This January will be my eighth blogging anniversary. I’m not technically considered a professional blogger, because – for good reasons – Novelty Revisions is a blog that aims to help people, and it wouldn’t feel right to me to advertise in any capacity for a blog I host because I truly want to make your lives better. In short: I don’t get paid. I DON’T WANT YOUR MONEY! I want to make your writing life more rewarding. That includes new aspiring bloggers like my 16-year-old self.
Starting a blog is hard. Getting people to read and follow your blog consistently? Pretty much impossible, right? No. Not impossible. Not if you’re really willing to work at it.
Here’s my advice for creating a blog people want to follow. I could have made this post 2,000 words long, but we’ll start with the most important elements for now.
Have an obvious purpose for posting
I think what’s hardest for new bloggers is figuring out why they want to post on a blog. Pretty much everyone who wants to write for one purpose or another has one. Even I started blogging in 2009 because Meg Cabot was doing it, and I wanted to be like Meg Cabot (we already had the same first name, why not?). You can’t just blog because you want to have a blog, though. For one thing, people won’t know what your blog is about or why they should visit again if you don’t make it clear enough. For another, if you don’t know why you want to keep writing, it’s likely you won’t continue.
It took me probably too long to figure out what this blog was supposed to be. Once I figured out my purpose for posting regularly – to help writers be more awesome, basically – things got so much easier. Readers come here because they know what they’re going to find. It’s not me posting about writing a novel one day and a random rant about school or my personal life the next. I write about writing, and anything that doesn’t fit into that editorial guideline, doesn’t belong here. People need to know why they’re on your blog, and if they come back, they should feel comforted seeing something familiar – because what they expect to find the second time around should be right where they expect it to be.
Don’t talk about yourself too much
I mean this as nicely as it can be interpreted: your readers really don’t care about you that much. Especially not in the beginning of your blogging experience. They don’t know you, and they aren’t really looking for a reason to get to know you. What they want is a good read – something that talks about them. Something that helps them live better, or speaks to them as personally as possible. People care about themselves more than anyone else; that’s just how all of us are. Use that to your advantage. Give people a reason to come back, and know that reason probably isn’t you, but rather, what you have to offer.
This doesn’t mean you can’t address the audience as yourself or bring in your real-world experiences to support a point you’re making; I do it all the time. But I only use that kind of reference to back up what I’m saying, to give my posts a little credibility. I’ve stopped addressing irrelivant personal experience for a reason. As soon as you shift the focus away from yourself, you learn how to tailor each post to the audience who may or may not come to read it. And that’s how you convince people it’s worth sticking around.
Seek to assist as well as inform/entertain
People are busy and stressed. If they’re going to take the time to visit your blog, it’s either because they need your help or they need to know something. In some cases, you might write to entertain – but even then, that’s a way of helping people wind down, maybe laugh a little. There’s still a purpose there. Steam of consciousness rants with no true start or finish just don’t work anymore unless you already have an audience who will read anything you post (and if that’s you, well, I’m surprised you’re here reading this – hi!). People want tips, and advice. Or they want to be told something new, and how they should respond to it. Many people read blogs because they like to think and be presented with new ideas. Offer something unique, even if it’s your perspective on a current event that people care about.
And if it’s not the kind of subject where giving actionable tips makes sense, at least include a call to action at the end of your posts. Give your readers something to think about, something to go away and do or something to respond with. Something that challenges their beliefs and behaviors, as good writing should. People aren’t going to remember a blog post that talks at them and then ends. They’re going to click away from your site and, honestly, they probably won’t ever feel the need to come back.
Writing a blog you want people to subscribe to is like selling a product. You can’t just put it out there and expect people to flock to it with interest and excitement. And it still goes beyond promoting it and sharing it with friends.
Make your purpose clear. Put yourself in the background – as the writer, not as the person the blog focuses on (in most cases). If you’re going to hand out information, offer something valuable along with it. Give people a reason to come back again. And as always, remember what I’ve said in the past about growth. It’s slow. Painfully slow. But once you create something worth following, that slow growth’s worth becomes as clear as it needs to be.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.