If I could go back in time and tell my past self one thing about blogging it would be do your research before choosing a blog topic. Seriously, of all the things that could have improved the success of my blog, nothing would have been more beneficial than having a better understanding of choosing the right topics to write about. 

Poor Keyword Research

Fortunately, I've learned a lot from my mistakes now and want to save you the time and energy of learning the hard way like I did.

#1 Not Doing Research at All

I know, I know, pretty basic. But it's the biggest mistake bloggers make. 

Great keyword research will increase the growth rate of your blog exponentially.

Measure twice cut once

#2 Not Understanding the Competition

When I started blogging, I wrote about some really cool topics. They were fun to write but I'd have probably gotten more people to read them if I had just written them in a journal and left it on a park bench in downtown Columbus. 

Only a slight exaggeration. 

I was writing topics that were being dominated by titans in the niches. I'd write about the pros and cons of caffeine and try to compete with the likes of DoctorOz.com. I'd write about Bulletproof coffee and try to compete with the BulletProof.com brand and FastCompany.com.

I didn't stand a chance and I'd be lucky to get a handful of accidental clicks by weirdos who went 9+ pages deep in Google search results.

Domain authority and backlink profiles weren't on my radar. I was writing content that was doomed from the start.

Solution: Use a tool like AHREFs and analyze the domain authority, URL authority, backlink profile (total links and number of domains), content length and other competitive factors for the articles ranked atop SERPs before committing to a topic. See the image below for an example of the ranking factors I check in AHREFs.

SERP competition

All things being equal, you should expect to be outranked by blog posts from sites that have better domain and url authority and/or more backlinks. Low authority sites can outrank larger ones with better backlink profiles to the specific URL, but it can be an uphill battle.

#3 Focusing on Gross Volume

Keyword volume is great but it is far from the most important thing. 

Check out the image below for proof...

Huge sales from small traffic

A post that gets less than 100 organic visits per month is earning me over $1,000 each month because of its relevance and buyer intent. 

I'd regularly write articles on the most obtuse topics just because I saw that I could get a lot of traffic really fast. 

The problems: The traffic wasn't relevant to my site. The traffic numbers were just a vanity metric.

via AHREFs

Solution: Never write a post that doesn't fit your audience, it's best to consult with content writing experts (such as Ivory Research) because a theme that gets little but relevant traffic costs a lot more than a theme that gets tons of irrelevant traffic. See example below for motivation.

#4 Not Understanding Click Distribution, Relevance and Search Intent

"The best place to hide a dead body is on the 2nd page of google."

-Some unknown genius

Let's say that a search term is being typed into Google 20,000 times per month. We need to understand a few things...

#1 Most of the clicks will go to the top 6 spots (see graph below). If we can't rank in the top 6, we won't get nearly as many clicks. 

#2 Some terms have a much more top heavy distribution of clicks

You might find a search term that has a massive amount of monthly searches, but that data can be skewed.

In the image below, "BensBargains" is a term that gets searched tens of thousands of times each month (with many variations).

However, if you were to try and rank for a post about BensBargains.com, you'd get a very small % of clicks relatively speaking.

Google Click Distribution Top Heavy

Many bloggers fail to ask themselves, "is my post answering the question that someone is actually asking?"

Just because your post mentions a topic doesn't mean that it's going to get a good CTR (click through rate). This means high bounce rates, less traffic than expected and low positioning on SERPs (search engine results pages).

Solution: Use a tool like AHREFs to see what sorts of traffic each piece of content on the SERPs is getting. Locate the articles that are similar to yours in terms of search intent. If you can outrank these articles for a majority of the terms, you can likely expect to see similar amounts of traffic. 

Click distribution

If you were to write a review of BensBargains.com, you should compare your article to the other reviews on the SERP. You will NOT get the traffic that BensBargains.com or their social assets are getting, so ignore those. Outrank the posts that have the same search intent as yours and you can expect to see traffic similar to theirs. In this case, 1,700 visits per month. 

#5 Focusing Solely on Buyer Intent Keywords

Selfish bloggers are broke bloggers.

I was pretty selfish when I started out. I was a "money first," guy. If this is you, don't feel guilty. It takes time to start to see the big picture and realize that it's impossible to get loyal readers if all you do is sell, sell, sell. 

I focused on buyer intent terms almost exclusively and looked like another fly by night, fake review blog. 

Now, I focus on making great content and growing my email list through relevant lead magnets

Instead of selling to people immediately, I'm able to give them great content to build trust and reciprocity. After that, they will be much more likely to trust that I have their best interest in mind going forward. This means it's much easier to sell something down the road.