. do it yourself – once you have a good theme to work with, it’s not that difficult to make it look custom; B. buy a semi-custom skin – theme skin customizes your out-of-the-box theme and allows you to add personal touches to it; C. Hire someone to do it for you – with premium themes like Thesis, there’s no shortage of freelancers that will be over-joyed to help you.

5. I Failed to Find my Voice

Now that you have a professional and inviting blog design and get your readers to actually scroll down to see more of what you have to offer, you REALLY have to show them what you are made of.

What’s your hook?

How are you different from thousands of other blogs out there?

With my first blog, I tried to write what I THOUGHT my readers wanted to read. I sounded sweet and fluffy and made myself nauseous and ready to throw a white flag pretty quickly.

I made a much better choice when I started Traffic Generation Cafe: I decided to use the voice I ALREADY had.

Be myself – what a novel idea!

Turned out that was exactly what made my blog successful: no fluff, no rose-colored glasses, just plain-looking bulleted posts that contained nothing but actionable advice.

If your blog is voiceless, then you need to find an angle that sets you apart from the rest of the herd NOW.

Here are some possible ideas:

1.   If you have a great personality already, look no further; just be yourself.

2.   Take complex subjects like search engine ranking optimization (wow, what a mouthful!) or SEO link building and make them sound simple.

3.   Create a multi-author blog and share different views on a controversial subject.

4.   Have a reader-driven blog, where readers ask questions and you answer them in blog posts. In the beginning, you might have to browse other blogs to find questions you could answer or come up with your own.

5.   Create a video-log, communicating with your visitors via videos exclusively. Many readers learn much better from video, but for those who don’t, plus for SEO purposes, I’d publish video transcripts to go with each video.

6. Failing to Choose the Right Blogging Platform

This wasn’t one of my mistakes, but I think it’s important to mention it here since I see so many bloggers take the wrong turn on this one.

It doesn’t take a brainiac to do a quick research on Google and learn that a self-hosted WordPress.org blog is the way to go.

Sure free blogging platforms like Blogger.com, WordPress.com are much easier to set up and don’t cost you a penny.

HOWEVER, consider this:

1. MONEY: free platforms are definitely not huge fans of you trying to make an income off their sites, which means no AdSense, no paid ads, no affiliate links.

If they catch you do anything against their TOS, they’ll shut your blog down in a jiffy without any warning.

2. FUNCTIONALITY: most of the cool internet marketing tools like plugins, themes, and support are for self-hosted blogs only. Without having access to such tools to enhance your blog, you are giving your competitors everything they need to take over your niche.

Marketing Takeaway

My grandmother was right when she said “Learn from other people’s mistakes.

Did you do it? Of course, not.

But you don’t have to make the same mistakes I made. It’s up to you.

Love it or hate it? Comment to show me that you’re alive!

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  • Gerald Weber says:

    Ana,

    Number 4 can not be emphasized enough!

    People start judging you the instant they land on your website and you have literally seconds to impress them enough for them to be convinced to keep reading (or take action) rather than hit the back arrow.

  • Ana Hoffman says:

    It’s surprising to see how many blog owners do just that: fail to impress their visitors, Gerald.

    $100 spend on a good theme goes a long way!

  • Ann Smarty says:

    Great one, Ana. I love your point about being yourself and making that your selling point. Too many people are trying to copy what others have successfully been doing online. That’s completely wrong.

    Find your own way to go!

  • Having a personalized blog design is crucial. I have seen plenty of blogs that have great content but few readers because they look and feel spammy. Every blogger needs a site that showcases their personality and flair both in their writing and in the design.

    • Ana says:

      I visit such blogs almost on a daily basis – makes me wonder what the heck are they thinking and how are they going to make any money if they can’t even get anyone to stick around for longer than a few seconds!

  • Jeff Casmer says:

    Staying away from the free themes is a great idea. Not only because it limits the functions of your blog but sometimes these themes force links at the bottom of your site that have nothing to do with your content or niche and you cant remove them unless you upgrade or buy a theme. Thanks for the advice!

  • steve says:

    Me too. I’ve always wanted to have my own blog. But for me it was not easy. The big problem is that I’m not fun of writing and to outsource is way too costly for me. The idea is always there because lots of blogger are earning well in maintaining its blog site and I wanted to earn like them :). There’s still a big question as to how to START ????

    • Ana says:

      Let me tell you this, Steve – I HATE writing.

      If I had a choice, I’d never write another word in my life!

      However, good writing comes with practice.

  • David Walker says:

    Hi Ana,

    I can totally identify with not talking in “my voice” on my blog and a lot of the earlier posts are fluffy and directionless. Producing content you “think” you should produce is a curse that strikes all bloggers when they first start out I think.

    But, I am pleased to say my blog is now my voice. I write in the way I talk and often say things that contradicts a lot of what is “taught”. I actually find it quite therapeutic but need to keep in mind the post needs to be helpful and not descend into a rant!

    David

  • Sebastian says:

    Well said Ana. I’ve changed my blog design 3 times in as many months and I’m still not sure it fits the bill. Although I’m sure there’s an untapped market for “mood blogs” that change colour :p

  • Ileane says:

    Ana, part 2 did not disappoint! I like your idea about video blogging and I think it’s very helpful in finding your voice. Plus once your readers get a chance to hear your voice they can imagine you talking as they read your blog. I can certainly hear you loud and clear because of the Facebook chats, your YouTube videos and I listened to your interview with Allie just last week. So I feel like I’m in the room with you having a nice little chat. :)

    Thanks for sharing great advice as usual.

  • Maria Pavel says:

    I Failed to Make My Blog Look Professional – This is pretty obvious for some new bloggers. Discussions are about different topics. Also, designs are either too simple or have lots of ads everywhere, in a way that even readers can’t even determine what is included in the blog post.

  • Hey Ana,

    Your lists are always so helpful. I’m a bit newer to the blogging game, but am learning things quickly and appreciate being able to minimize my learning curve and disasters due in no small part to articles like yours! :)

    I did go and get Thesis, but I think it may be a bit naked…I’m going to look into some skins. I don’t want to change things too dramatically – I love a nice clean feel, but I am sure there’s something out there for me.

    There are quite a few points I’m taking away from this post, right now #4 is the biggest. This is an area I could certainly stand to improve.

    Thanks for the insight and being willing to share!

    Cat Alexandra