The Biggest Mistakes New Bloggers Make

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Kate working in El Tunco

Every now and then, a friend of mine starts a blog and asks for feedback. No matter what the blog’s niche is — travel or food or beauty or just a personal blog — I find myself giving the same feedback again and again.

I started my first blog in 2002, before the word “blog” was even in the common lexicon. Since then, I’ve run blogs in multiple niches, from travel to personal to grammar (ha, don’t ask!), have had two blogs get very big (one far more quickly than the other), and have watched as bloggers go from hobbyists to powerhouses, some of them even millionaires.

If you want to start a blog today and either make money at it someday or have it become your new career, you need to be more prudent about your blogging than someone just doing it as a hobby. Part of that is avoiding the most common errors that bloggers in the early days of their blog.

Here are the biggest mistakes new bloggers make:

Busan Markets

Mistake #1: Choosing a Blog Name That Won’t Grow With You

If you’re going to Korea to teach English, choosing “Katie in Korea” might seem like a good idea at the time. But what happens when your contract is over and you want to move on? What happens if you go teach in Japan or Taiwan instead? What happens if you travel the world? What happens if you move home and get pregnant?

You’re stuck with a blog name that doesn’t work anymore.

If you’re vehemently against your blog’s name after awhile (say, if you’re losing business opportunities or confusing readers because of it), it is possible to do a rebrand, changing your URL and social media usernames. It can be done. But honestly, it’s a pain in the ass (and Facebook might not even let you change your name).

I’ve written in the past (wow, five years ago!) about choosing a name for your travel blog that will last. You want a name that is specific enough that it conveys what your blog is about, yet doesn’t box you in or limit you otherwise.

Additionally, every blogging niche has its well-known blogs, and you don’t want to sound like you’re emulating or blatantly copying any of them.

To be completely frank, within the travel blogging industry, anyone with the name “Nomadic (name)” is compared to Nomadic Matt. Anyone with the blog name “Adventurous (name)” is compared to me. Anyone with the name “Wandering (name)” is compared to Wandering Earl. It should not be that way, but it is.

Even if you choose your blog name completely by chance, you should find out who the major bloggers in your niche are and try to avoid very similar names.

Honestly, there’s no such thing as a perfect blog name, only a very good one. You might think you’ve got it made with the word “travel” in the URL, but what happens if you want to expand into lifestyle? As for someone like me with a versatile URL (adventurous can apply to almost anything!), I’ve painted myself into a corner: I can never sell this site (not that I’d want to), nor could I expand it into a multi-author behemoth.

The solution: Choose a name versatile enough that it will allow you to grow in time.

Dolphins in Plettenberg Bay

Mistake #2: Not Going Self-Hosted

If you’re just blogging for your family and friends, it makes sense to have a free blog through or If you don’t want to go self-hosted and you are absolutely certain that your blog will never progress beyond a personal account for friends and family, by all means, use a free account.

But if you want to be taken seriously as a blogger, if you ever want to make money from your blog, if you want strangers to read your blog, or if you want your blog to be an extension or new incarnation of your professional identity, you need to go self-hosted. Ideally from the very beginning so that you don’t have to go through the work of switching things over after you’ve already built an audience.

Yes, you can occasionally find a major blog on or domains. They are the exceptions, and as much as you’d like to be an exception, you probably won’t be one.

The solution: Go self-hosted from the beginning. Read on for exactly how to do that.


Mistake #3: Choosing a Bad Host

Many new bloggers end up buying hosting from companies like and FatCow and GoDaddy that are either cheap or well-known, yet don’t provide decent quality. charges just $1.89 per month for hosting. That is insane. It also means that if your site goes down at any time, you’re not going to be able to get it back up without a lot of trouble. You’ll struggle to get through to a real person at customer service and it might be days before your site can go back up. And if you get a sudden surge of traffic — say, if an influencer shares a post of yours — your site won’t be able to deal with it, effectively canceling out the advantage of being shared in the first place.

At the same time, you’re a new blogger, and it doesn’t make sense for you to pay $50 or more per month when you’re just getting started.

The solution: I recommend Bluehost for new bloggers. Plans start at $6.95 per month for a year or as cheap as $3.95 per month if you commit to multiple years, but the good thing about Bluehost is that you can always reach someone in customer service if you need to. If your site goes down, it’s a very rare occurrence and is resolved quickly. Those are the most important attributes of a web host.

Here’s how to get started:

From the front page, start by clicking the big Get Started Now button:

Bluehost Home Screen


Next, choose the box on the left and put in your new domain name:

Bluehost Domains

You’ll be taken to a page where you can decide on your package and some add-ons:

Bluehost Plans

For your account plan, you can choose basic hosting plans for 12, 24, or 36 months. I recommend you go with the 12-month plan for $6.95 as anything can happen within a year and it’s just $1 more per month than the 24-month plan.

For the add-ons on the list, you don’t need Search Engine Jumpstart or SiteLock Domain Security. You can pay for the Site Backup Pro if you’d like, but I prefer to do the backing up myself. (I use the $80 plugin Backup Buddy).

Domain Privacy Protection, however, is something that you SHOULD spring the extra $9.99 for. Anyone can look up who owns any site; if you don’t pay for Domain Privacy Protection, anyone can see your name and mailing address on your site.

After your account is secured, it’s time to get WordPress up and running.

Install WordPress on Bluehost

WordPress is one of the world’s largest publishing platforms. It’s immense, it’s easy, it’s used by multimillion-dollar publishers like CNN and People magazine, and nearly every blogger I know uses it, which means there are lots of professionals out there to help you out if anything goes wrong.

Bluehost offers easy one-click WordPress installation, which saves you from struggling through it or hiring someone to do it. On the cPanel, BlueHost’s home screen, you’ll see this button:

Bluehost cPanel

Click through and it will take you through a simple installation process. When it asks you where you’d like to install it, choose your domain (

Once you install WordPress, it will tell you where to log in (usually and your name and password. From that page, you’ll be able to log in to your WordPress dashboard:

Wordpress Home


And you’re good to go!

Golden Gai Doorway

Mistake #4: Writing Long Paragraphs

Almost every new blogger I know makes this mistake. New blogs are filled with giant solid blocks of text without any dividers.

Writing for the web is different than writing for other media. You’re competing with Facebook and Buzzfeed; you need to remember that people on the web have a shorter attention span than people who are, say, grading a college paper or reading a novel.

People don’t have the attention span to read long paragraphs of text that aren’t broken up in some way. Again, it shouldn’t be the case, but that’s the reality of the world we live in today.

You want to keep people on your blog. Make it easy: motivate them to stay.

The solution: Stick to short paragraphs and break them up with headings, bolding, and photos to make it easily digestible and smooth to read.


Mistake #5: Using Pictures the Wrong Way

Most new bloggers, I’ve found, don’t use photos as they should: they either use small photos, poor photos, fit photos around blocks of text, or write an entire post without using a single photo.

We are visual creatures, and social media is becoming increasingly image-focused. Photos are not just accoutrements — they’re vital.

Instead, use photos often, and make them big — think the width of your blog. Don’t use tiny photos and don’t build text wrapped around photos. If you’re new to photography, consider reading guides or taking a course.

The solution: Use large photos liberally and often. Read on for using appropriate photos without violating copyright.

Tamarama Beach

Mistake #6: Violating Copyright

Many new bloggers don’t realize that you can’t simply put someone else’s photo on your blog and post a link crediting the source. That doesn’t make it any more okay than it does to use it uncredited. You weren’t given permission to use the photo in the first place.

If you need to use images that aren’t your own, there’s a solution: Creative Commons images. I use Creative Commons images on Flickr when I want to post a preview photo of a destination I’m about to visit for the first time.

I do this by using the Photo Dropper plugin and adding a link to the original image; you can also do it by searching for Creative Commons images on Flickr and adding a link to the photo with the photographer’s name. Other than that (and the occasional photo taken by a friend, which I always credit), all photos on this site are my own.

Violating copyright goes for text, too: don’t repost material written by other people. If you want to quote them, quote up to a paragraph or two and then link to the full piece.

The solution: Only use material that you create yourself or that you can cite legally.

Sveti Stefan

Mistake #7: Ignoring SEO

I know — search engine optimization sounds difficult, like you could never compete with sites who have been doing it professionally for years.

But the truth is that you can’t afford to ignore it. SEO will bring in so much traffic to your site if you cultivate it the right way.

The easiest way to get started is to download the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin and use it to get started by targeting keywords on which you want to rank. You won’t be able to rank for “Bangkok” but “best pizza in puerto vallarta mexico”? Maybe. Maybe you could.

Another easy way to get started is to use post titles and URLs that contain the main keywords of the content of your post, and possibly the keywords on which you want to rank. Google considers both of these important.

Notice that the URL of this very post is, not That second URL gives Google absolutely zero information about your post, and you will end up losing lots of potential traffic because of it.

The solution: Use the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin and be smart about your URLs and post titles.

Beautiful Vang Vieng

Mistake #8: Choosing Inconsistent Social Media Handles

Should you use your real name or your blog name for your social media handles? The decision is yours. But whatever you decide, it should be the same name across all social media platforms.

Take me: I’m AdventurousKate on everything. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, Trover, Foursquare. Because it’s consistent, it’s easy for people to remember.

If you have a longer blog name, you’ll want to choose something concise enough to be used everywhere. Twitter has a 15-character cutoff for usernames — you should keep it within that limit.

The solution: Choose a short, consistent name, then use a site like NameChk to make sure it’s available on all the major platforms you want to use.

Wadi Rum at Sunrise

Mistake #9: Not Adding Social Sharing Buttons

It may not seem like a big deal, but if I don’t see social sharing buttons on a post — icons encouraging you to tweet, pin, share on Facebook — I’m almost certainly not going to share it. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.

It goes back to what I said earlier about people having a short attention span online. You need to make things as easy as possible. Sure, theoretically, people could copy the link and paste it into Twitter. Or copy the link, open the Twitter app, post the link, look up your screenname, and tweet. But that’s not as easy as pressing a single button.

The solution: To maximize your share potential (and thus your traffic and audience), get a social sharing plugin on WordPress. I recommend using one that automatically includes your Twitter handle so you know when it’s been shared, like the Digg Digg plugin.

Playa Samara

Mistake #10: Introducing Your Blog To the World Too Early

Believe me, I know that as soon as you’ve got your first post up, it’s tempting to share it with the world, getting your friends’ and family’s opinion on this first post you’ve created.

But if you ask me, I think it’s smarter to have a few posts up once you decide to publicize your blog. This will show prospective readers a cross-section of your blog and encourage them to subscribe if they like what they see. If you only have one post up, it looks like you’re a flash in the pan. Having a few posts makes it look like you’re serious.

The solution: Have a few posts (at least 3-5) already up before you start promoting your blog.


Mistake #11: Not Blogging Often Enough

If you only blog once a month, you’re not going to get traction. Plain and simple. You need to post regularly and often so that people will have something new to see when they return. If there’s nothing new, again and again, people will give up on you.

How often should you blog? I always encourage new bloggers to blog at least three to four times per week to start. After a few months, once you’ve started to build an audience, you can consider slowing down a bit. If you do choose to slow down, though, make sure to keep a consistent posting schedule.

The solution: Start off blogging prolifically to grow your audience as quickly as possible.

Yemaya Little Corn Island

Mistake #12: Not Starting an Email List

Say it with me: AN EMAIL LIST IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN HAVE. Pretty much every top blogger agrees with this statement. Social networks come and go; email remains the same and if people sign up for it, it means they have chosen to let you into their private lives. That is HUGE.

There are two main services that bloggers use: AWeber and Mailchimp. I use Aweber because it is the best, and honestly, I wish I had been using it from when I started in 2010.

Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 emails, but then it starts charging hefty amounts and it doesn’t have functionality as good as AWeber. AWeber is paid, but it charges you depending on the size of your list.

I quit Mailchimp because it wasn’t as good as AWeber and because I had a tendency to assume that people were cheap if their newsletter came via Mailchimp and didn’t want people to do that for me. Unfortunately, the switching process meant that my entire list had to opt-in all over again, which meant that I lost tons of my subscribers.

I wish I had been with AWeber from the very beginning. It would have saved me a lot of grief.

The solution: Start an email list from the very beginning, preferably on AWeber, and make it easy for readers to sign up with widgets and links on your most popular pages.


Mistake #13: Being Overly Contrarian

Every now and then, it seems like a group of bloggers is doing the same thing — and if you’re like me, you ignore it like the plague. But sometimes that will cost you.

For the longest time, I resisted joining Travel Blog Success. Lots of other travel bloggers were members and that made me not want to be a part of it. I was so unique, I could strike out on my own!

Then I joined and realized that it’s popular for a reason — Travel Blog Success will turbo-charge you and keep you from making many more mistakes. I always tell people that it will teach you to accomplish in six months what would normally take two years or longer of trial and error.

To this day, TBS is the only private forum where I give out travel blogging advice. I love that community.

Note: Travel Blog Success is on sale until March 31, 2017! The course is 30% off and I always encourage people to buy it while it’s on sale. There are new courses on affiliate marketing, freelance writing, working with brands, and more! Hope to see you there.

The solution: Remember that if something’s popular among bloggers, it’s probably for good reason.

Garden Village Bled

Mistake #14: Expecting Instant Results

Ah. The big one.

All the time, I hear new travel bloggers say, “All right, when do I start making money/getting free trips?” Whoa.

The truth? No blogger gets comps or gigs or advertising because they have a blog. They get comps or gigs or advertising because they have an audience. When you’re starting out, you have no audience.

An audience is something that you cultivate at a rate that can seem as slow as molasses, but keep at it and I assure you it will grow.

When do bloggers start making money? It’s different in every niche, and with an industry changing this quickly, it’s hard to say for sure. I tell people not to expect to make a dime for the first year. Most bloggers quit before they’ve been at it for one year, and many companies won’t work with a blog less than a year old. Of course, there are exceptions, but one year is the general rule.

The solution: Keep at it, even when it seems like a struggle. Work on your craft, create quality content, and be consistent. If you take those steps, it will pay off in the long run.


What are your tips for new bloggers?

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184 thoughts on “The Biggest Mistakes New Bloggers Make”

  1. Hi Kate
    I like reading posts like this because it does one of two things: reinforces what you are already doing or suggests some changes you can make! I’d also say not having enough self belief is one. I suppose that goes along with point 14

  2. Thanks for a great post, Kate. I love your advice for short paragraphs and using social media widgets, especially. Thanks for being generous in your advice!

  3. Thanks for the tips and advice, Kate! I think I’m gonna have to check out Travel Blog Success now before I start traveling long-term. I’ve been creeping around waiting for it to go on sale again for a while, so now is the time.

    Great to meet you at WITS in Boston too! Can’t believe that meeting my favorite bloggers make me nervous… what a nerd.

  4. I love this post. Thanks for the tips Kate. For some reason I know people who have taken up Travel Blog Success and got out of it. It would be great if you could share a few more details on why you think its good.

  5. Excellent advice as always! I joined TBS last Fall after resisting it for a while because I thought it was too expensive and I wasn’t big or goo enough for it. Boy, was I wrong! It’s full of great advice and tips. PS – I hope you post about your recent Portland trip! 🙂

  6. Hi Kate!
    Great post! I was wondering how can I change from a host to another one. I was recently considering bluehost as the best provider so I’d like to change it, but not sure if it’s possible.
    Also, my blog is in Spanish, and I’d like to have it bilingual but I’m still not sure how to manage that.

    Hope you can help me!

    1. Just google “migrate blog to bluehost” and you’ll find resources. Or you can hire someone to migrate your blog for you; just make sure you back it up beforehand!

  7. I love this post – just sent it to my friend who is considering starting a blog, and I think these are GREAT tips for a new blogger (as well as great reminders for older ones too.) Thanks!

  8. Thanks so much for this, Kate! And such good timing for me as a reader — I just switched to self-hosting over the weekend after blogging for a bit over a year and a half, and I still have a lot to learn. Thanks for the great advice!

  9. Really great post. I too want to fight the system – the bloggers conferences and networks…and I’m still holding out. Your email tip is a great one…need to get on that.

    AND I wish I had this when I started! My site is SanPedroScoop (one place in Belize) and when I later explanded to all of Belize I was left with a name I like…but one that doesn’t really say it all. Oh well…next time 🙂

  10. Thanks for such an informative post! I’ve been wavering about setting up an email list, but this article convinced me to take the leap.

  11. Thanks so much for these tips. The point on using photos resonated with me the most – I didn’t realise what I was doing was wrong! What if a photo is free on Shutterstock or similar sites, and you can download the high res image for free, do you still need to credit the source? [I do it anyway because I think it’s polite, but just want to be sure about what’s legal from not…] Can you please share any straight forward resources you might have on photo sharing and copyright?

  12. This is great, Kate! As a new blogger, I have made a few of these mistakes. I am just learning to use SEO 6 months into my blog! While I should have started earlier, no time like the present! I also picked too long of a name so my twitter and pinterest handles are cutoff… Ah well, live and learn. Thanks for the great tips!

  13. It’s funny what you said about photos. I definitely enjoy looking at pictures in a blog post, but sometimes the photos are way too large, even if they are the width of the post. Your sidebar is a bigger than most of the ones I’ve come across, so I think your photos work well being the width of your blog.

    But I don’t know if that works for everyone. I hate having to scroll through a photo and not being able to see the entire photo in one go. And yes, that has happened to me on more than one occasion!

  14. Great post! I like using Bluehost but I’m not a fan of their email setup. Any tips on setting up a different email system connected to your blog that’s not @google for example?

  15. Hi Kate – I love reading your blogs! I have a personal travel blog and don’t ever intend on turning it into a for-profit site, but it’s still great to read your tips and advice. I love that you’re not worried about market share, rather you’re interested in bringing everyone up alongside you. Keep up the good work! p.s. I just booked a one way ticket to Malta (leave in two weeks) and I loved your posts!! I can’t wait to explore that region =) ALOHA!

  16. Great tips. I wish I had known some of these when I first started. I have hosted my site on GoDaddy, but is there a way to switch it to Bluehost without losing everything?

  17. Hey Kate…some great tips here! Even for someone who has been travel blogging for five years! 🙂

    One thing I would add…when you get to the point of going on press trips…don’t be one of those folks who complains about everything. Be grateful and appreciative, even if the trip does not meet your expectations.

    1. I disagree with this, actually. I’ve seen many more bloggers who seem to feel obligated to write good things about a trip, even if they didn’t like it, than trash something for the fun of it. In my opinion being honest about your experiences and opinions gives you much more credibility. If you’re going on trips someone else pays for then writing only good things about it, that makes you a content marketer, not a travel blogger.

    2. Thanks, Mike! I agree — don’t be a see you next Tuesday on a blog trip. But I think the bigger problem is that bloggers sometimes let companies walk all over them and don’t speak up because they’re afraid they’ll seem ungrateful. If there is a problem, you SHOULD speak up. But you shouldn’t be petty, either. Be a polite professional.

  18. Hello, Kate!

    This is the post that I have been waiting for. I’m confused when I started my own blog and this would help me improve it more. Thank you for taking the time to write this. 🙂

  19. This is really great advice, Kate. It’s nice to see all these tips in one place and you really hit a lot of the big ones. I would add that new bloggers should focus on developing their voice and who they want to be known as rather than what they think will get them the most traffic or go viral. Kind of plays into the tip you mentioned about being patient and don’t expect instant success.

  20. These are great tips, thanks for the insight! Starting a blog is a complicated process. I love finding these kinds of posts to make it a little easier!

  21. Thanks for another helpful post! It’s good to know where I’m going right and where I need to improve. It can be hard to commit to something without knowing where it will be in a year and hearing it from someone who is so successful helps a lot when deciding things such as paying for the mail services or the blogging classes.

  22. Hate to admit but I did all of these…So I definitely had to learn the hard way! But am now happy with where I’m at with my blog! Great tips, really important too!

  23. Kate, as someone that is trying to get a new blog up and running, these are really excellent tips. I’ve been doing okay on a couple of them, but really need to work on the others harder. I am a member of TBS, and they are fantastic. Thank you.

  24. Great tips! I’ve thought about renaming my blog with the “nomadic” or “wandering” prefixes but had the same reservations about Matt’s and Earl’s blogs. I’ll take that as a solid affirmation not to go that route. I just finished a 9-month road trip and have been obsessed with travel blogs ever since. Glad to have found yours! I like your style. Looking forward to following you!

  25. Thanks Kate!
    But what are the things you can do with Aweber that you can’t do with MailChimp?
    The only difference i found is the affiliate program, really.


    1. Analytics by a long haul! Tracking and segmenting email addresses. You can create a list and send to people who click on a certain link in a past email, for example.

  26. Great tips! I especially agree with #10. I started out my blog with detailing a past trip to China and only once I got the hang of it did I make it official and share it on facebook!

  27. I am in the beginning months of creating content, trying to gain traction, and developing rapport with my own readers, and all these tips are SO HELPFUL!

    Honestly, thank you so much for putting it into words, because sometimes (especially for techy-in-traning) the hours and hours spent working on seemingly menial aspects of the website are draining.

    This gives me new confidence as I try to work out all the kinks of transferring from to a hosted wordpress account.

    Thanks Kate 🙂

    Phoebe Nygren

  28. Thanks a bunch for these tips – so precise and detailed!

    Honestly, I would love to hear your opinion about my personal blog… If you have a spare minute or two and can take a look at my home page, I would be very grateful to hear your overall opinion! In a few words really 🙂

    It’s just I am blogging once in a while as a hobby but was thinking maybe I could become serious about it…but what if I have completely no potential? Who do I ask?

    Anyways, thanks in advance for even reading through this comment 🙂


  29. Kate,
    Thanks for these really great tips! There are a few on here I really need to work on and you have given me the motivation to do so! The hardest for me right now is to post regularly, it’s really frustrating, but I am traveling in places with slow or non-existent internet. But, somehow I need to get things out – I have much to write about! Do you have any good advice how to deal with posting when the internet is not so great?

    1. Yes. Write your posts on Word or somewhere else where you can word process (I then paste it in notepad, then in the HTML of WordPress to make sure there are no problems with the formatting). Start uploading pictures way early, and let them upload as they can.

  30. Great post! How did I not have sharing buttons on my posts before!?

    Stopped reading and fixed that immediately then got back into it.

    thanks and keep it up!

  31. Excellent tips Kate!
    I think motivation plus trial and error are big factors when starting a travel blog.

    Thank you so much for reading my first blog and giving me some much needed encouragement.
    I have included the link below.
    For me, travelling and writing are passions, so the hard work is more enjoyable than my current cubicle existence. speaking of which > I better get back to work.

    Cheers – Will


  32. Hi
    I was wondering where the last photo (the one of the deck across the water) was taken? It looks like a great spot!

  33. Laura Travel Addict

    Very inspiring post Kate!

    I also see myself as a travel addict.

    New Zealand (work & travel), Dominican Republic (teaching German), Europe (using up all my savings), Vietnam living on my websites, finally.

    What’s your experience with affiliate marketing on your site, Kate?
    My website income took off when I changed from Amazon to Clickbank giving me the chance to travel through Asia now (Laos, outdoor climbing next).

    What’s a good start? For me Affilorama guys (from Tim’s blog

    Adsense and Amazon is fine too, but it takes way longer to finance your taveling with it.

    Many thanks,

    Laura D.

  34. Great tips! I really think the best advice is simply to keep on going. Especially in travel blogging, it can be hard to keep a blog alive when you’re back home and don’t have much content.

  35. I wish I’d searched for tips like this when I started out back in 2012, I made pretty much all those mistakes (except the copyright, I always use my own pics), haha! Mind you, back then it was never a serious thing, just a little blog about my lifestyle rather than putting it all on Facebook.
    If I did it all over again I would certainly do things differently.
    Having a post schedule has been the most useful, posting on particular days/times. I can build up posts in advance, schedule them and then I don’t have to worry if I don’t have internet. I stressed so much before doing this, worrying that I couldn’t post, desperately searching for wifi!

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