So you have a website and a blog as part of that website. You’re making a habit out of writing every week, you’re following the advice you read on How exactly do you know if you’re getting anywhere though? How do you know if you’re making progress or if you’re just spinning your wheels? Put it another way, when you check your website analytics, what are you specifically looking at?

For most bloggers and webmasters the main vanity metric we like to track everyday is how many visitors came to our website. But let’s be honest, we’re not just interested in seeing how many visitors came. What we really want to check is to see if our traffic is growing week to week, month to month. This is the true value of this metric because if your website is not growing steadily you know you have some fundamental underlying problem you’re not be aware of. Be it a problem with your website or with the way you’re promoting your website.

The metric that really matters the most

Attracting New Readers to Your Mailing ListWhile daily visitors are important, the most important metric for pro blogging success is this: Return visitors. It’s not sexy, but it’s the one metric that you’re probably not paying that close attention to. Return visitors are the number one indicator of how successful your blog is. If after a few months of running your website, blogging everyday, and doing your best to reach out to other bloggers to help you grow your website and you’re still not getting a decent amount of return visitors, you have failed.

I know that’s harsh, but it’s true

If your blog is simply not compelling enough for visitors to want to come back to again and again your blog is not a success. So the real question is how do we go about making our blogs a “must-read” destination for people? Well, let’s take a minute and think about some of the most popular websites in the world. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr. The common thread among these websites is community and having a unique selling point. Then let’s think about the most popular blogs in the world. The common thread is again the same. They cultivate an active community and have a unique selling point.

How to build community around your website

From a tactical standpoint, to build a community you need to make people feel like they’re apart of your movement. You do this mostly through language and using phrases like “we” raised $1,000 for charity and so forth. Next is to highlight rock star readers of your website. Talk about the results they are getting from reading your blog. Talk about what they’re doing with their lives as it relates to your website. So if you you’re writing about travel, highlight a female reader by having her share her experiences of traveling South East Asia solo for example.

Next is to host fun little “meet-ups” in your local community or where ever you’re traveling to. You need a large audience to make this work, but nothing creates return visitors to your website as well as fans for life than by meeting the people who read your website in person.

Lastly is to use a forum or message board feature on your website. This is very difficult to do. Not only from a technical standpoint of moderating a forum, finding guest moderators, designing the forum, and making is secure. But also from a traffic standpoint. You need a decent size traffic base before you can launch a forum. The best way to build up traffic to a forum is to create “buzz” around you launching it. Write a couple blog posts about the idea of launching a forum and gauge reaction. If you don’t get any reaction, your audience is too small. If you get a positive reaction, make plans to launch a forum!

The unique selling point

Finally, to build a successful blog that gets return visitors and ever growing traffic is to craft your unique selling point properly before ever launching your website. This is the most important aspect of starting a blog, but it’s the part everyone seems to skip over. Take a look at the most popular websites on your given topic. How are you going to compete with them? You have two options, either you try and be better than them, or you try and be different from them. Being different is usually the more sounder strategy as by finding your own selling point unique to you, you end up with a niche market all to yourself, with no direct competition.

This guest post was written by David, the founder of Website Buddha, a training and tutorial website that shows people how to create a website and use that website to facilitate business on the internet.