This article covers the things you need to do to create a popular blog, whether or not you seek to make money from it.
If you're just writing for yourself, or for your family and friends, you don't need to follow this advice.
Write about something you really understand. Make sure it's a deep topic that you could write about for years.
Write about a single topic, or make sure there's a theme running through your writing. You need to make sure that a reader can enjoy one of your articles, and have a good chance of enjoying the next. That way, they'll come back, and you can start to build up a following.
The people who are fascinated by your progress in quilt-making are not going to be interested in your prize chickens, even if you are.
Google picks up every post you write. Each post you make is like another fishing line you're casting into the great sea of Google. Each post has a chance of turning up when someone happens to search for words that match part of what you've written. Over time, each post will bring in a tiny stream of visitors (some far more than others). With enough posts, these streams will add up into a sizeable river. This is the way you bring in the serious traffic you need for success.
Ideally, you should write every day. If you really can't, then write on specific days.
Writing daily isn't just important because it forces you to write a lot, it's important for building a following. We all have favourite sites we check daily, because we know there'll be something new there. If you just write sporadically, people never know when (or if) there will be something new on your site.
If you need to, build up a backlog of writing, so you can reliably post one new thing per day.
People will bookmark you and follow your site because they like what they've already read. Give them more of it. Stick not only to your topic, but to a consistent format too; write roughly the same amount each day, in the same style.
Consistency is a mark of quality.
Tom starts a blog about his time in prison. He met hundreds of different people during his incarceration. Each day, he writes 1,000 words about one of those characters, each time finishing with a fictitious "where are they now" paragraph.
Sharon is a stay-at-home mother of three, and has developed creative ways of entertaining and educating her children. She writes 500 words every weekday, describing the day's activities, and posts a picture.
Unless you're blogging anonymously, you should let people know who you are. A name and photo is one of the easiest ways to say "This is a serious, quality site." People will think you're important. You don't have to do this straight away, but you'll need to bite the bullet eventually.
For a business site, having a name and photo is more about saying "I'm a genuine businessperson." For a blog, it's more about being able to relate to your visitors. People want to learn about who you are.
Write from your own point of view and experience, not from a neutral, factual perspective. People relate better to a story than they do to a faceless slab of information.
Allow people to comment on your site. Reply to them, and start a conversation.
Correspond with people. It's a great source of ideas. Almost all of what I've written has been inspired by corresponding with people, and helping them understand some topic.
When you first start your site, you'll be writing material for no one – only your friends and family will be visiting. Once you've got a host of regular visitors and commenters, you'll start to feel like you've got an audience. An audience eager for your writing is an excellent source of motivation.
Get yourself known. Participate in discussions on other sites with similar topics. Typically, when you post on someone else's blog, your name will be a link back to your site. If you post something worthwhile, you might nab yourself a few curious visitors. If you're a regular on their site, the owner of the site will recognise you, and might mention you in their writing.
Link to other blogs from your blog, when that other blog has something valuable to say. You might think this is just leaking out your visitors to another site, but it's well worth doing. Your readers will appreciate it, the other site owner will see the visitors coming from your site in their statistics, and you'll have a chance of having the favour returned. (As I've explained elsewhere, when another site links to you, your ranking in Google improves.)
If you're involved in any social media sites, use your contacts there as an easy source of visitors. Don't overdo it, but occasionally link to your posts from Facebook.