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Counterpoints to "7 Blogging Beginner Mistakes"

by Tom Johnson on Oct 6, 2007
categories: blogging technical-writing

Lost Art of BloggingTibu Puiu from the Lost Art of Blogging asked me to check out his post on the "7 Blogging Beginning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them." Although I agree with much of what he says, I've decided to play devil's advocate here and see what counterarguments I can find against his points. I've listed Puiu's headings below followed by my counterarguments.

1. Not blogging on self-hosted blogs.

Puiu's argument is that freely hosted blogs such as with Blogger and WordPress limit the amount of customization and control you have, and when you do decide to get serious and switch to a self-hosted blog, you lose all your subscribers.

He makes a good point here. A web host plan is fairly inexpensive and provides you with a ton of extra options for your blog. However, if I'm not mistaken, Lorelle's blog is a blog. And so are many other popular blogs. Content is king. While it's fun to customize and style your blog, the focus of my blog is to communicate, to write, to evaluate and analyze. I think I spend too much time playing with the technology and not enough time crafting thoughtful posts.

You can buy your own domain for $10 and point it to your or domain. You can also route your feed through FeedBurner without having your own web host. Then when you switch to a real hosting plan (but keep your domain), you won't lose the subscribers to your feed.

2. Not blogging out of passion, but out of lust for money.

Puiu says to blog about what you're truly passionate about and not sell your soul for adsense money by writing posts that target keywords such as mesothelioma. While I agree that you have to be passionate about your topic, if you can make sufficient money blogging about mesothelioma, then by all means do it. It beats working a second job. Actually, if you can make good money blogging at all, wow. All the blogging jobs I've seen have offered meager pay. Still, there's nothing wrong with writing about dry topics for pay. In fact, many technical writers do it every day.

3. Design cluttering.

Puiu says to de-clutter your site from all the unnecessary sidebar content, spammy banners, and unaesthetic colors. I agree with much of what he says here. Cruise around the WordPress theme sites looking for attractive themes -- there's a 10:1 ratio of "eye-hurting themes" (as Puiu says) to pleasing ones.

However, I do value blogs that make it easy to find content -- with top 10 lists, indexes, related posts, classic post lists, and other useful features (which might be considered clutter). And even if the theme is ugly, I mostly read content through my feedreader, which strips out formatting. Content is separate from design.

4. Commenting issues.

Puiu says to allow comments, respond to comments, and comment on others posts. Turning off comments or requiring registration takes away from the basic interactive foundation of blogging. Yes of course commenting should be open and encouraged. But the more popular your blog gets, the harder it is to keep up with comments. Soon you'll be spending as much time responding to comments as you spend writing new posts.

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As far as commenting on other blogs, if you link to their blogs, the Kramer plugin does wonders in automating trackbacks. Linking to posts is a great way of commenting without physically commenting below their posts.

5. Stats show off.

Puiu isn't keen on showing-off stats, but if you look in my upper-right corner, you'll see a chiclet showing 600+ readers to my blog. Although I can see how having a low number might turn readers off, if you're proud of your readership, by all means show the chiclet. Not only does it clue readers in as to whether you're blog is worth reading (the chiclet provides a bandwagon rhetorical appeal), it also makes you more aware of your readers.

I find that my readers fluctuate in cycles -- after some posts, I lose 50 readers, and then regain them after a day or two. Overall the reader chiclet makes me think more frequently about who is reading my blog. And when I land on blogs that have 1,000+ readers (or 1500K, like Tech Crunch), I know the blog must be worth reading.

6. Bad content and text formating.

Puiu says to keep the posts grammatically correct, well-formatted, spell-checked, chunked with section headings, etc. He also despises people who steal others' content. Of course you shouldn't just steal others' content (although I have a Shared Items from Google Reader page). But writers can overemphasize grammar. They can agonize over the perfection of each sentence. On a global scale, however, the requirement for highly literate prose is declining. People care more about relevant business content, technical accuracy, and thoughtful analysis. If you mistake "brake" for "break" or write "to" instead of "too," readers will forgive you.

7. Early monetization.

Puiu says not to try monetizing your site before you accumulate enough readers to make the ads worthwhile. Sure, wait until you have a bunch of subscribers before you start enticing them to click ads. However, my experience with Google's ads convinced me that ads on a blog are a waste of time. Unless you have a product-based focus to your blog, the readers may not be interested in clicking ads.

On the other hand, text-link ads can be a lot more worthwhile. Last month I received more than $1300 to place about 20 text-link ads on back posts.

Overall Puiu's advice is good. I just wanted to explore other perspectives on these ideas. A while ago I wrote a post titled 20 Usability Tips for Your Blog that contains many of the points Puiu encourages.

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