When you first start a blog there are several things you can to to help improve your blogs potential. Here are a few of my tips.
Decide on a theme for your new blog. While the default theme is not bad looking, it is nice to be able to add a touch of personality. There are a huge number of free themes on the internet for you to try especially on the WordPress site.
The second thing to do is to register with WordPress. Registering not only gives you access to post on their support forum, as part of your registration you get issued a key for askimet. Askimet is a spam filter plug-in and while not fool proof it will save you from a huge amount of spam. Another two ways I combat spam are to install a captcha plug-in for comments and contact forms and to add keywords from all the spam that I do receive to the comment blacklist found on the Admin > Settings > Discussion page. If you really want to be sure no spam comments get posted on your blog you can turn on moderation for all comments. This will allow you to approve or disapprove the comments before they are shown live on your shiny new blog.
Decide on your permalink structure. This affects the way your URLs will look for all your posts and pages. By default they are not set to a very search engine friendly setting, or very pretty to look at. There is great debate on the best permalink structure to use. Many people advise that you use the /%postname%/ custom setting but WordPress advise that this could have performance issues. Lots of people seem to have sites working just fine this way, but I chose to play it safe and use /%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/ Many of the top blogs in the world use this method without a problem.
Install an SEO Plug-in. I use the all in one SEO pack. I only use the free version and it is perfectly adequate. It will enable you to have a reasonable amount of onsite SEO even with the default settings. If you want to have a more advanced configuration there are plenty of options to keep you busy.
Setup a web statistics package. Google analytics is free and very easy to set up. First you need to register unless you already have a Google account. You can either install a plug-in to activate it once you have registered or paste a simple piece of code into your theme footer.php. If you don’t want an external package, there are several statistic plug-ins available.
Install a plug-in that will generate an XML sitemap. I use Google XML Sitemaps. Sitemaps make it easier for search engines to find and index the content of your blog. Each time you edit or make a fresh post, or edit or publish a page the plug-in will notify the main search engines of your changes.
Now you have a nice sitemap submit it to Google via their webmaster tools and bing. Google Webmaster tools is a great tool to use, as it will tell you about any problems it finds crawling your website such as duplicate titles and descriptions or errors finding your pages.
Remember to edit your about page to tell people about yourself. Blogging is a very personal form of website, people like to see a human side. I have seen lots of blogs with a default about page.
Another thing you can do is setup Feedburner. This is another service, now owned by Google that allows you to track the statistics for people following your site via its RSS feed. You can set it up by using a plug-in such as the FD Feedburner plug-in or you can edit your theme RSS links manually. RSS readers are a great way to follow lots of blogs and be able to see their new content in one central location.
Think about how you want to be able to communicate with your readers. Consider registering a twitter account to link to your new blog. A contact page is good too. Giving people ways to engage in conversation with you about your blog keeps the whole thing very personal, and that is the special thing about good blogs. Many blogs fail because they simple do not make any attempt to relate to or engage the reader.
Post! It seems a stupid suggestion, I know. Many people start blogging full of enthusiasm and a few weeks later the novelty wears off. I know firsthand from my photoblog that when I stopped posting regularly due to work commitments I lost a lot of traffic and regular readers. Set yourself a target that is achievable even if it is to only post once or twice a week.
These are just a few tips that I hope will come in handy. They are written with a self hosted WordPress blog in mind but I’m sure many tips are valid for hosted solutions too. There are plenty of guides already out there on the internet but I hope my tips are of some use.