Two quite quick items here, so I will cover them together.
I discussed earlier the importance of the feeds which other blogs produce – so you must make one available for your blog. If you want to be read, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to do so. That means making your content available in as many forms as possible. RSS feeds have become the standard way for most people to read blogs, as it is just so much more convenient. So, make it clear you have one. Have a nice large orange badge on your site somewhere. Advertise your feed in your site wherever you can – put it near the top so people can subscribe quickly and easily without having to hunt for a link.
If you host your own blog, you can pipe the feed through a service like Feedburner, which allows you to much better monitor the levels of subscriptions and readers you have. it also lets you add little features to your feed, like links to add the post to del.icio.us and how many people have commented on it. I use this service on this blog, and it works like a dream. Feedburner also provides you with loads of little ‘subscribe’ buttons for specific aggregators to make it even easier for people to subscribe.
One feature that Feedburner also provides is the ability to distribute your feed via email. Some people like getting their information this way, and given that the service is free, there is no reason why you shouldn’t implement it. Even better, this is a service that will work with hosted blogs, like those at WordPress.com.
The importance of RSS can be seen in the way that the latest generation of browsers, such as FireFox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 7, have RSS heavily integrated into them. For example, in FireFox, I just have to click a link to an RSS feed, and it immediately brings up FeedDemon so I can subscribe to it. Great stuff.
One last point on providing your feed. Some systems allow you to issue either a full feed, partial feed or even just a short summary. The aim is that people see the shortened version of your article, are interested and so click through to your site, increasing your hit rate and maybe visiting your advertising, if you have some. I think this is lame. I want to read a whole feed in my aggregator, not mess about clicking links and whatnot.
If you want lots of people to read your blog, it’s best to find a subject to write about. Something pretty specific that marks you out a bit from the crowd. Personal, journal-type blogs are nice, and can be interesting, but unless people know you, why are they going to read it?
Pick a topic you’re interested in, whether technology, or Web2.0 or something to do with your line of work. For example, my day job is working as the risk manager for a local council in the UK. Now, I’ve googled on the topic and I can’t find any risk management blogs out there, so that might be an interesting niche to blog about. Maybe some day I’ll get round to it.
It doesn’t even have to be a topic you know a lot about – blogs where the blogger learns about stuff as they go long can be cool too.
But when you start out, why not try out a few different topics. Widen your scope to start with, to find out which you like writing about the most. That way, you won’t annoy the people who subscribed to a blog about web based office applications only for it to change to being about toilet paper manufacturing after a month.