To date, more than 70 million people have started a blog, but only a select few have attained a readership beyond friends and family. So what's a budding blogger in search of an online empire to do?
While success is by no means guaranteed, emulating the habits of successful bloggers would be a good starting point. Here are five traits that most successful bloggers share, regardless of their subject matter or worldview.
Successful bloggers have a niche. Your blog can't be all things to all people, so find a focus and stick with it. Better yet, focus in on something that few other people have keyed in on. Sun staff photographer David Hobby noticed a while back that thousands of amateur photographers with new digital SLRs were hungry for practical guidance. In his spare time, Hobby set up a site called Strobist (strobist. blogspot.com) where he offered professional advice and budget-conscious techniques for becoming a better photographer, particularly in regard to the use of off-camera flashes for dramatic effect (how's that for specific?). Hobby's blog has drawn in hundreds of thousands of loyal readers in just over a year and has turned him into a celebrity in online photographic circles.
Successful bloggers find a voice. Bloggers need not be Nobel Prize-winning novelists to succeed, but the best blogs have a consistent and distinct writing style. The Washington gossip blog Wonkette stands out from the crowd for many reasons, but one of the most prominent is its tone. The site's authors have made names for themselves by posting items filled with biting, snarky, crude and profane language that often push the bounds of good taste and political humor. For taking such chances, Wonkette has been rewarded with readership numbers that reach into the stratosphere.
Successful bloggers engage their readers. Bloggers who pontificate from on high with little regard to what the masses are saying or doing often find that nobody is bothering to pay attention in the first place. The best blogs offer two-way conversations. Successful bloggers allow readers to comment on their site and often jump into the discussions that bubble up in their comments section. Furthermore, successful bloggers will join in discussions that bubble up on other people's blogs. PostSecret, one of the most oddly popular blogs online today, takes this two-way conversation to the extreme. The site, which publishes anonymous postcards with profound and voyeuristic secrets written on them, relies solely on the contributions of its readers for its content.
Successful bloggers often blog in groups. It's no coincidence that a good chunk of Technorati's top 20 blog list consists of group and community blogs. A blog run by a group of like-minded bloggers often has an energy that solo bloggers find hard to match. Community blogs - where thousands of members are allowed to contribute - can take on a life of their own. Sites like BoingBoing, the Huffington Post, MetaFilter and SlashDot are what they are because they're group efforts.
Successful bloggers blog constantly. Again it's no coincidence that the many of the hottest blogs will routinely update 15 times a day - and often on weekends, too. Readers need a reason to keep coming back, and one or two posts a week won't cut it in most cases. Jim Romenesko's highly influential newspaper industry blog had 26 entries last Tuesday. Romenesko is a full-time blogger working for the Poynter Institute, but the point remains: The more you put into your blog, the more you're likely to get out of it.
Have any blogging tips of your own? Share them with me, and I'll publish the best ones.