Some may argue that my post on Jump Starting Your Page Rank is not helping my readers any and that it is a waste of time but when you see what results from being on a list such as the one a few posts below, you will realize the power of the link train. However, I do agree with some of the critics of the link train because you can’t rely solely on the link train to help you break the barriers in the blogosphere; you have to give your readers something MORE and I am here to tell you what that is:

Great Content
I have always mentioned this as number one and mainly its because without content there isn’t any reason for the your blog’s existence. Today itself, Problogger had a video post about how visitors only stay on a blog for a few seconds and the impression your blog makes in those seconds is what makes or breaks your blog. You have to make your blog stand out with the type of content you offer. People come to your blog because of what you have to offer them and not because of how nice your layout looks, even though design does play a role in first impressions.

As I said earlier, your blog’s first impression could also be its last impression but if you are able to hook a visitor who just happens to come across your blog then you have a winner on your hands. Your design has to be able to speak to your readers and keep them on the website longer. Mostly blogs or websites that have ads all over the place are the ones that are still struggling to be noticed and its mainly because I don’t suggest monetizing your blog to a point where all you have is ads.

Your design should reflect your style and should have a clean look. If your style is messy then you may not be able to keep visitors on your site long at all. Make sure your design looks good and that it doesn’t seem odd or flashy. I also suggest that you should customize your WordPress templates instead of using the default setup. I don’t mean to praise myself but as you can see, my template has been highly customized to meet my needs and also creates a certain visual appeal for my readers. If you don’t have extensive knowledge in design then don’t worry, ask around and I am sure that there will be some kind hearted souls that will be willing to help you.

Reader Feedback/Comments
If you don’t have readers then your content may not have meaning because reader comments and feedback is what helps enhance your posts. It is the interaction between you and the reader and between the readers themselves that makes for interesting discussion. I also suggest that you should take time to reply to your comments because otherwise there isn’t any interaction at all. Over the past week I have installed a few plug-ins that have helped boost the number of comments on my blog. I can’t say that the plug-ins are the reason for the higher comment rate but they have definitely made things a lot easier and better!

1. Brian’s Threaded Comments – This allows you to have comment threads so its easier for your readers to interact with each other. Your readers won’t have to scroll down all the way to see a response for a comment they posted earlier. It creates nested comments and several websites use this particular plug-in and there is a reason for it!

2. Comment Relish – I have read that if you have a large number of commentators then this plug-in may not be for you because it goes through your database and could possibly slow it down. I have quite a few people that comment on the site and I have seen blogs that have 1000 commentators use this, so if your site is larger than that, then this script may not work as well for you. The concept of this plug-in is simple. It will send a welcome email, that you write, to first time commentators on your blog. Usually this welcome email should be written in a way that doesn’t seem forceful because you want to make a good impression. More on this particular plug-in later but do try it out!

3. Better Comments Manager – This has been a life saver for me. If you own a blog then you may find it a little difficult to respond to all your comments by going through each post to respond to several comments. What Better Comments Manager does is that in the admin section itself, it lets you respond to comments on your blog. You can even post threaded replies if you are using Brian’s Threaded Comments as mentioned above.

4. My Avatars Plugin – Most of you are members of MyBlogLog and this plug-in is very useful because it puts a face to the comments. If a member of MyBlogLog posts a comment on your blog then this plug-in will place their avatar next to their comment and it really helps in getting to know your readers better. This was the first plug-in that I had installed and it has worked really well.

So those were the 3 main components of having a successful blog. Sooner or later I will have more details about some of the plugins I use on this blog and how they can help you. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and I really hope you can incorporate some of these at your blog. I would love to hear your comments on this!