Just because you wrote it doesn’t mean you should publish it. Not everything that flows through your fingertips is going to be gold-plated genius. I mean, sometimes it is. Sometimes you will finish a post and consider it a piece of art. It will be worthy of being framed next to the Mona Lisa and…whatever is next to the Mona Lisa wherever the Mona Lisa is actually hanging. But if you’re like me, you’ll also write things that should be immediately thrown away. Or at least banished to a Drafts folder. And as frustrating as that can be, it’s better to have a quiet day on your blog than to post something that you’ll regret later.
Below is a list of post types I think should be eternally banished to your Drafts folder. And I say that as someone who has written and published nearly every type of post mentioned on this list. I consider them lessons learned. You can consider them free of charge.
The “Your Hands Are Still Shaking” Post
I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t written a post all fired up and then held their cursor precariously over the publish button, shaking and wondering what to do. Hopefully you didn’t publish. But you probably did. I know I’ve written things with total indignation and then published them to learn twelve hours later that I didn’t have the full story, that going for a walk made me see things differently or that a good cupcake totally took the edge off. The ease of publishing on the Web is sometimes a double-edge sword. Yes, it’s great that we’re able to publish our thoughts in the moment but the downside to that is that we publish our thoughts in the moment instead of thinking about them. Often we go to bed, wake up, and feel differently about the situation. However, the havoc we’ve caused by getting loud, condemning hours and throwing a public tantrum lives on and can hurt us.
As Joseph Hall once said and Andy Beal recently tweeted:
A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was.
If your hands are still shaking when you go to publish, don’t.
The “I’m Only Writing This Because I Have Nothing Else” Post
If the only reason you’re mentioning something on your blog is so that you’ll have something to mention on your blog, you should save everyone the act of having to read it. The Blog Everyday mantra had some credence when the Winers and Scobles first started, but it doesn’t today. If you don’t have something worth sharing, don’t say anything. Take a quiet blog day. If you want to create an editorial calendar so you don’t find yourself in that position, then do that. However, people can tell when you’re faking it and when you don’t really care. And when you post content you don’t care about it, it makes your audience feel like you don’t care about them either. If you do, you wouldn’t waste their time. So don’t.
The “This Will Screw Over Everyone But Make Me Famous” Post
You were sitting at the bar when someone important drunkenly shared a story with you that they shouldn’t have. You were privy to a conversation where a group of old school SEOs shared a tactic they’re just starting to test but seems to really work. You were in the bathroom and overhead a conversation Matt Cutts was having with his wife on the phone. You know instantly that blogging the content of what you heard will get you a whole lot of attention and new blog readers, of course, it will also screw over and embarrass a lot of people.
Don’t blog it. Your reputation is far more important than getting the scoop one time. The quickest way to become irrelevant is to be deemed untrustworthy.
The “This is Obviously About a Client ” Post
Readers love it when you write from first-hand experience and give them concrete examples related to what you’re talking about. Data, as we know, is delicious. And as bloggers, we love being able to incorporate our current frustrations into what we blog about. It helps us to feel more authentic and connected. And it’s when we not-so-subtly combine these two elements that we often get into trouble.
Do not blog about specific clients and frustrations that you’re going through, even if you attempt to veil it by not naming the client. Why? Because you probably signed a confidentiality agreement somewhere and because your client READS YOUR BLOG. Even if you don’t know that they do or they say that they don’t. They read it. So does your mother. If you blog about a specific client and they can put the obvious signs together that you’re talking about them, you’re going to lose that client. You do not want to have to explain to a client that a blog post was not about them. If you’re going to veil a client issue and post about in your blog either (a) get permission to talk about it or (b) wait a few months so they don’t have reason to suspect you’re making fun/criticizing/calling them stupid. Not everyone wants to be the star in your blog post.
The “I Agree With All The Other A-List Bloggers” Post
Your blog should serve to offer a unique opinion or insight about whatever it is you’re talking about. You should be providing a value that readers can’t get anywhere else. Ripping post ideas from TechMeme, paraphrasing what the original poster said, and then stating that you agree without providing any other value is not useful. Yes, if you have some authority it may get you in the Discussion links, but if your blogging goal is to be a Techmeme discussion link on a daily basis you probably want to rethink that strategy, Champ. “Me Too” bloggers get annoying pretty quickly. Only post when you have something worthwhile to say.
The “I Heart Memes” Post
Whenever the Internet is feeling a little bored, bloggers decide to start a blog meme. Someone will post about Why They Blog and then tag ten of their blogger friends to join in and do the same. Then another blogger will share the 6 Magazines I Subscribe To and guilt all of his/her friends into participating. Before you know it, all your favorite blogs are posting the same silliness and it’s all anyone is offering. These memes are typically harmless, however, they tend to be the type of content you look back at later and wonder, “why the hell you ever put that out there?”
Here’s the lesson, kids: Friends don’t let Friends meme. It’s not an absolute rule, but, in general.
The “I Wrote This at 3am After a ‘Networking Event’” Post
There is nothing wrong with blogging under the influence. Most of us have done it, especially when conferences roll around. Sometimes it even helps to get the words out. However, do not hit publish until you’ve had a chance to sober up and read what you’ve written with fresh eyes. Blogging under the influence is often a contributing factor to many of the other posts listed above and is a great way to put your foot in your mouth, burn bridges, or just publish something that makes you wince horribly the next morning. As much fun as you just had at that networking event, take a nap before you go ahead and tell everyone. They’re probably sleeping off their good time and won’t be around to read it until later anyway.
That said, if you are SEOmoz and about to publish Google Search Results Missing From OneBox you can ignore this rule. Because that post was awesome.
Spending time crafting a post that you never get to publish isn’t a fun experience. It sucks and there’s no getting around it. However, publishing something that you regret or that weakens your blog sucks more. Just don’t do it.