Write what you love
Notice I didn�t say what you know and love? Start with the passion first and work up from there. If you�ve recently found a new passion for cooking and you want to share that passion with the world, that�s what you should write about. Chronicle your cooking adventures, add recipes and tips as you find them and in general show everyone how much you�re enjoying this. Show the downsides too. Your burnt turkey at Thanksgiving, the rotten plumbs you ended up with, whatever you encounter. To know and a love a subject is also a good recipe for success. If you�ve been around the film industry for years and you still love what you do, you�re going to have a successful (and probably very popular) blog.
Define what �successful� means to you
Do you want to be the next BoingBoing? (I wish you all the luck!) Or are you content with your family and the occasional stranger stopping by? If you want to reach the widest possibly readership, you�re going to have to work for it. If you simply want a place to jot your thoughts down in case anyone happens to be reading, don�t worry too much about the rest of this article. If you want to get your word out to many people, as many people as possible, read on.
Don�t flood your blog with 27 posts on Monday and then disappear for a week and a half, only to return with another 12 posts. Return visitors want a steady diet of information � something they can take in and enjoy without getting overwhelmed. At the same time, to leave your blog seemingly abandoned for days or weeks at a time is a sure way to lose readership.
Be prepared to do the work
Blogging isn�t as simple as regurgitating a few posts from other news sources every day. It can be hard work. You�ve got to come up with the topics, write the posts, research the background information if necessary and then commit your thoughts to a place where anyone in the world can find them. If you want to have a successful blog you�ll need to post new information to it often.
Sure, drop a link onto your blog in real time, or put some quick thoughts down for all to see. If you�ve got a post of any length or depth to publish you should really write it offline. This gives you a chance to do multiple drafts before you hit the publish button. That means spell checking (both from your software and your eyes), changing your thoughts, rearranging paragraphs to enable continuity and flow and all the fun stuff that goes into writing. That�s what you�re doing here, you�re writing. A solid year of blogging with one post of substance a day means that you�re essentially writing a novel every year. Treat your blog as such � make your writing as concise and grammatically correct as possible. Once you�ve read and re-read your own posts, then put them online. Treat yourself to a few books about writing if you�d like, it certainly can�t hurt.
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You want links to your blog
Offer link exchanges with others who have like minded opinions and blogs in a similar theme. Join a link exchange program where you view other sites in exchange for views back to yours. If you�re an expert in your topic, offer to write for other sites in exchange for links back to yours. Leave real, helpful and insightful comments on other�s blogs. When you do this, be sure to sign up with them and enter your website. If folks like what they�re reading, they�ll follow your link back to your site. Simply throwing posts out to the ether, no matter how well written and thought out they are, will not be enough to attract readers. You�ve got to build your core audience before you�ll see lots of folks coming to your blog on their own. Having said this, don�t link-spam. Don�t hit every blog you can find even remotely related to yours and drop comments like �That�s cool. Visit my site at�� Sure you may get a few hits, but you�ll come off as a jerk. That will serve to drive even less people to your blog.
If you�re in this just to make money, you probably won�t
As your readership grows, your costs can grow as well. If you�re writing on a platform hosted by someone else (wordpress.com for example) you�re not going to be able to implement things like ads. If you�re on your own platform on your own or hosted web server, growing traffic means expanded equipment. It�s going to take a lot of readers and a lot of sponsorship to reach the point where you�re running your own server room (unless of course, you already have your own server room). The best blogs are those that people are passionate about � both the authors and the readers. Can you make money? Sure, but don�t look to blogging as a get rich quick scheme or a road to fame and fortune. That could happen, it has before but it�s not all that likely. Be realistic � if you�re not already well known in your field it�s going to take an aweful lot to become well known. Constant, quality posts are the only real way to build up your readership. So sure, make a little money but don�t do this just to make a buck, you�ll probably be disappointed.
Respond to your readers
If someone leaves a comment on your blog that deserves a reply, whether its a question, a nice bit of praise or even some trash-talk, it�s your responsibility to respond to them. This will not only bring that one reader back to your site (especially if they receive an answer or confirmation) but it will encourage other readers who may not have spoken up to do so. Do this a few times, establish a rapport, however small, and guess what? Your creating not just a blog, but a community.
Foster your community
In addition to responding to comments, give your readers a place to hang out. Forums can do wonders when attached to a blog. Give readers a reason to come to your site by putting good content on it. Give them a reason to stay by allowing them to interact with you and with each other. Chat boxes, forums, Q&A comment sessions, whatever you can implement.
These folks are taking time out of their lives to come and read your thoughts. If you�re working towards building a community then the also come to read other member�s thoughts. Whatever the reason they are coming to your blog, treat them well. They�re doing you a favor, not the other way around. Some suggestions for giving back? Visit member�s sites and leave fun, helpful, insightful comments for them. Host a contest or a giveaway. You don�t even have to give physical prizes � how about points from a link exchange program like blogmad? A chance at writing the headline story?
Take criticism for what it is
If it�s constructive, then respond to it. Admit your mistake if you�ve made one, correct your post and move on. If someone points out an error to you and you respond quickly by correcting your post, that person will gain respect for you. All of the people who noticed and didn�t speak up may also gain respect for you. Do the right thing and it will take you a long way towards strengthening your community.
Be prepared to get flamed, slammed and otherwise spammed
Once you start gaining in popularity, you�re not only going to attract the average Internet Jane or Joe. You�re also going to attract the spammers, the irate folks with too much time on their hands, the zealots in whatever subject you�re discussing, the occasional kook and the hate-mail fiend. Deal with them, and deal with them fast. If someone leaves a hateful comment, delete it and apologize to your audience. Was it your fault? No, but it�s your blog and therefore your responsibility.
Don�t be afraid to ask for help
When your blog gets bigger, the demand for newer features and articles may become a bit too much for you. Also, it�s always nice to have a team of folks contributing � this means more articles published at a regular rate that contain good writing. And you don�t have to be the one to do it all. Help may come from a family member, a longtime friend or someone who�s simply hung around your blog for a little while and contributed in their own way through comments or forum postings. Some people will contribute for the sheer fun of writing on a blog. Others will ask that content be shared between your blog and theirs. Still others you may consider sharing the wealth with. If you�re making a profit, now may be the time to include others. More writers, more content, better blog, more profit. This can be true to a point. If you get industry freebies to review or comment on, spread the wealth among your writers.
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