“Add more content!”
That seems to be the battle cry these days. Keeping your blog as updated as possible does make sense. Although some argue that quality matters less than quantity, while this is true, I can say without a doubt through my own experiences, that if you have more content, you’re going to get more traffic than if you have less content, as long as you maintain quality. At one of our past events, Chris Brogan mentioned seeing similar results – when he posts fewer times per week, his traffic goes down.
That of course doesn’t mean you should just be throwing crap up on your blog to try to hit a certain number of posts every week. I think most serious bloggers understand this. However, I still see a lot of bad posts in my Twitter stream every day. Remember, it only takes one bad post to make someone unsubscribe (or never subscribe in the first place).
You can’t please everyone, but I believe the following twelve types of post have no place on a good blog:
1. Rehashed News
You’re never going to compete with huge news sites unless you have millions of dollars to throw into your own media outlet. If all your post accomplishes is summarizing a story you saw on Google News or Reuters, you haven’t accomplished anything other than boring your readers. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post news at all. In fact, posting news is a great idea for most bloggers. But when you do it, consider:
- Picking up the phone to get a quote from an expert that can add something new to the story
- Adding your own opinion or analysis to the story
- Doing a round-up of what other people are saying about the story
- Putting the story in a different context (i.e. finding a unique angle)
- Coming up with a how-to related to the story
- Looking at what people are saying about the story via social media and talking about their unique opinions
In other words, make your coverage of the story something different than what people are going to read from a huge news outlet. For example, when Pinterest announced the addition of “secret boards,” we didn’t just post about this new feature, which many were doing. We posted three ways to use secret boards, so our story was unique and helpful to readers.
If you’re dead-set on posting news stories that report just the facts, consider taking a new approach to your blog completely and really attacking one specific niche. For example, if you like entertainment news, maybe instead of posting all sorts of celebrity news, which sites like TMZ already do, you can post specifically about celebrity babies or a certain genre or music or celebrities who are buying homes. Nich-ifying can help you find an audience even if you’re not publishing unique stories.
2. Posts with More Quotes than Original Content
I love a good quote, but if the entire story is just quoting another blogger or news story, you might as well be scraping their content. Yes, it might be completely valid to publish a small part of someone’s post with a link back to the rest, but that doesn’t make you a blogger. It makes you a content curator. Again, what can you add that makes the story special or adds another layer or helpfulness?
There are so many possibilities. You can “debate” the other blogger with a post of your own, build upon his/her ideas, or even do an interview with the blogger to delve deeper into the story. If all you want to do is share an excellent quote from a blog post you read, here are some better ways to do that:
- Share the quote via Twitter with a link back to the source
- Post the quote in a related forum with a link back to the source
- Create an image using the quote a publish on Facebook or Twitter with a link back to the source
- Share the quote as part of your email newsletter with a link back to the source
Your actual posts should be more than just republishing someone else’s words.
3. Theory without Practicality
This one drives me nuts.
I love to read what you think about a certain topic, but what I love every more are practical tips. Don’t just tell me why. Tell me how. If all I can do is read your information, but I have no idea how to actually apply it to any part of my life, your post isn’t very beneficial to me.
I’m guilty of this one. I think we all have a tendency to get really passionate about our opinions. And while opinions are great, they rarely stand alone if there’s no practical counterpart. Sometimes, this is as simple as including a few links to post that are straight-forward how-tos. Your entire post doesn’t have to be about teaching someone how to do something.
The problem is that many bloggers publish these types of posts but never follow up. So, as a reader, I’m lost. Don’t write “10 Reasons Why You Should….” unless you follow up or link to how to actually do that task. You’ve convinced me! Now tell me what to do to get started.
4. Common Sense Posts
Worse than “theory” posts are common sense posts. I get it; we’re all beginners at some point. You can’t ignore your readers who are just learning about a topic for the first time. Only posting advanced-level stuff isn’t the right choice for most bloggers.
But even beginners have common sense.
For example, let’s say that your blog is about cooking and you want to publish “10 Things Every Kitchen Needs.” That sounds like a great post – but if your 10 items include a pot and a pan, I’m going to roll my eyes. Newbie cooks might not realize how helpful it can be to own a strainer or a food processor, but come on…they know that they need a pot and a pan.
Take things a step farther and be more useful. If you’re going to do something so 101-leve that it includes telling new home chefs to buy a pot and pan, at least tell them what kind to buy and why. What size is best? What material? What brand? Go a step beyond common sense, even with your beginner-level posts.
5. Posts that don’t Deliver on Headline Promises
If I click on a post you share on Twitter and the content doesn’t deliver what the headline promised, I’m probably going to unfollow you. Your headline builds trust with the reader. If your content isn’t what they expect, you lose that trust, and it’s nearly impossible to get it back again once lost.
The biggest offender I see of this is the use of the term “secret.” If you’re going to give me “10 Secrets to Writing Better Blog Posts,” I better not show up to your post and see that secret number one is to optimize for search engines, secret number two is to use headers, secret number three is to include an image, etc. Those are not secrets. Those are 101-level tips. “Secrets” implies that the post is going to be advanced – that these are tips I’ve probably not come across before or am not already using.
Another offender is telling me something is “awesome” or “killer” or “ninja” or “rock star.” If you use any of those terms, you better deliver on that promise. It’s not that you have to stop using these words (and related words) to describe your content. Just understand that you’re setting the bar high, so there’s a bigger probability that people will be disappointed by the content if it doesn’t deliver.
6. “Sorry I’ve Been Away” Posts
Sometimes, there are unforeseen circumstances that require us to be away from our blogs. When you’re ready to start up again, it’s really tempting to write a “Sorry for being gone” post to explain what you were doing.
To me, that’s a throw-away post. Unless what you were doing is super interesting, I don’t need to hear your excuses and explanations. I just want posts like you used to publish. Mention why you were gone at the beginning of your next post if you must, but just get back to your schedule instead of spending 500 words to tell me that you had the flu or were snagging some beach time.
7. Ego Strokers
A few months ago, I wrote a post about blogging success and whether your success stems from content that helps people or content that is simply what people want to hear. The latter is little more than ego-stroking. It really isn’t hard to get people to rally behind you when you say, “Hitler was bad.” This is also true with less extreme examples. If your audience is primarily working moms, it isn’t hard to get people to agree with an op-ed about the need for flexible scheduling for parents who work.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t post something you’re super passionate about, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone – and to ask your audience to step out of theirs. If you are promoting a popular opinion, add your “something special” to the post, whether that means including some how-to tips, playing devil’s advocate, or quote an expert. What can you add to the story that makes it unique? (Am I started to sound like a broken record yet?)
8. How *Blank* is like *Blank* Posts
When I first started blogging, I wrote a lot of this type of post. But you know what? They’re kind of dumb. Congratulations, you found a creative comparison between two things. Unless your post is meant to be funny (Think: “How Your Baby is like a Tiny Ninja”) or teaches you something interesting (Think: “How Soft Drinks are like Addictive Drugs”), the post is another throw away.
Even if you think your post is teaching something, ask yourself…”Is it really?” Remember, you want people to walk away with specific, practical tips not a bunch of random information that doesn’t really relate because you were stretching to find comparison points.
When you’re snarky on your blog, you’re really nothing more than an online, adult bully. Yes, it can make you popular, because some people thrive on drama, but will it make you respected? No way.
You can still be opinionated and even write in a “snarky” style. The key with snark is to talk about things that happen, not specific people or companies. Erika Napoletano is a great example of something who has a snarky writing style, but in a good way.
Of course, you can also still voice your opinion about someone or some company you don’t like, but when you do so, have a little class. Make points that you can back up instead of just snarking. You’re not going to do yourself any favors if you’re just flat-out mean.
And keep in mind that when you’re snarky, you lose business. Even if you see your traffic go up because people think you’re funny or are attracted to negative leadership, when all you do is snark about crap you don’t like, brands won’t want to work with you. Brands like bloggers who give honest, thoughtful, thorough opinions, not drama queens (and kings).
When you post a rumor like it is news, it makes me question your dedication to the niche. It’s okay to comment on rumors, but I’ve seen several popular blogs run rumors as though they are confirmed stories.
This happens even more frequently when bloggers are republishing blog posts that are republished from other blog posts. It’s like a game of telephone. Along the way, rumors turn to facts, which can be confusing for the reader and unfair for all parties involved.
Take the time to find the original source of a story and confirm facts with a reputable site or expert. Hint: Wikipedia is not a reputable site.
Remember, gossip is as bad as rumors. Sometimes gossip is made up of rumors but other times, gossip is someone saying to you “I’m not supposed to know this, but I overheard…” If you can’t confirm it by printing the source, it is as good as a rumor. “Facts” are overheard out of context all the time.
11. Sensationalist Stories
The media thrives on emotion. Facts are skewed so that someone’s agenda is supported in the most emotionally charged way possible.
Sensationalism can drive a ton of traffic, but it ultimately damages your credibility.
When you post facts on your blog, be aware of your own biases. It’s okay to post your opinion, but if you’re presenting supporting facts, make sure those facts are accurate. If there was a study done, how many people took part in the study, how were they chosen to participate, and when were the stats collected? A survey of 60 people in rural Texas asked about their opinion on gun laws will yield a much different result than a survey of 10,000 people from across the country on the same topic. A study on cancer patients’ diets done 50 years ago is going to give you different results than a study on the same topic done today.
In the end, make sure that the information you’re posting is the most up-to-date, unbiased information possible, not just the best information to support your personal viewpoints. That way, if you’re firing people up, it’s for the right reasons, not because you’re manipulating data to scare people.
12. Posts that aren’t Your Best Work
Finally, I’m using a picture of a peacock here, because I hope you are always proud to show off your work. If a post isn’t your best work, don’t hit that publish button. Simple as that.
All the time, I hear the advice that your work doesn’t need to be good, it needs to be “good enough.” There’s something to be said for analysis paralysis and being so caught up in the details that you never get the job done. However, if you write a post and feel “meh” about it, reconsider before you publish. How can I as the reader get excited if you as the writer don’t even care?
You should always strive for the best. Pretend this post you’re writing is going to be seen by Oprah. Imagine if you lost your job today and your last post was the post a new employer would be looking at to consider you for their open position. Get morbid and think about how the last post would represent you if you died tomorrow.
Take pride in the work you do, always. It only takes one bad post to make me hit the back button and be gone from your blog forever.
Your turn: What kind of posts do you wish people would stop writing?