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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