How to Make a Blog Successful in 4 Steps - dummies

How to Make a Blog Successful in 4 Steps

By Amy Lupold Bair

Blogs are so quick and easy to set up that you can start one without having much of a plan in place for what you want to blog about, why you’re blogging, or what you’re trying to accomplish. Some people thrive on this wide-open playing field in blogging, but others quickly become bored (or boring!).

blog success
©Shutterstock/Maglara

To get your blog started on the right foot, think seriously about why you’re blogging, and then make a commitment to attaining your goals. This isn’t a job! But, just as you wouldn’t expect good results from a dinner prepared without paying any attention to ingredients, you can’t start your blog without having a recipe for success.

Here’s a recipe for a good blog:

  1. Preheat the blog oven by setting goals.

  2. Measure out several cups of good writing.

  3. Mix well with frequent updates.

  4. Sprinkle in a lot of interaction with your readers.

Watching how someone else blogs is a great way of finding out how to be successful yourself! Keep track of how the blogs you enjoy are keeping you interested: Take note of how often the blogger updates his or her blog, the writing style, and which posts you find most engaging and get you to leave a comment.

Set blog goals

Just as you have many different reasons to blog, so do you have many ways to create a successful blog. Don’t forget that your goals and plans might not be the same as another blogger’s. Do think about what your goals are, and keep those goals in mind when you start your blog.

The following are ways that you might characterize a successful blog:

  • Numbers: Many bloggers are eager to attract readers to their blogs, and they define success by the number of people who visit every day.
  • Comments: Some bloggers find the interaction with readers in the comment area of the blog very gratifying. For these bloggers, getting a comment every day or on every post might mean they’re successful.
  • Personal enjoyment: If you’re starting a blog for your own personal enjoyment, you may want to occasionally assess whether it’s still fun!
  • Income: For some bloggers, turning a hobby into an income source is a primary motivation for the creation of their blog.
  • Relationship: Many bloggers are hoping to find community through writing. Some even begin writing with the hope of connecting with a specific brand or favorite tourist destination.
  • Authority: There are many bloggers who hold expertise in a certain area but are unable to establish themselves as a notable authority. A blog may provide a platform to help them get noticed and recognized.
  • Results: Many bloggers start their blog to accomplish a task (such as raising money for a charity), to sell a product, or even to get a book contract (blogs have done all these things). When these bloggers meet their goal, they know they’ve succeeded!

When you start your blog, take time to think about how you define success. Do you want to help your entire family keep in touch? Do you want to let your friends back home know more about your college experience? Are you starting a company and trying to get attention in the media?

Consider writing your goals into your very first blog post and then returning to that post every few months to see whether your goals have changed and to remind yourself of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Write your blog well

Some people believe that blogs are poorly written, misspelled, and full of grammatical no-no’s such as incomplete sentences. Although it’s true that some bloggers do write very casually, paying only cursory attention to formal writing constructs, this informality is part of the charm of the format. Many readers find the colloquial, conversational tone accessible and easy to read, and bloggers who write informally seem approachable and friendly.

With that said, there is no excuse for ignoring all the rules of writing, especially if you hope to achieve the goals you’ve set for your blog. Well-written and correctly spelled posts attract readers just as often (perhaps more often) as those that aren’t. You can develop a friendly, personal way of writing without losing touch with the dictionary. Spellchecking is encouraged for bloggers, even for very informal blogs intended for friends and family.

For a professional blog, don’t even consider writing without paying attention to spelling and grammar. Your readers will roll their eyes, and potential clients will quickly click away.

Most importantly, however, think through your writing and consider your readers. Take the time to practice and develop a voice that sounds personal and conversational while still qualifying as good, engaging writing. Don’t let the chatty style of a blog fool you: The best bloggers spend just as much time writing a casual blog post as they would a work memo.

Create a content calendar for your blog

Commit yourself to writing new posts on your blog frequently. Ah, frequently is such a deceptive little word — because really, what does it mean?

For some people, frequently means every day. For others, it means three times a day. If you want a blog that doesn’t eat up every spare moment in your life but that you still update often enough to keep people interested, define the word frequently as at least two or three times a week. (If you want to blog more often than that, go to town.) This number of updates strikes a good balance for most blogs.

Many successful bloggers use a little trick to account for periods of writer’s block or for when they go on vacation: They write posts ahead of time and then save them for later. Using your blog software, you can schedule a date and time for a post to go live, making it possible for you keep your readers entertained, even while you’re having an appendectomy or basking on a beach in Hawaii.

You also need to pace yourself. In the first heady days of having a blog, the posts flow freely and easily, but after a few months, you might find it difficult to be creative. This is where creating a blog calendar comes in handy!

Rather than simply post whenever the spirit moves you, consider brainstorming post topics and then scheduling posting dates ahead of time. This intentionality right out of the gate will help you pace yourself on those occasions when you have more to say than you intended. It will also provide you with prewritten content on the weeks when writer’s block comes to call. Learn more about content calendar creation in Chapter 9.

Build your blog community with comments

Comments on blog posts are part of what makes a blog different from a website; the opportunity to interact and converse with the creator of a website and with other readers is unique to blogs.

Forums, sometimes called bulletin boards, offer one way to engage in online conversation on the web, but they aren’t as directed by regular posts as blogs. Everyone in the forum community is free to chime in with a topic or question. In fact, some bloggers have chosen to add forums to their blogs as a place for free-flowing conversation.

Visitors to a blog have the opportunity to leave a comment on each post. Sometimes, readers leave comments in reaction to what they read; other times, they might offer a suggestion or pose a question. Because comments are meant to create community among your readers, some readers will leave comments in reply to other comments. Success! When this interaction occurs, you’ve successfully created community in the comments section of your blog.

The comment section of your blog is a great place to get creative. Bloggers who host giveaways often use this area of a post to solicit and collect contest entries. Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, occasionally uses the comments section of her blog to encourage readers to send each other free books anonymously! There’s no end to how you might use this area of your site.

Blog posts often include a link directly below each post, indicating how many comments readers have left. Clicking this link takes you to a page that displays the post, any comments that readers have left about that post, and a form that you can use to leave your own comment.

After someone makes a comment, it appears in the comments area of the blog, usually labeled with the comment writer’s name, along with the date and time that he or she left the comment. On some popular blogs, readers compete to see who can leave the first comment on a new blog post.

Not every blog allows comments. Many popular bloggers find that they’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of responses that they get and must turn off comments because they can’t keep up with them. we should all be so lucky to have that problem. For most bloggers, comments are an important way to develop a dialogue with readers.

It’s recommended that you keep comments turned on in your blog. Blog comments are an easy way to involve your audience in your topic and to get valuable feedback about what you’re doing with your blog. Most blog platforms allow you to restrict commenting on a post by post basis, so consider that option should you write a post that you’d prefer remain comment-free.

Unfortunately, spammers can take advantage of comments as easily as they can send you unwanted email. If you keep comments turned on, you will get unwanted comments that have commercial messages. There are wonderfully easy ways to prevent spam comments from appearing, however. If you decide to allow comments on your blog, be sure to read them and delete inappropriate messages. Your readers will thank you.