Tuesday, February 01, 2011

How to Build a Blog Following

OK, so the title of this post is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I say that because I'm fairly certain, based on the zero comments I have received to date, that I have no blog followers. But that doesn't mean I'm not trying. Last night, when I should have been in bed an hour before, my husband asked me what I was still doing up.

"I'm building a web presence."

He gave me a curious look. "Is that a real thing?"

I know I have a long road ahead of me, but I am trying.

I've started by studying those who I think are the masters. Writers who have a large online following and lots and lots of comments to every blog post. But in trying to figure out what they're doing right, I've discovered a lot more about what others are doing wrong. I've visited lots of blogs, done more commenting in the past few months than I've done in all my 14 years online combined, and I'm starting to see an obvious pattern about what makes me (and others) follow one blog over another.

A Successful Blogger Responds to Comments

This is something that jumped out at me right away. When I started tiptoeing into the comment arena I first only commented on blogs that had very few comments themselves. "Surely they'll read my comment and even respond," I thought. I also avoided commenting on popular blogs. "This author has 50 comments already," I reasoned, "So they're unlikely to respond when I say the same thing everyone else is saying."

But the opposite appeared to be true. The popular bloggers, even if they had hundreds of comments, still found time to insert a personal response or two. They recognized that someone had taken time out of their day to comment on their blog post and it was clear they appreciated it. The less popular bloggers, on the other hand, never bothered to respond. Not even a "thanks for dropping by!" The result was that some blog posts were creating a dialogue while others were merely diary entries of someone I felt less and less connected with. I'll let you guess who I began to revisit.

A Successful Blogger Comments on Other Blogs

I see blogger links on sites all the time but they rarely entice me to click through. I can't say the same about blog comments. When someone leaves a funny, insightful, or even controversial comment I'm often compelled enough to click through their profile to their site. It's like the comment has given me a small taste of what the blog will be like. Also, bloggers often visit the sites of their commenters, both in interest and as a way of being polite (you took the time to drop by, I'll return the favor.) Bloggers who don't comment on others' blogs miss both these kinds of traffic.

A Successful Blogger Posts Regularly 

Whether it's every day, or on a MWF-type schedule, you're going to lose your audience if you go for long stretches with no new posts. There are exceptions to this - like if your blog is so fantastically interesting that people are willing to wait between posts - but you're more likely to lose readers if you post sporadically. You're certainly guaranteed not to gain followers this way.

Of course, there are many other ways to build a blog following, but these are the ones I've observed recently.

What about you? What is it about your favorite bloggers (other than their interesting posts) that keep you coming back?


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