Blog Success. Part 1; Building.

This post will help you achieve more success with your blog: More hits, more comments, hopefully. This post will describe what it takes to get about 2,500 hits a month. Follow less of the steps and/or make less posts, you’ll get less hits. Follow more of the steps and/or be more active about both the steps and making more posts, and you could hit several hundred hits a day.

This post had been split into two parts, because it turned out to be very massive, and quite comprehensive. The next part will appear in about 13 hours, and will deal with how to get your blog the attention, once it’s there.

I’ll begin with the age-old adage, “If you will build it, they will come.” That’s almost correct, I’d append it to say, “If you keep on building it, and keep telling people that you are building it, they will probably come.”

I want to make one last thing clear: I don’t do things just to get more hits. Almost everything I do is how I do normal blogging, I just tweak it slightly to increase the amount of hits I receive. My advice will help you get more hits, but hopefully you won’t do these things just for the hits.

The Basics: Posting.

This is the most basic thing, and a blog that does not have posts, and new posts, is not a blog worth following. In other words, you need to write blog posts; I know it sounds elementary, but it should be hammered in, time and time again. The more blog posts that you will write, the more that people will come, but more important than number is the regularity and spacing.

If you can write 12 posts a month, I suggest having 3 every week, rather than posting all twelve in one week. Sure, that one week would have a really high number of hits, but when you post a new entry, you’re also reducing the number of hits older entries receive. And you’re hamstringing yourself when it comes to getting people into the habit of checking your blog on a regular basis. In the end, repeat visitors, especially the kind that leaves comments is what you’re here for. In the long run, both for number of hits, and for the fuel necessary to keep blogging.

I am not sure whoit was that said how he writes a post every day, even though he has 60 or so in queue. In case you’re feeling in the mood to write, and write much, then do so, just publish one entry now, and save the rest as drafts. If you’re using WordPress, you can tell the entry when you want it to be published, and can tell it to automatically publish the entry on a specific date and time.

This also ties to the next topic. Writing a blog entry every day is very hard to keep up for long. We all start with many ideas, but keeping the ideas flowing is not that easy at times. It’s better to have 3 entries per week which will last for a five weeks’ time, than 5 entries a week that won’t last even a month. Pace yourself, and make sure you can keep posting at a steady pace.

Finding a “Niche”:
I put the word ‘Niche’ in square-quotes because what you need to find is not really a niche, but a specialty. Something that puts you apart from other bloggers. Be it your hilarious captions to screenshots, your unflagging attention to detail as you review material, or whatever. Be it tone of voice or content, you need to find what makes you worth reading.

If you post something everyone can post, and everyone does post, like anime news, then either those who read you come for the discussions on your blog (which means, your personality), or they might stop coming. There’s no need for endless news-blogs which just tell you of things. Just for one. The best one who will get you the news fastest or the most comprehensive. Or two, one for each of these things.

Find something that makes you worth reading. If there’s nothing of the sort, then why should we read you? Why are you blogging instead of writing to your notebook?

Note, if the reason to follow you is good enough, once people find you, you won’t really need to do most of the things I post about later; you will not need to comment on others’ blogs, you could have a site as ugly as sin, you could post for a week every several months. But if you’re in such a high position, you’re also not in need of reading this entry.

Commitment:

This is the second part of “Posting”. Be committed to making regular posts. You are entering a sort of agreement between you and your readers. You do have an obligation to them, once you make a promise. I suggest telling people (in your “About” page, for instance), how often they should expect posts, and then deliver these. If you tell them which day it’ll happen, that’s a commitment that’ll help as well.

Once people know you will update once a week on Friday, they’ll come to your blog on Friday/Saturday to see the new post. If they know you’ll update every two days, they’ll come on a regular basis. If they don’t know whether they’ll see a new entry for another two-three weeks, then they might forget to check your blog after two weeks pass, and who knows when they’ll come back.

Try to be upfront on how often you will post, and when you fail, let your readers know. Your repeat readers form a personal relationship with you, and when you address them as a person, they’ll appreciate it. This promise to them will also help motivate you; you’ll see it’s Friday, and you’ll realize you just have to write the Figure Friday post, so you will.

Comments:
If people comment on your blog, be polite and if you plan to reply to their comments, try to do so within a couple of days. I am sometimes really bad about it, especially on my other blog/with emails, but try. If you engage with them, they’ll keep engaging with you. When they feel they are engaging with you, they’re more likely to keep coming back.

You are the blogger, the post writer, but they also come here to talk to you. As a person.

Appearance and Useability:

Your blog needs to look like something people wouldn’t shy away from. Your blog needs to help people navigate it and make use of it.

If possible, have at the sidebar the “Last entries” and “Last comments”. This way people will have an easy time telling when a blog entry receives new activity, and could find some more blog entries quickly.
Have a Categories Widget on the Sidebar. On WordPress.com, categories from posts’ pages lead to WordPress’s Tag-pool page, and only from the sidebar will categories and tags lead to the relevant entries on your blog.

This brings us to another point, if your blog has longer entries, it might be helpful to use a “More” tag after a couple of paragraphs. This way people who scan your front page will be able to quickly see several posts, and hopefully will find something that attracts their eyes. Longer posts on main-page may result on them not scrolling down to the entry that would have interested them. If you blog in a semi-academic manner, and all your entries are long, and this is what you want the readers to expect from you, you could leave it like that.
Though then you’ll have a harder time knowing which blog entries visitors read, or at least visited.

An example to a wordpress theme that does this, but only for self-hosted blogs is BigFeature, which can be seen on Aka’s blog (OMGWorld), for instance. Pictures, and short descriptions. Pictures also tend to attract attention. Having a picture at the top of every post doesn’t fit every blog, but it’s not a bad tactic.

RSS feeds are a way people can keep up with your blog. Reading it, knowing when you’ve updated… If possible, add an RSS Feed widget at the sidebar of your blog, way up at the top. Internet Explorer 8 can automatically find feeds, but it pays to help people.

Try not to go for a too dark blog. Dark backgrounds work, but not bright text on dark backgrounds, please.
A banner/header is a good thing, if the theme you like allows for it. I have a banner, but I’m waiting for a style that I like and will allow for one. Most themes have one-two features that are missing or superfluous for me, but that’s life. The real purpose of a banner is to make your site distinct; when people land on your blog, they will know it is this blog and no other, within an instant.

Feel free to continue to the second part now. How to get the visitors to come to your blog.

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23 comments on “Blog Success. Part 1; Building.

  1. Scamp says:

    Posting is certainly the most important thing and so many people don’t seem to realise that. Just keep posting regularly and people will become used to seeing your blog appear on their feed. I suppose this is the reason for the popularity of episodic blogging. It means the readers will know when a new post comes out and gives the writer regular material to work with.

    • Guy says:

      I think it’s more about the ease and regularity.

      I’ll be honest, writing an entry about 20 minutes’ worth of show is not hard. Not a lot happens in most 20 minute episodes. Often, very little.

      But, you always know there’ll still be episodes to write about. You’ll never have to wrack your brains and wonder what to write about, cause every week, it’ll be there.

      Those who write popular anime episode reviews usually manage to write more, to give it a wider connection, or they manage to write in a manner that makes you laugh, for instance. But they have to add something beyond the episodic content.
      Then again, blogging is often about “Bringing something extra”. I went the hard route of covering whole seasons, or even whole series.

      And yes, post regularly, nothing’s more important, except when you have material no one else has ;)
      Regularly though, as I noted above, could mean not only often, but on schedule, even if the schedule is once a week, or once every couple of weeks :)

  2. Thanks for this train of advice, Guy.

    I’m going to digest it and then think more.
    My own blog gets lots of support from its readers, but inconsistent posting and promotion really hamper its audience base, I think.

    • Guy says:

      Joe, a couple of things:

      1. First, the elementary, which will be covered in the second part: Your comment here doesn’t get your blog hits. This is a damn shame. Go to your Dashboard> Users> Your Profile, and enter your blog’s URL there, under “Contact Info”, and your email. You might also want to either use your real name or pick a slightly shorter nickname, but that’s up to you.
      (EDIT: I edited your URL in in that comment, for those who wonder.)

      As for the RPG designers who have blogs; I think the problem is that most don’t really want blogs. They want a personal journal which serves as a place to serve notes.

      This distinction might not seem meaningful, but you update your personal journal whenever you feel like it, with no demands. A blog is a different system, if you will, and requires different things from you.

      This means you need to post on a regular basis, which is really not the manner in which most game designers with journals work: They post when they have a random idea, or something they want to share, and no one knows when the next entry will come.

      This works well on high-traffic fora, like RPG.net or Story-Games: There’re always people there engaged in discussion, so whenever you make your post, there’ll be people there who will read it. This does not work for a blog.

      If you have a blog, then you have a blog. The blog makes demands. The blog must be maintained. You can’t treat it as an online shelf to keep ideas and link to in the manner of references during an online discussion. It doesn’t really work that way.

      Most RPG designers want what a blog gives, but they don’t want a blog. They should post on a forum.

  3. phossil says:

    I think having authors in your blog will increment the number of posts for your site, but also have a “niche” will attract readers with the same interests as you.

    • Guy says:

      You mean having several people write entries for your blog?

      Definitely. I mean, if I could have written 2 entries a day, every day, and have them be quality posts, I’d go for it.

      I can’t. And getting multiple posters helps both with getting more posts per time-span, and keeping each of the authors fresh and not pressed in any manner. It’s certainly helpful.

  4. Have to disagree about the dark background part. I find it much easier to read bright text on a dark background than the other way around (I find bright backgrounds really hurt/strain my eyes). I’m not alone in that, either. The rest: good, solid advice.

    • Guy says:

      Yeah, well, I guess the white bit is more my preference.

      But I, and others, get eye-strain from bright text on black background.

      I think black text on a light-grey background may be best, overall.

  5. zh3us says:

    Thanks for the part one… im stilling thinking about free wordpress themes. Large pictures = no header. Any comments here? =3

    • Guy says:

      Large pictures, no header?

      Well, each theme has a different size they give you for a header. And your header should carry your blog’s name and some of its themes on it. So using pictures is out anyway. You need to take the time and make a header just for your blog. Ask people with graphic skills for help, or those with programs that make graphical manipulation easier. I asked for help from friends who do professional layout/graphical design.

  6. Blowfish says:

    Yeah those are basically the basics but even after over a year of blogging I sometimes get lazy and dont follow those simple rules.
    The hardest time for any blog is short after its creation when everythings still fresh and theres no real concept or direction.
    Commenting on other blogs helped to establish a connection with others back then.

    Im looking forward to your other observations

  7. […] amount of success. This entry deals mostly with what to do once you have a blog with some content. Here’s the first part, dealing with getting your blog up and […]

  8. polymetrica says:

    Nice! I especially agree with the “finding a niche” point you talked about. It’s so redundant seeing 10 summaries of the same anime episode, or 6 reports of the same minor news.

    Very good point with the blog entry pacing as well. When you blog for a long time, writing entries will seem like a chore, which is terrible as blogging should be a hobby (for most of us). I guess that another good piece of advice is to continually re-inspire yourself and explore different topics you’ve never paid attention to before, through clicking 53802 links or by talking to interesting new people…or something.

    I look forward to reading more posts in this segment! (Although I don’t particularly strive to get xx amount of hits a month orz)

    • Guy says:

      The next (and last) post is live :)

      And yeah. I sometimes write RPGs, or write fiction. And when people ask me how I get inspiration, I think what I do is this: I try to constantly watch more TV shows, movies, listen to music, watch anime, read books.

      It all rattles inside my mind, and sometimes it interacts in curious ways. And that’s the way. Getting inspiration is also a constant effort. And well, as I replied to Joe (buriedwithoutceremony) above: Getting a private journal carries no obligations. Getting a blog is work. Hopefully, it’ll be work that you enjoy as well, and won’t suffer from.

  9. Ninjovee says:

    Very nice write up! I agree that posting regularly is essentially the most basic thing you can do to actually get read every once in a while. I also agree with finding your “niche”. I am actually astounded at people who post news daily — that takes quite a lot of dedication since you have to be up to date almost all the time! — which is why I usually just post news about things that interest me.

    I don’t really agree about the bright text on dark background bit. Well, IMHO, it all depends on your personal style — but one should know which hurts the eyes or not — I have this friend, who LOVES lemon-flavored skittles and uses white text on yellow background — now, that just sucks. ><;

    I also agree about the posting a few times in a week bit. I feel the effect of posting too much in a day isn't really helpful for getting your other entries read. As you know, I'm also a member of a group blog, and well, my friends are very hyperactive about posting (they can post up to 3-5 entries in a day), and it pushes down the other entries quickly that they don't really get viewed anymore. This happens to a degree wherein the visitors think that there's only one person who posts when there are three (previously four) of us who are posting in the blog. ^^; I think "keep your posts in moderation" is a good mantra for this. The only good thing I see out of that was, the blog — even though it's just around 5-6 months old, already has more than 60k hits.

    • Guy says:

      I have a friend I yell at whenever she has a bright yellow font when we chat, on a white background. Horrible.

      And yeah, you basically “cut” your posts’ potentials when you post a new post. So even though I was planning to post an interview on Sunday, which is today, it’ll get posted to noon or so tomorrow.

      Sure, posts can keep getting some attention afterwards, but it’s often greatly diminished. And when you have 4-5 posts posted a day, forget about it.
      The 4-6 posts a day works better once you have several aggregators you’re posted on, where each post gets direct visitors. It doesn’t work as well for people who stumble onto your blog.

  10. Tommy says:

    Try not to go for a too dark blog. Dark backgrounds work, but not bright text on dark backgrounds, please.

    hmm…just noticed you changed your them. Anyways, thank you!! I hate dart backgrounds with bright/white font. I go blind after 2 minutes of reading.

    Very good pointers. Haven’t updated my blog as much as I want to lately, but I’m going to post about it today. I just hate it when people say they’re “too busy” to do so. Then why do you have your blog in the first place if your lifestyle doesn’t allow for it.

    • Guy says:

      They have a journal, not a blog. Read my comment above to “buriedwithoutceremony”.
      A journal is a respository for your thoughts, and something you update when you feel like it. A blog is dedication and commitment.

      Also, to be fair. Sometimes people truly are busy, sometimes they fall ill. Just need to tell us before they go busy and/or be ready for what it will mean to their readership.

      Also, I’m still hoping for a theme I’d love fully. And I don’t want the CSS Modification option, so I wait.

    • Guy says:

      Also, I don’t want to make it sound like this “Commitment” is all-encompassing.

      People can decide to scale-back, to make their blog less time-consuming, and update less often.
      And they can also decide to stop blogging. But these are choices that need to be made, and the “contract” announced as it now stands, so to speak.

  11. lovelyduckie says:

    Bah I’ve been meanning to do an RSS Feed, I will soon. Also I’ll add in Recent Comments, I had actually been debating having that Widget or not, but since I find it useful on your blog when we chat I should consider it for my own. As for 3 posts a week :( dunno about that, Maybe after Grad School is done. But I’m not aiming for blog fame/fortune ;) so it’s ok, I have a blog because it’s fun for me and if I force myself to make posts I worry some of that fun will go away. But I 100% agree that if you can have frequent posts that USUALLY have interesting content then that’s GREAT and I’ll visit everyday. But I really dislike filler posts, that’s a turn off for me.

    • Guy says:

      I need a to-do list for my to-do lists. I know what you mean ;)

      As for filler-posts, they are different things not only for different people, but on different blogs. For instance, a figure review blog could consider a loot-post to be filler, cause it’s not a review. Whereas a on personal interests blog? That’s golden.
      In the end, I just write what I feel like, which is either “of interest”, or shows what media I’m consuming/am about to consume, mostly.

      The “filler” posts I’ve had thus far? Mostly about the “Commitment Clause”; letting people know when my updates will suffer for a bit.

  12. Otaku Dan says:

    I should comment back in my site. the thing is that I’m too busy during because life and college.

    • Guy says:

      Leaving comments is easy. It doesn’t take a long time to do research, you don’t need to write a lot… it’s easy. You can also usually take 10 minutes and cover a post’s worth of comments.

      I also think it leads to more visits that count, eventually. Less infrequent visitors, but those who read your blog in a dedicated manner will want to see whether you replied or not, and then they might reply again, and then check once more for your replies…

      Also, if the question is whether to post 3 entries a week and replying to comments, or 4 entries without replying? Definitely go for 3.
      I would have said that you can even reply to all comments once a week, but since you have neither a “Recent comments” widget, nor are on WordPress.com where we can see in “My Comments” when we get replies, if you reply less frequently than twice a week, people are unlikely to even check if you replied to them. Especially on a semi-fast moving blog.
      And no, signing up to get an email when I get a reply? Only for threads I really care for.

      I am also not crazy on how your blog handles comments, though since a couple hours earlier it’d worked better, is that sometimes I have to hit “View comments” to know if a post has comments, and how many if it does. And if I click on an entry, I don’t see others’ comments by default. Your comments load after your page and are not a part of it. It’s irksome.

      And the big thing, which is probably bigger in my head cause I have some hang-ups on getting ignored: If I blog on someone’s blog and they never even visit mine? I’m A-OK with it; after all, I read it because it interests me. However, if I reply on someone’s blog only to never have them reply back, I’m quite likely to stop making comments.
      Unless it’s a news blog, or a blog where I end up discussing things with other commentators.

      Sometimes I worry about it on my blog: I don’t reply when I have nothing to add. If I have nothing to disagree with, add to, clarify or such, and the only thing I have to say is “Yes” then I’m unlikely to reply anything at all.
      I worry these people would think I ignore them, where if we were sitting face to face I’d simply nod my head.

      And yes, the real “danger” of replying to comments is that then you begin surfing the net :) I mean, most comments don’t get as long as this one, right? :D

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