Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Best Tips: How to make a successful blog

If you want to make a successful blog - say one that has hundreds or even thousands of regular readers/subscribers - you've got to solve a limited number of problems:

*starting a blog

*topics to blog about

*building a readership

*keeping motivated to blog

  • Figure out what is the purpose of your blog.
You'll see the most ease of keeping a blog if its purpose fits with your passion in life. The purpose of mine is to educate people about psychology, science and animal behavior — which is convenient because it's also my passion.
  • Know your passion - not what merely interests you. You'll need to write about what you're passionate about to stay motivated to keep a blog. Choose a name/URL for your blog that reflects that passion.
Field Notes of an Evolutionary Psychologist works for me and I chose to add Field Notes to allow me to write about a wider variety of subjects. Field notes could be written on anything! Newfoundlandnews came about because really, it was the addition of Big K that made me think a blog would be fun and would get me excited about writing a dissertation. The real purpose of my blog only unfolded later.
  • Get signed up with a blog host site that fits with your needs and HTML skill level.
I chose blogger.com because it's free and requires no familiarity whatsoever with HTML which is perfect for me since although I like learning new languages I really have no interest in talking to computers in their language.
  • Install a free stat counter.
Ones like statcounter.com and sitemeter.com allow you to spy on who visits your blog and what they do. You're not going to be interested so much in who visits your blog but in how many visit and what they do. It allows you to observe their behavior which is useful information. You can use it as a barometer of your blog's success and your effectiveness in 'marketing' your blog. Those free stat counters will tell you everything you need to know - how many people each day visit, how they get to your blog, how long they stay and what they click on when they're there. You want a lot of readers who stay a long time and if you're trying to use your blog to drum up business or to further educate, you want them to click on links.

  • Your passion.
You may be passionate about primates, like I am, and know enough about them to write something everyday about them, but figuring out WHAT exactly to choose on any given day is a whole other matter. I usually just pick the first thing rattling around in my head that excites me - or I pick the first thing that has been thrust there. It could be some quirky thing I saw one of the dogs do, some interesting science news I read, or even something idiotic I see on TV. There are lots of ways science and psychology gets used inaccurately in mainstream media and that is perfect ignition for a post.
  • Develop many interests. You can use those varied interests for quick posts when you're pressed for time.
I resort to dog posts and other piffle when I don't have time to develop an educational post. I still try to make the dog ones educational though! You can see an example of that here.
  • Observe the world around you.
By paying attention to what's going on in the world, your house, your neighborhood, your city, school, park, alley etc., you will find things to blog about.

Expand your view. Browse. Look at lots of different things briefly.

Rifle through a newspaper, magazine, click and surf around other blogs and websites.
Flip through a book. Channel surf. Go on a walk - down alleys, in new places.

Seek the new - it's novelty that inspires and excites. Ideas are never just going to pop into your head. You've got to actively put them there.
  • Choose one story to tell.
For your blog to be worth reading, you have to tell a story. To find the story, the important thing is to notice something interesting, which is a lot easier if you make a habit of observing the world around. Picking which one to actually run with and make a story out of is a challenge. I usually just pick the first one. After you've chosen a topic — think about it — then write your perspective on it. If you don't think first, you'll have to do it while you write and it will take 10 times as long. And you want to avoid that if you want to build a readership.

HOW TO BUILD A READERSHIP: # 1 - Create great content.
  • Post often.
You will lose readers fast if you don't regularly post new, fresh content. Before I took a break two months ago, I had easily 200-300 people a day stop by. That plummeted to 50-60 when I stopped blogging altogether.

If you're just starting out, aim for every 2-3 days. Once you get rolling, ratchet that up to once a day, 6 days a week. Later you can add more, maybe post twice a day or several times. You're only limit is time.
  • Tell a story.
You've got to have great content to get people coming back. A story has a beginning, middle and end. Good ones start strong and fast and suck you in. The middle provides depth and detail. The end let's readers know what they've learned.

The best stories are told with good, basic writing. This means correct spelling and grammar, tight sentences that are to the point, transitions between ideas, and descriptive adjectives to create imagery.

Even better blog stories are illustrated with photos.
  • Embed images.
Choose photos that are relevant, clear, crisp, colorful and sized so that there is enough text visible around them to fit at least 3-4 words on each line. That helps readers move through a story and get to the end of your post. Obviously I've screwed the pooch royally on this post! Longer posts may need several pictures or graphic elements. Space them a few inches apart so readers don't scroll to far without running into another image. Alternate where you place the photos - sometimes flush left, sometimes flush right, rarely center.

HOW TO BUILD A READERSHIP: # 2 - Promote and market.
Once you've got the content part nailed down, you've got to help people find it.
  • Comment on other blogs.
I spend time commenting on blogs nearly every day. Why? It's fun to share opinions. But also because when a comment is left, the blog owner or other readers may click on the comment to see the blog that made it.

You'll get people to click back to your blog more often if you leave comments on blogs that get a lot of comments. It means they have more readers who could potentially click back to yours. Leave insightful comments, even questions — and if you're feeling bold — pointed ones, aka the snarky comment. That will get people to click back faster than anything. Just don't be a jerk, and whatever you do, don't leave spam comments.

You'll also generate more back clicks if you leave comments on blogs that write about similar topics. Soon, you'll be reading & commenting on a network of similar blogs. After a while, you get to know a blogging community this way. My network, and readership, is mostly academics and artists. I could expand that by searching for other like-minded people, such as gardeners.
  • Put links to your blog in your emails, other websites and online communities you participate in.
You'll be able to tell how effective these various methods are at generating traffic to your blog if you use the statcounters. Commenting on other blogs has been the most effective for me.


You will have days you don't have anything you think is worthy of a post. You'll have days you think you don't have time to. Although it's true that those are the only 2 legitimate reasons not to post, they aren't good enough reasons to file a story. If you want to have a successful blog, you have to be productive and keep the quality high.

Readers, loyal ones especially, will forgive you if you have crappy content days. But they will not forgive you if you don't even publish.

Can you imagine if your town's newspaper just didn't put out the paper one day because none of the stories were 'good enough' or the reporters didn't feel they had 'time to write a good enough story' that day? It never happens.

Now think of all the stories that are in the paper. They aren't all universally interesting or well-written, and most aren't even illustrated with photos. But they're there. All the news that's fit to print. Rubbish! It's all the news that fits, prints.

You should adopt the same attitude with your blog. Decide how often you publish (your readers will figure it out and adjust their visits). Decide the minimum length of a story you'll write each day (space your posts will fill). Then — fill it. Even if it is just a photo. At least put a caption in that explains what the photo is. I'd bet before you know it, you have a post.

That's basically all you need to know to make a successful blog. Just remember to blog about your passion. Tell a story well and with photos. Do so regularly, and save some time to read and comment on other blogs. If you set aside just enough time each day, and turn these tips into habits, you will have a very successful blog indeed.


RainbowMom said...

Great tips!

Waterrose said...

Very informative and great ideas.

Anonymous said...

Very informative. Thanks!

Anna Dykema said...

You've motivated me to rethink the purpose of my blog! Thanks!

KJ said...

I saw this when you originally posted it in the Etsy forums, but for some reason, didn't come check out your blog. I'm glad I stumbled upon it today in the Official Blog Love thread.

You not only give great tips -- you've obviously used them all yourself and they work...your blog's fascinating. I love the mix of shop stuff (which isn't all about product, product, product), posts about your other interests and about your adorable dogs.

Bookmarking! for sure.

Strawberry Anarchy said...

wow your blog is so helpful! thanks for sharing all this great info it's really inspiring i want to favourite your blog i will just have to try to figure out how!

Cate Holst said...

Great information, thanks!

nicedaydesigns said...

Thanks for the tips,very helpful, now i just need to stick to the good advice. I just started my blog recently and am trying to stir up some self motivation and outside interest. So far I'm enjoying it, and it's a pleasure to be writing again as my day to day life does not require it.

Annabelle said...

Wow. There's a lot to think about in this article. I definately am going to implement some of the ideas.


Jennifer said...

Great tips! Thanks for the interesting post! I definitely agree posting multiple times a day helps keep readers coming.

Tina said...

Thanks,trying to get mine up and running better. Great reminder for the extras.

MyRecordPurse said...

Thanks for the great tips. Trying to get mine up and running well.

Sheryl Karas said...

Thank you for sharing so many wonderful ideas!

I have felt great about the information and inspiration I try to share on my blog but absolutely clueless as to how get people to know it exists!

Now I know another reason why the commenting button exists ;-)

Shop326 said...

those are great tips. I just started blogging and I'm trying to figure everything out here. You were very helpful!

Pfeiffer Photos said...

I have more ideas than time to write them all down. It's so addictive once you get the blog ball rolling! To have 50 readers per day is amazing...200-300 is astouding, good for you.

Travel, photography, music, film, art, life, food...like I said, plenty going on on my blog. :-)

Thanks for this organized helpful list of tips.

Prairie Girl Boutique said...

Thank you very much for all your great useful information. I am very new to blogging and this really gave me lots to think about!

thebeadedlily said...

I enjoyed this. I've not been blogging long and I appreciate good solid tips!

Janice Austin said...

Thanks so much for sharing these well-written and valuable tips!

goshery said...

Thanks for the great tips. My blog is new but I'm really enjoying posting there! I mix product posts with posts about my life. Since it's new I don't have much of a following but hopefully if I follow your tips that will change!

synesthetick said...

thank you for this! (=

EmoSeal said...

yay, thank you for this =)
I've been wanting to add a good counter to my blog, and I'm glad you pointed out a good one!
now to start working on the rest...

kim* said...

i have been bloggin since 2000 and before that the old school way of just doing it on my webpage...this is definitly good for all the newbees out there. :) thanks for writing it up. its refreshing

terryann said...

Ok I am trying this stuff! some I already do, some I need to keep up with, thanks.

Judy Evans said...

WOW - This is great information. Thanks for educating us! I for one need all the help I can get!

threemoonbabies said...

Thanks for this great information!

Jen said...

These are all really helpful tips and lookit me, I'm commenting just like you said ;)

Stephanie S. McGrath aka SSMDesign said...

Great tips, thank you so much! You've helped get me motivated to post more frequently : ) and I've forwarded the link to my sister who is preparing to begin a blog of her own!

kocouture said...

Fabulous tips! Thanks! I just finished my first blog post (on pet photograpy and dog models)!