There are literally millions of blogs out there, each trying to carve out a dedicated audience from their niche. Regardless of what you are into, you’ll find a blog written by an expert (whether qualified or self-declared), filled with readers eager to chat about all related issues. If you’ve got a great idea, the patience to sit and write and the dedication to take daily action you can have a blog. It costs almost nothing to launch, and with a bit of luck you might even gather some advertising revenue and make a few bucks from it. But none of that will happen if you can’t generate a relationship with your blog’s visitors. Regardless of how narrow your niche there are always other options, and attention spans are shorter than ever before. Success is always going to come down to creating a sense of community with your blog readership.

The key to that process is coming across in a real and authentic way to your readers. There are plenty of blogs out there that aggregate articles. They all sound like they’re written by robots. And if you hunt through their numbers you’ll find they shed readers just as quickly as they attract them. The problem is that there is no real voice behind the blog. If you want your readers to come together as a community, they need to feel there is a real person leading the charge, and that person needs to be mentally and emotionally invested. That person is you, so make sure you come across that way.

You also have to make sure the structure supports a sense of community. That will start with an open comments section on your blog posts. Sure, no one likes to see their latest post get trashed by some angry anonymous reader. But that’s the nature of the beast. There’s no bad press, and a negative comment is just an opportunity for you to respond and get the community further engaged. So keep the comments section open, and take the time to address what is posted there. You don’t have to answer every single one, but your readers should be left with the feeling that someone is reading and thinking about what lands there. That will make them take it more seriously as well.

On top of the comments section, you should find additional ways your readership can integrate your blog within the larger context of their online lives. That could happen in several ways. You could try requesting a membership of your readers, and just a simple name and email will do. That could be a requirement for posting comments, and should kill off spam. But some people will shy away from this. Optional is always better than mandatory, but set up the functionality to engender your community. Readers should be able to easily share links outside of your blog, as well as post pictures, articles and comment threads from your blog onto the social networks.

Finally, try to create a community that isn’t stuck on the blog itself. While a message board is one great option on your site, it is complicated to code. You’ll have a lot of approvals to manage, and if it doesn’t take off, it won’t be worth it. There’s nothing sadder than an empty message board either. Your best bet is to create a Facebook page and Twitter feed that link with your blog. Make sure it is clear to your readers that you are running each site, and again respond to comments with thoughtful posts and the occasional well-timed emoticons. Hunt out other sites that your regular users ‘Like’ and follow tweeters and other pages that are appropriate for your subject matter. If you take part in the larger community of bloggers, your readers will feel tapped in as well. And that will improve involvement across the board.