This guest post is by Mark Stephan.
Most blog owners would happily give an arm and a leg to turn blog readers into contributors and build up an active community. But, very few bloggers actually get it right.
After all, 60 to 80 percent of bloggers give up within the first month, and 95 percent of new blogs are abandoned within 3 months.
It’s not because people are no longer interested in blogs.
On the contrary, there were 122.6 million blog readers in the US in 2011, and there are going to be 133.8 million in 2012 and 141.6 in 2013.
So, why is the success rate for blogs so dismal? Well, start by asking yourself why to blog. Most new bloggers run after money, while some just want to talk about themselves and their cat. That’s not the way it works, because 70 percent of blogs are authored by people who do it primarily to share their expertise.
You can only be an expert in one field, and that’s what all the blog posts have to be about. Stay on topic and keep hammering at it every day. Visitors will eventually turn up and find out that you seem to know what you’re talking about, and start asking you questions. If you do it right, the blog ends up as a place where lots of people come to discuss this subject on which you’re the resident expert.
It’s also important to have strong opinions. Nobody wants to read a post that confuses them some more. They want you to take a stand and then justify it. In fact, nothing works to spark engagement more than a raging argument or debate in the comments or between two bloggers.
Speaking of comments, it’s important to install the required plug-ins that make commenting easy and even encourage it. For instance, asking people to register and login before they can comment is a turn-off. It’s much easier to moderate comments and allow regular users to post comments right away without moderation.
Also, a plug-in like Do-Follow will invite engagement with other bloggers, since it is a kind of back-scratching arrangement where bloggers post comments on each others’ blogs and both blogs benefit from it.
But the thing that actually sparks engagement and builds up a loyal following on a blog is the blogger’s own response to comments posted by readers. It is incredibly important to respond to each comment intelligently and make readers feel their input is valued. Encourage readers to come back and continue the thread, post more comments and talk to other readers.
Apart from these basics, use of polls, contests and other incentives for posting comments are helpful in sparking engagement. For example, many bloggers offer a free prize to the blog reader who posts the most comments in a month.