By: Stephanie Foster
Blogging is a very popular way to start a website right now. With free solutions such as Blogger and WordPress out there, it's no wonder. How much easier can it get to start a website?
But for some it is still challenging. How do you know what to write about? How do you get people to read what you write? How the *&$% do you get people to comment on what you write?
It's not always easy.
Choosing a Topic
Picking a topic can be easy or difficult, depending on what you want to achieve with your blog. If you want to blog for the fun of it, pick something you can enjoy writing about.
If you want to earn some serious money from your blog, you'll need to think a good bit harder. You will need to research your potential topics and figure out which ones are likely to make money for you. Wordtracker is one resource for that. You can also check around and see if there are blogs already on the topic, and what kinds of things they're promoting.
Competition is a good thing. Just because someone has started long before you and already has a solid following doesn't mean the niche is filled. It means there's demand and you need to find a way for your own blog to stand out.
Choosing a Host
It's easy to say that you want to go with a free service, but that's not always smartest in the long run. You give up a degree of control when you host with Blogger or WordPress.com. They can delete your blog if they don't like what you're doing. You may not be able to advertise at all, or your ability to advertise may be limited.
I strongly recommend getting a domain name and a host. It makes you look more serious, gives you more freedom to set up your blog as you like, and most hosts offer one-click install of WordPress, so it's not at all difficult to do. There are many wonderful hosting companies out there.
This is a tough one, even if you start out as a good writer, and post regularly. It takes time to get a blog noticed. It takes effort.
A popular way to do this is to comment on popular blogs. If you can comment early, your comments are more likely to be read by other people, and your link followed. If your comments add to the post and are relevant to your own blog, you may just get some readers that way. Just be sure you're doing more than merely advertising yourself.
Also be certain that your blog is pinging the major services, such as Technorati. WordPress blogs typically do this already, and Blogger can ping Weblogs.com. This is one of the areas where WordPress has an advantage, particularly if you host it on your own site. The ability to ping many sources can be an advantage.
Before you start too hard in trying to find readers, get some solid posts up. People won't be all that interested in a blog with just one post. Take a little time to get it off to a solid start before you start trying to get readers. It makes their first impression of you better.
This one is difficult. Not impossible, but it takes a very long time to build up enough of a community to get more than just the occasional comments on a blog.
Make commenting a friendly process. Install Akismet or another spam blocking plugin if you use WordPress. This will take care of the vast majority of spam comments for you, so that you don't really need to use a CAPTCHA on your comment form. People hate having to fill those in every time, and they can be a real deterrent to visitors.
Think carefully on how heavily you want to moderate comments. I typically have each user's first comment go through moderation. If it makes it through, their future comments are posted automatically. I still read every comment to watch for spam, but allowing the comments to go through after one has been approved means that regular visitors do not have to wait to see if their comment is posted.
Respond to comments when they are made. Show an interest. Some bloggers even email people to thank them for commenting.
It's also nice to have a plugin that emails comments to people who have subscribed to a particular post. It allows them to follow up on responses to their own comments, encouraging further participation.
Above all else, just remember that it takes time and serious effort to build a solid following. A few bloggers may manage it in a matter of months, but for many of us it will take far, far longer. Keep putting up solid posts, being responsive and working on marketing your blog should eventually get you some good results.
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