10 Common Blogging Mistakes to Avoid (Especially Beginners!)

October 6, 2020

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I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my 10+ years of blogging, and it’s sometimes taken me years to realize them. Blogging is overwhelming for both beginners and the more experienced folks—there are so many moving parts when it comes to SEO, social media, sponsorships, legalities, and the technical side of things.

In this post, I’ll be diving into the 10 most common blogging mistakes I’ve witnessed (and have made), plus how to fix them. These tips should help improve your site performance, and get your blog seen by more people!

The Biggest Blogging Mistakes to Avoid

This post contains affiliate links to blogging products I use and love, meaning that I may earn a small commission on any purchases you make. This doesn’t cost you any extra, and it’s a great way to support my blog if you found this post helpful.

1. Starting on a free platform.

The free blogging platforms like Blogger and WordPress.com are tempting, but they have a lot of limitations.

I was on Blogger for years before switching to self-hosted WordPress.org (which is paid, and not to be confused with WordPress.com). To be fair, it was easy to learn for beginners, and easy (and cheap) to make the site look professional.

That said, I didn’t have as much control over things like SEO (search engine optimization). For example, the URL path always included the month and year. There was also no way to designate the image that showed up on social shares. One of the worst parts was probably a lack of plugins to improve your site without code. It was a lot harder to do things like address site speed, or add a table of contents to every post.

WordPress.com is even worse, as you have to pay extra to use a custom domain (this is your own website address, rather than the .wordpress.com address). You also can’t install plugins without paying extra, and there’s no way to remove WordPress branding without paying extra (you see a common theme here?).

If you’re blogging for fun, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a free platform. But if you’re trying to run a professional blog that makes money, starting on a free platform will only set you back. It will be harder to grow, and in the long run, you’ll probably spend more money. Time is money, and you’ll need to spend more time using code to improve your site. You’ll also probably eventually want to move to self-hosted WordPress, which is a time-consuming process, depending on how many posts you have. It took me a whole week and 30+ hours to migrate 60 posts and fix the formatting.

If you want to learn more about these different platforms, check out my post Blogger vs. WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org. If I’ve convinced you to go with self-hosted WordPress, I highly recommend SiteGround as a host, as it’s ranked among the best in terms of performance, least amount of downtime, and super quick support.

2. Ignoring SEO (or writing only SEO-optimized content).

This is probably one of the biggest mistakes out there. In the olden days of blogging, you could get a relatively popular personal blog without doing any Search Engine Optimization. Nowadays, you really can’t build a successful blog without SEO.

It may seem harsh, but nobody really cares about your selfies, October favorites and diary-style entries (I used to post outfit photos and use my blog for memoir-writing, so absolutely no hate!). People are looking for answers to their questions, and that’s where SEO comes in.

With SEO, you figure out what people are searching on Google, and how you can address their needs. Your content ends up being less personal, but you can still speak from experience and bring in your personality. Instead of writing a recap of your trip to Paris, you’d instead write a guide to the vegan restaurants there, or the scams to avoid. (SEO is more complicated than this, and you need certain tools to determine search volume and competition, but this is the gist of it).

Of course, writing only SEO-optimized content can get boring. People who find your blog might never come back either, as you answered their question, and that was it. That’s why I think it’s important to make sure your voice is present in your writing, and to do some “fun” posts every now and then. An example of this on my blog is how I wrote my college essay about needing to poop during a run (it’s seriously a true story!).

3. Focusing too much on Instagram.

Screenshot of my Instagram feed from last fallScreenshot of my Instagram feed from last fall

Every blogger wants to be Insta-famous, but Instagram actually has a horrible conversion rate. What does that mean? Basically, a very small percentage of people will come from Instagram to your blog. If you have the swipe up link, conversion will probably be better, but if you only have the link in bio, probably 1% of your followers actually visit your blog.

I’ve noticed that a big following on one platform doesn’t always translate to a big following on another one. I’ve seen Instagrammers with 60k+ followers who only get a few thousand blog pageviews a month (a few thousand pageviews is great, but not if you have a huge existing audience).

Beyond that, Instagram takes a ton of time and effort to edit photos, come up with captions, and make sure everything looks nice with your feed. This is all time that could be spent on your blog, doing things that actually make a difference in growth.

For that reason, I’ve actually stopped posting on Instagram as frequently, and only post a couple times a week. (Just as a little tidbit: the low conversion rates are anecdotally not true for TikTok—apparently people get tons of website clicks from there).

4. Waiting to learn Pinterest strategy.

I started using Pinterest maybe a year before I tried to seriously learn it. With so many blogging tools and platforms, I just didn’t want to invest the time and money into yet another platform.

I regret not learning Pinterest earlier. Pinterest is an incredible tool to bring traffic to your blog, as you don’t need a big following. It also “kicks in” way sooner than SEO—SEO usually takes several months to start working, while Pinterest can start bringing you steady traffic in a few weeks, if you use it right.

Since late January, I’ve been taking Pinterest more seriously, and I went from getting just a few blog clicks a day to over 200 daily. For the last couple months, I’ve been getting over 7,400 monthly clicks just from Pinterest. This translates to around 8,500 pageviews, and is a little less than 30% of my total traffic.

my Pinterest link clicks data for the last 30 days, with over 7400 clicks to my site

Unfortunately, Pinterest has been a bit frustrating this year because of the algorithm changes. Many bloggers also got caught in a spam filter, and their views totally tanked. All that said, I still think Pinterest is a valuable tool to learn; you just need to be aware of the potential downfalls.

My personal tips for leveraging Pinterest are:

Create aesthetic pins with bright, colorful photos and clear text. I use Canva to create pins, but a mistake many bloggers make is to use the Canva templates. These aren’t that eye-catching, and won’t make your pins look unique. I’ve created a handful of my own templates over the months, and use those instead.

example of my old pins vs new pins
Example of my old pins vs. new pins

Use keywords in your pin descriptions. For example, I wrote a post about Bordeaux, France. If I type “Bordeaux France” into the search bar on Pinterest, related keywords come up, like “things to do in Bordeaux” or “where to stay in Bordeaux.” I can then add these keywords to my pin description.

example of suggested pinterest keywords for the search "bordeaux france"
An example of Pinterest keyword suggestions

example of my pin that's done well - 93 clicks with 15k impressions; also "keyword stuffed" in the description
An example of my pin descriptions.

Upload at least one “fresh pin” daily. Pinterest likes to see new images, so I create a new pin daily, and post it to my top 3-4 relevant boards.

Use Tailwind. Tailwind is a Pinterest scheduler that makes it a lot easier to post consistently, which Pinterest favors. After I post my fresh pin to a few relevant boards, I then schedule it to the rest of my relevant boards through Tailwind, with 3-5 days in between each repin. This way, I don’t have to keep track of what I need to pin daily.

Tailwind also has niche “tribes” where you can upload your pin and get others to reshare it. You just need to follow to share to reshare ratio, which is usually 1:1 or 1:2 (so repin 1-2 other pins for each pin you add to the tribe). Tailwind is paid, and costs $15/month. I’d say the investment is well worth it, as it saves you tons of time and energy. If you want to try it out, use my referral link to get a free month and $15 off if you decide to sign up for the paid plan.

5. Not worrying about site speed.

If your site loads too slowly, people will bounce and never see your awesome content. This also makes it harder to rank on Google, as people are spending little time on your site, signaling to Google that the content isn’t helpful.

Run a couple posts (not your homepage!) through Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix and see how your site is doing. These speed testers will also give you recommendations for improving your site speed.

My mobile pagespeed score of 62
My mobile pagespeed score of 62 for this particular postmy desktop pagespeed score of 94

My desktop pagespeed score of 94 for the same post

Personally, the things I did to improve my site speed were:

Lazyload images. This means that your images will only load when you scroll through them, rather than loading all at once, which takes a lot of time. If you’re with Siteground, you can do this through the SG Optimizer plugin.

Optimizing images. Images take up TONS of space, and they’re often way larger than you need them to be for your blog. I now use the ShortPixel Image Optimizer plugin, which automatically resizes and optimizes my images when uploaded. You get a certain amount of free credits per month, but you use them up quickly if your blog is image-heavy (image thumbnails count towards the credits, so each image is essentially 8-10 credits). I ended up purchasing a one-time credit of 10,000 credits for $10, which should last me several months. If you use my ShortPixel referral link, you’ll get a discount on certain plans.

Using WebP image formats. Like JPGs and PNGs, WebP is an image format, but it’s considered a “next-generation” format that is quickest to load. ShortPixel can create free WebP versions of your images when optimizing them, so I use this feature.

Installing WP Rocket. WP Rocket is a paid plugin with a lot of features to improve your site speed. This includes caching (including WebP), lazyloading images, optimizing CSS and Javascript delivery, cleaning up post revisions, font preloading, and many others.

I wouldn’t say it’s entirely necessary if you have SG Optimizer, as that does a lot of the same things, but WP Rocket does do more (like optimizing CSS delivery, having a separate cache for mobile devices, lazyloading for iframes and video, database optimization, and several more features). WP Rocket costs $49 for the first year, and is $35 yearly after that. If you don’t like it, you can get all your money back within 14 days. I liked it, so I stuck with it.

By implementing these changes, my Google PageSpeed scores are in the 85-95 range for desktop, and 55-65 on mobile, and that’s with ads.

6. Stealing images or content.

blogging desk setup (very staged)

Unless the image you’re using has a Creative Commons license, you cannot use other people’s images without permission, even if you credit them! This is one of the biggest mistakes I see out there, and it has legal and financial implications. It’s literally intellectual property theft.

This also applies to embedding Instagram posts. A ruling in June stated that you also can no longer embed Instagram posts without permission. I recently went back and removed some embedded posts because of that.

Always get written permission from the copyright owner before using someone else’s work. If you’re using a free for use image on a site like Pexels or Pixabay, take a screenshot of the image on that site. While these sites give you free images to use without attribution, a common scam is for image owners to come after you and say you actually need to pay them for a license.

And if you’re using an image with a Creative Commons license, be sure to cite the license, link back to the license, and credit the owner (for example, you might write: “Photo by Spot, CC BY-SA 2.0”, with the string of letters linking to the license). Also be sure to take a screenshot of the license.

If you’re wondering whether your images have been stolen, you can monitor them with a site like Pixsy, which will find stolen images and help you pursue legal action (they take a cut only if the case is won). You have a handful of free credits you can use on your most popular images, and you can always buy more. I haven’t personally used it to pursue legal action, but my friend Diane from Oui in France has had a good experience with Pixsy.

Similarly, please don’t copy and paste other people’s blog posts, even if you credit them. That’s also plagiarism. Slightly paraphrasing everything without including original content is also content theft. I have a whole post about blog post plagiarism, what it is, and how to avoid it (includes a melodramatic storytime lol), so check that out for more info.

7. Accepting free product as payment for brand deals.

Non-bloggers think that blogging is so glamorous because you’re showered in free products. To be honest though, free products are kind of annoying. Why? Brands think they can pay you for your work in free product.

When you’re just starting out, taking product as payment is okay, as you don’t have much of an audience yet and can only provide limited exposure value. But when you’ve spent months and years building up your site, being offered a $50 product as payment is kind of offensive. This is not to mention the hours you’ll spend creating content for the sponsor. Shooting photos and writing a blog post is work!


Back when I was a fashion blogger, I used to accept free clothing as payment pretty often. I didn’t have a ton of views back then, so it was whatever, but I definitely wouldn’t accept product as payment anymore (I’m also now a lot pickier about the ethics of clothing companies).

If you have at least few thousand monthly pageviews, you should start charging for sponsored posts. I’ve found this blogger rate card helpful as a general guideline (the higher DA rates do seem a little inflated though, and I don’t know why DA is even a component in determining rates, so take this as you will). The Instagram account @influencerpaygap can also give you insight into what others are charging for Instagram posts. To come up with a rate, I like to think about the amount of hours it will take to create the content, and also what sort of exposure/sales I can bring the brand.

Of course, there are a couple exceptions to accepting product as payment. First, if the product has a high value, and you actually need the item, you might agree to a deal (like a mattress or phone). Also, if you truly support the brand and want to build a long-term partnership, you might agree to an initial unpaid campaign (but I wouldn’t do a blog post for free—maybe just an Instagram story or post).

Also, keep in mind that no one wants to be showered with sponsored posts left and right. Only using your platform to advertise and promote consumption is an easy way to lose your following. If you start charging for brand deals, you’ll probably get fewer of them, but you’ll know you’re not annoying your followers, you’ll be making more money, and you’ll also be working with brands that value the work of creators.

8. Not tagging sponsored or affiliate links.

According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you must tag every affiliate link or link to a sponsor with the attribute rel=”sponsored” (rel=”nofollow” is also appropriate, but sponsored is preferred).

Sounds like gibberish? Basically, you need to signal to Google in the HTML of your sponsored link that the link is indeed sponsored, and you’re not linking organically to the site. This is to prevent paid “link schemes,” or where companies try to increase their domain authority by paying for backlinks.

You must also disclose sponsorships at the beginning of your post. This means that you have to say something like: “This post was sponsored by X, but all opinions are my own.”

Some sketchy companies will try to get you to provide undisclosed sponsorships and dofollow links. These are both against Google’s guidelines and could penalize your site. Unfortunately, a ton of these companies exist, and many will run away after you tell them that you can only provide disclosed sponsorships with sponsored/nofollow links (and that you want to be paid for the post).

This is one of the reasons I do very, very few sponsorships on my website. Most sponsors simply don’t live up to these ethical standards (when it comes to web advertising, and their production ethics). That said, I’d rather have fewer sponsors and only work with quality, legitimate brands.

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9. Implementing ads before 20k pageviews.

Many bloggers are excited to implement ads after hitting 10k pageviews, or ready to implement them right at the start. This is a big mistake, in my opinion, as you’ll make very little money with that traffic, at a huge cost for user experience. Ads are ugly, and they slow your site down.

With under 10k pageviews, the only ad network that you can qualify for is Google Adsense, which pays very, very little (you’d be lucky to make a few bucks a month). With 10k, you could qualify for Ezoic and Monumetric, but Ezoic is said to kill your site speed, and Monumetric requires a $99 setup fee.

I personally only recently implemented ads at 30k pageviews with SHE Media, and I wish I’d waited longer to qualify for Mediavine (they require 50k sessions, which is about 60k pageviews). Why? I’m actually making very little money—only a few bucks per day.

Not every site visitor will see ads due to adblockers, and visitors from Canada and EU can also opt out of seeing ads. Only about 60% of my visitors actually see ads, so that means that I’m really only monetizing about 15k monthly pageviews. I also am unwilling to plaster my site in ads, so I’m going to naturally make less. It think it would’ve made more sense to keep growing my traffic and wait, as a few dollars a day isn’t worth it for me.

(Since SHE Media has become pretty popular lately, I’ll probably do a review of them in a month, so stick around for that).

10. Not engaging with blogging Facebook groups.

There’s an awesome community out there of other bloggers. It can be really helpful to chat with others about their experiences, support one another, and complain about challenges together haha.

A few groups I recommend are:

Make Traffic Happen – SEO + Social Media Support
Wandering Women Travel Bloggers
Female Travel Bloggers
Digital Nomad Wannabe – Making Money from Blogging

There are usually daily threads for discussions, repins, link swaps, and more. It can be a great way to network and make new friends.


I hope this post was helpful for you, whether you’re a new blogger, or a more experienced one! Let me know which mistakes you didn’t know about, and please share any that I missed.

I just want to reiterate that blogging is a learning process, and we’re all bound to make mistakes at every stage. There’s absolutely no shame in that—like I said, I’ve made all of these mistakes at some point. The important thing is to always keep learning as a creator.

You might also like these posts:

10 Things I Love and Hate About Blogging
How I Grew My Blog to 1300% in One Year

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2 Comments

  • Nina | Lemons and Luggage October 7, 2020 at 6:42 am

    Oh yes, so many companies want dofollow links on paid posts. I’ve even received requests from “ethical” travel brands, and it makes me wonder how ethical they are if they want me to do something that goes against Google’s guidelines. We all need to be very clear on that so they stop thinking they can get away with it.

    • Lily October 7, 2020 at 9:37 am

      Yeah, it’s actually pretty sad how these companies get away with it. I’ve had some larger companies ask for undisclosed sponsorships and dofollow links, and it really makes me think differently of them. I agree that when an “ethical” brand is using these unethical practices, it makes me wonder how ethical they really are. I also am annoyed when they want to pay me in product, as ethical brands should value the work of creators and believe in paying them fairly. It’s one thing if they don’t have a budget and are just starting out, and want an Instagram post, but another if they want an entire blog post or free shoutouts with zero compensation.

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    I'm Lily, and I run races and go places (& blog about it). I also try to advocate for the planet & its people.
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