11 Common Blogging Mistakes that Waste Your Audience’s Time

11 Common Blogging Mistakes that Waste Your Audience’s Time

Reader Comments (117)

  1. Number 10, “You edit your posts in less than five minutes,” is especially insightful. It is so often overlooked. When I first started blogging, I wanted to hit Publish so fast that I indeed would edit in five minutes (if that), only to notice later that there were typos, poorly worded sentences, and even entire sections that were redundant or just not compelling. I’ve come to find that the first draft is basically just a ball of clay, which still needs to be molded and sculpted into being a coherent piece of content worth sharing.

    • Yes, you said it well.

      I often spend more time editing than writing a first draft. I also find that my posts often get better if I’m able to leave them for a few days before editing.

      • I’m sure you said that right! I used that trick when I was in college and it always came together more smoothly (rather than having to force-fit ideas) after having sat for a couple of days!

      • You made excellent points, Henneke. I blog about adoption at http://lynneamiller.com. Typically, I write my first draft and let it sit for at least a day before returning to it. I find the passage of time seems to help me spot problems that weren’t so obvious the first time around. Editing is so important. Respecting your readers’ time is also important. I try to cut out a few words when I edit my posts. As a reader, I appreciate writers who keep the length of their stories down to a reasonable level. Who’s got time to read 1,000-word blog posts anyway?

        • It depends on your audience. A lot of people do want to read longer post provided the post is interesting or entertaining.

          This may surprise you: the post you’ve just read here is over 1,500 words.

        • My average post is about 2,000 words and some are 5,000-7,000. If you’re writing something that you want people to refer to in forum posts and link to in other articles, it helps.

          Due to the changes recently with the Hummingbird Update, plain language long tail keywords are easier to match with longer posts on the same topic.

          I still write shorter ones (1,000 words or so) on occasion just to keep google’s crawlers coming frequently but those posts don’t do quite as well in the long run.

      • I guess everyone has their own regimen. Personally, I don’t find myself editing for that long. However, I do spend time outlining beforehand.

    • I agree with you there. Many times I feel like hitting the publish button after a great post. I have gotten used to the fact now that I must leave at least a day until I press that publish button. This way I can get a fresh perspective on the topic and carry greater meaning to my audience.

  2. Great list. I’ve definitely been guilty of several of these, though I’ve especially been working on staying in check with #7 and #8 lately. I find that a great way to keep the audience in mind while writing is to imagine that I’m reading it to a friend – who fits my ideal reader persona – to ensure that the content sounds conversational and meaningful.

    Thanks for the tips, Henneke!

    • I’d say most of us have been guilty of at least a couple of these mistakes at some stage.

      Thank you, Megs.

  3. Jargon and industry speak may work fine and dandy for conferences and networking events, but they can leave your audience completely dumbfounded. Remember that you are the expert and they are just starting to learn about whatever it is you write about–you can’t start with the really complicated stuff until you get the basics all squared away and that means writing in plain English.

    • Yup,

      That’s why I recommend my students start off their niche blogs with the basics on what product X does, if it works, what it contains, etc. And then, they can get into more advanced features and language.

  4. Business spiel always makes me cringe (and laugh simultaneously), as do stock phrases such as “at the end of the day” and “what it boils down to”. I attended a conference last year where every speaker we had couldn’t go two minutes without flinging those two around. Superfluous use of “that” is another problem, as is tautology. Anyone in need of writing advice should simply turn to George Orwell’s rules as he was, simply put, the master.

    As for blogging, it’s wise not to take it too seriously. I write for a small business and a casual piece every week is all that’s required. You don’t need to throw committee meetings about the thing.

    • Oh yes, committees can easily kill creativity and turn writing with strong personality into corporate gobbledygook!

    • ‘Popular’ jargon is the worst! When I hear lecturers, bosses or writers still using the terms ‘raising the bar’ or ‘thinking outside the box’ I can’t help but wonder if they are aware of what they are even saying or the impression it makes. It just seems so trite and it does the speaker no favors. Even worse is when the speaker throws out industry jargon and acronyms that leave some audience members in the dark. Now they’re spending more time deciphering the acronym and less time listening to what you’re saying.

  5. An absolute gem of a post, Henneke. I especially loved #1. Btw, do you have any inside tips for this “Explore other topics and see how they can be related to yours.”?

    When you have so much to read in your own industry, keeping up with other industries that might have any topics that can be related to yours is very difficult (but important at the same time). Do you have any research tips to share?

    • There are two ways to go about this.

      The first option is what the team at Buffer have done with their blog–they broadened their blog topic from Twitter to Social Media in general as they found that Twitter didn’t offer them sufficient ideas for blog topics anymore. Later on they widened their scope again and started to write about productivity tips as well.

      The second option is to start writing about unrelated topics by using metaphors. You can just pick any topics you’re passionate about. On my own blog Enchanting Marketing, for instance, I often make comparisons between content marketing and cycling or cooking as these are topics that I am passionate about. Using metaphors allows you shine new light on recycled or boring topics.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if it doesn’t! 🙂

      • Wow, that’s a great idea. I’d been wondering how I could broaden my scope a little. It is tiring to always be talking about a very sad illness. I do Caregiving too but it’s just as sad.

  6. Hi Henneke,

    I think not knowing your audience is a critical error, since this defines also the language you use, the topics you choose and where you syndicate your content!

    I totally agree with everything that’s on this list, and it took me a while not to make some of these mistakes myself.

    Thank you for a very nice post, I really enjoyed reading it! 🙂

  7. As always, I love to read your posts Henneke.

    I am going to post a “post it” on my wall with the message “your reader need YOU not another tip-post”.

  8. Hmm…”write as if you’re writing for a 12-year-old?” But I’m not. I’m writing for an educated, intelligent adult who presumably if they’re taking the time to read my articles is seeking an educated, intelligent stab at communication, not dumbed-down tripe.

    • I don’t advocate writing dumbed-down tripe – that’s definitely a way to waste readers’ time!

      But making an intelligent argument doesn’t always require multi-syllable words and undulating sentences. Bloggers often find that their writing becomes better when they try to simplify their language (“as if talking to a 12-year old”) to increase readability.

      Even jargon can sometimes be fine – as long as your audience is comfortable with it. It all depends on who you’re writing for.

    • As an MBA, I wrote my papers for six-year-olds (I didn’t tell them my strategy of course).

      Everyone told me “you gotta use the jargon, to show you’re in the club and know your stuff.” They had a point, but I ignored it. Instead I purposefully chose simple language. I got great grades and professors found my papers “refreshing.”

      Even brilliant academics do not resent simple language. Henneke CLEARLY knows her stuff.

  9. Wow! Great stuff to consider here. As I write this I have 2 separate windows open from your related links to this post. “How to Go Out In Style With Your Ending” and “30 Quick Editing Tips Every Content Creator Needs to Know”.

    I have no doubt that once I finish reading those as well, I will become a better blogger for having done so. Henneke, I thank you sincerely for sharing this with us and the guidance you have provided me with.

    If I didn’t share this with as many as possible, it would be an injustice to those looking for great content who follow me. Off I go to do just that with best wishes for a great day and a request to see more from you! 🙂

      • Henneke, I had successful shares to everywhere except LinkedIn. It seems they are currently experiencing server issues since I can’t Login to my account either. Just thought you and your readers might want to know!

        Oh and you’re very welcome!

  10. Great list. I’d like to add one! ‘You write in block paragraphs and don’t reformat your post to emphasise certain messages’.

    It’s true that people reading a post/article will skim through to find key messages. Why not make their life easier (and allow them to read efficiently) by making words bold, italic, using bullet points, increasing text font, in order to allow key points to emerge.

    – Razwana

    • Oh yes, that’s an excellent point. I refuse to waste my time with reading block paragraphs in tiny fonts on a grey background.


  11. Bingo on number 7!

    I’m gonna try to write my conclusion first. Great idea. Most times, I’m so exhausted from writing the content, that by the time I get to conclude my argument, I’m like: “whatever, yo”. Publish! I’ve tried writing it the day after, but sometimes it’s hard to get inspired again.

    What a mistake. Of course, this kinda goes hand in hand with what Darren was talking about on his blog here: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2013/10/16/when-not-completing-things-might-be-good-for-your-blog/

    Thought that was a great post. Sometimes, you just have to scrap everything, and start over. Thanks for the good post!


    • I like leaving my posts to “stew” for a few days.

      Often a new insight pops up that can be added as a conclusion.

  12. Utterly excellent post. Juicy. Sans bull. Looking forward to reading your free ebook. May you succeed brilliantly in your endeavor to stamp out gobblydegook.

  13. #6 has got to be one of my biggest pet peeves. Readers do not have time to Google every 3rd word in a blog post to decipher what you’re trying to say. Trying to “sound smart” and use a bunch of technical terms usually makes readers bounce. There’s a reason blog posts written in a more simplistic manner get more comments and shares than ones filled with “gobbledygook” as you said.

  14. Cheers to personality, Henneke. You obviously need quality content, but I think the key is figuring out how that incomparable you fits into the online model, so I certainly agree with #11. I guess that’s why you placed it last on the list 😉

    The core is finding a problem and solving it, but the magic comes when you learn how to convey your message in a way that only you can do. Well, that’s what little old me thinks.

  15. Love this list! My favorite… Blogging Mistake #3: You think you need to publish daily.

    I’ve unsubscribed to many bloggers who have inundated me with too much information.

    • Yep, and unless your name is Seth Godin, it’s incredibly hard to keep up the quality when publishing daily.

  16. Fantastic tips, Henneke – I agree with all of these – I’d also echo Razwana’s point about the importance of reader-friendly formatting. I’ve seen some excellent posts ruined because they’re just laid out in long, intimidating paragraphs.

    Thanks for mentioning the importance of the conclusion of a post – that’s something to which I probably sometimes need to give more thought.

    I think another mistake is not to positively encourage engagement by including at least one question for your readers to mull over and comment on.

    • Yes, that’s an excellent point, Susan.

      When you write your blog post as if you’re having a conversation with one of your readers, you’ll find that you naturally drop a question or two into your post.

      Thank you for your comment 🙂

  17. Brilliant! I agree and I’m so happy I have the option here of printing to a PDF. I can now read this completely – when I have time!

  18. These are JUST GREAT TIPS. People are more concerned with getting ranked than answering questions and being the solution. Thank you and great tone throughout the piece!

      • Thanks a lot for replying, Bryan. I was told to look out for you and I’m glad I did. There’s a certainly a wealth of knowledge to be gained and I’ll be following closely!

  19. Excellent points Hennecke. Another one I can think of, blogging because everyone else is, we’ve all seen plenty of lame business blogs, assigned to someone who obviously hates blogging.

    • Yep, if someone hates blogging or is bored with it all, then they’ll almost certainly bore their audience to tears as well!

  20. So brilliant this post. Love the metaphor tip. I catch myself using them alot in real life interactions (everything in my world is like childbirth) but it’s great to see this laid out as a point to consider for blog posts. Total gem (no metaphor pun intended)!

  21. Great points all around. Especially #8 and #9. Interacting in person with my audience helps keep my topics fresh and pointed to their needs.

    But NO on #6. (Yes on jargon and gobbeldy gook.) I won’t dumb my writing down for anyone. I’m not writing for a 12-year-old. I’m writing for people who love to write and who love language.

    I never try to obfuscate my meaning, but I won’t resist using a fun word like obfuscate. I made a conscious decision to be free to love and use my vocabulary in my writing and since I’m the editor-in-chief, I can.

    Thanks for a great post; lots of good reminders and one point to push back on. 🙂

  22. I couldn’t agree more with what you shared here. I must admit that I have been guilty with some of of them like a stale conclusion and using unnecessary humor.. and a lot of time gramatical errors since English is not my 1st language.

    Cheers for those above ideas! 🙂 will certainly apply them.

    • English isn’t my first language either 🙂

      Impeccable spelling and grammar is preferred, but I’d rather read an inspirational post with a few mistakes than a boring post with perfect grammar.

  23. I chose to prioritize point number 9, “You don’t care about your topic (anymore),” and it has made my blogging experience more rewarding.

    Also, I think white space is important. We live in a world where peoples’ eyes are so often aching from screens.

  24. Number 11 definitely. Too many times I seem to come off as the Encyclopedia. Everyone is unique and should be expressing themselves so.

  25. I grew up freelancing online so I was taught that word count mattered. Now that I think about it, you are right. Were robots our main audience, there’s a need to “fluff” up the content. Humans, on the other hand, are a different story. They want simple and straight-to-the-point content.

    • Yes, it can be a problem as a freelancer. Most clients will require a blog post with a certain number of words and that’s how fees are usually arranged, too. It’s not easy to get away from that mindset.

  26. Point 1 you made is one of the most valid and challenging things about blogging- you want to provide new information but you have to find a way to present this new information in the most simple way. Doing this requires you to have a complete understanding of the material.

    • Yes, it can be challenging, but you don’t always need to know everything – you can start with what you know, because there are always people who know less than you know about your topic.

  27. Taking my posting down from once a day to once a week not only helped improve the quality of my content, because I was putting more time into each blog post, but like you mentioned helped keep some of my subscribers because I wasn’t flooding peoples emails with updates on new blog posts every day.

    I’ve always had a tough time with #6 because I always ramble on and don’t get the point quick enough. It’s extremely important to be precise and straight to the point otherwise you lose readers so quickly.

    Anyway, great post! Definitely going to be keeping the tips in mind whenever I make a new post myself.

  28. Funny thing. As soon as I stopped worry about these things and just posted (blog, video, podcast…) from the heart and about something that gave value to the reader, things exploded. Really not that complicated 🙂

  29. Very useful tips especially for a “young” blogger such as myself :). My writing experience is limited but i quickly found that as a blogger you need to tell stories and bring emotions into people. I don’t remember now the name of the person that said “Just move me, dude!”

    • Yep. Maya Angelou said something similar: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

  30. What a fantastic post! Working with a team of bloggers, it’s easy to see when someone’s writing for themselves or for the readers. Constantly scanning through fluff is my pet peeve, so I hope more bloggers read this piece and learn the art of “short and sweet”.

  31. I like #6 – people use too many little three-letter acronyms these days and, because I’m old – I don’t always know what they mean! Please use the actual words at least once!
    BTW – wonderful article! 🙂
    (by the way…)

  32. Great post!! I am working on my perspective to show my personality instead of sharing boring tidbits that don’t add value to my blog.

  33. Writing in my own voice with actual personality FOR people (and not just any person, the people I truly wanted to work with) changed. My. Business.

    Seriously, don’t hold back. If your voice involves profanity or Taylor Swift lyrics or the frequent praises of Jesus (or heck, a random combination of all three), use it. There are people out there gagging for someone to have to courage to say things the way you do. Be brave.

  34. This was perfect Henneke! Thank you so much…. Lately I was feeling as though I was getting a little well, “loose” with the type of content I was creating…. Back to better content now! Thanks again!

  35. Nailed every single point of your post Henneke! As I read down your article makes me wonder whose bloggers am I going to track?

    Because I know there are tons of people who are very good writers and this made me realize whose making my time worth reading for.

    Good review, I must say! Now it’s up to bloggers to make some adjustments for greater improvement.

    Thanks for sharing!

    I found and “kingged” this on the Internet marketing social site – Kingged.com

  36. This is so very true: “Let’s not pussyfoot around it. The harsh truth is this: Your readers aren’t interested in you, your life, or your stories.”

    Thank you. Great reading and great post to share.

  37. Thanks for the fantastic article…sharing now!

    I’ll just add this to the discussion-

    I’ve found that brief is best too. I’ve also found that when we are writing a long post, it’s usually with best intentions. We’re just trying to give the reader our best…

    …doesn’t work.

    I’ve learned that when I need to say more, I chop it into bite sized portions. One long article becomes a series of shorter posts.

    Thanks again and Best Thoughts!

    • I went the opposite way – from super-short posts to 1,000+ words and noticed I got more engagement and more traffic.

      I guess it all depends on the audience and maybe the topic.

  38. Great post Henneke!

    “Blogging Mistake #5: You focus on word count” has got my head spinning.

    I’ve read short posts, 500 words or less, that receive hundreds and thousands of likes and shares. However, the caveat could be that the blogs/websites have been around for a couple of years. The blogs/websites have a strong following.

    A couple of top money making bloggers encourage bloggers to write longer posts. Now that everyone knows about Google Authorship and Hummingbird, longer posts are said to be the “norm.” Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Is this neutral?

    What has been your experience with word count?


    • I’d say it depends on various factors: your audience, your writing abilities and your blog objectives.

      Longer content has a better chance of ranking in Google, but SEO might not be important for a blogger. Beginning bloggers may also find writing long content quite difficult and posts can become endlessly boring.

      While you can show off your expertise with a long blog post, I’d say it’s more important to write something that engages your audience (and not everyone likes to read blog posts of 2,000+ words).

      I know this is one of those ‘it depends’ answers, but I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all. I hope it still helps?

  39. I’m most guilty of 3 and 5 :/

    I have this irrational beleif that if an article I wrote isn’t ranking on page 1 for some competitive terms, or if that it’s not bringing in any traffic… then it was a waste of time.

    I know that’s not the case, and I’ve lately been switching my focus and trying to remember that there’s search engine content and relationship building content, and just because an article doesn’t BRING in traffic, doesn’t mean it doesn’t help KEEP traffic and build a relationship with my readers.

    Thanks for the blog tips, love copyblogger <3

    • I’d say all content needs to build relationships or at least engage your audience. What if you generate a lot of traffic with a post but then people bounce off because your content isn’t engaging enough?

  40. Brilliant advice Henneke! Point #8 really hit home…don’t write for a crowd, write for one favorite reader….you’ve got me thinking and I believe this will actually help me create better, more relevant and engaging content.

    • That’s my favorite writing trick. 🙂

      Once you can visualize your ideal reader and the image is so real that you find yourself having a conversation with him or her, your content will become more engaging, more conversational, and more fascinating.

  41. If your readers give you their valuable time, then you should try to give them the best post possible. Let your voice and passion shine through but definitely proofread.

  42. Great post! After reading this I realized I need to spend more time editing. Thanks for the great tips on how to edit better!

  43. You’ve made some great points Henneke.

    I particularly endorse #6 and #4.

    However,I believe #3 isn’t entirely valid, at least for new bloggers. As a newbie, you should look to post as often as you you can just to get some meat into your blog.

    You can afford the luxury of posting selectively once you have the basic topics of your niche covered on your blog.

    Overall, a very fine post!

  44. I`d 100% agree with You think you need to publish daily part as most of us think the only way to survive is posting daily how ever i have noticed quality pays more than quantity and there are many bloggers i know who post less but quality posts and trust me readers are desperately waiting for their next posts all the time …

  45. Some really useful tips here. I think it’s also worth adding that some small businesses who might just be starting to adopt a content strategy won’t have the correct people, or same person, writing the blog posts. Sloppy grammar, unoriginal writing and an inconsistency in tone of voice can also be a turn off for audiences. Hiring a content marketing agency or outsourcing professional writers are a couple of solutions to this.

    But I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there!

  46. I am always trying to learn the best way to share my message so that my readers can they action and improve their lifes.

    I think it is not only our job to write good content but to make sure we are doing our best to have people take action in whatever it is we want them to, for their own good.

    Thanks so much for the advice, I agree that we need to find that balance where we are not only write for SEO or robots but for our followers.

    Best of all,


  47. Totally agree with Blogging Mistake #3 & #4.
    -People always have to think quality over quantity. The purpose of content is to educate and inform people of things that can help them. One amazing post will definitely blow out 20 crappy posts.
    -You also have to write for the user and make sure your content is interesting so your audience will be engaged and if they find it useful they will share it.

    Great Article!

  48. People often forget the to take care of all these points before writing and creating their blog post that how to make the post to reach to the user so that it can be read and used by the reader for improving their knowledge. As we are creating the blog for our readers only so these points must be taken care to make the blog successful and more importantly useful. Thanks

  49. Some nice points, numbers 10 and 11 were my favorites. While I understand that blogging is typically associated with short form writing, I’d offer an alternate perspective as well. It’s interesting our concern for ‘respecting time’ of readers. Simplicity in writing is accurate when you’re talking about the actual craft of writing, writing in a way that’s clear, succinct and still engaging. But simplicity can also mean laziness. An idea that could be elaborated on, but this is a blog and people don’t read anymore and I want ‘readers’ to follow me so I’ll keep it short. If we write in the name of ‘simplicity’ because people have information overload…haha, well do you see the coincidence? Means our blogs are perpetuating the problem. I force myself to read long form articles and blogs sometimes…because it’s harder to now. Write clearly and communicate your ideas simply. But not simply if it only means short form because you’re afraid that no one will read your blog. At that point it’s no longer about communicating ideas, it could be more about wanting your own little niche of internet stardom.

  50. Hi, I just would like to say that this is by far the best article that I read about bloging. I will take it on board and apply for both my personal and work blogs especially 8 and 11. I know that article title is vital to ensure good recognition and exposure but as they say content is the king and these tips will definitely improve my bloging skills. much love.

  51. Very thorough and informative article Henneke! You made a great point there, saving up your time while editing will prove costly. Editing helps not only in removing the grammatical errors, but also helps in improving the overall flow of the post.

    Besides there are few other blogging mistakes that bloggers often make:

    1) You are not adding visuals in your content: Visuals such as images, audio, video and infographics are a great way to improve the engagement and shareability of your content. Visuals attract people, “94% more total views on average are attracted by content containing compelling images than content without images.” (source: MDG Advertising).

    2) You are not writing catchy titles: The title of your post will decide whether your post will be opened by viewer or not.

    3) As you said writing purely for SEO is a mistake but at the same time not optimizing your post for search engines is also a mistake. You need to optimize your post for search engines so that both users and search engines can find you easily, and for doing that you need to avoid certain SEO mistakes. I have shared my views on SEO mistakes here: http://www.betaout.com/blog/10-classic-seo-mistakes-bloggers-make/#.UrfgfbSkPt0

  52. #8: “You don’t know who you’re writing for” This, it took me at least 3 months to realize that choosing a specific audience is important when making a blog. Most beginners would like to be more general, which will just confuse the readers and make them leave your site.

  53. You think you need to publish daily part as most of us think the only way to survive is posting daily how ever i have noticed quality pays more than quantity and there are many bloggers i know who post less but quality posts and trust me readers are desperately waiting for their next posts all the time …

  54. This is a nice list to revisit every once in a while, because every writer gets sloppy when they blog over time. Good to have refresher course every two months I think. The worst mistake for me is complexity. I find it hard to write so simply that a child could understand it. And I wonder what clients think about that?

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