In my humble opinion, there are FIVE things you must have in order to be a successful blogger with a substantial following. All are equally important, and if you are lacking in even one of these areas, your blog could suffer or not grow as quickly as you’d like.
Keep in mind, these tips are for those of you who wish to have a blog with a large following and wish to perhaps make money off your blog one day. If you keep a blog as more of a journal for friends and family, more power to you! There’s nothing wrong with that, but I aimed these tips towards bloggers who want to grow their blog quickly and possibly earn side income through it one day!
So without further ado…
To have an awesome blog, you need:
1. Great writing. Duh? For the most part, blogging is a WRITING based media. Sure, some folks have photo blogs or blogs that are just otherwise much more photo or video heavy, but MOST blogs are centered around writing and the way the blogger is able to weave a tale or communicate information. Even the most mundane of lives or topics can be written about in an entertaining, humorous, or insightful way if the blogger writes truly well. And I’m not saying this to exclude all those who weren’t born with that natural aptitude for writing, but I am saying this to insert a little dose of reality.
Your writing is the foundation of your blog. So brush up on your grammar skills, find a website with all the rules on punctuation, and proofread the crap out of your posts before you publish them. If you are churning out poorly written posts, you’re turning people away.
2. Something of value. Think about your favorite blogs, especially those blogs that have reached hundreds or thousands of followers. Why is it that you love those blogs?
I guarantee you it’s because those bloggers offer you something you find valuable. Those bloggers don’t just ramble endlessly about the plights of their life or the awesomeness of their weekends, etc. Or maybe they do, but if they’re doing it right, there’s something in it for the reader. You see, I’ve noticed that all the bloggers with large followings simply offer their readers something of value. Maybe it’s fashion tips. Maybe it’s inspiration in the form of beautiful photos or well-told stories. Maybe it’s humor and laughter and wit. Maybe it’s just that feeling of “hey, I can relate to her/him! I’m not alone, after all!”
Bottom line is, you have to have something your readers will find valuable and keep coming back for, or your following will not grow. And I firmly believe that we all have something valuable to offer, if we pinpoint it and cultivate it. It’s what I love about blogging!
3. Attractive aesthetics. Aesthetics are the appearance of your blog—the “feel” a reader gets based on the color scheme, the fonts, the pictures, the formation of your paragraphs, and so on. There are lots of fun ways you can customize your blog regardless of which platform you use (Blogger, Wordpress, etc), but I really can’t stress enough the importance of having your blog designed professionally. It sounds really terrible, but I’ve actually clicked out of blogs before if they weren’t visually appealing. To me, a blog with poor design reflects how serious the blogger is about blogging. That may or may not be true, but I’m just saying. You should treat your blog like a business. If you open up a restaurant or retail store but the outside of your building is run down and shabby, people won’t want to come in, right?
A professional blog design says “I’m serious about what I’m doing and I’m willing to invest a little into making my space on the web attractive, unique, and a reflection of ME.” And a blog design does NOT have to be expensive! I found this website to be a great starting place to look for blog designers, though many of those are little pricier. Also pay attention to the designer attributions on the sidebar or at the bottom of blogs you love. There are plenty of great ones out there. I'd also recommend going to Etsy and searching "premade blog designs." You will discover there are LOTS of great options for premade designs!
It’s just a fact of life that first impressions are EVERYTHING. So make sure that when your readers come to your blog, they don’t have to strain to read your font color or aren’t terrified off by block upon block of straight WORDS. Utilize white space (see how I skip a couple lines every now and then? It breaks things up and makes paragraphs less scary). Utilize photos (preferably really GREAT ones, and from your own life if possible [but we’ll get into that next post]). Bottom line, make stuff pretty. Study the blogs you love, and learn from them.
4. A unique voice. When I first started blogging, I struggled with what “voice” I wanted to write in. Did I want to write in a funny, witty, lighthearted way, or did I want to focus more on personal reflections and spreading inspirational messages, etc? I still haven’t really chosen between the two, but I think my readers understand that I could go either way, and it’ll still be “me.”
I’ve noticed that the really successful bloggers stick to one particular “voice,” and that voice is what their readers come to expect and anticipate. There are thousands and thousands of blogs out there, so you have to ask yourself how YOURS can stand out from the crowd! So DO study the voices other bloggers write in, experiment with your own, and find a style that is uniquely yours.
5. Time. Now THIS is where we might lose some folks. Seriously, even if you write like a pro on an aesthetically pleasing blog and offer readers something of value in your own unique voice, your blog’s following will STILL grow slowly if you aren’t willing or able to put TIME into networking with other bloggers and interacting with your readers. When I first started this blog, I would spend a few hours at a time EVERY DAY visiting, commenting on, and following dozens of blogs – leaving a trail of my link all over the blogosphere. You simply CANNOT expect people to find you if you don’t put your link out there whenever possible! (and by link, I just mean your profile – when you comment, you’re giving others the opportunity to click on your profile and find your blog!)
And if you really take the TIME to read and get to know the bloggers you’re visiting, and really take the TIME to leave thoughtful comments (i.e. NOT just one-liners!), other bloggers WILL take notice and want to come check out YOUR blog too. And if, when they arrive at your blog, you have all of the other four items above, you will notice people beginning to read you regularly, link to you, and ask you to guest post, etc.
You have to understand that, just like a business, you can’t expect it to thrive without putting the TIME in. Without maintaining relationships with your new blogging friends. Without returning comments (at least occasionally). And as your blog’s following grows, remember that it will take MORE time to maintain relationships, answer emails, etc. So if that isn’t what you want or you won’t be able to handle it, you might ask yourself if a blog with a large following is really what you want!