4 Steps to Create a Successful Blog - dummies

4 Steps to Create a Successful Blog

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

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 kind of wide-open playing field, but others quickly become bored (or boring!).

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 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.

How to 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!

  • 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!

How to write blogs well

Many people think that blogs are poorly written, misspelled, and full of grammatical no-no’s such as incomplete sentences. It’s true: Many bloggers do write their blogs very casually, paying only cursory attention to spelling and grammar.

For many, this informality is part of the charm of the format. Readers find the colloquial, conversational tone accessible and easy to read, and bloggers who write informally seem approachable and friendly.

For a professional blog, don’t even consider writing without paying attention to spelling and grammar. Your readers will roll their eyes, and your competitors will get a good snicker out of it.

Why to post frequently on 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. This number of updates strikes a good balance for most blogs.

Many 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 on a beach in Hawaii.

How to interact with comments on your blog

Comments make blogs really different from a website; the opportunity to interact and converse with the creator of a website and with other readers is almost unique to blogs.

Forums, also 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 any reader can leave a comment, readers may leave comments about other comments!

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.

In Rose Levy Beranbaum’s blog Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum, Rose often responds to questions that readers ask by putting the answer in her blog post’s comments area. Rose’s comments have a shaded background that other comments don’t have and feature her personal avatar image.

The comment section in the blog Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum
Credit: Courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Cake Bible (William Morrow).