19 Bad Habits Bloggers Need to STOP

This post is by Tommy Walker.

No matter where you go online, it seems like there are nasty little habits every single blogger in the world can’t seem to shake.

You may not realize you’re doing it or you might teach these bad habits as “the way”, but no matter what, if your content is going to be totally original, these bad habits should be broken immediately.

Too often we listen to what everyone else says and abandon our own instincts. We put these self imposed limitations in place that prevent our words from truly making an impact.

What follows are the 19 most common bad habits I’ve found that bloggers impose on themselves that hold them back from developing a unique and authentic voice.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’d like to invite you to add your own thoughts after you’re done. Also, feel free to disagree. If you see something in here that you feel is a legit habit, defend it. After all, who am I to tell you what not to do?

1. Stop Trying To Be Clever

What’s worse than a rhetorical question used to open a blog post?

One that does absolutely nothing but get the reader to the next line.

There are many “clever” tactics you’ve been told will get more people to read your articles, but chances are that you probably need to stop.

Some clever things bloggers do that are really stupid:

  1. Make bulleted lists just to break up reading patterns.
  2. Use images that serve no purpose.
  3. “Quote needlessly for the sake of appearing worldly.” -Tommy Walker

Truth is, you don’t need to be clever. You need to trust you’re capable of getting people’s attention without using “clever” tactics.

Once something is deemed clever, everyone starts doing it. As soon as that happens, it’s no longer clever, it’s contrived, inescapable and infinitely annoying.

2. Stop Using Clichéd Catch Phrases

“Be Authentic.” “Be Transparent.” “Find your Tribe.” “Link Love.”

I get it, they’re catchy and easy to remember. But for the love of all that is holy please stop coming up with ambiguous catch phrases that don’t make any sense to anyone but you and your industry clubhouse.

What’s worse, many catch phrases can only be defined with *Gasp* OTHER CATCH PHRASES!

Guess what, outsiders, the people who actually need the information, have no idea what the eff you’re talking about.

If you need catchphrases try:

“Be Useful.” “Be a Better Story Teller.” “Do Research.”

Catchphrases are fine when they come naturally.

But if you’re staring at the ceiling for a half hour thinking of something pithy to say; you’re doing it wrong.

3. Stop Writing “Link Bait”

“Link bait is any content or feature, within a website, designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website.” – Wikipedia

Let’s be clear; there’s a difference between “Quality” and “Bait”.

“Bait” lives only to be linked to, attracting anything and everything that bites. While this can be good for momentary pops of traffic and attention, it usually does very little for long term success.

Common “Link Bait” tactics include:

  • Controversy
  • Giant Meaningless List Posts (more on this later)
  • Flaming an Authority
  • Catch Phrases

Usually, “Link Baiting” uses a clever headline destined to get more retweets than views and fluff that may as well be lorem ipsum.

“Quality” content uses similar tactics, but feels very different. You can feel a piece that was created with passion, creativity, and forethought.

When you read it, you feel what the creator wants you to feel. You share it because it does something to you, it changes you in some way. Not just because it has a catchy headline and some pretty pictures.

4. Stop Thinking You’re The Smartest Person In The World

There are smart people everywhere.

The single Mom supporting 3 kids on a low income probably knows something about budgeting you don’t.

That gas station clerk who has your smokes ready when you walk up to the counter could probably teach you a thing or two about customer service.

Being a “blogger” that can support themselves doesn’t make you worldy, glamorous, or awesome, it makes you fortunate people like what you have to say.

The world around you is full of lessons so long as you keep your eyes and mind open.

5. Stop Insisting On Doing Everything Yourself

A library of free fonts, pithy catchphrases, and Photoshop does not make you a graphic designer.

I get it, doing everything yourself saves money, but ultimately, you’re shortchanging yourself and the creative community at large.

Every day talented and emerging artists upload their work to sites like Deviantartflickr, and Vimeo.

So, why not (net)work with real artists? Take a stake in someone else’s career. Go out of your way to elevate an artist who can do something you can’t. They’re grinding to get noticed, just like you, so help each other out.  

No, not everyone will want to work with you, but you may be surprised by how many people will.

Collaboration is the very heart of the social web. Not doing it minimizes the essence of what makes the internet so cool.

6. Stop Thinking That Just Because You’re Not Spending Money, You’re Not Wasting Time

Let’s just cut through the garbage, content marketing is hard. If your articles don’t somehow lead to dollars, you’re wasting your time.

This whole idea of creating a bunch of free content to build your business only works when you’re an exceptionally disciplined writer.

If you’re a regular person, and don’t have it in you to write epic shit all the time, then you’ll probably want to look to paid ads.

Yes, believe it or not, you have to make an investment into your business.

If you refuse to invest money, you must invest time into learning exactly what it takes to be a better writer.

That doesn’t mean reading a handful of Copyblogger articles and thinking you’re a qualified copywriter.

It means spending several hours a day reading everything you can on writing; learning different styles and techniques, similarities in teachings and contradictions in philosophies.

It means reading prose and poetry, speeches and monologues and dissecting each piece; ”Out of all the possible words with similar meanings, why use this word? What impact did that have on the picture in your mind?”; then synthesising your own style based on what you’ve learned.

The ability to type doesn’t make you a content marketer any more than owning a paintbrush makes you a painter.

You must understand the relationship between words and the brain if you’re not spending money to grow your business. You can’t just pump out mediocre material and expect to get rich.

7. Stop Thinking Words Are All That Matter

It’s not 1996 anymore.

People are using slideshows, videos, podcasts, cinemagraphs, infographics, live-streaming and all sorts of other new media formats to stand out.

Don’t get me wrong, words are cool. But kinetic typeography is cooler.

And remember, stop trying to do everything yourself.

Instead, record yourself reading your blog post or use Fiverr to hire someone who knows what they’re doing do it for you.

(Bonus: If you want to give it a little extra drama, use Voices.com to hire a professional voice over actor to read.)

8. Stop Executing Without A Goal In Mind

Imagine you’re in a strange city at 4am and you’re lost.

You’re jet lagged, weary, and you just want to get to your hotel.

A kind stranger says he’s a tour guide and he’d be happy to help you to your quarters, but first, he’d like to buy you a drink at the local pub.  After a couple drinks, he shows you the transit system and explains it’s history.

Then he walks you through 20 blocks of the shopping district and tells you about howthis particular district has won more awards for outstanding customer service than any other in the world. He explains that the stone work on many of the buildings was inspired by the Art Deco movement in the 1960’s. He points to a cafe, smiles, and says, “That’s one of David Hasslehoff’s favorite places for coffee in the Spring.”

Meanwhile, your feet are sore, your legs; weak, and you’re exhausted in such a way that how you handle this situation right now will speak volumes about your character.

Four hours after your initial arrival, the two of you approach your hotel. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a street sign with the same name as the place you met the man.

He extends his hand, palm open, and an expectant look in his eye.

Do you pay him?

As a blogger, you have to consider that your readers are carrying heavy packs, are completely lost, and you’re the only person they’ve found who can help.

Whether we mean to or not, so many of us play the guide because we’re operating without goals, thinking we’ll figure it out in time. Don’t be the guide, have an offer in place so you can help people immediately if they need it.

9. Stop Thinking “Quality Content” Is All You Need

A single, beautifully designed flyer for a nightclub tumbling down a suburban street is not going to pack the place to the walls.

A single, beautifully written post for your blog floating aimlessly about the internet is not going to flood your website with traffic.

Just because it’s good doesn’t mean it deserves to be read. Nobody owes you that.

“Quality Content” is only the beginning. That same beautiful flyer is much more effective when it’s handed out to people who are into clubs.

It’s even more effective when the promoter really listens and makes a judgement as to whether or not you’ll like the DJ and style of music they play.

Please realize, being a “blogger” is more than writing. 80% of your job is to make sure people read your stuff. The other 20% is to create content that rocks my world.

10. Stop Parroting Popular Bloggers

I swear there are 100 Dopplegangers for every to every one popular blogger.

Look, it’s cool to give people credit for their good ideas and link to posts you thought were outstanding; that’s one thing. Even imitating someone’s style and technique can be fine (to a point).

But when you straight up jack someone’s posting style and subject matter, then try to peddle it to the same market and pass it off as original… COME ON!?

Ok, so maybe it’s not quite that severe. But honestly, if you’re going to write about something that’s been covered to death at least do your readers the courtesy of doing it a unique style.

Don’t be the generic version of a brand name blogger. There’s no reward in being the watered down version of someone else.

11. Stop Stifling Your Voice

Even if you’re not copying someone else, you’re probably afraid of reaching your fullest. Why? What about being you makes you so nervous?

You’re fixed on “doing it right”, maintaining cadence and focused on tone that you lose your own voice and your points never hit home.

Fail, be wrong, be yourself and get your own style. People respect that and it’ll catch on after a while.

Experiment with things like you’ve got something to prove, find your own groove, at the end of the day you’re only accountable to you.

12. Stop Doing Webinars Just To Sell Things

You’re not fooling anyone. We all know that you’re doing the webinar to sell something, and we’re just waiting until the end to see how you pitch it.

When webinars first started catching on, it was hip and original, but you’ve really burned the tech out.

If you want to surprise us, how about not pitching something at the end of the webinar?

What if you sacrificed my email address just this once and presented the same information on Google+ Hangouts on Air? Or Vokle, or Airtime? Do you think that might build a little extra good will?

I know, webinars make me give you my email address, which is great for you to push products down my throat until the end of time. But could you and your affiliates not bully me into a sale just once?

Which brings me to my next point…

13. Stop Abusing Your Email Lists

A thousand emails about your new course is obnoxious. Please stop.

14. Stop Spending All Your Time Online

This point is more of a reminder for me than it is to make a point in this post.

For the first 15 months of my son’s life, I spent so much time trying to make my blog work, I missed certain little moments that make being a parent so cool.

Not things like first steps, I was there for that. But the first tooth poking through, the first time he got up on his knees to crawl, the look on his face when he pulled himself up to standing for the first time.

My relationship with my work was like that of an abusive girlfriend. She sucked up my time, didn’t let me see my family, and never put out.

It wasn’t until I established some strong boundaries that we found a mutual respect for each other.

I’ve made a point to only spend 8 hours at my office a day, and I focus as much of my time on creation and refining as possible.

I’d be lying by saying I didn’t still slack off on Facebook or Youtube, but I’m learning to reel myself in and get back to doing only what’s productive.

Because of that, I’ve had more time to do things I love; like wrestling on the floor with my toddler, going to the movies with my wife, and driving to nowhere with the family.

Coincidentally, spending less time online has resulted in only good things for my online business.

15. Stop Putting All Your Stock Into Social Media

Social media is sexy, but you know what’s sexier? Traffic.

As a Think Traffic reader, you probably already know this, but your email list is one of your most important distribution channels for getting your message out there.

This study by Eloqua, a marketing automation company, shows a staggering difference in impressions delivered by email vs social media.

Even though your inbox gets crowded, it doesn’t compare with the firehose of social media (290 million tweets/month!).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t focus on social media.

What I’m saying is that if social media is all you’re focused on, you need to take a more balanced approach to your online marketing strategy.

16. Stop Writing Meaningless List Posts

Somewhere along the way the blogosphere caught on to something tabloid editors have known for years: big lists draw more eyes.

Whether we mean to or not, our brains are wired to believe the bigger the list, the more valuable. The problem is, everyone’s a publisher.

Which means anyone willing to copy/paste a bunch of links into a giant list is likely to get more shares (because our brains are wired to associate high numbers with value).

Now, I’m not saying “stop writing list posts”. I’m saying stop writing meaningless list posts.

“10 Things That’ll Make Your Facebook Fans Go Gaga Over You” and “56 Things About Twitter You Can Learn From Justin Bieber.”

Cheap shots. Low Blows. They’re like the Jersey Shore of the Internet.

Sure, the headlines are catchy, but they often lack substance. It’s more likely to be a repackaged version of a rehashed list that was a bad carbon copy of something good. In other words, it probably isn’t very valuable.

Don’t be cheap.

Don’t just stare at your screen drooling while your fingers move on auto-pilot. Be engaged throughout the entire writing process.

Slow down, take your time, and really create the best thing someone will read that day.

17. Stop Wasting Your Money On Stupid Programs And Never Doing Anything With Them

Ever buy a program then do absolutely nothing with it?

Sure, you watched the first couple videos, or read the first few paragraphs of the .pdf… but you had other things to do, so you picked it up, tried it out, got bored and moved on.

And because YOU didn’t want to be a jerk, you didn’t ask for a refund.

Honestly, who can stand the guilt reminding you that you’re not living up to your potential?


It may have been an impulse buy on your part (many product launches cater to that) OR the creator could do a better job of creating more engaging content.

If it was a twitch purchase, there’s not much I can tell you beyond get control of your spending. If you can’t, at least make a commitment to making the most of your stupid decision; don’t just waste your money.

If however you really did want to learn something and the material wasn’t engaging, then tell the creator!

Don’t blame yourself for “not getting it” if the material was unclear.

If they’re not full of themselves, they’ll appreciate the feedback and strive to be more comprehensive.

18. Stop Hitting “Publish”

How many times do we have to say it: write epic shit. Nobody is capable of being epic all the time. So stop publishing every single thing you write.

Once upon a time, being “published” meant something. Writers would remove small portions of themselves and preserve them in ink. And still they were told “No.”

But now, being “published’ takes all of 30 seconds, and anyone with an internet connection can do it.

This is great for underdog writers who’re ahead of their time, but it’s greater for the no talent hacks who muck up the internet screaming for a voice.

Obviously, this isn’t you.

This is your competition. These are the people who are stealing your readers and traffic, and they can’t be stopped.

They can however be silenced if you’re so good everyone ignores them to death. But, you have to show restraint.

You can’t throw a flurry of punches and expect not to get gassed. Instead, you must endure longer, hit harder, and at the exact right moment.

19. Stop Doing Dumb Things

Stop checking your Facebook all day. Stop letting your time get sucked into Youtube. Stop having asinine conversations on Twitter.

Stop willing your computer to be an ATM.

Without actual work it’s not going to happen.

Stop idolizing every popular blogger that shows you their crazy glamorous lifestyle. Even if they have videos of themselves on the beach, sipping martinis, surrounded by super-models, they’re still hustling more than you see (or they’re a scammer).

Use your judgment, put your head down, and trust you’re capable of doing good work. And be honest with yourself, is this something you’re really passionate about?

There’s a horde of passionless zombie bloggers that thrive on doing dumb things. They aren’t doing what they love so they don’t fight for the blog, and they don’t trust their own judgement. You don’t have to be cliché.

Trust yourself, be disciplined, and blog on your own terms.

Tommy Walker is a zombie killer, video producer and is on a mission to save the world of online marketing from passionless bloggers. When he isn’t hosting Inside The Mind, he’s guest posting on every popular website known to man to raise money for season 2 on Indiegogo.

87 thoughts on “19 Bad Habits Bloggers Need to STOP”

  1. I have been reading on many blogs that list posts create a hype and all but no where did it mention that the ‘list’ posts should be meaningful and have quality points. As long as its a list post, you will get hits. Forget the quality. In my point of view, as long as the title is catchy, list post or no list post, it will attract the readers anyway.

    #14 should have been the first point. I hate to admit, but yes my eye power decreased due to constant browsing on the net. Balance is what we need. Too much of something never produces any positive result.

    As most of the bloggers have these habits, it’s going to take some time to stop 😛 Great post Tommy! :)

  2. Great post so far (I got to “link bait” and just had to stop to comment).

    Bait is a lure to get something live to enter a trap. It’s based on deception.

    I couldn’t agree more – no link bait! When I find I’ve been baited, I remember the web site and vow “never again”.

    1. @Jason HAHAHAHAHA!

      But seeing the amount of disciples he started with, I think it’s safe to consider that Jesus was the earliest documented case of a message “Going Viral”

      ::ducks out before we get into a theological debate::

  3. Apart from it being a bloody long list post, a refreshing read, thanks. (There’s something about list posts that make me expect each point to be fairly short and succinct. I think that’s why they are popular.)

  4. Hi Tommy,

    Great stuff! Quick question: I’ve been seriously blogging for less than a year (although I’ve had blogs for years). What’s the code for self-promotion on someone else’s blog without permision?

    I recently posted something and someone commented on it. The comment was interesting but it clearly lead to that person promoting one of her own posts from her blog, for which she included the link. I didn’t like this very much, even though the comment was adding “some” value…

    Thanks! Seb

  5. Hilarious and so true.

    What’s interesting is when something crosses the line from “best practice” to “bad habit.”

    For example, there was a time when those webinars + pitches were awesome and revolutionary because they were new. Now that everyone and their uncle is doing ’em, the strategy is stale and new innovation is needed.

    Ditto with “build buzz with your list months ahead of time leading up to an EPIC LAUNCH” — has it now come to “A thousand emails about your new course is obnoxious. Please stop” ?

    Also, I wish I could give a hundred “likes” just to #17 and #19!

    1. And the rate at which all of this stuff moves, it’s hard to be revolutionary.

      I think really the best thing we can do is start trusting ourselves a little more and stop trying to emulate everyone else.

      It’s scarier that way, but in my opinion, far more rewarding.

      Just start mashing stuff together and seeing what works, that’s how the most awesome technologies came about, isn’t it?

  6. Tommy! Dude! Yes!

    Great post, and great to see you here at Corbett’s :)

    I’m really psyched from more from you.

    That being said, I’ll probably stay out of this discussion, ’cause I break a huge chunk of the above guidelines over at RYZE :)

    Then again, I’m currently running my business while HOMELESS, so… you know… maybe I should listen? 😛


    Mad love, bro.

    1. It’s really good to be here! I’m stoked, this is such a great crowd of people :-)

      I’ll let RYZE be the exception to some of these, buuut yeah, being homeless and running the business, that’s got to be rough brotha.

      Are you doing a video journal of this whole process? Love to see you RYZE from this situation in real time!

  7. Tommy,

    Great stuff buddy… Really really good, not just for a list post, but for building a blog in general. Truly epic and I mean that.

    I’d say personally, my biggest mistake as a blogger has been creating content without a goal in mind. I’ve changed that but it took me almost a year to figure out the content to contents sake didn’t do much good.

    Appreciate time in this article.

    Ryan Hanley

    1. Thanks Ryan,

      I think the hardest part for most people is having the goal in mind for each piece that they publish. The community at large I think has really started to shift the mindset towards that as it’s become more necessary, but even just a couple years ago the main teaching was “write first, sell later.”

      Once that switch is made though, it’s like a whole new world, wouldn’t you agree?

  8. Hi Tommy,

    Blogging is a deceptively complex field to get into, and it takes a while for that to sink in. I was reminded of that going through your post, it’s no wonder so many of us end up flailing around trying to sort it all out!

    Some really useful tips here–I really liked what you said about the value of focusing on your email list over social media. Also, as someone who subscribes to a lot of lists, I have to second your point about not abusing your email list.

    Thanks for the great information.

    1. Hi Tommy,

      My 2 worst email abuses:

      1. the five day lead up to a launch where I get consecutive hard sell emails– 5 days to go! 4 days to go!! Only 3 days left!!! etc

      2. sneaky linguistic tricks to get me to open emails. At one point I had a rash of people sending emails with ‘Oops, I made a mistake” in the subject line, it’s like someone had given a webinar saying this was one way to get people to open up emails, the problem was that I got a whole heap of copycat emails in the space of about 2 weeks.

  9. I have one too: stop writing blog posts about blogging.

    Oh, and another one: stop writing numbered blog posts abour improving your blog posts.

    Oh and one last one: don’t be preachy and condescending; it belittles the reader who you’re writing for.

    Food for thought.

    1. Hey Tom,

      Thanks for the feedback, and I’m sorry if this made you feel condescended or belittled. From the looks of your blog, it looks like we’re on the same team, I’m just approaching the subject matter a little differently.

      If you read through the list, it’s primarily about using your blog more strategically as a marketing tool, not necessarily a blog post about writing blog posts.

      The tone, and the list as a whole is really designed to de-program some of the thinking that is associated with “blogging” as a practice.

      In your most recent blog post http://tommorkes.com/never-fail-again-3-proven-steps-to-guarantee-your-success/

      Your step 1 is “Set up and maintain your goal” which is pretty much the same as point 8.) I make in this article.

      Really, looking at your stuff, I can tell our heads are both in the same place, I just approached this article a little differently. Really am sorry if you felt belittled or condescended.

    2. Tommy, well put and after looking at your other stuff, I realize you’re not a phony – so I’m sorry; I’ve just been reading a bunch of trite stuff recently and, with that mindset, this came off w/ the wrong tone as I read it. But you’re right, we’re in the same place and actually share a lot of the same views.

      I appreciate your response – and I’ll be donating to your indiegogo fund :) least I can do for being a dick on here.

      note: when it comes to beginner writers/bloggers, I worry more about people NOT writing because they get too caught up in which direction to take their writing. I’d almost rather people steal for a while until they find their own voice than simply not try at all.

      Good luck with everything Tommy (again, sorry for the comment – came off way harsher than I realized after I reread it)

    3. Ha! No worries man, I know exactly that you mean. This post & tone was born from the triteness that proliferates this space – I’m just sorry it hit you at the wrong time :-P.

      I very much appreciate you contributing to my campaign, but don’t worry about being a dick. Quite honestly, I think we need more people calling people out on stuff like that. (not based on inexperience though, only when they pose as something they’re not)

      And I totally agree – Beginning writers should avoid getting in their head about their writing with their blog, and the only way to really combat this is by writing A TON, however I wonder if emulating other bloggers is the way, or should they also balance in some fiction writing to add some flavor to their writing?

      I actually just wrote about the whole “being in your head” thing over at Problogger, I think you might like it :-) http://www.problogger.net/archives/2012/11/13/how-to-blog-in-the-moment-or-what-acting-school-taught-me-about-being-a-better-blogger/

  10. I need to find a ghostwriter until I take a comprehensive blogging course. Apparently I am nowhere near ready to go live by January.

  11. “Trust yourself, be disciplined, and blog on your own terms.” Funny how that one stuck with me and it was the last line in the post! I also so much agree with #17 and #19. We get trapped in this “learning mode” and forget to actually find our purpose and mission. That has to be first! Buying crap won’t uncover a mission.

    I thought your article was bold, not condescending. It often takes boldness to get the message across. And obviously you had a “goal in mind” with the post. And, you’re being you, which is the most important part of communicating effectively.

    Thanks for the list. There are even one or two others that could help 😉

    1. Hey thanks Carmelo :-)

      The thing is too, so much of the stuff out there is designed to get us to buy crap. That’s not to say there isn’t good stuff out there, because there really is, but we can often get locked into this pattern of buying, and “learning” instead of creating.

      This is of course very dangerous, because at the end of the day you end up spending what you’re not earning, and might not even realize it until it’s too late.

      I think the favorite list I’ve ever written was this one 😛 http://chrisbrogan.com/106

  12. I want to stop thinking I’m so smart…I just can’t. Blame my parents.

    What if we didn’t go on the internet for a week and wrote about things that happened in real life?

    Or should I start a blog that geared towards bloggers that blog about other blogger’s blogs?

    Top of the food chain!

  13. Great thoughts. I think we fall into so many of these traps because they have worked for so long and provide quick boosts in traffic or engagement. In many ways I consider it the difference between instant and delayed gratification. I definitely think we need to change it up. A lot of the same from blogs these days.

  14. Tommy, this is actually one of the more interesting posts I’ve read recently. Much of it I agree with. However, even the parts that give me pause are good food for thought. In fact, here are some of thing that crossed my mind about some of the points you’ve shared here:

    2. Stop Using Clichéd Catch Phrases

    The thing about catch phrases is that no one really knows what their current shelf life is. I imagine the expiration date appears whenever you find yourself getting tired of hearing it from a particular group of people. Usually those people are followers of ANOTHER group of people who love to congratulate each other incessantly on how “smart” they all are to be in the same guru circle. I like to call it “The Ego Echo Chamber”. It can also be called something else a little more colorful, but I see no reason to belabor the point.

    3. Stop Writing “Link Bait”

    “Link Bait” is a very subjective phrase. Some would argue that one man’s link bait is another’s pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I think it depends just as much on what the motivations are of the people who click the link as it does on what the bloggers motivation was for offering the link in the first place. In other words, if you click it and find what you THINK you’re looking for—then it’s great. But if you don’t, well then I guess you’ll just think of it as just another pot of fool’s gold.

    10. Stop Parroting Popular Bloggers

    This is VERY true. When you look around the net, most of what you see is just a cheap imitation of what the next guy or girl is doing. However, originality is a risky road that few travel because they’re to gutless to take the first step. Furthermore, I would say that broadcasters/bloggers are actually discouraged to be different by whatever marketing guru that they be following this week.

    16. Stop Writing Meaningless List Posts

    Surely everyone here can see the irony in reading a list post that disparages list posts, right? Having said that though, I think it’s important for people to realize that “meaningless’ is always in the eye of the beholder, correct? If a particular post or podcast scratches whatever itch you may have at the moment, then that might be as meaning-FULL as it needs to be. However, I think that this is still a good point overall for new bloggers.

    17. Stop Wasting Your Money On Stupid Programs And Never Doing Anything With Them

    To the defense of all those who buy stupid programs, many times they don’t actually KNOW that they’re stupid before they buy them. It’ only AFTER they buy them that the stupidity of the programs become so evident. Also, on top of that, there’s no shortage of marketing gurus out here promising folks everything but who actually deliver on “no” thing.

    ~Victory Unlimited

    1. Thank you Victory for taking the time to write out such a detailed response.

      I absolutely love the “ego echo chamber” concept, and I think what a lot of this really boils down to is be willing to strike out on your own.

      Yes I very much meant for it to be ironic that this was a long list post, however the goal was not necessarily to attract traffic, but to start a conversation about all of this.

      To be perfectly honest, the “gurus” are all such because they’ve developed their own unique voice, but have also repackaged many basic MarCom principles that have been taught for years. To me, I see nothing wrong with that. What I do see is when they in their own way try to encourage everyone else to parrot the popular. All that really does is reinforce their voice while taking away from the other (in a way)

      This also gets people in this buying cycle of buying the stupid programs, and even if it doesn’t work, you’re still left blaming yourself, not bad information all together. So you wait for the next thing, and buy that… know what I mean?

  15. Man, you have a lot to say on this subject! And I am so with you!

    Here’s one I’d like to add:

    If you write an awesome, perfectly-worded, attention-getting headline, your content better live up to it.

    Sometimes I think people love headline writing so much (it *is* fun) that they forget to put as much work into the actual post.

    What I was really happy to read was your emphasis on learning to write well. There are so many resources for learning to write–even just online–nad it’s an empowering thing to do. And reading–yes! If you want to write, you have to read.

    Thanks for the post!

  16. This is great–thanks! I really should be working instead of checking Facebook and (gasp) clicking on the catchy headline to see what bad habit I might need to stop :)

    I’ve been cringing at the words “authentic” and “transparent” for a long time now, so I’m very glad you mentioned it. I vote them the two most meaningless overused words ever.

    Also appreciate the bit about lists. Sometimes they’re really useful, especially lists of, for example, blogs in a certain niche you might want to guest post for or read for info on this or that. Stuff like that saves people time and effort. But most of the time they’re just too huge and too lightweight to really be useful. “35 ways to get happy?” Nah. How about “How to make this 1 get-happy technique work for you every day?”

    Thanks also for those links–I wasn’t aware of those places/that stuff/whatever. Back to work; will check again later :)

  17. Great post. I especially liked the irony in point 16… Stop writing (meaningless) list posts.

    Point 17 is so true. I’ve bought way too many products and done nothing with them. Then I bought a program and decided that I was finally going to implement it. All of a sudden I stopped buying products. Saved some money and I actually started building my business instead of trying to build a business.

    Enjoyed the read. Also added your blog to google reader. Can’t wait to learn more from you.

    1. Thanks! If you want to get more too, I’ve got a crowdfunding experiment running right now to get the second season of my show off the ground. You can click my name to get to the page :-)

  18. I just finished reading a clever chiche’d list post written by the smartest man in the world containing no multimedia, posted to inbound as linkbait.

    Just sayin.

    1. The point was not to linkbait, but to start a conversation.

      There is no multimedia, this is true, and because this is your first time meeting me, I totally understand how this could come off as being contrived. In the bigger picture, I really have no issues admitting when I am wrong, or don’t understand something.

      Heck, my fundraising campaign has just barely broken 1% of it’s overall goal, and that is a very public thing. I’ll share what that was like from an honest perspective because of the lesson that comes from it too.

      Now I ask, did you read the post? or scan the subheads?

  19. Great post Tommy: it’s been very refreshing to read this. A lot of your points resonate with how I’ve felt about blogging for a long time.

    Bloggers have to compete for attention these days with social media and particularly Pinterest, Facebook and YouTube. Getting the audience is much harder work than it was three years ago or more. That means the margin for bad habits is much smaller now.

    I’d like to add a few more suggestions:

    Stop thinking that low traffic figures and social engagement mean that no one is reading or enjoying your blog. If the content is great and you’ve paid some attention to SEO and social media, you’ll have a readership even if they don’t make themselves known to you immediately.
    (plus if the content is good and interesting other opportunities may come)

    Stop thinking that ads are the golden goose. Advertising, and Adsense in particular, only work as a stand-alone income source if your blog attracts very high volumes of traffic. If you want to monetize your blog, you should consider additional (or alternative) ways to do it.

    Stop thinking you have to post multiple times a week (or even a day) to advance your blog. Unless you’re running a breaking news service, there are very few instances where this is necessary and you’ll get very little or no additional benefit for posting at such a high frequency. For most bloggers, once or maybe twice a week is a good posting frequency. Your mileage may vary but be sure not to burn yourself out.

    1. Ooooh those are awesome additions! There is so much wrapped up in there that even I’m guilty of, especially the low comment one. But really that minimizes the people, and their need to have a problem solved. When we start reducing people to numbers, that’s when we have a real problem.

      I’d also like to add that we’re not competing with just each other, or even through social media. Our competition is everywhere. From photos of cats and babies, to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, to porn.

      The screen your looking at right now is used for a lot of things, and anything that causes your readers to switch tabs is your competition. It’s not about niche’s, it’s about keeping attention.

  20. This is hands down, one of the best blogging articles I have ever read.
    Every single point it relevant and well…on point. As someone fairly new to the blogging world I’ve fallen prey to more of these than I can count. Thanks for this!

  21. Haha great post! I totally agree with stopping Webinars just for the sake of selling things. Just the word “webinar” leaves a bad taste in my mouth – I don’t think I’ve been on one that hasn’t had SOMETHING to sell me at the end…most of them have something to sell me not just at the end…but at the beginning, middle, and everywhere else in between!


    1. Yup! There really is an art form to good presentation of a webinar. Granted, it’s ok to sell, but when that’s baked in to the entire content of the webinar, and you’ve emailed me 40 times in a week… it get’s a bit excessive, ya know?

      The technology is really great, and I wish more people would use it a little more nicely. Really a good hangout or livestream could do just as well, wouldn’t you agree?

  22. GREAT Post Tommy :) Lot’s of great original advice! The best line of all “Trust yourself, be disciplined, and blog on your own terms.” Being a newbie blogger..just a little over a year..this is the ONE thing that I keep going back to….Thanks for the reminder..AGAIN…to be me :) LOL

  23. Tommy, I can’t tell you how much I loved your post. It touched my heart that I was about to have tears in my eyes. I felt every point you said. Blogging is an overwhelming world and yes, until you’re making money, then time is wasted. I did buy into different teachings and trainings that I have not used or fully utilized. I love what I do but scattered with ideas on how to bring it to the world in the best way. Technology and the “how-to” is always an issue. Driving traffic is a huge big problem also. I post my new blog post into multiple social media platforms that doesn’t yield into traffic so yes, I need to work on a better marketing strategy. Thanks again for the reminder of all these points that can help me focus and re-direct my path.


  24. I think you make some strong points, but what bothers me about posts like this is the assumption that we all blog for the same reason. If it’s only meant for your readers to find, that’s fine, but presumably you’d like to reach people outside of your immediate world. There are a lot of reasons to blog, and not all of them involve making money. Blogging started as a mode of self-expression, not a vehicle for self-promotion. As such, it’s a bit strange to say, “Stop thinking that quality content is all you need.” The fact is that some of the best blogs thrive solely on quality content and little else – if your content is damn good and unique, you don’t always need a lot of PR. It’s also self-conflicting to tell people not to stifle their voices, while you surround that point with other points that state what they are doing is dumb. The bottom line is that there isn’t a “right way” to blog.

    By the way, bullet points aren’t meant to be clever. They are designed to break up the text into bite-size pieces so that busy people aren’t wading through a sea of words. Long posts like this one really benefit from that. So, it isn’t a gimmick; it’s an effective way of engaging your readers.

    1. You’re absolutely right, we don’t all blog for the same reason.

      As someone who started blogging as a mode of self expression, I completely agree with you and I think that expression is something that more people should bring back into their work.

      Unfortunately, there is a whole population of bloggers who do nothing but try to emulate other popular bloggers, and unfortunately become a bad carbon copy of the amalgamation of the bloggers who did that before them.

      As far as the “quality content being all that you need” you’re right, there are plenty who have “made it” by writing nothing but quality content with very little PR, however I would like to issue the challenge to find someone who has “made it” by doing only that – post 2009. And who does it without talking about it anywhere online.

      The gold-rush is over.

      With over a billion things being shared by 1/7 of the world’s population on a daily on sites like Facebook, it’s increasingly difficult to rely solely on the caliber of your work to get noticed.

      I am assuming that readers of a site like thinktraffic are looking to increase the traffic to their site with a purpose, and rather than being discouraging, I aim to break some of the cliches that have been taught that people rely on, rather than understanding their actual purpose. The difference between the bullet points in point 1 and point 3 are a demonstration of that.

      With such a critical mass of users, everyone has a voice, and those who are looking to use that voice to do *something* aside from express themselves in an online journal, need to do more to get their voice out there while preserving what makes them unique.

      This is something that I tried demonstrating though-out the body of the article as well as in single lines.

      The last one being “Trust yourself, be disciplined, and blog on your own terms.”

  25. Hey Tommy, while I definitely enjoyed this list (and got a couple of key takeaways), what I really appreciated was the way you handled the (potentially) negative comments. I don’t see that too often.

    I recently discovered the “Twitter Traction” article you posted on Liz Strauss’ blog and I picked up some great tips there. But based on what I’ve read in the comments, I can say ou’ve got a new fan here.

    Thanks again.

  26. Great article but I couldn’t help but chuckle over your very first point which indicated something along the lines of stupid things that bloggers do including using quotes and making bulleted lists to be clever. A bit contradicting when you look at your third point which makes use of a bulleted list and also a quote from wikipedia. It’s almost like a doctor saying not to smoke but then you see the doctor smoking away outside :)

    1. 😛

      Ah yes, guilty! There was a lot of irony that was meant to be baked into the post.

      I also wanted to illustrate my point by bending some of the rules to make it.

      The quotes I was talking about were really more from famous people though, usually those are used to *weakly* make a point.

      ::lights one up::

  27. I know I can always turn to you and always find something that relates directly to what I’m going through at the time. I blog/ghostwrite for a client who insists on dictating and micromanaging every single word, so that it’s become impossible for me to actually be creative in the content I offer them, and has diminished traffic to almost nothing. I’ve tried showing them the numbers, but they just don’t care. They’re published authors, so what do I know, right?

    Your post kind of boosted me up from the despairing feeling that had me thinking I’d be dealing with this sort of thing the rest of my life.

    I saved all my original work before they butchered it. Time to show someone else who can appreciate it. Thanks, T.

    1. That is always a difficult battle to win.

      However, there will always be people who appreciate the work you do more.

      Good to hear you kept your originals, and I sincerely hope in the future you’re able to find people who appreciate the work that you’re doing.

      In the mean time, remember you still have to pay the bills 😛

  28. Haha I like the point for one quality blog there are 20 Dopplegangers. So true, they will try to get that first post on every post. It’s annoying and they add no value. The blog owner is probably like why does this guy always have to leave a comment on everyone of my post!


  29. Individually there’s some great points here. Collectively there’s some irony. Why do I need to understand the relationship between words and the brain if it’s not to employ clever tactics? Why’s the post called “19…” rather than “Stop using gimmicks. Just work harder”? Why’s STOP capitalised?

    That being said, great post!

    #11’s bang on.

    1. Lol I’m glad you caught the irony of it, and really that was part of the point.

      Psychologically, we’re pre-programmed to believe that big lists are more valuable, and the bigger the list, the more valuable it must be, right?

      In titling it the way I did, I wanted to use that to my advantage, but wanted to make the individual points something more than rehashed and remixed points other articles before it have already made. Surely you’ve seen plenty of “10 tips to a better facebook/twitter/google plus” posts that all basically say the same things?

      The understanding between words and the brain is not to employ more clever tactics, but rather to be a better writer. Large, massive and gargantuan are all different words, but evoke vastly different imagery within your mind’s eye. By using the right words, you communicate more clearly. Sometimes that’s clever, but it’s rarely contrived. In the context of this article clever = contrived = trite.

      STOP is capitalized because it stands out more in busy twitter feeds and Facebook walls, and all around it creates a curiosity gap.

      If you want more of my methodology on how I craft my headlines, you can find it here:


  30. First time visitor and I must say I’m impressed by this article. Nice job, very well thought out. I almost didn’t have anything to comment on; almost that is.

    The only one I have a slight disagreement with, and it’s very slight, is #4. While I agree that there are a lot of intelligent people in the world, I have to tell you that in my life I got through a lot of trouble and mess by believing I was the smartest person in the room.

    Now, life experiences can be different from person to person, but I lived a year in basically a ghetto when my dad went to Vietnam and I had kids wanting to beat me up every day. I wasn’t a big kid at 10, but I had more education by far and thus I had to tell myself every day that I was smarter than all the other kids and could think my way out of any situation, and luckily I did.

    Years later I’m starting college and had quite a few people thinking I had to get there on affirmative action because they had no idea who I was. Once again, my mind had to decide that I was going to go out of my way to make people think I was the smartest person in the room because not only was I not going to have anyone even thinking they could look down on me, but I wanted them to think I knew something about almost everything; at least more about it than they did. Yeah, calculus did end up kicking my behind, but the belief got me through that very first year and helped me immensely in the last 3 years.

    I say this to highlight that every once in awhile people need to think of themselves as smart, and at least as smart as every other person they encounter. And if they need a boost then kick it up a notch and realize that you’re smarter than every person in the room about something. There’s no problem in doing that unless you’re looking at others in a condescending way; as a survival tactic, it’s a valuable tool.

    Great post; makes people think. :-)

    1. I can’t disagree with you, but what I really mean here is not a matter of confidence (even if it’s psyched up confidence) it’s a matter of ego.

      There are plenty of people in every field who believe their thoughts and ideas are infallible. Point #4 is meant for them.

      For people in your situation; as a survival tactic, it’s very different, and when you know when to turn it off and listen to the world around you, it only makes you that much stronger when you have to turn it on again. #4 is meant for those who don’t know when or how to do that :-)

  31. Hi Tommy, great post indeed, I am getting a bit disheartened with the blogging world at the moment, so many people becoming like dodgy Clickbank promoting Internet Marketers, so much self promoting and link baiting going on.

    I believe we should be genuine, whatever tactics we use we should still be genuine in using them and then we stand a better footing for building loyal readers and relationships.
    Give quality content, teach people something for free, have the reader leaving your site knowing more than when they landed. And as you say stop trying to sell something all of the time.

    Email newsletters should be just that, a newsletter not a just another ‘buy my crap’ email consisting of 200 words or less and where most of them make up the 3 affiliate URLs!

    I love epic posts, I agree we all need to write them what I don’t agree with is that epic should always mean very long. A well written and unique post with 1500 words can still be very epic if it has a lot of quality and useful content.

    And that there is my tuppence worth!

  32. Great points all throughout even when some of your points violate your other commands. I saw in the comments that was “irony baked in” but really, I think when it’s done right, most of these aren’t that annoying. It’s when they get done poorly that everything falls to crap.

    1) Most people can’t pull off humor or clever but they try anyways.

    3) I’ve always thought with linkbait that sure, you get traffic and half your traffic thinks you’re an idiot. Not the right “first foot” to get off on. How do you convert people who thoroughly disagree with you into real, regular readers? (Think Grindstone SEO … he manages it but usually with people like us, not those who disagree.)

    7) Guilty. And I’m a former pro photographer – no excuse. :(

    13) Made the mistake of signing up to a WSO once. Ouch. Email pain that has yet to be alleviated.

    17) Have you seen the video interview with Tony Robbins, Frank Kern and John Reese? It delves into why people do this. And it’s VERY good. (I don’t post comment links 1st time through anyone’s blog so just YT search it.)

    Great post – thanks!

  33. “How many times do we have to say it: write epic shit.”

    Doesn’t this fall under #2.

    Enjoyed the rest of the article but this particular sound-bite has been done to death and is meaningless, I’ve yet to find a blog whose every post is epic. Every now and then an article strikes a chord with its readers because it hits on something which has meaning and is actionable and answers a question which a large group of people have. But to be constantly chasing the perfect post, every single time, is guaranteed to get people to do what the title of #18 suggests – stop hitting publish!

    And if I come across another post which tells me how ‘pumped’ or ‘stoked’ the author is, I’m going to have to tell them what an ‘epic little shit’ they are :)

  34. Great post! Have to say I have been guilty of some of them, but have been doing my best over the past few months not to!

    We write a lot of list posts, but they are written with our reader in mind, and are really helpful. We have a travel blog so certain list posts are really helpful and our readers love them. You have to always write with your reader in mind. What do they want? and then give it to them. If they like list posts then give them list posts.

    We get lots of ideas from other bloggers, mostly outside of our niche and we take those ideas to create something fresh and new. We have other bloggers who copy everything we do, including voice and style. I tell you it is as annoying as hell. I love helping people, but the only clone I want is one I create so it can do the ridiculous amount of jobs I need it to finish for me! BE YOURSELF

  35. My first visit. I enjoyed your post, although I, too, found it a bit preachy. When I first starting blogging in 2009 (almost 4 years ago), I wanted to learn more about social media and paid quite a few courses over the ensuing years. But now so many people are giving courses and webinars that their value has diminished. The last time I paid $99 for a LinkedIn course, I figured I could have given it myself. So I’m very stingy with my money now.

    Regarding lists or bullet points, I use them when appropriate to help the reader. My mantra is that the reader is almost always in trouble. S/he’s looking for the meat — “what’s in it for me” if I read this post. Using subheads, which you don’t mention, and bullet points is to help guide the reader.

    I haven’t yet started selling from my blog. Right now it’s serving very nicely as a portfolio of my work – because I’m selling business writing. That’s just as legitimate a reason to blog as any other. As you say, stop trying to copy other bloggers. So what if I don’t have thousands of subscribers. I’m happy.

    1. ” So what if I don’t have thousands of subscribers. I’m happy.”

      This, above all, is what’s most important.

      Many of the bloggers I’ve spoken with in the past do not share that, and can become quite unhappy with their blog and their work. As long as you have that happiness, anything I say here would be arbitrary.

      That makes you the most powerful type of creative there is (and I mean that in the absolute best way possible)

  36. Beautiful work Tommy – I love this stuff. These are exactly the kinds of things I need to be conscious of in my own work. It’s much easier to avoid doing these things now that you’ve defined them so well. Thanks!

  37. Tommy, I just read through this post for the third time. THANK YOU again for your efforts in writing this truly epic content. I’ve already become much more conscious of what not to do in my future blog posts.

  38. I like your down to earth advise, (even with the expletives.)

    It is mind numbing, the amount of “Blogging Guides” out there.
    The be yourself approach is much more appealing to me.
    Your comment about owning a paint brush doesn’t make you an artist really
    hits home. When I use to teach painting, literately everyone
    had a daughter, aunt or grandmother that was an “artist”.

    Thanks for this article, it has refreshed my thoughts and hopefully my writing.

  39. This article lost any shred of credibility as soon as you wrote that someone should use Fiver as a good place to find someone to record audio or a voiceover for a blog.

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