The 7 Blog Posts You Write But Shouldn’t Publish


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.

Your Comments

  • Kelly Watson

    Great list! I would also include the ubiquitous “I’m so sorry I haven’t updated!” post and the completely pointless “Happy Holidays!” post. I’m sorry, but I DON’T need a reminder to have a great Flag day. Try coming up with some real content.

    • Lisa Barone

      Ha, definitely. I meant to lump the “i haven’t posted” posts in with the second group, but it really does deserve it’s own category. I see those all the time. It’s especially great when you have more than one “I’m So Sorry I Haven’t Posted!” posts on the front page of the blog.

      Happy Belated Pancake Day! ;)

  • Jon Buscall

    Ouch, I think I’ve done at least one of those at some point! Still, it’s a great list, Lisa. Love the attitude of your blog. It still makes me laugh even after almost a year of reading!

  • Michael D

    Hmm, let’s see here…
    Hands are still shaking post, done many times (maybe it was the caffeine).
    Nothing else to write post, guilty of that one as well.
    Screw everyone over, not my style and can’t recall ever posting anything like it.
    Obviously about a client post, guilty but maybe I could make it a little less obvious.
    Agreeing with the other A-list bloggers post, nope.
    Don’t think I’ve ever done a meme post.
    3 AM after a networking event post, that will make 4 out of seven.

  • Jenny

    As usual, a fantastic post. I do get tired of Memes and such and recently because of this, I have started going through blogs I’m subscribed to and scrolling through the 10 most recent posts in my Feedburner. If none of them represented unique ideas that somehow enhanced my life or even entertained me, I unsubscribe. There’s just too much great stuff on the Internet to continually wade through Memes and echo chambers.

    • Lisa Barone

      I’ve participated in a few memes over the years and they’re typically the posts were I scratch my head the most wondering why the hell I decided to offer that up. I think WordPress needs a “Shut Up” button next to the “Publish” one.

  • Joe Hall

    My favorite is The “I’m Only Writing This Because I Have Nothing Else” Post.

  • MikeTek

    I saw a particular post on an SEO blog this week was clearly of the “hands are still shaking” variety. It’s a shame to see it, because even while passion and strong opinions make things interesting, sometimes people just fly way off the handle to the point where they need to go scream into a pillow before the broadcast their rages to the world.

    The rest of these are pretty bad – and I admit I’ve committed one or two of these sins in the last few years.

    It’s a mistake to think that because we wrote it in WordPress we inevitably need to hit that “publish” button.

    Sunk costs – just because you spent time on it that doesn’t mean it’s worth sharing.

    • Lisa Barone

      I’ve definitely published my share of irate blog posts and it’s something I like to think I’m getting smarter about with time. Early on I’d come out with a vengeance and I’m not sure that ever helped my point or the power of the post at all. You can be passionate without losing your mind.

      And yeah, sunk costs. They suck, but very true. :)

  • Kenny

    I don’t think I’ve ever published a blog post NOT under the influence… Dammit.

  • Cecelia

    Great post.

    I think one of the perks of being a not-so-regular blogger is that I have the luxury of giving myself time to really think posts through before publishing. I also weirdly like to copy edit my posts several times (it seems the posts I spend the most time revising are the ones I end up scrapping altogether).

    Although, I have found that as I start to blog on a more consistent basis, I find myself feeling a little panicky when I haven’t written in a while and get tempted to write a “I’m Only Writing This Because I Have Nothing Else” post.

    I keep telling myself I’m going to make an editorial calendar, but I think the rampant procrastinator in me is too resistant to the idea.

    • Lisa Barone

      It’s hard to get into the editorial calendar thing, it really is. But once you create it, it’s a goldmine. Even if it’s not an official “calendar” and just a long list of posts that you want to tackle. Having something waiting in the wings when you’re feeling stuck can be really comforting. I’m also one of those people that has to write when the writing bug hits, so I’ll try and crank a few solid posts out and save them.

      Of course, I still find myself banging my head against the wall on some days trying to come up with something insightful and ever-so-witty to say so, what do I know? :)

  • netmeg

    I’d like to do a companion piece about the 20 or 30 comments you shouldn’t post; fortunately for you all I don’t have a blog up and running. I’m sure someone else can do it. Possibly not as snarkily.

  • Cecelia

    This is a good example of a blog post someone probably should have waited to publish:


  • Miguel Salcido

    Nice one Lisa. I’m sure that you researched my personal blog as a reference for this post. LOL D’oh. Something that I have always struggled with is how do all of these people that write fantastic stuff find time to do so. There are so many other things that need to get done in a business. I mean between client work, having a wife, family, and friends, hitting the conference circuit, and trying to have some resemblance of a life it is just damned hard to find the time.

    I asked Rand this same question a few years ago at the one conference I have had time and money to attend and he noted that he has just always had a knack for writing. Then I look at people like Tamar who is an exceptional writer and has the educational background in it, and you. It just seems that the best writers in our field are really actually writers that just learned the industry and built.

    Its just so hard for those of us on the execution side to have the time to write high quality stuff. I know that people still do, despite these challenges. I guess I’m looking for that magic formula on how to git er done and still manage making money through client work while maintaining a life.

    • Lisa Barone

      I agree that the best writers in this industry are people who can actually write. I have a Journalism degree. Danny Sullivan is a journalist. Rand has a knack for writing. Tamar’s also a great writer. There’s a lot to be said for people who can take complicated information (SEO stuff) and find a way to break it down and make it understandable to “regular people”.

      That said, the best writing doesn’t always make the best blogging. Michael Gray and Shoemoney have two of the best blogs around and I don’t think either would call themselves a writer.

      • Miguel Salcido

        Totally agree, but I am sure that Shoe and Gray are also pretty darned good writers, or at least have evolved into that a bit.

        What about the idea of where in the heck does one find the time to keep up on this? I just feel like am constantly working on clients and personal stuff and never seem to get the time. Even though the intentions are there, life somehow always takes over. I’m amazed at what Rand can do with the traveling, running a company, and blogging!

        Sometimes I think that these people just don’t sleep, or at least that they don’t have a family to raise and look after. Although having the family can also lead to not sleeping! :-)

        • Lisa Barone

          You have to dedicate time to blogging and schedule it in like you do everything else. In order to blog consistently you have to view it as important. If you blog “when you have time” you never will. When you start to view blogging as part of your job instead of something that takes away from “real work”, you’ll start blogging a lot more.

          • Alan Bleiweiss

            That was the exact turning point for me – the day I made blogging part of my job. Even though I’ve always been passionate about writing, it wasn’t until that moment that blogging actually became a real priority. Except now I eat even less, and when I wake up at 4AM with a writing idea, I immediately go to my computer and start writing, which is something I never did before that shift in perspective. Which leaves me like dog-meat later that day. :-)

  • Gil Reich

    Hey Lisa,

    Are you saying that your hands weren’t still shaking when you wrote the Brandjacking, Scoble, and New ReTweet Sucks posts? Do you regret writing them? I’m looking at your list of most popular posts and many of them seem to have been written before you had that cupcake, much less a night’s sleep. You seem to make a living out of your ability to post intelligent critiques while an issue is still burning. I agree with your advice, and it took me years to learn it about e-mails. But I thought you were one of the few people who successfully ignores it since you seem to reach a point of disciplined indignation while the rest of us are still seething incoherently. I guess what I really want to read are your first drafts, and the posts that were too evil to publish. The “Deleted Barone Files.” Those must be a great read.

    • Lisa Barone

      To be honest, the Scoble, Godin and ReTweet posts were all very calm versions of Lisa, which may scare you. :) They were passionate posts but they weren’t (in my opinion) over the top or written so aggressively that the point was lost. The Godin post, especially, I felt like I really tried to tame Indignant Lisa so that the point wouldn’t get lost or written off solely as “a rant”. I think if I wrote that post as a rant it wouldn’t have gone as far as it did or had the same impact.

      And I can assure you the Deleted Barone Files make for some very good reading. :) There have been quite a few posts that I’ve told Rhea I was working on and then had to tell her it “too crazy to publish, even for me”. :)

  • Justin Matthews

    This is a great post to keep us newbies from looking like idiots. I will relegate these posts to my “hidden” rants blog!

  • Heather Villa

    The “Your Hands Are Still Shaking” Post and The “This is Obviously About a Client ” Post are the two I’ve almost done. A few times they were the same post. lol Thankfully I was smart enough at the time to resist and walk away before hitting that publish button.

  • Kim Kolb

    Lisa, this is outstanding! I have to say I have attempted some of these posts and most times don’t publish, but there are a couple that I did.

  • Nathan Hangen

    #1 still gets me. Thank god for the “quick edit” feature in WP.

  • Brian Harnish

    I can’t recall how many times I’ve written complete garbage that I haven’t added to my blog or decided at the last minute to trash. I actually follow most of the rules on this blog. I guess I’m lucky that I haven’t written anything that screws everyone over yet. I also agree with the comment about the holidays post and the sorry I haven’t updated post. Ugh. I hate when I read those! It’s like “Why did you update if you’re not going to at least write several paragraphs rather than a couple sentences to update your blog?” Ugh. Oh, well. Great post Lisa. It reminds me that I still have things that I have to keep an eye on to avoid becoming another Robert Scoble. Hahaha :)

  • john andrews

    Lovely post. However, I see two potential potholes in the highway you’ve paved for blogging success.

    First, the shaking hands post. If you can get all fired up and vomit your passion into a blog post, YOU WILL GET NOTICED. If it really was your passion, and you’re not the genetic perfection of a DB, you WIN. By definition, you couldn’t have done a better job of blogging.

    Of course if you are a closed-minded, biased, or otherwise less-than-desirable member of our illustrious civilization, you might not want to underline that fact in front of the world by screaming your misplaced passions.

    So are you “playing it safe” by deferring publishing passionate posts until you look at them again, at a less passionate time, with a more reasonable perspective of the potential impact your post may have on various stakeholders in your reputation? Bah. That’s ridiculous. Writers who do that become editors, not authors. Bloggers who do that get lost in the noise and may as well stay home.

    The other pothole I see on your Success Highway access ramp is one you didn’t include. It’s the “post that kisses someone’s ass”. That one you shouldn’t publish. Ever. It’s soooooo obvious.

    Just for example, let’s pretend Lisa was told she’s finally “made it” by a high-up influential person, who just also happens to be a DB. Lisa gets raised eyebrows from her boss, a “wow…” from her peers, and gets the sense that hey, maybe this “be myself” thing is really paying off! But then she gets word that Mr. DB loves to see himself mentioned, is already mentioning Lisa in one of his blog posts, and gets the WinkWinkNudgeNudge that maybe it’s time to name drop the egomaniac into a Lisa post. Maybe… but it’s totally up to TheLisa.

    Kiss some ass? Maybe just make a positive mention? Or maybe no one will care about a little BTW link out to his perspective on the issue?

    Don’t publish. Worse than reputation (which can be fixed)… you cannot repeal a loss of integrity. Once gone, it’s gone forever. There is reputation management specifically because reputations can be repaired. There is no integrity management once you’re all growed up. By definition, you cannot recover from having sold out. You will forever be known to have a price.

    Otherwise great article. Loved reading it. And thanks for the opportunity to comment ;-)

  • Melissa - SEO Aware

    When you were writing for Bruce you once linked to an article I “Oh the lovely client” …you said you would never say it, but might put a copy in the contract :-) I guess I would fit in this list, but there were several points so it could have been (and was) many clients :-)

  • Sarah

    Hey Lisa,

    The Mona Lisa hangs in Le Louvre, on it’s own little wall in the centre of a room. It’s not actually that big.

    If I ever do get around to writing a blog, or another blog post for my company, I’ll ref this – thanks :)