How to be a successful blogger? Be discreet, avoid silly actions.

In the second post in this 2-part series on mistakes that come in the way of success in blogging, let us discuss indiscreet acts that can put the blogger into legal difficulties, embarass him, or make him/ his blog unsafe.

1. Copying content and pasting it into one's blog

Most new bloggers think that copying others' content does not matter. But many bloggers have  faced legal action for indiscreetly using others' content.

Don't copy others’ content, be it text or images or videos. In case you must use others' content, ask permission. 

On social networks, you are more likely to get away with copy-pasting from other places in the web, but blog is a more permanent space and you must be much more careful. 

Very old creations, content on 'public domain', CC0 copyright certification and 'fair use' (when a small block of text is used for the purpose of quoting, etc) are some situations in which you can copy-paste content into your blog. 

Please also remember that attributing the copied content to the source is not enough. That is no legal defence but only a courtesy you showed to the creator of that content.

[If you are interested in further details about the legal position on copy-pasting others' content into your blog, you can refer to The Manual of Blogging.]

2. Using untested themes, widgets, plugins and code 

There are hundreds of free (and paid) themes, plugins, widgets and codes available on the web -  but not all of them are safe. The harm they can do ranges from diverting traffic to stealing data and involving you secretly in malicious/ criminal activities. 

Therefore, before you put any code into your blog, be sure of its genuineness. For example, if you have a Wordpress blog, apply Wordpress verified plugins; if you have a Blogger blog, use only its own themes or use others' themes after thoroughly checking their code.

3. Sharing personal information about others

Unless it serves a special purpose and the information given by you will not in any way harm the person’s reputation or privacy, desist from giving information about a person’s family life, kids, schooling, hobbies etc. If the person is known to you, seek his/ her permission beforehand.

4. Recommending products without testing them

You may review  products on the blog, but ethics demands that you declare whether you have any obligation to the company. You should, for the sake of your credibility, if nothing else, not recommend a service [e.g. a course] or product unless you have tested it. Desist from recommending medicines or diets or treatments unless you are qualified to do so. If you are greatly satisfied/ dissatisfied with something [e.g. service of an airline], do share your experience but in most cases it is better to not make too strong value judgements.

5. Getting personal or indecent when criticising others

You may have strong views about an idea being propagated by a person or the person himself, but do not make personal comments or criticise him / her on your blog or any other social media account. 

Feelings are very important in any form of communication, including the digital one. Be careful about sensitivities of different religions, racial groups, ‘weaker sections of the society’, and regions. Do not use expletives and racial expressions though these might look witty. Avoid four-letter words.  

6. Bragging excessively

Promotion is fine, but not when it is excessive. A bit of self-aggrandisement is OK, but not too much. 

Don’t assume a fake identity with fake achievements and expertise. Don’t put an artificially bloated stat-counter on the blog. These might not be illegal, but fakes do not shine for long: there is high probability that your fake persona will be exposed one day soon and then you will lose all your reputation.  

When you are a new blogger and you indulge in excessive self praise or fake experise, you will expose yourself. If you are an established blogger, your blogging success will come from genuine expertise, not faking. 

7. Blogging outside legal/ safe zone

Blogging by children below 13 years is illegal in most countries. 

Blogging (or any other form of media/ social media communication) on certain topics is prohibited by governments due to security reasons. In some countries, too personal criticism is taken as libel, and sharp criticism of the state religion is seen as spread of hatred. In most places, religious and national icons are required to be shown due respect, and their inappropriate depiction is a criminal offence. So, be careful.

Most nations have enacted laws relating to information technology. However, their implementation is usually very faulty, and authorities are known to misuse them - many times in their zeal or ignorance. That is another reason why one should be careful when being unreasonably critical <and without proof> about a person, organization or rulers. One should also avoid intemperate language that is prone to misinterpretation. 

Many bloggers have faced persecution and some have lost their lives taking on criminals through their blogs or other social media accounts. Be conscious of dangers and take adequate precautions if you venture into this area.

Just to recap, I am leaving you with this small infographic: 

blogging: success without silly mistakes
Click here for the first part of the series, For success in blogging, first correct mistakes

Blogging news: Tumblr bought over by Wordpress

Tumblr, the blogging platform most popular among young adults and teens, has been sold by its parent company Verizone to Automattic, the company that owns blogging giant Wordpress.

It is reported that the sale has been for a much smaller amount (not more than $10 million) than a blogging platform with 475 million blogs should command. Tumblr had earlier been purchased by Yahoo! (in 2013) for over a billion dollars.

Watchers of the blogging scene had a premonition about Tumblr falling by the wayside after it purged the platform of porn. Porn and other forms of explicit content had been the strong point of Tumblr and that was the main reason for its popularity among the young population. In fact, I had written a piece, Parents, feel relieved that Tumblr is banning explicit material on its blogs, about a year back.

tumblr bought by wordpress

It will be interesting to see how Wordpress handles Tumblr. It is expected that the front-end of Tumblr would remain the same at least in the near future. Both are massive blogging platforms with their own ecosystem and fans. Synergy in operations and some sort of integration might result in new possibilities in terms of inter-operability of technologies and also user experience.

Passing away of an avid blogger

Arun Jaitley, India's ex-Finance Minister and a well-respected political leader, passed away today. 

Besides being an orator, a parliamentarian, a lawyer and an administrator, he was a blogger - and his posts used to be full of pithy analysis on topical economic and political matters.
arun jaitley
Arun Jaitley's blog
Jaitley was seriously ill for many months and due to this he declined to take up a ministerial berth in PM Modi's cabinet when the party came to power second time in a row in May. Yet, he kept on expressing himself on his blog - mostly on the big decisions taken by the government. Like other politicians of today, Jaitley was also active on Twitter, but the blog, which later became a full-fledged personal website with many sections, always remained his primary platform for reaching out to his audience.

Just two days before his health took a serious turn and he was admitted to hospital, i.e. 8th August, he wrote a piece titled 'PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah Achieve the Impossible' explaining how they managed to get a record number of bills passed in the latest sesssion of Parliament despite all odds.

A big loss to the Indian politics, also to the Indian blogosphere.

For success in blogging, first correct mistakes

You might have read many tips for success in blogging. But they do not work the way they should, because bloggers make mistakes that they can easily avoid. 

Not only new, even established bloggers often ignore the blogging craft. In the present post, I share common blogging mistakes, and also tell how you can avoid them.

In the next post, I will give a list of blogging mistakes that have ethical and legal overtones. 

You have started a blog but...

Let me assume that you are one of the two types of bloggers: either you have already started a blog or you are new to blogging and are thinking of creating a blog now. 

You might have some (or no) knowledge of blogging. Chances are that some of your friends might have blogs, and one or two of them often boast about the money they have made out of the blog. You might have seen that a friend's blog is quoted by others for its good articles or photos. 

You know the subject (at least that is what you think) and you can write some articles on the blog's subject, which people will like to read. Or, you might have thought of starting blogging without much expertise, to earn some pocket money.

Perhaps you have also applied the SEO tricks that you read on the web and even paid a few dollars for promoting the blog.

Whichever type of blogger you are, you are prone to making mistakes on the blog, which look small but impact the blog in a big way. These mistakes make your blog unreadable/ dull and boring. And your blog does not receive much traffic.

Without going into the thory of why some things work and others do not work well on a new (even established) blog, let me take you straight to what you should NOT do on the blog. If you take care of such mistakes, the chances of your success in blogging improve in a big way.

1. Improper blog title

Look at your blog's title carefully. If it does not relate to the subject of the blog or is too abstract or witty to make good sense, you must change it. Luckily, you can change the blog title any number of times as it is not related to the domain name (or URL or web address) of the blog.

Let's see some examples of poor titles:

  • Mayank's Blog (no relation with topic; this title can be OK if Mayank wants to profile himself on the blog and he does not write on specific topics)
  • Yoga for everybody (too broad, commonplace)
  • Mystery that I am (abstract)
  • Homepage (no title given)
  • Start a blog effectively (action oriented, but not clear about what specifically lies in the post)
  • Reducing belly fat (passive)
  • Recipes from the far east (passive heading; also not defining the geographical region clearly)
2. Poor post headings

This is similar to having a poor blog title. If you are one who does not bother about the headings of your posts, change that habit. If your posts have headings that do not prompt readers about what the post talks about and they are not sharp enough, you need to revise them.

Passive, too descriptive, confusing post headings are not liked by readers; they also are not easily indexed by search engines. 

It would help to look at the headings of your old posts and make them direct, action filled, even provocative. A heading that tells the reader that answer to his problem lies in the post. Modern search engines also love good titles that directly answer search queries.

CoSchedule headline analyzer is an excellent free tool for improving headlines.

3. Poor display and Clutter

If you believe that writing is good enough for a blog, think again. Your blog is like a newspaper or magazine, and if you do not spruce it with visual elements, it will look too boring. 

Put photographs or other types of images, even videos, to support the written part. When putting images or videos, make sure you have the right to use them.

Many things matter in deciding the appeal of a website (including blog), and nothing destroys the appeal more than clutter - too many elements scattered aimlessly. Too many widgets. Too many columns. Too many photos and video thumbnails. Too many different blocks of texts.

I have seen many blogs in which there is weird coloring of text or background. This looks childish - and should be used only on kid blogs or blogs on creative/ performing arts, not on other type of blogs.

Keep your blog neat and clean, the way a good homemaker keeps his/ her house. A bad web design (and a good website design that is spoiled by too many elements), both make the blog unprofessional and clumsy. 

4. Poor readability

We are still on design, not on the quality of writing (the next point). 

Some actions by bloggers that reduce readability are: 

  • reverse text colour display [white text on black background]
  • poor contrast between the background and the text: light text on light background or dark text on dark background
  • background image with varying contrast
  • too fast or too slow scrolling text
  • animated text
  • animations over text
  • too narrow reading column
  • unconventional experiments with font and text display
  • prose written with central or right alignment
Do not let your blog's great content suffer just because you have made it such that it irritates the reader. 

Also make posts as big or small as would suit your blog's personality. If you can write only short posts, you should better be writing on Facebook or Twitter. If you write too long posts, don't forget to make sections with distinct sub-headings and to put images so as to break monotony and improve understanding. 

5. Poor writing skills

When you don't care for language and proof, your reputation as a blogger goes down. People might forgive sloppy writing and errors on a personal blog, but not on a professional blog.

Some of the common problems with writing are:

  • ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude towards language. This happens because of attitude and sometimes to hide language illiteracy.
  • random experimentation with language
  • grammatical mistakes
  • proofing mistakes (wrong spellings, improper use of punctuation marks, wrong capitalization, etc)
  • language not easy and flowing for the web: long-winded, sentences; long paragraphs; no text variation and highlighting, especially when a large number of things are discussed; very long posts [and refusing to break them into two]; using obscure expressions and quotes; linguistic show-off
6. Irregular posting

You create an outstanding blog with a great design, highly relevant domain name, great content and what not. You write a few great articles too. But after that you take a long break, thinking that visitors and money will keep flowing in.

Don't do that if you want visitors to come to you regularly and look for updates. Without visitors coming to it, the blog would die. Don't let that happen.

7. Not doing any promotion, especially offline

To think that the quality of your writings will propel the blog does not pay on the web, unless you already are a celebrity, a popular influencer or a recognized expert.

Your blog is like a small shop in the crowded market. Unless you tell people about what you sell, people will not know about the shop or its merchandise. They will pass by it without pausing and making a purchase even if your product is best in the class. You need to put a good sign board, maybe a signage at the turning, perhaps also an advt in the local paper and a pamphlet inside newspapers.

If you do not engage with fellow bloggers, flaunt the blog on social media, submit the blog to directories, send emails to your friends and make the blog posts friendly to search engines, very few people will visit the blog. 

You must promote your blog even if you do not want to make money out of it. Since blogs are a more serious way of expressing oneself than Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp, the blog will wither away if you do not promote it on your social networks and also through email etc. 

8. Too much money-seeking, too early

I have also seen some less bloggers putting many advertisements on the blog without letting the blog to mature and establish itself.

A big number of people, especially young adults with engineering/ IT background, are drawn to blogging and website-making just for earning quick bucks. Their blogs are stuffed with keywords and they apply SEO tricks to earn money by fooling users and search engines.

Too much money mindedness can derail you from your path to being a successful blogger. If you are not passionate about a subject but want to blog because it will get you BIG money and QUICKLY, you better look at other avenues of money making. 

9. Dividing time un-intelligently

If you spend disproportionately big time on one aspect of blogging, you are likely to ignore other important aspects. The result will be that the ignored area will act as a bottleneck in the growth of the blog.

If you give too much time to many areas but you do not have the capacity to keep doing so, it may lead to burnout. I have seen many bloggers concentrating on writing only OR doing SEO all the time while writing poor content OR socializing too much but not writing enough. Many bloggers give up when they find that they cannot cope up with the work.

It is not that too much work is involved in blogging but bloggers get exhausted when they do not use time intelligently. So, divide time between writing, optimizing & making the blog appealing, promotion and monetization.

blogging success tips: avoid mistakes

Let me end this post by repeating what I said at the beginning: for success in blogging, it is equally important that you avoid mistakes. I will talk about more mistakes that bloggers make, in the next post. Till then, good bye!