5 Signs Your Blog Post Is Going Horribly Wrong

It happens to us all.

Fired up by a great idea, you sit down ready to crank out that killer post. But as you get farther into it, your enthusiasm is replaced by a sense of dread.

Clearly, you’re getting bogged down. You’re not sure what the problem is, but the piece is not coming together the way you thought it would.

You put your head down and keep writing, but the dread intensifies faster than your resolve. You now realize that you’ve got a complete mess of a post on your hands.

OK, let’s relax, take a deep breath and a step back, and run through this quick five-part checklist to see what’s gone wrong.

Or, better yet, keep this list of 5 “blogging sins” handy, and you’ll stay on the right track from the get go.

1. What’s the Point?

The worst thing a reader can be thinking after reaching the conclusion of your post is “What the heck was that all about?” Face it, you’ve felt that way after spending valuable time and attention slogging through a post with no point, and you weren’t happy. Make sure you know what you’re trying to say before you start, and take the reader succinctly from Point A to Point B.

2. Who Cares?

The worst thing a reader can be thinking early into your post is “Why should I bother with this?” The headline has to clearly state the benefit of reading, the opening has to make the promised benefit even more enticing, and the rest of your post had better deliver the goods if you’re hoping to have a happy reader.

3. Bad Chi

In Chinese medicine, a harmonious chi flow throughout the body is the secret to health, and bad or disrupted flow results in illness. Likewise in writing, bad flow makes for bad narrative and confused readers. Be sure that your sequence of ideas is both logical and compelling, and carries your reader from Point A to Point B on a slippery slope, sentence by sentence.

4. Detail Dump

Don’t get me wrong—vague writing is not good for anyone. But overly detailed writing can be just as bad, or worse. If the reader’s eyes start to glaze over, you’re done for. Give enough detail to aid in comprehension, but don’t go off on tangents that unnecessarily drill down too deep. That’s what links are for.

5. The Rambling Road

Don’t listen to the people who say you should never write a blog post over 250 to 400 words. Any piece of good writing is as long as it needs to be, but not one word longer. However, it’s quite easy to lose an audience’s attention these days, even when they are initially interested. So don’t go on for too long if the topic can’t support the length, which means ruthlessly editing down to a length that best suits the topic. If that means breaking the subject into two or more separate posts, so be it.

And there you have it… the 5 most common reasons why your killer idea might become a mediocre post, and how to avoid it. Bookmark this at delicious for future reference, and remember… only you can prevent bad blogging. :)

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Reader Comments (57)

  1. says

    Another point that is related to the length of blog posts is that blog posts should be written to be read as web content. This means good use of headers, lists, short paragraphs, etc. Even the best blog post won’t get read if your readers feel lost because it’s just one big block of text.

  2. says

    I noticed your post time was 10:30PM. Do you have any philosophy on posting times? Late night posting might be prone to errors; posting on Sunday as opposed to Monday as far as traffic, search engine stuff is concerned, etc, etc.

    Just curious if this comes into play for you at all.

  3. says

    Buck, I’ve got other things to worry about that actually involve making money (unlike this site). Here, I’m just trying to make sure people have something to read first thing Monday morning before I go to bed. :)

  4. says

    If you’re willing to listen to my opinion Larry and Buck…

    Amazingly enough, this is what is recommended for traditional print media. A lot of typography and readability concepts (letter spacing, white on black is hard to read, etc) still applies online. Guess the more things change, the fundementals more or less stay the same.

    I think everyone has his her own “creative” time. Personally, I work best at night; I spend morning doing the repetitive tasks, since my mind is still trying to shake sleepiness off. Maybe I should start drinking espresso shots though…

    And Brian, not only will I bookmark this on delicious, I’m saving it offline, with your permission of course. In fact, I plan to print it out and stick it on the wall, to serve as handy reference whenever I write. Thanks once again for a great post.

  5. says

    Posting time means nothing depending on content. If you’re doing a blog that needs to be read as soon as the topic happens, like a press event, then yeah, posting time is important.

    A site like this? Not so much, I’m getting this via my RSS feed in any case, so what does it matter about time? If anything, this is a better time to post since all the other sites are nicely asleep meaning I will notice this one update and thus, I am less likely to just check it as read without even reading it.

  6. says

    Sorry if that came across badly Buck… I just don’t sweat small stuff like that. Ultimately that’s not what makes the difference, at least for me (so far).

    Thanks Rico, and print away. :)

  7. says

    Nice stuff Brian,

    I actually came to this post because I misread the headline – I left out the “Post” part of it. But I guess it still applies. :-)

    If you’re still stuck at #1 then step away from the keyboard … slowly.

    #2 comes straight out of the “Information Products 101″ handbook. Simple, when you think about it.

    The rest of my thoughts are all just ramblings … so I’ll spare you.

    But there’s nothing wrong with long, illogical ramblings that go off on different tangents and lead you from Points A to D and back to B via x, w and z … unless you want a readership that is.

  8. says

    No. Not at all. I just vagely remember reading something about timing on another blog and wondered how you felt. Personally, I couldn’t care less about post time/day stuff, other than the curiousity of how the bigtimers feel about it. (As Evan wrote) Speaking of time, it’s late..I’m falling asleep so to all…have a good night.

  9. says

    Nice post, hope i never need to follow the advice given!

    Another feature although not the top 5 is that times i have noticed bloggers on the downhill slide become aggressive and defensive, taking anything as an attack.

  10. says

    Once again, Copyblogger comes to the rescue. I was having this issue, looking at the an article and thinking it wasn’t – shall we say – my best work. After reading this, I changed a little bit and it seems to be back on track now ^^;; Thanks!

  11. says

    Like the writer’s block, you can also suffer from the blogger’s block. I think blogs were never meant to be “boxed”. I mean, assuming you are not making a nuisance of yourself or ending up offending your readers, it’s OK to publish something that is not up to the mark. Even if you feel that out of 1000 visitors your post can touch just 1 visitor, you should go ahead and publish it.

    This presents your human side (now, I don’t mean you only present your human side on your business blog and skip the business side). When you write your blog posts, whether personal or corporate, the spontaneity feel should always be there — after all that’s why it is a blog and not your business website.

  12. says

    These points are responsible to a number of posts in my drafts box that just never developed into anything. They just sort of fizzled out once I sat down. Next time I’ll reference your 5 signs.

    Speaking of timing, last Friday I wrote a post about free Google Adwords on blog.auinteractive.com that I thought might get some attention, it got some Diggs, but right before the weekend was probably not a good time to post something like that.

    I think timing can be just as important as a good headline.

  13. says

    Great post, Brian!

    I find that if you focus on #5 – 1, 2, and 3 tend to fall into place.

    I must admit, though, that if I have something going longer than 350-400 words, I almost ALWAYS find it’s more than one post.

    Maybe I have attention deficit, but I have a hard time sticking with posts longer than 400 words or so. I start to skim or just simply click on…

  14. says

    Ann, I hear you. And although I”m obviously a big fan of series posting, each installment usually ends up longer than 400 words.

    The funny thing is, lately when I pull up short and save the rest for a later post, people have complained that I stopped. So, it really does depend on the topic and the audience. If you get people hooked (which we all want) they will keep reading.

  15. says


    As always, well written.

    Quick question.

    In writing this post, for example, where do you start when writing the content? I know you always start with the headline first. But do you outline the points first or you start at the beginning?

    I think it could help us getting the point across faster with the points already in place, but still I often feel something missing with this approach.

    Please bear with me. Because often this makes me feel that good ideas turn mediocre.

  16. says

    With any post, you have to know generally what you’re going to write about before you do anything. So I knew that there were 5 things that can really hurt a blog post, article, or presentation, and what those 5 things were.

    Then I wrote the headline. After that, I created the 1-5 list and wrote the subheads.

    Then I wrote the opening. Only then did I elaborate on each of the 5 problems, and came up with a closing.

    Hope that helps.

  17. says

    For those who care about post timing issues (you shouldn’t because in the end it’s not about that):

    1. check your readership daily stats & if you see your most popular visitor day is Wed & you have a kick butt post, put it up tuesday nite.
    2. Fridays,weekends/days before holidays are slow so save the better posts for another day
    3. If you use the social bookmarking sites & encourage your readers to digg you, there is some research out there on days most likely to get more diggs–midweek I believe.

    Ultimately, consistenly satisfying posts to YOUR readers (fill a need, lessen a hurt, give a good feeling) carries the day for YOU.

  18. says

    You’ve done it again, Brian. Great and very useful post.

    Yes, as Rico said in an early comment about the post, much of what you’ve said is good, basic news writing and reporting style. I spent some years as a copy editor at a daily newspaper, then once taught a college class in news writing and reporting. All told, I spent far too much time hanging out with newspaper editors and reporters (grin). The best of ’em followed your suggestions pretty closely.

    Keep up the good stuff. Your blog is one I try to visit every day.

  19. says

    Very helpful post Brian.

    I’m actually reading this Tuesday morning so I can tell you all from experience that this Monday will be a filled with agreeable clients and only 3 telesales calls interrupting your thoughts. Enjoy!

  20. says

    Great post Brian,

    [Long time listener, first time caller. 😉 ]

    But, I think the critical thing to keep in mind is this — that ultimately there are exceptions to every rule.

    And while people USUALLY like short punchy posts, it is really the scope and interests of your audience that is the key.

    Maybe they’re academics who like long and detailed posts.

    Perhaps a good rule of thumb then is, whatever makes your post BORING, whatever “BORING” happens to be to your audience — don’t do it.

    Whatever makes your post INTERESTING — do more of it.

    And that, I think, is how to create a good post in a nutshell. 😉

    t @ DJI.

  21. says

    I think it’s a good idea to think about your post as a sales letter for your idea. That’s what you’re trying to sell.

    The purpose would be toat at the end of your post, your readers fully graps what you’ve said and then try to apply that.

    So I guess it helps a bit if you know some sales letters secrets.

  22. says

    Good post, Brian. Looking over the list I’m struck by how much it all revolves around focus, as in, what is the goal of your post and can you stick with it? Thanks for the great information.

  23. says

    Man, O man, this happens to me, literally, almost every day. For some strange reason, when I start a blog post at work, in my notebook, it usually starts off great. But when I get home, even though there are few distractions and rarely a time limit, for some reason I lose my focus and it never ends up as orderly or as thematically perfect as I’d envisioned.

    So my blog posts tend to wander and get disjointed. This post helps out a great deal. Next time I do a blogwhoring post, I’m linking to this.

  24. says

    I may not be the Michael Jordan of blogging (though close). But I can tell you one thing…

    There is NEVER and I repeat NEVER any bad chi up in my blog post.


  25. says

    Mr.Brian, I came across your blog today and i really like it! Thanks a lot for the magnetic headlines series (couldn’t comment there as commenting was closed)!

    And rightly said that long articles need not be boring.. i c ur articles are the best examples!
    As per ur advice i’ve bookmarked it already, and gotta mail this article to my other blogger friends! :)

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