Two Building Blocks of Successful Blogging

By Guest Author

This is a guest post by Rich Dixon. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

A friend recently asked me if I’d help her start a blog. Her request prompted me to consider what I’ve learned from operating my own blog for the past two years.

My first suggestion was to spend some time reading and learning. The Internet overflows with blogging information and advice.

I’m not the guy to help you generate huge numbers overnight, but that information is everywhere. I’m also not the source for technical tips; I know what I need to know for my situation, and I learn more as I need it.

I suspect I’m like most folks who publish content on the Internet. I classify myself as a small-but-serious blogger. I’m also a big-time consumer of content. I follow a lot of blogs in various niches, both for content and to learn what works.

So based on my experience, what should I tell my friend that’ll get her started without overwhelming her? Here’s where I started.

For me, blogging is essentially a relationship. Two important elements of any relationship are purpose and connection.

Find Your Purpose

Decide what you want to accomplish. You can find tons of high-quality guidance about every aspect of setting up and operating your blog, but none of it is one-size-fits-all. Every choice–design, platform, post length, style–depends on the end goal you have.

Decisions that don’t seem like a big deal now may become important later. For example, self-hosting with your own domain may feel like an unnecessary expense, but it’s essential if your goal is to build a personal brand or a business around your site.

Remember that it’s about your audience. If that fancy font you really like is hard to read, I’ll move on. I visited a blog this morning that made me feel like I’d entered a little girl’s room–pink and flowery and frilly. If that’s the feeling you’re after, great. I hope I wasn’t the intended audience, because I felt distracted and out of place as I searched for the exit.

Design should fit the blog’s personality. An overly simple design might appear plain and unattractive, but the minimalist theme at Jon Swanson’s site actually sets the tone for his message and enhances the content.

Everything matters. Every choice either moves you toward your goal or away from it.

Personally, I don’t pay a lot of attention to numbers because traffic isn’t part of my objectives. I look at and track analytics monthly, but that’s really more about curiosity. I look for trends, experiment with different ideas, and learn from my mistakes.

I think of my site as a circle, and I think about attracting readers who enhance the quality of the discussion. Because my blog centers on faith-based issues, I’m more focused on the depth of interactions than subscriber numbers.

The point? My strategy is intentional and fits my overall goals. Incidentally, my numbers have more than tripled since 1/1/10. They’re still miniscule by Internet standards, but there’s some evidence that my strategy’s working.

Focus on Connections

Life is about connecting with people and things. Information, expertise, and opinion are readily available from an endless variety of sources. I consistently follow writers with whom I feel some sort of connection.

Strategies and specific tactics vary. From my perspective, what’s important is consistency and authenticity. Tricks and gimmicks provide short-term spikes at the expense of long-term trust and loyalty. You may fool me into visiting, but I won’t be back if you treat me like a fool.

Beware of barriers. I appreciate concerns about spam and privacy, but balance those against the need for readers to connect.

Make your comment form friendly and inviting. Allow me to use my preferred form of ID. With so many available forums, I’m likely to choose those that cater to my communication preferences. For example, some blogs force me to use my Google ID. Since I don’t access my gmail account, I’ll never see follow-up comments; why bother composing a thoughtful comment? I know there are ways around that, but why should I have to do extra work to contribute to your blog?

I find that many folks don’t like to leave public comments, but they love more personal contact. If you don’t want to provide an email address, consider creating a simple contact form.

It seems obvious. Fewer barriers, more connection, more readers.

That’s what I offered as guidance to get her pointed in the right direction. What would you add?

About the Author: Rich Dixon is the author of Relentless Grace. He blogs about issues related to adversity, disability, and faith at Bouncing Back.



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21 Responses to “Two Building Blocks of Successful Blogging”

  • Damar

    indeed build a successful blog that takes a long time, not just last night so direct ^_^

  • Dev | Technshare

    Hey Edwad,

    Nice Post. I think Focus on connections is most important block of successful blogging. Really Great Post man.

    Thanks for sharing this great Post.

    ~Dev

  • Princess

    Great post! I agree that there are a lot of blogging advice and resources out there and wading through all of them can be extremely time-consuming.

    It would be better to do as much research as you can but at the same time, find what works for you and learn from your own experiences as you go along.

  • Blog

    Having a purpose is a big one. Not knowing what you want to do with your blog will probably lead you nowhere. It’s cool if you don’t really care about stats relating to your blog, but otherwise, it’s a good idea to know which direction you’re headed in.

  • Sally

    Hi Edward,

    I really liked this post, to say that you should not force your readers to conform to a specific form of “id” is a great tip.

    I noticed a lot of my readers love twitter, so I added several twitter plugins and my comments increased.

    If I visit a blog that makes me jump throw ten million hoops to leave a comment, the only thing I leave is THEIR SITE.

    Sally 🙂

  • Nabeel | Create Your First Website

    Regarding fewer barriers, I also like it when the blog owner/author asks a question at the end of the post. That increases communication between the visitors and the blog.

    It also encourages a lively discussion, which is important for a blog.

    Nabeel

  • Supermarket Soap

    I liked the advice, and you’re right, no advice is a one-size-fits all solution, but I think what you suggested hits the nail on the head. I know some people who obsess on figures. I look at my hit counter once a day, and that’s all the number tracking I do.

    And I like Nabeel’s comment, asking a question at the end of a post is a great way to encourage comments. It’s something I’d heard before and entirely forgotten. Great advice, plus it goes to show that people who contribute to a blog can enhance good content.

  • thebloggingrobot

    It’s so important to focus on networking when starting a blog. I have only just begun my own blog, but social networking certainly helps in this aspect, though it is only one of many ways to network and get more static readers to view your pages.

  • Lorraine ARams

    It’s a long slow process to “discover your voice”. At the beginning, you “think” you “have it” but your blogging will evolve.

    The most difficult thing about blogging if are you doing it to earn a living is figuring out exactly how to do that – each “guru” only tells you so much and leave out the most important “secrets”. So you will find the same information repeated many, many times over only to find out there is still a major component missing. Paying huge amounts of money doesn’t solve the issue either. It’s a business so look to “age old” business practices and that takes time.

  • Onibalusi Bamidele

    Really great post Rich,

    Having connections is really important to being a successful blogger and it can help you achieve what you are supposed to achieve in years in months.

    Thanks a lot for the nice comment,
    -Onibalusi

  • Ben Mural

    Great post!

    I agree that there’s no one best blog design–it definitely depends on the purpose of the site as you say.

    As a relatively new blogger I was wondering which comment system to use, so your advice on not creating extra barriers for your readers was very helpful.

  • Karen

    Hi Rich,

    I’m going to have to steal this line: “I classify myself as a small-but-serious blogger. I’m also a big-time consumer of content. ” That’s me, too, for sure! 🙂

    You’ve given some great advice to your friend, particularly about why they want to blog and having a purpose. Also, having a collaboration and reaching out to others to build a community is very important. We can all learn so much from each other.

    Thanks for sharing this,
    Karen

  • Men’s Online Magazine

    Blogging is all about building a community around your site and getting that community to engage with each other

  • Grow With Stacy

    Great tips! Having a focus/niche and having connections are two of the most important factors of a successful blog. Obviously there are other necessary elements, but without either one of those and a blog is going to struggle.

  • Harrison

    Your feed isn’t updating on My Yahoo anymore. Says no content for 6 days. Started a few weeks ago.

  • Harshit Singhal

    yes,an inner purpose is quintessential to successful blogging.Unless you have the passion & desire to succeed,you are going to have a hard time achieving success.

  • Julius

    I agree that finding your purpose is the first and most important step to blogging. Don’t worry if you spend a long time in this stage, you’ll be more focused if you identify what you want to achieve and what path you want to take.

  • Shirley Kelly

    This information is not only useful it is well written and makes a lot of sense. I started a new WordPress blog a week ago using their free domain. However, I quickly realized that this would get in the way of my long term goals and quickly purchased my own URL after 2 days. It is very inexpensive to purchase a personal domain name. I got mine from “Dreamhost.com” for free after agreeing to pay $1.95 per month for hosting fees. I recommend it even if it does not seem to be necessary at this time. Once you start to promote a blog it could hurt your efforts if you change from a free to a paid domain name later.

    • Sarah

      I’m curious to know exactly HOW the wordpress blog would get in the way of your long term goals, speaking as someone who is trying to figure out where and how to start a blog! Any info much appreciated.

  • Geno Prussakov

    I like the “Focus on Connections” tip, Rich. Interaction in blogs is just as important as your own passion about the topic you cover. I am surprised to still see blogs that have a “closed comments” policy. Are they missing the main point of social media or what?

  • HP van Duuren

    Yes, Rich that’s a Solid Crystal Clear approach.

    That’s exactly what I aim to do with my Home Business Lifestyle Blog, the purpose is to help the guests on my Blog to build
    a – Happy Home Business –

    For what connection is concerned, I aim to be consistantly my authentic self and once in a while I do get some positive
    comments.

    All the Best,
    To your Happy – Blogging – Inspiration,
    HP

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