Copywriting

10 stupid blogging mistakes I've made

boobie says 'what'
boobie-says-what

Honestly, I have no idea

During my mediocre bike racing career, a lot of my teammates raced wearing two pairs of shorts. I didn’t. Then I crashed, ripped out the entire right cheek of my lycra tuchus-cover, and had to finish the race with a gentle breeze wafting across my abraded buttock. From then on, I wore two pairs of shorts.

Humiliation is a fine, fine teacher.

In that spirit, here are ten utterly stupid things I’ve done as a blogger. You don’t have to admit you’ve done it. Read. Laugh at me. Then go fix the problem while no one’s looking.

1. Accidental flaming.

On the internet, no one can see your facial expression. Be careful if you’re using dry humor, sarcasm, or anything else that might be misconstrued as you being a butthead.

Example: I wrote a post meant to gently poke fun at the idea of the ‘free’ economy. I didn’t have anyone else read it first.

Result: I came off as a shrill, clueless pile of lint. And probably guaranteed that Wired Magazine will never, ever publish anything I submit to them. Ever.

The fix: Have someone else read your post! Or, leave the post unpublished for a couple of hours, then come back and read it later.

2. Click send as you leave the office

It’s always tempting to publish a post as you leave work. Then you can read the Twitter love notes as you drive home. Unless, of course, you did something really boneheaded. Then you get to do damage control when you get home.

Example: I published then hopped on my bike to ride home. Alas, I’d missed a closing ‘h2’ tag.

Result: 75% of the post used boldface, 22 point type. Hooo boy.

The fix: Preview your post! If you’re out of time, publish it tomorrow, or after you get home.

3. Being a snot

It’s fun to pick on those more famous than you, right? You catch a keynote speaker using the wrong word and run to your blog, where you post “NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH JOHN SMITH IS A POOPIE HEAD”. It feels oh-so-clever. It makes you look like a tool.

Example: I thought I’d caught Danny Sullivan mis-using ‘vertical integration’. I’m a History major, after all. I should know. I was wrong.

Result: 2 hours of conference goers patiently explaining what ‘vertical integration’ means. Intense flop sweat. Desire to crawl under a rock.

The fix: Just don’t. Even if you know you’re right. Send a polite note to the speaker, at most. Or ask them if you have it wrong, in person.

4. Stealing by accident

You install a nifty script that guarantees thousands! of! links! overnight! with! great! content!!!!!! It sounds too good to be true because it is. Those scripts always scrape, always steal, and always get you in trouble.

Example: Actually, I’ve never done this. I wasn’t born yesterday. Or even the day before yesterday.

Result: Humiliations galore.

The fix: Don’t buy the magic beans. They aren’t really magic.

5. Go off half-cocked

You read the first paragraph of a post and are so incensed you MUST GO ANSWER THIS IDIOT’S STUPIDITY RIGHT NOW BEFORE THE ENTIRE INTERNET IS DESTROYED BY HER DUMBNESS. If you read the rest of the post, of course, you’d have seen that the first paragraph was ironic. Oops.

Example: Too many to count.

Result: I improve my ability to swallow my entire foot.

The fix: Always read an entire post, twice, before you decide to rip the author to bits.

6. Going hi-def

Just this one time, you decide to let WordPress resize that 2400×4500-pixel image for you. Ever helpful, WordPress uploads small, medium and full-sized versions and lets visitors download them all. Your site grinds to a halt.

Example: I used a few images from iStockPhoto, without resizing them.

Result: My CIO keys my car, turns off my e-mail and starts leaving sticky notes around my office that read “WE WILL REMEMBER”.

The fix: Don’t be lazy. Resize and compress images before you upload them.

7. The secret post

It’s 2 AM. You’ve worked your fingers to the bone, finishing your Best Post Ever. Google will immediately rank your work of art number 1 for ‘wheels’, you figure, because it’s so brilliant! Alas, no.

Example: I wrote my first Internet Marketing List, published it, then left it alone.

Result: A deafening silence. Depression. Bitterness.

The fix: Easy! Tweet it. Post it to Facebook. Stumble it. E-mail it to some friends. It only takes one good Like to start a lovefest.

8. The commenting smackdown

Some twit posts an inflammatory comment. You respond with elderberry-related insults. That’s five minutes you’ll never get back.

Example: Someone posted a particularly nasty comment regarding a YouMoz post I wrote. I posted a carefully worded response. Cough.

Result: Wasted time on my part. More fuel on the fire. A waste of perfectly good insults.

The fix: Delete the comment, or ignore it. Or, make fun of it. Nothing defuses a troll faster than humor.

9. Writing the post online

WordPress has a lovely text editor. You write all your posts right in the editor. Until the first time you accidentally hit CTRL-W and erase 3 hours’ hard work.

Example: I wrote a guest post for SearchNewsCentral. I (probably) closed my browser without clicking ‘save’.

Result: Poof. I crush another molar.

The fix: Write your post in a text editor, first. Then cut-and-paste it into your blogging software.

10. Going pedantic

You know more than anyone else. You write like a first-year college professor who’s angling for tenure. Your writing has more ‘insofar as’, ‘therefore’ and ‘clearly’ than a legal brief (I just insulted the writing skills of two professions at once. Amazing. Please don’t kill me.).

Example: My writing, from 2000-2005. Any time my kids ask me a question.

The result: Your audience tries to gouge out their own eyeballs so they don’t have to read your writing.

The fix: Write like you talk. Or record yourself ‘talking’ your blog post and then write it. Oh, and write every day.

It’s all about improving

I’ve replaced these 10 mistakes with 10 others. I just don’t notice them yet. The universal fix? Be a self-aware writer. Know when you’ve written something truly awful, but don’t take it personally. You’re writing. Learn, refine and go again.

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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Comments

  1. Ian –
    I always enjoy your writing, although this is the first post that had me nodding in self-realization.
    I’ve made every one of these mistakes. Still so much to learn. Thanks.

  2. I believe #10 is how my wife says I answer every question. Clearly, that can’t be true πŸ˜‰ I may have made the rest of the mistakes both on- and offline at some point though.

  3. This is FANtastic. I always appreciate an honest, humorous look at one’s own mistakes. It makes for a good read.
    I think we’ve all been there with a lot of this stuff. The big one for me is the unclosed HTML tag. I’ve also done it with bold or a link. The link is pretty sweet since it then links your entire article. You should try that sometime.
    The nice thing is that when you make the mistake once, you shouldn’t make it again (at least for a while).

  4. Been there, done all of those. Very nice summary of my blogging errors actually. Add “tinker with the theme until you break it” and you’d be perfect.

  5. Blogging is an education in itself, and I can’t say that I haven’t made a number of these mistakes myself.
    Some other things I’ve learned in over a decade of blogging:
    Fact Check, Fact Check, and then Fact Check again.
    Look for second sources if there are any. And then look again. Don’t be afraid to include links to contrasting opinions, especially if its likely that someone will point to them in your comments anyway.
    Did I mention, Fact checking?

  6. I’ve always enjoyed your snark, Ian, but I never realized how much you actually care if people react poorly to it or not. Most times, I agree with your sarcasm and admire your gall. But I do wonder occasionally if you’ve had regrets. Now I know.
    The candid nature of your post really hit home with me. Thanks for bearing your soul.

    1. I’m not all sarcasm and nasty, I swear. In all seriousness, I try to direct my snark to non-persons – the ‘they’ who do silly things, or corporations, or organizations. I never ever get personal. Except a few times when I screwed up, and I do regret those.

  7. Correct me if i am wrong it’s about your 9th point. As far as i know wordpress will save whatever you have written in text editor as a draft, even if you had accidently closed your browser. I just did that purposely to check and my two line article was there as a draft when I logged in again. This might have happened with you in a previous version of wordpress. By the way, Nice Article Ian

    1. You’re correct, but there’s ALWAYS a way to screw it up. For example, you might type in a particularly great bit of prose, and then crash your browser before it gets saved.

  8. And so my day starts off with envying you, Ian – everything from having the guts (or did you hit your head too?) to finish the race with an abraded and bare buttock to your incredible sense of humor that had me glued to the post.
    Off I go back to my blog – to sulk and to figure out how I can write more like you…

  9. Well, whatever mistakes on your list I haven’t made yet are less likely to be made now, except for the reactive ones like #5 and #8. Sometimes I just can’t stop myself because I’m so smart and funny and always right. Not. But I do love snark.
    Thanks for this post.

  10. I’ve been writing on my blog for more than a month now and I thought most points mentioned in the post might will be a good warning for me. I can relate to many mentioned here!
    β€˜Click send as you leave the office!’ and now this is something what i learn the hard way…

  11. Hey Ian
    Flamed and regretted it – check
    Written for hours and lost it all – check
    Thought I was writing the most profound article ever in the history of words on a page and then cringed in embarrassment a month later – check
    Been trashed by trolls in the comments, got upset – check
    Shared way too much on a comment and wished I could delete – check
    Shelli : )

  12. I empathise with a lot of these issues. My only gripe is that “insofar” is probably one of the best words in the world. It’s three words in one! Who doesn’t love to see that??

  13. What about: think for 5 minutes before you write, and if you are angry, then wait 12 hours to post. I really messed myself a few times when I have commented on articles I have disagreed with, and therefore it has always made sense to write the answer down and wait x number of hours before I return, and records the answer.

  14. Always refreshing to see post from CEOs admitting they are human too ;).
    After reading this post I remembered the days when I used to handle domain and emails stuff. But I guess it is those mistakes that educate us which we can pass to our followers.
    BTW Ian if I write the way I talk jees, noone will be able to read it haha.

  15. This makes things really easy for me now, when you say: “Know when you’ve written something truly awful”
    That’ll be 90% of the time and always take it very personal including, erm … colourful adjectives inside my head soon after πŸ™‚

  16. …on the other hand…
    A blog written by a pedantic snot that constantly goes off half cocked could be entertaining to read. May I point readers to my blog… πŸ™‚

  17. This was funny stuff. I was feeling pretty smug about myself until I got to the last 3. Actually, I’ve gotten better at #8 but it’s a struggle, I still do #9 and always want to kick myself when those very few and rare instances occur where I lose everything (what does Ctrl-W do?), and I still do #10 but it’s not my fault I have a wonderful vocabulary which, unfortunately with age, sometimes has me trying to remember the easier word and thus I get stuck with a word like perspicacious having to stay around for awhile. lol

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