Hunter's Woods PH

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid as a Newbie Content Creator

It’s common to make these mistakes when you’re just starting out as a content creator. Avoid them and spare yourself a world of hassle.

When it’s your first time blogging — or creating content, as we now say — it’s not uncommon to just take a spontaneous, from-the-gut, semi-haphazard approach to writing. Especially if you’re starting a personal blog, it’s easy to think that you’re just writing for yourself and that therefore the only box you have to check before hitting “Publish” on a post is whether or not what you’ve written comes from the heart.

And that’s all very well.


You might, at some point in the future, think of trying to earn from (or “monetize”) your blog. Because why not, right? You pour your heart and soul into it, you invest time in it, and if there’s a chance that you can do all that — do what you love — and earn from it at the same time, then that’s just super, right?

Except that now you suddenly have to look at your posts through another lens. Now it’s not enough that you’re writing from the heart; now you have to consider whether what you’re writing is something people will actually want to read. Because if your blog can’t attract readers, your blog can’t earn money.

I learned this lesson the hard way.

Some time ago, I tried to sign up one of my old blogs for Google Adsense and Google basically said: nope, sorry, we don’t think your blog has what it takes to attract readers who buy things from ads we show them.

That blog hadn’t been updated for some time but it still has readers. Not a whole bunch of readers but a fair few. The stats back that up. They are drawn to the blog by 2-3 old articles that are still relevant today. But when Google evaluated the blog as a whole to see if it had enough quality — if it was good enough to put ads in — as a whole, it was not.

That really discouraged me. I tried to get a sense of what Google would require from a website before it would display ads in it but I soon realized fixing the blog was going to be too much work. It would take too much time, time that I didn’t have. Defeated, I gave up the idea of monetizing that blog.

Recently, though, I found myself with a lot of time. That is to say, I still don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do, but I had more time to work with than I did before.

I decided to go back to my old blog and see if I could salvage it somehow and make it Adsense-ible. This time, I had a bit more knowledge and a bit more experience and also a bit more determination. I examined my old posts with a more critical eye and did what I had to: shape them up or ship them out, so to speak.

The whole process made me realize just how important it is to do it right the first time when you’re starting a blog.

Especially if there is the slightest possibility that you’re going to try to monetize it in the future.

I have over 300 posts in that old blog — not counting the ones I’d already deleted in my previous short-lived, half-hearted audit — and now that I’m going through them one by one, it’s easy to spot things that I would do differently now that I know a bit more about what it takes to create content that can be a possible source of income.

Now, this isn’t to say that you should be completely mercenary about your approach to blogging. Google always says — and from a writer’s perspective, I completely agree — that you should always focus primarily on writing a high-quality article. Even now, for example, I still cannot bring myself to pad a post with inane fluff for the sole purpose of reaching a word count goal or getting in a keyword. My posts in my old blog are straight shoots from the heart and I’m happy to report that a good majority of my posts had been indexed by Google.

But whether or not they are ranking well is another matter!

I purposely didn’t check — because I didn’t want to get discouraged again — but I think most of my posts don’t rank high in Google’s search results. I can’t even say for certain that they provide answers to questions that someone searching on Google has on their minds. And yet ranking well is something that you have to aim for if you ever plan to monetize your blog.

So I made a list — at first as a note to myself — of things that I should make a point to do and things that I should make a point not to do when starting a new blog. I identified mistakes that I made so that I wouldn’t repeat them when I create another website. And then I figured I would share what those mistakes are here, in the hope that someone out there will learn not to commit them as they create their own content.

Mistake #1

Thinking that any title will do

In my old blog, I had a lot of posts whose titles were just one word.


There were a lot of posts titled with just “Wanderlust” and “Fiesole” or with phrases like “Do it.”

Some even had titles so vague that I seriously couldn’t remember anymore what they were about without having to actually open the article and read it.

They all made sense to me at the time that I wrote them.

But from an SEO perspective – and also from a writing perspective – your headline needs to give the reader a good idea of what the article is about. A one-worder just doesn’t cut it.

These are the posts that I’m pretty sure are not ranking well, if at all, in Google.

Now, those titles would probably be fine if, like, “wanderlust” was a completely new or very rarely used word that was going to get suddenly popular. Or if I was the only person in the whole world who has ever travelled to Fiesole (a town on a hill overlooking Florence).

It might also have been okay if I had a very big base of followers and if most of my readers came to my blog because they were following me. If I already had a huge, devoted following — if, say, I was Taylor Swift — I wouldn’t need to appear in Google search results to get eyeballs on my content.

But obviously that’s not the case. (In fact, wanderlust is probably one of the most overused words ever in the history of blogging.)

So I’ve got to do better with my titles.

What to do instead:

Come up with a post title that tells your readers what they can expect to find inside your article.

Mistake #2

Using images with huge file sizes

A lot of my posts take ages to load because I overloaded them with photos that were in their original file size: 5 MB or bigger.

This happened because I used to think that the bigger the file size of the photo, the better they would appear.

But this isn’t necessarily the case.

I’m not a professional photographer so not every square nanometer of my pics has to be pixel-perfect.

For the most part, I just need the photos that help me tell my story to be sharp enough when viewed as a whole on a single computer monitor or high-res phone screen. That’s all.

And contrary to previous belief, photos don’t have to be huge to achieve that. In fact, they rarely have to exceed 1 MB.

Using photos with smaller file sizes helps my post load faster, which is important because no reader wants to wait centuries to read a loading article. They would be more likely to just find another source for whatever information they’re looking for.

I have to admit there is a silver lining to my having uploaded high-resolution files to my blog’s media library. My laptop crashed recently and because I was awful at backing up files, I lost a lot of the photos that I had on my hard drive — but at least I still had them in my website.

But that still doesn’t make it okay that my articles take long to load. I’m going to have to go in one of these days and replace those photos with lighter ones. I’ll have to use time I could have used for other more productive things — if only I had just done it right the first time.

What to do instead:

Resize images using free tools such as tinyjpg before uploading them for use on your website.

Mistake #3

Failing to organize posts in a reader-friendly way

In my old blog, after every article, a reader would see thumbnails of related posts. For example, after my post about Fiesole, there were thumbnails of other articles about things you can do in Florence. Those links were put there automatically by a plugin (Jetpack, I think) and were meant to encourage readers to stay longer in the blog by showing them posts that they might be interested in.

Aside from those thumbnails, there was no other way for readers to explore the site. So if someone liked my Italy posts, for example, and wanted to see if I had articles about Switzerland, there was no easy way for them to check. (I did have a search bar on top but I don’t think people used it very much, if at all.)

Thinking about it now, it would have been great if there was one page that listed down all the articles in the site. It would be like a Table of Contents — organized not by page number but by topic — where readers could easily find what they are looking for.

As the writer, I myself would also benefit from having a page like that. If it’s easy for me to see the posts that I’ve already written, it would be easier for me to see what other articles I could write and how I could link them to each other.

What to do instead:

Set up a page that serves as a “Table of Contents.”

Mistake #4

Creating too many tags and categories

I don’t know about other content management systems but WordPress, which I use, lets me assign categories and tags to every post I create.

Categories and subcategories are intended to be broad, structural ways that you can group your posts together, while tags are for more specific groupings, for details. For example, if you have a travel blog, you can have “Italy” and “France” as your categories. Under the “Italy” category, you can have subcategories like “Florence” and “Rome.” For tags, you can have “museums,” “historical landmarks,” “churches,” etc. So if you’re writing an article on your visit to the Uffizi Gallery, you can mark it as follows:

  • Category: Italy
  • Subcategory: Florence
  • Tag: museums

The purpose of all this is to give a structural framework for your articles and at the same time establish relationships among them. From your article about the Uffizi — provided you’ve enabled your categories and tags to be displayed — your reader can click on the “Italy” category and see all your Italy articles or click on the “museums” tag and see your articles on, say, the Louvre and the Rijkmuseum, even though they’re in different countries.

This would be a logical way to go about it.

Unfortunately, WordPress pretty much lets you do anything you want when it comes to tags and categories. There’s no limit to the number of tags and categories you can create. You can assign your post to a bunch of categories. You can put dozens of tags on your articles.

And of course, because Newbie Me could, Newbie Me did.

I wrote an article about our trip to Barcelona, and not only did I have a “Barcelona” category, I had an “Andres Iniesta” category. Like, seriously, did I really anticipate writing, in my travel blog, a bunch of articles about a footballer? No matter how good he was, no! But did I think about that while I was creating categories? No.

If my use of categories was injudicious, my use of tags was even more harebrained.

There’s a thing called the WordPress Reader where you can search for, say, museums and excerpts for all articles tagged “museums” will appear in your feed. If it looks like something you want to read, you can click on the excerpt and you will be taken to the actual article.

It became a way — for me, but I’m sure for a lot of people as well — to draw readers to their website. And the more tags you used, the greater your chance of appearing in someone’s feed, the greater your chance of attracting readers.

So for an article about the Uffizi, for example, I would tag it not only “museums” but everything else halfway related that I could think of: art, Botticelli, da Vinci, Renaissance, travel, etc.

It got to the point that when I audited my blog, I had over 1800 tags!

And that’s fine if all you want to achieve is an appearance in someone’s WordPress Reader feed in the couple of hours after your post is published. (You only get a couple of hours because the feed is chronological; your article will be among the top excerpts for just a limited time.)

However, Google will see your nearly 2000 tags and categories and judge you for them. Especially if they are applied to only one article — like mine on Andres Iniesta — it will seem to Google that you’re not really an expert on anything, and that if they bring readers to your site, your readers will not get the answers they’re looking for, and so they might as well bring those readers to another site with greater expertise.

I basically had to delete all my tags and most of my categories and start fresh.

Again, it would have been so much easier if I had just done it right the first time.

What to do instead:

Make a plan for your site. What broad topics are you going to write about? What tags will lead your reader to other articles that they would be interested in?

Mistake #5

Using the default URL structure for articles

In WordPress Settings > Permalinks you can choose the basic structure of the URL of your posts. By default the post URL — the address of that article on the internet — includes the date published and the title of the article.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that.

It’s just that if you include the date and the entire title of an article, you will tend to end up with a very long URL.

And yet it’s the shorter URLs that tend to appear more authoritative. Very long URLs with lots of extraneous words tend to look amateurish.

Also, displaying the date the article was published is fine if you write about, say, current events — topics for which the date truly is relevant.

But if you’re writing about an “evergreen” topic, your article will look dated and might even seem obsolete to others if its URL reveals that it was published in 2011, even if all the information in it is still accurate and relevant in 2022.

URLs might not seem like a big deal but it’s one of those details that you’re better off paying attention to from the get-go.

What to do instead:

Unless you run a news or current events website, stick to [your website]/post-title as the URL structure for your posts. Delete unnecessary words (such as “the” and other articles) and try to include the keywords for which you want to appear first in Google search results.

Mistake #6

Not putting internal links systematically

Internal links are links to the other articles in your website.

Adding internal links to your articles are both beneficial from an SEO perspective as well as, simply, a user-friendly approach.

Let’s say you have an article about the hostel you stayed in while in Florence. If you also have an article about your visit to the Uffizi, and in there you say that the museum was within walking distance of your hostel, putting in a link to your article about your hostel achieves two purposes:

  • It signals to Google that those two posts are related, thereby leaving a thread that Google can follow. It’s like a green flag (as opposed to a red flag) that signals to Google that you know what you’re writing about, that you’re credible and sensible, that you’re an authority on the topic, and that the readers they bring to your site won’t be disappointed.
  • It helps your reader. If somebody arrived at your site because they wanted to read about someone’s experience visiting the Uffizi, there’s a good chance that they’re doing so because they’re planning a visit to Florence, and if that’s the case they might want to know about the hostel that’s conveniently near the museum. Now of course, not all of your Uffizi article readers are actually going to visit Florence, and among those that are, for sure not all of them will want to stay in a hostel nearby. But maybe 1 or 2 of them would — maybe even more! And if that’s the case, then your website has proven to be very helpful to a bunch of people and that will eventually redound to your benefit.

In my old blog, I sometimes placed internal links but definitely fewer than I could have. If I want to build a strong network of internal links now, I would have to revisit most of my posts and that’s a daunting task. It would have been better if I had done it systematically from the start.

What to do instead:

Whenever you write a new article, look back at your old posts and see which ones you can link to from your new one. Once your new post is published, also take a look at which old posts you can edit to add links to your new post.

Mistake #7

Waiting too long to connect the website to Google Search Console

I’m not an SEO professional so I’m not the best person to explain what Search Console is and does.

What I can say is what I do with Search Console, which is that every time I publish an article, I use its URL Inspection Tool to “ask” Google to “take a look” at the article and consider adding it to its search results.

After a day or so, I use the tool again to check if Google found my article acceptable. If it says “URL is on Google,” then that’s great. It means that there’s a chance it will show up on search results.

When I say there’s a chance, I mean that when the tool says “URL is on Google,” it doesn’t mean that the article will show up on search results. It just means that Google hasn’t excluded the possibility of it showing up on search results.

If  *sigh*  the tool says “URL is not on Google,” even after another day, then that indicates that there’s probably something somehow about the article that Google finds objectionable. It’s disappointing, definitely, but then the first step to solving a problem is always knowing that there is one. The URL Inspection Tool in Search Console lets me know when there is a problem with an article so I can take a closer look at it and try to find a way to fix it.

I say it’s a mistake to wait too long to do this because my old blog wasn’t connected to my Search Console. As a result, I had to submit over 300 articles for inspection one by one. And one complication of that is that the inspection tool has a quota: I’m not sure of the specific number, but you can only have around 100 URLs inspected per day. That means I had to space URL inspection of the articles in my old blog over three days. So that took more time than it should have.

What to do instead:

Sign up for Google Search Console (it’s free). Add the Site Kit plugin to your website and use it to connect the site to Search Console. After an article is published, submit its URL to the URL Inspection Tool in Search Console. The first time you do this, the tool will, of course, say that the URL is not [yet] on Google. Click “Request Indexing,” wait between 12 to 24 hours, then use the URL Inspection Tool again. If it says “URL is on Google,” you don’t need to do anything else. If it says “URL is not on Google,” figure out how you can improve your article.

Avoiding these mistakes won’t instantly make you a successful content creator.

There’s a lot to learn and a lot of work you’ll have to put in.

The road can be rough. You’ll fall sometimes and fail sometimes and make mistakes along the way. And that’s okay.

Mistakes are one of the ways through which we learn what we need to learn and it’s great when we are able to finally learn the lessons our mistakes teach us.

But if we can learn from others’ mistakes — if you can learn from my mistakes — then that makes our road a little less rough and brings us closer to our destination.

So let’s help each other get there!

This post was previously published at which has now been sunsetted.

Discover more from Hunter's Woods PH

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading