20 Cringe-Worthy Business Blogging Mistakes

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Last week, I did a little mental housecleaning with a mega list on Blogging Ideas.  Well I’m still cleaning.

This week I’m sorting through some of my business blogging pet peeves.  From my experience, this list details all of the blog booby traps that businesses face.  If you run a business blog, read this list to avoid things like:

  • Trying to sound smart instead of being smart (This one really gets under my skin)
  • Believing that using anonymous authors or catch-all labels like “The XYX team”  is a good idea
  • Allowing your agency to create your editorial calendar and other outsourcing no-no’
  • The one tactic that works like “my momma’s fried chicken on a Sunday afternoon”
  • The boneheaded mistake that will turn your blog into a ghost town.

…And about 15 other choice nuggets of wisdom for my corporate cousins.  Here we go…

  1. Writing for the wrong audience
    Your executive management team isn’t your audience.  The mythical perfect prospect isn’t your reader either.  Your blog should target people who look and act like your current customers.  Many business blogs are stuck in neutral because someone wants to write articles that “look smart” rather than meeting the needs of real readers.
  2. Cut and Paste Content
    Resist the urge to “repurpose” press releases and marketing literature for your blog. Passing this information off as useful, relevant, and timely content will permanently lose readers.  Always write content that is customized for your blog audience.
  3. Cookie-Cutter Branding
    Blogs are supposed to show the personable, conversational, and open side of your brand.  Readers are looking for personality and life when they visit.  Don’t disappoint them with boring website graphic hand-me-downs. Use a custom design that shows the people behind the logos.
  4. Sporadic Posting
    Skittish and unpredictable publishing is the sucking chest wound of business blogging.  Nothing says “I don’t care” like leaving your blog dormant for weeks at a time.  Set a publishing frequency (i.e. once a week) and stick to it no matter what.  Tie incentives to publishing quality content on time.
  5. “Me, Me, Me” Content
    Disguising product pitches as blog posts won’t work.  Your readers have evolved state-of-the-art advertising radars.  They can sniff out ham-handed attempts at stealth marketing like a pig sniffing for truffles.  Help, celebrate, and share interesting information.  Sales will come once you’ve built trust.
  6. Outsourcing Your Editorial Calendar
    In my experience, 80% of blogging missteps are traced back to bad editorial calendars.  Who is writing your editorial calendar?  Is it your agency?  If so you are making a potentially expensive mistake.Your editorial calendar is the command-center for your blog.  Your calendar reflects your priorities and sets the editorial tone for the year.  Developing an effective editorial calendar should be the FIRST skill your organization masters.
  7. Writing too little
    I’m not a fan of “epic”, 1,000+ word, posts.  I don’t think they get read.  Tiny posts (200 words or less) are equally pointless.  Blog readers want the complete story delivered efficiently.  It’s hard to be “complete” when you only use 175 words. If your writing resources are stretched for time then write “Blog Shorts” that are quick, focused, and easy to write.
  8. Writing about the wrong topic
    Crawl inside your reader’s head and be brutally honest about what they want.  Remember that your content is competing with facebook updates, boingboing, YouTube, and other other “bored at work” content.  Don’t get bullied into writing about the 35 types of machine lubricant when you know that no one will read it.
  9. Turning off Comments
    Imagine if you came to my office and I said, “I’ll do the talking.  I’m not interested in what you have to say.”  Wouldn’t work right?  This is the exact message you are sending when you turn off comments.
  10. Not Answering Comments
    Answer every comment that requires a response, this includes: questions, different points of view, and thoughtful responses from readers.
  11. Not Tracking Performance
    What’s the point of investing time and money in your blog and not tracking its performance?  Trick question –   there is no point.  On day one your blog should be equipped with tracking tags from your favorite web analytics software.  Decide which goals are most important and what metrics are the best indicator of performance – before you write a single post.
  12. Writing with a Pole Up Your Butt
    Unfortunately I’ve known to many marketing types who believe that making something sound complicated is a smart strategy.  No.  It’s dumb.  Clear and concise communication is smart.  Trust me.
    (Seriously, I was once criticized for making something sound too simple).
  13. Ignoring photos, videos, and illustrations
    Accenting your text with well-chosen photos, video, and illustrations will heighten interest in your blog post.  Select graphics that feel authentic to your readers.  Stock photography is “corporate safe” but also “corporate boring”.  Use tools like PhotoPin to find graphics that are fresh and free to use.
  14. Overlooking SEO
    The search engines matter.  Brian Clark tweeted that Content + Social + Search = Content Marketing.  He’s right.  Use a solid search engine keyword tool and see what words your audience is using to research your product.  Create helpful content around those keywords.  This works like my momma’s fried chicken on a summer sunday.
  15. Publishing too much
    Publish as much quality content as you can.  The key word is quality.  For 99% of businesses this means publishing 1-2 posts a week.  This isn’t too much for your readers and won’t strain your internal resources.  Publishing 10x a day  makes sense if you are a media company (like Mashable), or a War of Warcraft addict.
  16. Separating Your Blog From Your Website
    There are some excellent search engine optimization reasons for having your blog and website share the same domain.  I love SEO but I don’t want to bore you to tears so read this excellent article from Nick Stamoulis.  The short version is put your blog and website on the same domain.  Tuck your blog into a folder to get maximum search engine love.
  17. Not promoting your posts
    Let everyone know when you have a new post.  Waiting for customers and prospects to find your posts will turn your blog into a ghost town.  Promote your blog on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and send an email to your customers.  Great content shines when everyone can see it.
  18. Generic Authors
    Associate your blog posts with real people.  If Pam wrote it, give Pam credit for writing it.  Don’t outthink yourself by attributing it to the “XYZ Team”.  I understand why some businesses would prefer not giving credit to individual authors.They wonder if they are creating a ego-driven monster that will outshine their brand.  If this is the case then you’ve got a bigger problem that won’t be solved by your blog.  Others wonder what to do when a prolific author leaves the company.  In that case, attribute the articles to someone who will take over comment responses.
  19. Depending on Feedburner for Email
    Feedburner provided an easy way to contact RSS subscribers via email when a new post was published.  The problem is that Feedburner is a low-end, basic tool with very little flexibility.  Instead, use Aweber, Mailchimp to handle sending your new blog post by email.  With these services you can add your business branding to the emails and get good tracking information.
  20. Blogging without a framework
    Telling someone to write a blog post without clear guidance on structure is cruel and unusual punishment.  A quick scan of corporate blogs proves that many writers are being thrown assignments without any advice on best practices.  You can immediately increase blog post quality by laying out a simple step-by-step template for writing a good blog post.  (Here’s an example).

About Stan

Stan Smith is the Managing Director of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

29 thoughts on “20 Cringe-Worthy Business Blogging Mistakes

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  2. AnonBLogger

    What a great post. I know I’ve done a few of these. I’d love to see the example mentioned in the last sentence; could you please post a link to it? Thank you.

  3. Marilyn Arriaga

    I’m not corporAte but a couple of these things I have done. Like the sporadic posting. I used to have scheduled posts for up to 2 months ahead. But I’ve since learned that I need to have at least 6 months worth of posts written and scheduled out. At least a post a day to a post every other day.

    My reason is because I get quite I’ll. When I do it lasts a couple of months, then there’s recovery and te catching up! So this is something I need to work on. And I have started to.

    Great info and posts like this is great feedback for me to go by, even though you have never been to either of my blogs, it is still great info as feedback ad to what not to do.

  4. Spitter2

    Blogging is an art form these day, you have to have the balance between great content and enough keywords for the search engines to rank you. Infact that`s how I found this blog, I Googled “blogging for business” so I can tell you have cracked it.

    Myself Im still learning and reading articles like your is great. Thanks for the guide :)


  5. Mitch Mitchell

    Great stuff Stanford. I agree with all of them except #19. The only reason I disagree with that one is because I’m not trying to collect email addresses, so if someone decides they want my feed by email instead of just connecting with the feed, they can use Feedburner and I’m a happy guy. Maybe one of these days when I feel I can find a legitimate reason to collect email addresses I’ll consider another way. But Feedburner has its own set of statistics that are good enough for me for now.

  6. Alys Milner

    Stanford, thank you for this informative blog. I’ve only been following for two weeks, per the recommendation of MaAnna at BlogAid and I’ve already learned a lot.

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  8. Melanie

    Hi Stanford!

    Thank you for writing this refreshing article. You didn’t sugar-coat anything, and I think this is what a lot of business bloggers need in order to get through to them.

    I especially like your point about competing with Facebook updates, Youtube and other sites, as well as writing too much or too little content in a blog.

    Businesses need to wake up, grab the attention of their chosen audience and keep them interesting long enough for them to complete reading the entire article.

    I’ll be sharing this, thanks again!

  9. Rick Noel

    Nice piece Stanford. We have all made some of these blogging mistakes along the way. Turning off comments is a big one. No engagement is a sure fire way to kill your audience and is not really blogging in my opinion. I say that in full view of the fact that comment spam can be a really challenge for us bloggers to deal with. Also, SEO is key as is promoting blog posts though as many social channels as possible while trying to avoid the negative effects of over exposure that can result from social channel cross over. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Josh

    My biggest pet peeve is when businesses use their blogs for broadcasting and not engagement. I want to know about new products and services. I want to know about awards.

    But I don’t want it done in a fashion that makes it sound like you are standing on a soapbox. Give me a way to ask questions and the confidence to know that you will answer them.

    Companies that turn off comments make me wonder about their customer service and confidence in their products.

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  12. Stanford Post author

    Hey Linda
    I agree that patronising readers is a big problem. I think it happens when the business forgets that its customers aren’t a “target” but a partner in creating a successful business.

    Thanks for the comment :)

  13. Linda

    Good evening Stanford!

    The business blogging mistake I find difficult to discourage professionals from using is the ‘talking to another professional’ mode. Trying to get them to write as though they are speaking to a lay-person is difficult. If they ‘get’ that they shouldn’t write with too much jargon, there’s a tendency to ‘go overboard’ with over simplicity, to the point where they sound patronising. Striking the balance takes quite a while to achieve.

    Kind regards,

  14. Stanford Post author

    Oops, there’s a typo in there!
    It should read…
    “Telling someone to write a blog post WITHOUT clear guidance on structure is cruel and unusual punishment.””

    Sorry about that!

  15. Monica Miller Rodgers

    Stan, I do believe I have an eye-opening experience every time I visit your blog. Thanks for these great tips, but I don’t understand No. 20. “Telling someone to write a blog post with clear guidance on structure is cruel and unusual punishment.”

    I’m working on my own blog posts now, but if I were writing for someone else, I would want to know what they expect for their readers. Can you please explain further?

  16. Keith

    I had never heard of PhotoPin until I read this. Can’t wait to start decorating my posts with the images they have! Thanks!

  17. Barbara Ormsby

    Hi Stanford,
    thank you for this interesting post.
    “Trying to sound smart instead of being smart” is something to avoid. But could you give a concrete example, please? It always appears to be obvious, but nevertheless it’s quite tough to follow in practise, isn’t it?
    Kind regards

  18. Trent Dyrsmid

    This is what I love about reading other blogs from respected bloggers like you Stanford. I get to learn a lot and I’m sure a lot of your readers do too. Thanks.

  19. Stanford Post author

    I’m in violent agreement with you. You mentioned the scenario that I hate – handing the keys of your editorial calendar over to your agency.

    Creating an editorial calendar is a collaborative process where the agency is a partner. You’ve outlined nicely how that process could work.

  20. Laura Click

    Hey Stan – Fantastic tips here. But, as much as I love you, I disagree on number 6. I think you absolutely CAN get an agency or consultant to help you with your editorial calendar. You’re right that handing them the keys and walking away isn’t a good idea. But, bringing in a company or consultant who can guide your efforts on blogging is good idea.

    In fact, I’m working with a client right now to build their editorial calendar. I’m leading the effort and providing the framework. We’re having weekly calls where I can ask them questions and help them come up with ideas. Yes, eventually, they’ll be able to do this on their own. But, they needed the guidance and leadership to get started and help them think about how this effort ties into their larger goals. If a company doesn’t have that expertise internally, then it makes total sense to hire someone who can give you the framework and guidance to put it in place.

  21. Stanford Post author

    Good Stuff!
    My problem with “Tiny posts” is that they are often done poorly. If a corporate halls are filled with Ernest Hemingway quality writers than they should ignore me. However, many times, short posts are written because the poor 25 year-old intern is told to write something (anything) to check off the blog post “to do”. These posts suck. I love concise posts. I even wrote about how to do them well a week ago.

    As for #9, I disagree. If you want to carry-on a monologue then add a page to your website and stick a “Contact Us” link at the end. Blogs are effective when they are open for reader feedback

    You rock. Thanks for keeping me on my toes

  22. Noëlle Anthony

    Stanford, I agree with most of what you’ve said here – but I take issue with items 7 and 9.

    7 is simple: some writers are more terse than others. There’s no reason to privilege length over brevity if a) the goal is to communicate information and b) brevity communicates the same information. In that situation, length often only adds padding that distracts (and often detracts) from the information presented.

    Hemingway presented the classic example of the shortest story ever told, a shocking tragedy in six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” There is no text that could be added to that to improve it, and if a blog post is similarly terse and effective, adding length for the sake of not having a short blog post does no favors to the writer, the audience, or the content.

    Item 9 I disagree with because I think the metaphor is ill-chosen. It’s tempting to pretend when you write a blog post that you’re writing for a singular reader – the person into whose office you feel like you’re stepping – but the truth of the matter, when we’re honest, is that you’re writing for an audience, and one that isn’t homogeneous. You aren’t stepping into someone’s office and talking at them (for one thing, that’s classic interruption marketing); you’re giving a lecture. And while it’s uncommon, it’s not at all unheard of for a lecturer to not answer questions or comments afterward, especially if there’s another venue for sending those comments and questions privately. Further, there does not arise either in a lecturer or in a blogger an inherent obligation or requirement to address comments and questions in public, especially in an environment like the internet where any comment or question is as likely to be vituperative as to be complimentary.

    In brief, so long is there is a method for contacting the author, a lack of comments doesn’t say “I’m not interested in what you have to say”; it says “I don’t feel obliged to offer a public forum for critics, and invite you to contact me privately.” (That said, turning off comments and inviting, say, email or Twitter contact makes #10 all the more important; personal contact deserves a personal response.)

  23. Stanford Post author

    Hi Christelle! I’ve actually had the “pleasure” of developing and deploying quite a few social intranets. While SEO isn’t critical because you have a built in audience, at least 18 of the other pitfalls apply. :)
    I think the major roadblock I’ve found is that intranet administrators believe that people change once they walk into the office. They believe that “all of a sudden” these people prefer to read dry commentary about corporate performance and events. I believe that more intranets would succeed if they adopted the methods used by consumer-facing blogs. For example, eye-catching headlines, storytelling, bold visuals, and promotion of new posts via email and internal postings would work well.

  24. Christelle

    There are some good ideas in this list and some that I wish I could implement, but my situation is a little bit unusual. I work in a large corporation and our clients are part of the group, so our blog is on our intranet. It’s a really interesting challenge because I never worked on a Social Intranet before, but it means you can’t apply all the SEO, Social Media techniques that bloggers usually read.
    The blog has been up for 3 months I think and we get 3 visits a day, quite depressing.. So I’m trying to push colleagues to “like” the posts to increase visibility, but people don’t see the value in social media at work yet.
    Not sure if you ever had a chance to work on a social intranet, but it is something quite different.

  25. Crystal Wiebe

    You inspire me every day! My business blog team struggles with the me-me-me focus, but as time goes on, we’re learning more about what our readers want and pushing toward more storytelling and authenticity. Thanks for the tips!

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