Several weeks ago, we published “Maintain a Rockin’ Blog for Your Startup” to the Founders Network blog (fnBlog), and reposted the article on the Intigi blog. After publishing and promoting the article, the fnBlog post made the front page of Hacker News and was spreading via social media, especially Twitter. By the end of the first day, the post had generated 3,385 unique visits. This traffic eclipsed the previous daily record on the fnBlog by a factor of 10!
From our perspective, it was a successful post. It created value for readers and in turn drove significant traffic to the fnBlog. Looking back, we think the following aspects of the post contributed to its success. The title was catchy, we included a nice image at the top, the introduction (with a reference to Mark Suster) was inviting and relevant, the post was well structured, we offered some unique advice, and lastly we shared a number of quality 3rd party links.
Despite our success, there were several key mistakes. In the spirit of sharing lessons learned, here are five mistakes that you should avoid when blogging:
1. Site performance: After our post made the Hacker News home page, the fnBlog crashed due to the influx of traffic. There were two reasons for this crash. First, the fnBlog didn’t have caching installed. Second, the site is on shared hosting with GoDaddy.
To avoid these two issues, you should use caching and host your blog with a more robust provider. If you’re using WordPress, we highly recommend the WP super cache plug-in. For hosting, there are many providers out there, but we are fans of Media Temple. It costs a bit more than other web hosting services, but for a high traffic website, it’s worth the premium price. For some additional tips on preparing your WordPress blog for a spike in traffic: High Traffic Tips For WordPress
2. Broken links: We drafted the post in Google Docs and then cut and paste the content into the WordPress wysiwyg editor. After publishing, we discovered that many of our links did not carry over properly.
Whether or not your are following our work flow with Google Docs, make sure to check that all your links are working properly before you post (we realize this is an obvious blunder!). Broken links, as well as other formatting and grammatical errors, will undermine the authority of your post. It will discourage readers from taking your work seriously, and your readers will be reluctant to share it with others. If you have a WordPress blog, here is a useful plug-in: Broken Link Checker WP plug-in
3. Calls to action: Although our post generated a significant amount of traffic, relatively speaking, the post didn’t generate any inquires or applications for the Founders Network. It’s possible that the post didn’t connect with the Founders Network target audience. But a more likely explanation is that readers had limited opportunities to comfortably engage further with the service. The fnBlog lacked any suitable “calls to action,” aside from an “apply” button and a subscription option to the Founders Network “weekly email digest.” After reading a blog post, it’s unlikely a reader is ready to apply for a high-touch service, like the Founders Network. In addition, there was likely some confusion about what’s included in the weekly email digest.
To capture some of the traffic that lands at your blog, you should offer several clear calls to action that allow visitors to engage comfortably with your company. Furthermore, you should instrument your calls to action so you can observe readers’ behavior and make improvements over time. For additional tips: 7 Tips for Great Calls to Action
4. Promotion via news aggregators: We promote our blog posts via social media and news aggregators. Some news aggregators, however, discourage you from promoting your own articles. Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way. A few days ago, one of us had his Newsvine account disabled because we promoted our own content and no other content.
The lesson here is if you’re plannig to post content on a news aggregator, make sure to first read the Terms of Service. You should also try to participate in the community beyond just promoting your own work by contributing thoughtful comments and submitting high-quality 3rd party content. For more insights on promoting your content: How to Promote your Blog Post with only $100
5. Follow up: For this blog post we were slow to engage with readers, both on the fnBlog and on social media. By failing to engage readers in a timely manner, we lost the opportunity to cultivate new relationships. Our slow response may have also dampened readers’ enthusiasm to promote our post. As an example of a lost opportunity, we could have engaged Jeanne Hopkins (the VP of Marketing at Hubspot) who retweeted our post to her 12k followers.
When readers comment on your blog or share your post via Twitter or other social media, you should engage readers in some way. You should answer questions, respond to thoughtful comments, whether positive or negative, and thank people for sharing your content with others. For more advice on managing your blog comments: 7 Tips to Increase Your Blog Comments
We hope you can learn from the above mistakes. We’d love to learn from your mistakes. Please share your experiences below in the comments.
For additional guidance on blogging, here are some best practices suggested by experts:
- 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic
- 12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time
- 4 Business Blogging Best Practices
- The 5 Keys to Blog Usability
- Top Tips for a Successful Blog
If you’re interested in staying current on the latest news about content marketing, please follow us on Twitter @intigi.
If you’re a tech founder, and want to learn about the latest tips for building a successful tech venture, please follow us on Twitter @foundersnetwork.
About Michael J. Fern
Michael is the CEO, cofounder of Intigi. Intigi is an online service that helps marketers find, curate, and share engaging content so they can build their company’s thought leadership and increase qualified website traffic. To learn more, please visit http://intigi.com.
About Thue Lægdsgaard Madsen
Thue is a Social Media Intern at Founders Network and a Graduate Student at Copenhagen Business School. Founders Network offers peer mentorship to tech startup founders. To learn more, please visit http://foundersnetwork.com.
A version of this post first appeared on the fnBlog.