9 Tips on Building a Successful Blog

After blogging for a few years, I’ve come across a few great tips and tricks to not only make your blog look better, but also how to make it more ‘user friendly’. And once you hit that sweet spot of friendliness, you’ll find it much easier to snag those followers when they pass through –and keep them returning again and again. Sometimes growth is only a button away!

Fight blogger’s block

The key to a successful blog is to not only provide relevant and quality content, but to do so on a regular and consistent basis. If you find yourself neglecting your blog for months at a time, you may be suffering from blogger’s block (yes, it’s totally a thing!!) If you feel you just don’t have the time? Sometimes it’s the shorties that become the most popular. Case in point, this is my top post of all time.

Personally, I try and blog at least once a week or 4-5 times a month. There are a number of strategies I use to get myself back on track if I’m failing these targets. Firstly, I often create blogging challenges for myself like: blog every day for a week and share the results/stats with your followers (guess what I’m doing right now? #inception)

Another trick that has fuelled my blog during many a creative drought, is opening my blog to guest posts. I have no clue why I didn’t do this sooner! Not only have I made some great friends, but simply the act of putting together a guest blog often spurs me on to write my own. Oh and lastly, everyone always tells you not to focus on the stats… but guess what? The stats can actually be a great motivator to make you blog more!!

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image via pexels

Utilise the “follow blog” widget

My biggest tip on gaining followers is to add the “follow blog” widget to your sidebar that shows your follow count (have a look at mine if you’re not sure what it should look like). Not only is it easy for people who aren’t on WordPress to follow you, but the widget should also display a tally of your followers. The more followers you have, the more likely you are to get more.

There are a number of other widgets and tabs that you really should use if you want your blog to be ‘user friendly’:

  • Main menu at the top with links to your ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ pages
  • But limit your main menu to essential pages only
  • Have your Social media buttons located somewhere prominent
  • Use the following widgets on your side bar and footer area: Search, Follow Blog, Instagram, Twitter Timeline, Facebook Plugin, Top Posts & pages, Archives, Categories, Links, Recent Comments, Recent Posts, Posts I Like
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image via pexels

Get out there and socialise

Quickest way to get followers and grow your blog? Reach out to the blogging community by visiting other blogs! You don’t ever want to be one of those people who sits on a deserted island spouting poetry to the void wondering why the hell all the boats keep on sailing by. Yes some people can get extremely lucky this way, but most of us need to put in years and years of hard work and effort to create a successful blog.

If you’re not sure where to start, jump onto the WordPress reader and lookup the ‘writing’ tag (or whichever tag is related to your blog) and start connecting! If you’re really serious about growing a following, I recommend you visit 20-50 blogs every single day and leave a like and comment. Out of those 50 blogs you’ve followed, you might get say… 10 follows back. If you did this every day, you’ll have 3,650 followers after one year!

But just a warning: try to be genuine if you can, so only choose blogs that you find interesting – people will notice otherwise! The main reason I created my blog was to connect with other bloggers and get advice on the self-publishing process. Getting a large following was just a nice side effect and of which I am so eternally grateful for (P.s. I love you guys!)

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image via pexels

Reply, reply, reply

This is one tip that I can’t stress enough, and it is one that I often fail at. The quickest way to develop a loyal and loving readership is by replying to all those wonderful people who are kind enough to leave a comment on your blog. Because how cool is it that they take the time out of their day to leave you (a stranger) an encouraging, friendly comment?

Scenario: Ever visited someone’s blog and left a message, never to get a reply? How did it make you feel? Even if you didn’t feel anything, one thing I know, you probably can’t even remember who that blogger was, and if you do, you may be less inclined to make a repeat visit.

The more you reply to comments, the more your name will pop up on someone’s notifications. Before long, your persistence will develop into a teeny-tiny little neuron in their brain lighting up with your name. “Milly Schmidt, Milly Schmidt, Milly Schmidt.” Hahahaha…. ahem. Sooooo, eventually, they’ll be like “Oh yes, I know who Milly Schmidt is, she’s that crazy cat mum who blogs with cat gifs all the time.” And absolutely proud to be so!

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image via pexels

Connect your social media accounts

Don’t forget to connect your social accounts to your WordPress account, as not only will this be reflected in your follow count, it also makes sharing your posts to your accounts all that much easier – it will be done automatically! Go to: My Sites > Sharing > Connections. Then connect up your accounts!

I have about 7,000 WordPress subscribers, but when I connected my twitter, it now lists that I have 13,000 followers on my blog! I’d rather it only showed a tally of my true blog subscribers, but there’s no real way around this.

So why do I do it? Well, I do get a fair bit of traffic from this connectivity as all of my posts are shared automatically – very handy if you’re insanely forgetful like me and never get around to sharing your blogs to your social media accounts!

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image via pexels

Get rid of that pesky “comment approval”

I will always recommend that you turn off approval for comments – most of the bad ones get caught by Akismet’s spam net anyway. I’ve set mine up to catch any comments with more than one link in them and this is really all you need. This seems to be quite a contentious issue with some – but I’ll only say this, if you want a successful blog, give your followers the freedom to go wild with comments.

Some of the most successful blogs don’t ask for approval (I learned this early on from a far more experienced blogger). Making people wait for approval is not only annoying for bloggers that are attempting to have a conversation with someone else, but it can stunt the growth of your blog. Comment friendly blog = more activity = more views = more followers = higher rankings = more views = more followers. And round and round it goes.   

I’ve been blogging for almost three years now and I rarely, if ever, have a problem. I think I’ve had only two nasty troll-like messages slip through, which is pretty good considering. Not to mention I used those trolls to create some very popular blog posts! Win-win 🙂

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image via pexels

Stick to a “clean and easy to navigate” WordPress Theme

I recommend trying a range of different WordPress themes to try to find one that not only suits the subject matter of your blog, but one that is clean, easy to read and friendly to all demographics.

I’d try the Canard theme if you’re willing to change as I LOVE the red detail and how elegantly structured it is: https://wordpress.com/theme/canard. When I was using this one I used to get SO MANY COMMENTS from my followers on “how nice it was and can you please tell me what theme you’re using?”

I’m not going to lie, I now use a premium theme, but if I reverted back to a plan where I only had access to free templates, Canard is the only one I’d use. The only downside (which is why I converted) is that the Canard theme doesn’t display the tagline – I needed mine to show both my author name and the name of my blog!

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image via pexels

Use high quality images for your “featured image”

You can find super high quality images for your posts from sites like: https://www.pexels.com/ or https://pixabay.com/ – a little extra work, but well worth the effort! You will need to register an account (free) with Pixabay to access their highest quality versions, but Pexels allows you to download without an account.

I also recommend you plant a few images in each blog post to break up the wall of text and keep your reader engaged and interested. The more images, bullet points and short sentences in your post, the higher your “fresh” level – but you don’t want to go too overboard, otherwise everyone’s little eyes will be jumping around too much, which adds to unnecessary strain.

I still remember, when I was in college, one of our professors taught us this one awesome trick I still remember to this day: “your retention level while studying increases after looking at an image”. He had also peppered his presentation with hilarious, completely unrelated images to keep our attention span up. It’s funny to think that 8 whole years later, it is only that specific presentation that I remember in such clear detail!

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image via pexels

Identify your most popular posts

Guess what my most popular posts are? If you take one look at my ‘Top Posts’ widget, you’ll see the (embarrassing?) truth. Yes, you all seem to love my cat gif posts, which was something I stumbled across quite by accident.

One day, back in January 2016, I blogged about The Three Stages of Editing Your First draft – and included one solitary cat gif. My stats exploded. I got confused. I figured it out. I had a laugh. You probably know what I did next, I wrote a heap more articles with cat gifs in it, and the best thing? It was fun. It still is fun.

I love my blog and cat gifs and I’m totally not ashamed to say that. Cat gifs got me to where I am today, got my blog to where it is today. So find what you love blogging about and present it in such a way that everyone else will love it too.

It’s as simple as that.

Okay, it’s not that simple, in fact, it’s really, really hard growing your blog – but it’s better to have tried and failed, than to have never tried at all!

flying cat

 

 

 

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139 thoughts

  1. Thank you for all the great tips! I just started my blog today and it’s as if I’m trying to figure it all out at once, but these tips were super helpful! I loved the tips about turning off comment approvals and pictures! It’s funny that looking back I realize the most memorable classes were the ones that had random pictures and videos!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Lindsey

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was SUPER helpful! I am new to being consistent on my blog. I have had it for almost a year, but have only really dedicated myself to being consistent with in for the last 6 months. I love watching it grow. These tips will help me branch out and hopefully encounter more people!
    Xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Do you have a post on how to get people to notice your blog? Mine is The Blackbirds Project, a blog about how I’m planning my (possible) book, Blackbirds (of all titles.) I couldn’t care less if someone follwed it; I just want one dumb comment.

    In other words, how do you make your blog known to the Internet? It’s lonely where I’m blogging.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks, it’s really helpful.
    One Pro tip is to use best stunning WordPress theme that supports lots of inbuilt Customization. And this is one of the basic need that everyone is looking for.
    I also stumbled upon lots of other blogs, recommendation while building a successful blog and tried multiple clean themes before launch but the most and last which I liked and using is GeneratePress(GP Premium) – All in one multi-purpose, highly customizable, SEO friendly, unlimited sites and license supported, pocket-friendly WordPress them.
    I have a share in-depth case study on how I saved lots of $$$$ on WordPress site design using GeneratePress here – https://www.growthfunda.com/best-wordpress-theme-for-blog/

    Thanks -Amol

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Would it be worth opening up my blog to guest posts if i only have one follower who isn’t a real life acquaintance of mine?

    That one follower is really nice and all, but i’m unsure if the rest of the people who read my blog would get around a random post.

    I’t would be great to have more stranger’s to talk to though.

    arrrgh… this blogging thing is so frustrating.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I’ve started reading, but can’t absorb it all! It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for on writing on my blog. I’m a one month newbie and so excited to keep writing. Love the cat theme and love my cats too! Also volunteer with our local cat Catfe best place ever to write and have coffee! Thanks again for all your information!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is a very helpful list of ideas. I began my blog to help clarify my goals, but it has resulted in the unexpected surprise of contact with other bloggers. I’ve learned so much from other bloggers like yourself that I didn’t expect. thanks!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Thanks for the tips and for liking my blog. I’m getting a slow start with the blog-sphere, but your suggestions may help speed me up. Hasn’t quite grabbed me yet in a way that feels full-on real. I’m staying tuned…

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Some excellent ideas. I write about science fiction, but my daughter fostered adorable kittens I just had to add to the blog. Wow! Did I get a response. So I’m rethinking some things.
    Thanks for the follow, and happy blogging.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Honestly, this was SUCH a helpful post for me! I am super new to the blogging world in general! I am going to go through my setting and making sure I have the things you talked about as far as my side bar! I haven’t connected to social media yet because I can’t personally decide the direction I want to go. If I want to create a social media brand new that is all linked together with my Mrs. Anonymous theme I have going, or if I want to link it to my real instagram and twitter to get some followers that way. What would your advice be?

    Anyway…. Thank you for such helpful content! 🙂 If you have a minute I would love any advice you can give me on my blog!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Yay glad it was helpful 🙂 I never get over when people say my posts were helpful!! I would say if your blog is anonymous (and want to remain that way, you will need to create anonymous social media accounts to go with it – though this means you’ll need to start from scratch.

      I’d be too lazy to do that so if it were me, I’d just connect my blog to my real social profiles. My Instagram and twitter were originally my private accounts, so what I did first was change them to ‘public’ and then deleted any photos/posts/tweets that made me look like an idiot and essentially began remodelling my pages to suit my blog. I don’t have any private accounts, as my social profiles are a blending of my public and private life – but I do always remain aware that my accounts are linked to ‘my brand’ and my real name – so I need to be careful. But in general, I don’t need to worry too much because I’m pretty much myself through my blog anyway.

      I’ll check out your blog now! 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That makes perfect sense! It is a little extra work! Since I am so early into the blogging world I did create a twitter separate from my private social media the other day as Mrs.Anonymous and I think I am going to do that for Instagram as well!

        Thanks for taking the time to comment and take a look! I sincerely appreciate it! ❤️ I am also glad I could encourage you as well! 😇

        Liked by 2 people

  11. I made notes of these tips and I’m going to try them, thank you so much for sharing! I’d wondered if it might be beneficial to show the amount of followers with the follow button, so I’m glad to know it’s helpful. Oh, and the cat gif thing gave me a laugh! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Thank you for sharing so many helpful posts about how to grow blogs! I always appreciate the advice. And yes, I definitely remembered to come back here often because the first time I commented you wrote back to me and visited my blog as well!

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Thank you for writing this, and for the follow. I’m very new to the blogging world. (I take my hermit-dome very seriously) This has been helpful, but I was wondering how to get rid of the comment approval. I’ve looked a little but couldn’t find it.

    Liked by 6 people

  14. Barring the occasional lulls and writer’s block, I’m enjoying the process of blogging so much and post such as this is a goldmine for me.

    I follow your blog because you write so well and the friendly-vibe that shines through it. Thanks for the tips. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  15. I learned so much from your post, thanks! I’m going to turn off comment approval now. 😺 Quick question though: Is it possible to link social media accounts but disable automatic posting? I’d like to choose which posts I share to which social media.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I will have to re-read this post when I have time, and follow The Cat’s Write, too, as cats, books, and writing are my priorities too! Penny thepennymasonpost.wordpress.com pennymasonpublications.com mysterybookreviewsbypennymason.wordpress.com

    Liked by 4 people

  17. In my case the key is to listen to those who have had blogs for a long time. Articles like this and others are gold to me and they should be gold to others.

    I think the biggest problem for some is that they go in to it with big ideas and a belief they will be in instant hit. When that doesn’t happen in the first month they lose interest. A blog is no different than developing a friendship. It doesn’t happen over night. It takes time. People need to get to know you. They need to trust you and most of all you have to be there on a consistent basis.

    I have surprised myself with how much I enjoy this. I wasn’t sure what I was getting in to. I knew I had to do something. I wrote a novel. It needed exposure and so on but now my blog is more about meeting people and listening to their thoughts than it is about my book and I’m glad. I now realize that is what it’s all about.

    You wrote an excellent learning tool. Thank you.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. That’s wonderful that you’re really enjoying it too – I love it here! The community, the blogging, the advice, the friendships, the cat gifs. It’s so true that the whole point to blogging is connecting with other people – if you come here expecting to ‘cultivate a mass following’, ‘get famous’ or ‘push your brand on others’… you just won’t enjoy it and it will totally become a chore – not to mention your readers will notice. I came here for some self-publishing advice, fell in love with blogging about cat gifs, then decided to hang around a bit longer because… it’s so much damn fun 🙂

      By the way, thank you so for calling my tips a learning tool – it’s really awesome for a blogger to hear something like that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Great info. I went immediately to the Pexal site and WOW, What a treasure trove. I am always looking for free graphics. and yes, cats, but I’ll leave those kitty kats to you.

    Liked by 5 people

  19. I had to laugh at the mention of cat gifs- I looked at your ‘most popular ‘ post and although it was about writing poetry my eye kept being drawn by all the hilarious cats! Seriously I found this post both encouraging and helpful-thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Very solid tips. I’d have to agree with them all, even though I’ve been blogging for less time than you.
    I always had my comments enabled (no need for approval). I went through a phase of actually avoiding blogs that hold my comments, but then I realized that most people have it set like that by default and might even know how to switch it off. I guess whatever suits you. But I like mine there right away, because I might not always be there to approve them and I don’t want my audience to not have the chance to converse without me.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Soooo many people use comment approval – I’m so glad to hear you’re in the same boat as me! You echoed exactly what I think – I don’t want to restrict my audience by having comment approval. I don’t understand why people do it when Akismet picks up the spam anyway??

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks mark ☺ Don’t worry, I would totally never be against anyone else utilising cat gifs!! I get them from Google mostly by searching for things like… ‘mystified cat gif’ or ‘angry cat gif’ or ‘cat staring into the distance like a crazy cat gif’ hahah

      Liked by 2 people

  21. I don’t really like to follow dozens of blogs, because I don’t have the time to actually follow them. I don’t want to just put people on a big list of those I’m pretending to pay attention to. I don’t follow someone unless I have the time to read a fair amount of what they publish, and respond accordingly. But then, I’m not trying to make a living from blogging.
    I’ve been blogging three times a week for years now. Having mastered quantity, I shall now turn my attention to refining the quality and perhaps distilling the flavour of the blog. You’ve certainly hit on a winning combination with “cats + writing”!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It really does work, doesn’t it! I remember when I first started blogging I didn’t even realise the reader existed – or that you could search for blogs via tags (I was using twitter to find other wordpress bloggers). I wonder where my blog would be now if it hadn’t of taken me months and months to figure that out? LOL

      Liked by 3 people

  22. Oh Milly, this post was super informative and entertaining at the same time. Now I’m going to have cat gif and use image stuck in my brain for months! lol

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Tbh I had my comment approval turned on because I didn’t want any trolls or spammers. I thought I would feel sad to see one of them when I just started blogging lol. But thanks for the tips! 😀

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Don’t worry I had comment approval on for a while when I was new too, it was much easier to manage back then. If your volume of comments starts to get crazy, I definitely recommend you turn it off but also tweak your moderation to pick up any comments that say… add more than 1 link in a comment. This picks up most spam for me 🙂 Sadly, some genuine comments still end up in spam so I still have to manually check every now and then

      Liked by 1 person

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