Blogging can be the first stepping stone for you or your business to attract more clients or develop an attractive portfolio that can help you secure the job of your dreams. Unfortunately, just because you start a blog, whether it’s self-hosted or on WordPress, Blogger, or another service, it doesn’t mean that readers will flock to your blog instantaneously — let alone read every blog post. Several factors can impact the success of your blog, which is determined by goals that you must identify before you start blogging. Do you want a personal blog to help change the lives of others experiencing similar problems in their lives? In this case, developing a community that’s proven by reciprocal comments and discussions is success. If you’re looking to build a reputation as an expert of all things motherhood, consistently attracting thousands of readers a day who click through to sponsored ads might define your success. And if you’re looking for work, whether it’s contract or a new career, getting paid is your proven ROI.

While seeing the results of your blog can be motivation to keep doing what you’re doing, there are basic rules that can help make anyone a successful blogger regardless of how they define success. These rules are followed by both tech bloggers and mommy bloggers, as well as those who document stories of suffering or recovery. Breaking these rules means your blog may not be found in search engines, or potential readers may lose interest — even if you really do have an interesting story. Here are five critical component of a blog post that all successful bloggers follow.

The Title is the Most Important Part of Your Blog Post

The reason most people read online articles or blog posts is that, short of it being recommended, the title of the content makes the content itself sound interesting. The title may allude to an answer to your question, or introduce a provocative topic. It also may just simply sound like an interesting article. Without such a title, you’re likely to move on to the next blog post or article. When writing a blog post, your title is the best way to get your readers to actually read your blog post. The ways in which you can construct a great blog post title have been discussed at length by other bloggers. However, it really boils down to utilizing a title that triggers an emotional reaction from the reader. This can be anger, fear, humor, sadness, frustration, or sheer excitement via the curiosity to know more. Consider an article I wrote several months ago when Google+ first debuted: Google+ Sucks (And Here’s Why). While you may not have read that article, you likely just now became slightly defensive in some capacity either of my opinion, or of Google+. Using titles that pull similar emotions from readers is a great way to get a reader’s attention. For those concerned with SEO, consider phrasing your title in the same way you would if you were searching for your article in Google. Google will automatically suggest phrases following each word you type. These are the most popular phrases others search with, but may not necessarily fit with your blog post. Strike a healthy balance between helping readers find your post and generating an emotional need for them to read it.

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

Want to know what a blog post looks like without any pictures and only a few paragraph breaks? This blog post from the law firm McDermott Will & Emery is actually a well written analysis of antitrust law in Europe, but is incredibly hard to read simply because there’s a lack of visual flow. Adding images through a blog post can break up this “wall of text” and make it easier for your readers to stick with the content, whether it’s celebrity gossip or the launch of two-month public consultation for guidelines on settlement and compliance programs by the French Competition Authority.

Using pictures also encourages readers who may otherwise leave the page to browse the pictures on the page, incidentally picking up o key phrases which may thereby draw them into the post. Mashable recently conducted a study with EyeTrackShop that demonstrated how social media users view profiles, and found users focused on images and the text nearby. For bloggers, this means that multiple images can help guide your readers down the page. Images are especially critical for helping in the virality of an article, as they are used as thumbnails when shared on Facebook, and are a key component of helping propel your content through other networks such as Pinterest and Tumblr. If a picture on your blog is enough to drive more traffic to your blog despite the fact readers are not reading your blog, it is worth, well, as much as the words themselves.

What’s Your Story? Tell One

tell a story blog postYou’re likely blogging because you have something to say, whether it’s a juicy story to tell, a problem you have (or solved) or advice to share with the world. Your readers may have arrived at your blog because your title alluded that the content might answer their question, or they saw someone else share your post on Twitter or Facebook and thought they might be able to relate. Just like your readers started reading because they felt emotionally charged by your blog post title, keeping that emotional charge throughout the post will keep them reading until the end. This doesn’t mean every sentence needs to be laced with first-person dialogue and dirty details about your private life. Instead, explaining why this particular topic is important to you at this particular moment and carrying similar logic throughout your post will keep your readers until the end.

Include Links

Most bloggers do not generate content on their own. Sometimes I am pitched directly by a company or product looking for coverage, as is the case with other blogs and publications. Other times, we find the story first by way of another publication. No matter how big or small your blog is, it is important to include a link to the source of any information or data that contributed to your blog. Not only is this courteous, but if your blog post was inspired by another, you may be able to generate links back to your blog from that person if you attribute their original post or research. Not only will this bring you new readers, but being on the radar of other top bloggers in your niche could quickly and positively impact your reputation as a blogger in your niche. If you’re looking to monetize your blog, this is critical. It’s also a popular and widely accepted theory that both outgoing and incoming links to your blog are important for a higher rank in search results.

What Now? End with a Call to Action

call to action blog postYour reason for blogging is to share your story, but undoubtedly you’d like your readers to do more with what they just read. Would you like them to share a similar story in the comments? Share your story with others? What about subscribe to your newsletter, or buy your e-book? Do you offer consulting services, or sell dog-walking services? If you offer anything other than what you just wrote, you have a chance at the end of every blog post to ask your readers to do something, whether it is to comment on your post, share your post, or take a look at a product or service you offer. (As a LockerGnome reader, you know we do this in every post.) A call to action can be an opportunity to monetize, or it can simply be a place to build your community and establish relationships which you can leverage in a way that suits you best.

If you have a blog, what are the most critical components of your posts? Let us know your tips in the comments.