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Bad Habits Bloggers Need to Stop

No matter where you go online, it seems like there are nasty little habits every single blogger in the world can’t seem to shake.

You may not realize you’re doing it or you might teach these bad habits as “the way”, but no matter what, if your content is going to be totally original, these bad habits should be broken immediately.

Too often we listen to what everyone else says and abandon our own instincts. We put these self imposed limitations in place that prevent our words from truly making an impact.

What follows are the 19 most common bad habits I’ve found that bloggers impose on themselves that hold them back from developing a unique and authentic voice.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’d like to invite you to add your own thoughts after you’re done. Also, feel free to disagree. If you see something in here that you feel is a legit habit, defend it. After all, who am I to tell you what not to do?

1. Stop Trying To Be Clever

What’s worse than a rhetorical question used to open a blog post?

One that does absolutely nothing but get the reader to the next line.

There are many “clever” tactics you’ve been told will get more people to read your articles, but chances are that you probably need to stop.

Some clever things bloggers do that are really stupid:

  1. Make bulleted lists just to break up reading patterns.
  2. Use images that serve no purpose.
  3. “Quote needlessly for the sake of appearing worldly.” -Tommy Walker

Truth is, you don’t need to be clever. You need to trust you’re capable of getting people’s attention without using “clever” tactics.

Once something is deemed clever, everyone starts doing it. As soon as that happens, it’s no longer clever, it’s contrived, inescapable and infinitely annoying.

2. Stop Using Clichéd Catch Phrases

“Be Authentic.” “Be Transparent.” “Find your Tribe.” “Link Love.”

I get it, they’re catchy and easy to remember. But for the love of all that is holy please stop coming up with ambiguous catch phrases that don’t make any sense to anyone but you and your industry clubhouse.

What’s worse, many catch phrases can only be defined with *Gasp* OTHER CATCH PHRASES!

Guess what, outsiders, the people who actually need the information, have no idea what the eff you’re talking about.

If you need catchphrases try:

“Be Useful.” “Be a Better Story Teller.” “Do Research.”

Catchphrases are fine when they come naturally.

But if you’re staring at the ceiling for a half hour thinking of something pithy to say; you’re doing it wrong.

3. Stop Writing “Link Bait”

“Link bait is any content or feature, within a website, designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website.” – Wikipedia

Let’s be clear; there’s a difference between “Quality” and “Bait”.

“Bait” lives only to be linked to, attracting anything and everything that bites. While this can be good for momentary pops of traffic and attention, it usually does very little for long term success.

Common “Link Bait” tactics include:

  • Controversy
  • Giant Meaningless List Posts (more on this later)
  • Flaming an Authority
  • Catch Phrases

Usually, “Link Baiting” uses a clever headline destined to get more retweets than views and fluff that may as well be lorem ipsum.

“Quality” content uses similar tactics, but feels very different. You can feel a piece that was created with passion, creativity, and forethought.

When you read it, you feel what the creator wants you to feel. You share it because it does something to you, it changes you in some way. Not just because it has a catchy headline and some pretty pictures.

4. Stop Thinking You’re The Smartest Person In The World

There are smart people everywhere.

The single Mom supporting 3 kids on a low income probably knows something about budgeting you don’t.

That gas station clerk who has your smokes ready when you walk up to the counter could probably teach you a thing or two about customer service.

Being a “blogger” that can support themselves doesn’t make you worldy, glamorous, or awesome, it makes you fortunate people like what you have to say.

The world around you is full of lessons so long as you keep your eyes and mind open.

5. Stop Insisting On Doing Everything Yourself

A library of free fonts, pithy catchphrases, and Photoshop does not make you a graphic designer.

I get it, doing everything yourself saves money, but ultimately, you’re shortchanging yourself and the creative community at large.

Every day talented and emerging artists upload their work to sites like Deviantart, flickr, and Vimeo.

So, why not (net)work with real artists? Take a stake in someone else’s career. Go out of your way to elevate an artist who can do something you can’t. They’re grinding to get noticed, just like you, so help each other out.  

No, not everyone will want to work with you, but you may be surprised by how many people will.

Collaboration is the very heart of the social web. Not doing it minimizes the essence of what makes the internet so cool.

6. Stop Thinking That Just Because You’re Not Spending Money, You’re Not Wasting Time

Let’s just cut through the garbage, content marketing is hard. If your articles don’t somehow lead to dollars, you’re wasting your time.

This whole idea of creating a bunch of free content to build your business only works when you’re an exceptionally disciplined writer.

If you’re a regular person, and don’t have it in you to write epic shit all the time, then you’ll probably want to look to paid ads.

Yes, believe it or not, you have to make an investment into your business.

If you refuse to invest money, you must invest time into learning exactly what it takes to be a better writer.

That doesn’t mean reading a handful of Copyblogger articles and thinking you’re a qualified copywriter.

It means spending several hours a day reading everything you can on writing; learning different styles and techniques, similarities in teachings and contradictions in philosophies.

It means reading prose and poetry, speeches and monologues and dissecting each piece; ”Out of all the possible words with similar meanings, why use this word? What impact did that have on the picture in your mind?”; then synthesising your own style based on what you’ve learned.

The ability to type doesn’t make you a content marketer any more than owning a paintbrush makes you a painter.

You must understand the relationship between words and the brain if you’re not spending money to grow your business. You can’t just pump out mediocre material and expect to get rich.

7. Stop Thinking Words Are All That Matter

It’s not 1996 anymore.

People are using slideshows, videos, podcasts, cinemagraphs, infographics, live-streaming and all sorts of other new media formats to stand out.

Don’t get me wrong, words are cool. But kinetic typeography is cooler.

And remember, stop trying to do everything yourself.

Instead, record yourself reading your blog post or use Fiverr to hire someone who knows what they’re doing do it for you.

(Bonus: If you want to give it a little extra drama, use Voices.com to hire a professional voice over actor to read.)

8. Stop Executing Without A Goal In Mind

Imagine you’re in a strange city at 4am and you’re lost.

You’re jet lagged, weary, and you just want to get to your hotel.

A kind stranger says he’s a tour guide and he’d be happy to help you to your quarters, but first, he’d like to buy you a drink at the local pub.  After a couple drinks, he shows you the transit system and explains it’s history.

Then he walks you through 20 blocks of the shopping district and tells you about howthis particular district has won more awards for outstanding customer service than any other in the world. He explains that the stone work on many of the buildings was inspired by the Art Deco movement in the 1960’s. He points to a cafe, smiles, and says, “That’s one of David Hasslehoff’s favorite places for coffee in the Spring.”

Meanwhile, your feet are sore, your legs; weak, and you’re exhausted in such a way that how you handle this situation right now will speak volumes about your character.

Four hours after your initial arrival, the two of you approach your hotel. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a street sign with the same name as the place you met the man.

He extends his hand, palm open, and an expectant look in his eye.

Do you pay him?

As a blogger, you have to consider that your readers are carrying heavy packs, are completely lost, and you’re the only person they’ve found who can help.

Whether we mean to or not, so many of us play the guide because we’re operating without goals, thinking we’ll figure it out in time. Don’t be the guide, have an offer in place so you can help people immediately if they need it.

9. Stop Thinking “Quality Content” Is All You Need

A single, beautifully designed flyer for a nightclub tumbling down a suburban street is not going to pack the place to the walls.

A single, beautifully written post for your blog floating aimlessly about the internet is not going to flood your website with traffic.

Just because it’s good doesn’t mean it deserves to be read. Nobody owes you that.

“Quality Content” is only the beginning. That same beautiful flyer is much more effective when it’s handed out to people who are into clubs.

It’s even more effective when the promoter really listens and makes a judgement as to whether or not you’ll like the DJ and style of music they play.

Please realize, being a “blogger” is more than writing. 80% of your job is to make sure people read your stuff. The other 20% is to create content that rocks my world.

10. Stop Parroting Popular Bloggers

I swear there are 100 Dopplegangers for every to every one popular blogger.

Look, it’s cool to give people credit for their good ideas and link to posts you thought were outstanding; that’s one thing. Even imitating someone’s style and technique can be fine (to a point).

But when you straight up jack someone’s posting style and subject matter, then try to peddle it to the same market and pass it off as original… COME ON!?

Ok, so maybe it’s not quite that severe. But honestly, if you’re going to write about something that’s been covered to death at least do your readers the courtesy of doing it a unique style.

Don’t be the generic version of a brand name blogger. There’s no reward in being the watered down version of someone else.

11. Stop Stifling Your Voice

Even if you’re not copying someone else, you’re probably afraid of reaching your fullest. Why? What about being you makes you so nervous?

You’re fixed on “doing it right”, maintaining cadence and focused on tone that you lose your own voice and your points never hit home.

Fail, be wrong, be yourself and get your own style. People respect that and it’ll catch on after a while.

Experiment with things like you’ve got something to prove, find your own groove, at the end of the day you’re only accountable to you.

12. Stop Doing Webinars Just To Sell Things

You’re not fooling anyone. We all know that you’re doing the webinar to sell something, and we’re just waiting until the end to see how you pitch it.

When webinars first started catching on, it was hip and original, but you’ve really burned the tech out.

If you want to surprise us, how about not pitching something at the end of the webinar?

What if you sacrificed my email address just this once and presented the same information on Google+ Hangouts on Air? Or Vokle, or Airtime? Do you think that might build a little extra good will?

I know, webinars make me give you my email address, which is great for you to push products down my throat until the end of time. But could you and your affiliates not bully me into a sale just once?

Which brings me to my next point…

13. Stop Abusing Your Email Lists

A thousand emails about your new course is obnoxious. Please stop.

14. Stop Spending All Your Time Online

This point is more of a reminder for me than it is to make a point in this post.

For the first 15 months of my son’s life, I spent so much time trying to make my blog work, I missed certain little moments that make being a parent so cool.

Not things like first steps, I was there for that. But the first tooth poking through, the first time he got up on his knees to crawl, the look on his face when he pulled himself up to standing for the first time.

My relationship with my work was like that of an abusive girlfriend. She sucked up my time, didn’t let me see my family, and never put out.

It wasn’t until I established some strong boundaries that we found a mutual respect for each other.

I’ve made a point to only spend 8 hours at my office a day, and I focus as much of my time on creation and refining as possible.

I’d be lying by saying I didn’t still slack off on Facebook or Youtube, but I’m learning to reel myself in and get back to doing only what’s productive.

Because of that, I’ve had more time to do things I love; like wrestling on the floor with my toddler, going to the movies with my wife, and driving to nowhere with the family.

Coincidentally, spending less time online has resulted in only good things for my online business.

15. Stop Putting All Your Stock Into Social Media

Social media is sexy, but you know what’s sexier? Traffic.

As a Think Traffic reader, you probably already know this, but your email list is one of your most important distribution channels for getting your message out there.

This study by Eloqua, a marketing automation company, shows a staggering difference in impressions delivered by email vs social media.

Even though your inbox gets crowded, it doesn’t compare with the firehose of social media (290 million tweets/month!).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t focus on social media.

What I’m saying is that if social media is all you’re focused on, you need to take a more balanced approach to your online marketing strategy.

16. Stop Writing Meaningless List Posts

Somewhere along the way the blogosphere caught on to something tabloid editors have known for years: big lists draw more eyes.

Whether we mean to or not, our brains are wired to believe the bigger the list, the more valuable. The problem is, everyone’s a publisher.

Which means anyone willing to copy/paste a bunch of links into a giant list is likely to get more shares (because our brains are wired to associate high numbers with value).

Now, I’m not saying “stop writing list posts”. I’m saying stop writing meaningless list posts.

“10 Things That’ll Make Your Facebook Fans Go Gaga Over You” and “56 Things About Twitter You Can Learn From Justin Bieber.”

Cheap shots. Low Blows. They’re like the Jersey Shore of the Internet.

Sure, the headlines are catchy, but they often lack substance. It’s more likely to be a repackaged version of a rehashed list that was a bad carbon copy of something good. In other words, it probably isn’t very valuable.

Don’t be cheap.

Don’t just stare at your screen drooling while your fingers move on auto-pilot. Be engaged throughout the entire writing process.

Slow down, take your time, and really create the best thing someone will read that day.

17. Stop Wasting Your Money On Stupid Programs And Never Doing Anything With Them

Ever buy a program then do absolutely nothing with it?

Sure, you watched the first couple videos, or read the first few paragraphs of the .pdf… but you had other things to do, so you picked it up, tried it out, got bored and moved on.

And because YOU didn’t want to be a jerk, you didn’t ask for a refund.

Honestly, who can stand the guilt reminding you that you’re not living up to your potential?

HERE’S THE PROBLEM:

It may have been an impulse buy on your part (many product launches cater to that) OR the creator could do a better job of creating more engaging content.

If it was a twitch purchase, there’s not much I can tell you beyond get control of your spending. If you can’t, at least make a commitment to making the most of your stupid decision; don’t just waste your money.

If however you really did want to learn something and the material wasn’t engaging, then tell the creator!

Don’t blame yourself for “not getting it” if the material was unclear.

If they’re not full of themselves, they’ll appreciate the feedback and strive to be more comprehensive.

18. Stop Hitting “Publish”

How many times do we have to say it: write epic shit. Nobody is capable of being epic all the time. So stop publishing every single thing you write.

Once upon a time, being “published” meant something. Writers would remove small portions of themselves and preserve them in ink. And still they were told “No.”

But now, being “published’ takes all of 30 seconds, and anyone with an internet connection can do it.

This is great for underdog writers who’re ahead of their time, but it’s greater for the no talent hacks who muck up the internet screaming for a voice.

Obviously, this isn’t you.

This is your competition. These are the people who are stealing your readers and traffic, and they can’t be stopped.

They can however be silenced if you’re so good everyone ignores them to death. But, you have to show restraint.

You can’t throw a flurry of punches and expect not to get gassed. Instead, you must endure longer, hit harder, and at the exact right moment.

19. Stop Doing Dumb Things

Stop checking your Facebook all day. Stop letting your time get sucked into Youtube. Stop having asinine conversations on Twitter.

Stop willing your computer to be an ATM.

Without actual work it’s not going to happen.

Stop idolizing every popular blogger that shows you their crazy glamorous lifestyle. Even if they have videos of themselves on the beach, sipping martinis, surrounded by super-models, they’re still hustling more than you see (or they’re a scammer).

Use your judgment, put your head down, and trust you’re capable of doing good work. And be honest with yourself, is this something you’re really passionate about?

There’s a horde of passionless zombie bloggers that thrive on doing dumb things. They aren’t doing what they love so they don’t fight for the blog, and they don’t trust their own judgement. You don’t have to be cliché.

Trust yourself, be disciplined, and blog on your own terms.

Last modified: April 18, 2021
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