5 Common Blogging Mistakes Made by Startups

Note: I, and this blog, are back after a hiatus caused by my recent cross country relocation, during which I shifted from life on the east coast to calling the beautiful west my new home. Now that I’m properly settled in, it’s high time we got back to business. Talk about bad timing though — my book went live as the moving truck was leaving.

Blogs are an excellent tool for promoting your startup or business. If you’re not careful however, it’s easy to end up putting in a lot of effort into something that yields little in the way of reward. The following is a series of common blogging pitfalls that entrepreneurs should be aware of and which you’ll want to address when it comes to your own blog.

Blogging mistake #1: Not prominently linking to your main site

It can be extremely irritating for visitors to arrive on your blog, and not have an easy way to reach your main site. Yes, the reader could remove blog. or /blog/ from their address bar, but you should work under the assumption that inertia is a strong force. If it takes more than a negligible effort, a large percentage of visitors won’t bother doing it.

One of the chief goals of your blog is to get people to check out your product. You need to make this process as easy as possible.

How to fix it

  • Link to the homepage or landing page of your choice from within your navigation bar. Home should link to your main site’s homepage, not your blog’s index. Call that link within the navigation bar Blog instead.
  • If your main site’s logo is present at the top of your blog template, have it link to the main site.
  • If the main site’s logo is not included in the template, add such a logo or a fairly good sized icon derived from it within your sidebar, then link that to the main site.
  • Finally, link generously to the product or service when you mention it, be it from a short description in your sidebar or from within your posts. You want a person to look at your blog for a second, blink, and immediately know where to click to check out your offer.

Blogging mistake #2: Not integrating with social properties

Typically you opt to have a social presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ because you assume that doing so will help you reach a wider audience. If your site and these social properties are entirely separate spheres unto themselves however, you won’t capture the true value that they can offer.

It’s a mistake not to link back to your main site from these sites. That’s obvious. What might not be so obvious, is that it’s also a mistake not to promote these social properties from within your blog. In fact, properties such as your Facebook fan page, can help show your visitors that you are more than just an anonymous, faceless company. If you do a good job on these social sites, you can demonstrate how you interact with your community of customers and fans, to prospective customers.

Linking to your social properties also acts as social proof. When someone sees a large number of fans or followers, it leads them to consider you as being more authoritative, established, or worth following as well. And since you are showcasing these properties to your blog visitors, this will in turn boost these numbers and increase further your social proof.

Finally, it’s a mistake not to promote your blog posts on social properties. For example, when someone likes your fan page on Facebook, they subscribe to your updates there. By posting a link to your articles within that page on Facebook, you automatically reach visitors who may have otherwise vanished for good after their first visit to your blog.

How to fix it

  • Link to your main site from social media properties that allow you to do so.
  • Add a Facebook Like widget, a Twitter follow button, and +1 button to your sidebar. Note that this Facebook widget should be used to get people to like your fan page (therefore subscribing to your updates) and not your site. Specify the former URL, rather than the latter, when configuring the widget. Show faces when it comes to Facebook, as they are very effective at helping you immediately connect and capture the interest of your readers (after all, you’re showing them faces of their friends who like you, a quasi-direct endorsement for you).
  • Post a link to your new posts on all of your chosen target properties. TwitterFeed is one of many available tools that can take care of automatically posting your RSS to social sites (currently, both Twitter and Facebook are covered). But even doing it manually, if you so choose to, does not take much of your time.
  • Include a widget such as AddThis or ShareThis within your template, so that your individual posts can be liked, shared on Twitter, and posted on a variety of other sites by your readers. If possible, favor quality over quantity and opt for buttons that include counters (again, for social proof).

Blogging mistake #3: Making it harder to subscribe to, and regularly follow, your blog

Blogs that don’t make it easy to subscribe to new content rarely achieve a great deal of success. These day, browsers like Firefox and Chrome even ignore auto-discovered syndication feeds, making the process of subscription much harder.

You might think that RSS doesn’t matter anymore. In truth it does matter — more than most people assume actually. Even conceding for a second that your prospective customers are not the right demographic for feeds, you still need to provide and promote ways for them to keep up with your new content. You simply cannot expect them to come back to your site periodically.

How to fix it

  • Keep track of your subscription stats via FeedBurner.
  • Have a large orange RSS icon linked to your feed URL (see mine as an example).
  • Include a way to receive your new posts via email. You can use FeedBurner (enable it through Publicize -> Email Subscriptions) or much more ideally, set up your own mailing list with a service like Mailchimp (that’s what I use and I highly recommend it). Mailing lists are one of the biggest assets you can have as a business, virtually regardless of what you do. Set one up even if your crowd is technical. Include the signup widget near the top of your template, like I’ve done here in the sidebar. You can then setup an RSS-to-email campaign within Mailchimp to have your new posts automatically appear in your subscribers’ inboxes.
  • At the bottom of your posts invite readers to subscribe either via RSS or by email. You can generally accomplish this by modifying a template file or using the option to do so (if provided) within your blog’s software. For this blog, I use a plugin for the Genesis framework (i.e., Simple Hooks).

Blogging mistake #4: Only blogging about product announcements

While you certainly should use your blog to talk about and promote your products, unless you have more than one blog, it would be a big mistake to focus your site just on announcements about your products. You’d be missing out on the true marketing power of your blog if you went this route.

How to fix it

  • Write for the audience you want to attract. If you prospective SaaS customers are people who intend to lose weight, don’t spend 90% of your blog time discussing cool features you introduced in your app. Instead, write about topics that interest this particular demographic such as weight loss, fat burning, healthy foods, lean mass gain, etc. This way you’ll gather a community around that topic. Make it the blog that absolutely anyone who is losing weight should follow, whether they use your app or not. All the readers that you’ll attract will be exposed to your product either by sheer branding (ergo the importance of logos and links in the template mentioned previously) or by following your blog regularly, and then ending up reading your occasional bona fide product announcements.
  • Even when announcing a feature or posting about a product promotion, try to focus on how this will benefit the reader. Tell a story. Don’t just write a dry announcement. For example, if you are talking about an Android version of your app for dieters, talk about how stressful it is to try and keep track of calories when dining on the go, and how this new addition to your product line up will facilitate the lives of those who use your product.
  • Focusing on providing value for your readers, rather than just pushing a sale, will greatly help you increase your business. This will in fact make you come across as more trustworthy and genuine, as well as help you establish yourself as an expert in your field. If I trust you and consider you to be an expert, I’m willing to buy from you and your recommendations.
  • Have a small blurb or banner ad for your products at the bottom of your posts, rather than each post just being an ad itself for your products.

Blogging mistake #5: Hiding what your product is about

I hate it when I’m five minutes into a post of a startup, and I have no idea what these guys actually do or what they’re trying to sell me. This is far more common than it should be.

How to fix it

  • Have a small description at the top of your blog (typically in the sidebar) that explains who you are and what you do. (e.g., “Acme Fat Loss” is a web application that helps you lose weight by tracking calories and suggesting recipes that are within your daily calorie allotment”).
  • If your post has anything to do with your product, quickly introduce what your product does within your post. Don’t just assume everyone knows. For example, “The investment we received means that we’ll be able to allocate far more resources to the development of our calorie tracker and healthy recipe generator application”.

These are not by any means the only mistakes businesses do when trying to succeed at blogging. They are however some of the major, and perhaps most common, ones. Thankfully simple, effective fixes, as shown, are far from hard to implement and can be such a massive boon to you and your company.

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About Antonio Cangiano

Antonio Cangiano is a Software Developer and Technical Evangelist for IBM, as well as a web entrepreneur, serial blogger, and published author. He makes thousands of dollars blogging in his spare time about technical topics. He recently authored a definitive blogging book published by The Pragmatic Bookshelf, and launched a new blog called Technical Blogging.

Comments

  1. Nilesh (InfoCaptor) says:

    Another mistake, which is a big one in my opinion is not keeping up with regular frequency of updates.

    No updates simply gives wrong signals.

    Are they so busy that they cannot update?
    Is the product dead?

    Keeping and maintaining a proper frequency should be in the list of things.

    • I definitely agree, Nilesh. That’s a common mistake as well. In my book I go at length about the importance of consistency (“Content is king. Consistency is queen.”) and how to schedule your blogging efforts so as to blog regularly, defeat writer’s block, etc. I’ll definitely talk more about this topic in the future.

    • CONSISTENCY.
      Most recently, there have been a lot of articles admitting and warning that consistent quality blogging is hard. Before a person starts blogging, they need to see that this takes a life of its own. And for people who’ve failed, they can cut themselves some slack. They aren’t lazy or going about it wrong. It’s time to decide to be either in or out. Neither is wrong. The only wrong way is to be BOTH kinda in AND kinda out.

    • Yes, I am fully satisfied with Nilesh (InfoCaptor) ‘s opinion because irregular updation of blog will lead to loss of returning users to the blog.

  2. Your first point is one WAY too common and one of the most annoying oversights for me. I know that I can just edit the URL to get to the site, but after a few fails attempts at clicking, I generally lose the inertia, feel frustrated, and just leave. Plus, if their url is blog.startut.com and I’m viewing a specific article, it involves not only deleting the “blog” part, but the rest of the permalink as well. It’s strange how those two extra steps can drastically affect my interest.

    If the blog content, or the website’s message, is super appealing, I may make the extra effort. But more often than not, I don’t. I never understood the motivation for omitting an easy and obvious link to the main page.

  3. I’m just wondering if you have any real metrics to back these suggestions up? Like, what percentage of people use RSS vs read a webpage? Does anyone actually use the AddThis social media type plugins? Real metrics would be real interesting!

    • Regarding RSS vs reading on the site, it really varies widely. If you use FeedBurner and Google Analytics you can do some rough estimates, though.

      AddThis offers precise analytics on its usage, so you can readily tell how many people are using it.

      I’ll keep in mind your suggestion for future data-intense posts.

  4. What about not putting your own pic on blog?
    :)
    BTW its a good post. Loving the #5 and its more common I think.

  5. Good advice all around. I’d also add that you need to reply to comments. Make people feel good about commenting on your site, by replying to whatever they say. It really helps build up the community.

  6. Most startup blogs I see suffer from the opposite of #2. There’s a tiny amount of content, surrounded by a huge mountain of “Facebook like us!” and “Twitter follow me!” widgets, and then for good measure a couple super-widgets that support 50 social networking webpages you’ve never heard of, and they fly out and animate and dance if you move your mouse too close to them. Yow!

    Of course, they’re always a different style and color than everything else on the page, so they just scream that the author places more value on trying to get a higher Facebook score, than on good design. I think we’re supposed to believe that this doesn’t follow over into actual product design, somehow.

    I’m sure there do exist people who will only follow what you’re doing if it’s simul-posted on Facebook. I am not one of them, and I’ve stopped following many blogs simply because of widget-overload on their blogs.

    (Another way to overdo it: put tiny pixelated “Email this” and “Stumble this!” image-links in the RSS feed. I’d love to find out if anyone has ever clicked one of those intentionally.)

    If a blog has interesting content, I will find a way to follow it. Unless it’s annoying. That’s all there is.

  7. I think #4 is a great point. I will add that a lot of startup blogs make the mistake of blogging about the entrepreneur’s themselves and their struggles. Unless their audience is other startup founders, you’ll surely detract from your core consumer who is only concerned about your product.

  8. Thanks for the nice article. I am still new to blogging. Those tips really helped me. I would like to ask you something – Most of my blogging friends said that its important that we put our pictures and real identity in our blogging profile. Is it necessary for us to do so?

  9. Maybe it’s a good idea, to add a little information about company at the bottom of every article? Also it can be automated (via add-on etc.).

  10. Nice tips for a newbie to blogging like myself !!!! thank u !!!!!!

  11. Just wanted to say thanks. I had the logo taking users to the homepage, but didn’t think to also have it in the menu bar. I also forgot to take advantage of the g+ button for the homepage, and I’ve implemented AddThis to my girlfriend’s website and it’s working nicely.

  12. What kind of blog providing websites is best(like blogger,webs,yola ,etc…)??

  13. really helpful i am a new blogger and i did some of the above mentioned mistakes and m fixing it using the above knowledge …. thanx a lot for sharing this post … :)

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