… is a useful question, but it’s the wrong one. Catchy titles and controversial topics are good at drawing eyes, but you don’t want to be just one sensational gimmick after another. Your goal isn’t just to get read. Your goals are to share what you know, save people time, and make people think.
The first question then is: How do you write blog posts worth reading? That takes lots and lots of practice. Braindump everything you can, and the important stuff will float to the top of your brain.
The second question is: How can you find your own posts again? At least in the beginning, the primary user of your blog will be you. When people e-mail you a question you’ve already thought about before, find the blog post you shared the answer in, and send a link. When people bring up something in conversation, follow up by sending them a link to the relevant blog post. When you find yourself solving a problem you solved six months ago, look up the answer in your blog. This is why you need to record as much as you can.
The third question is: How can searchers find your posts? Don’t worry about search engine optimization. You don’t need to be the first hit for popular searches. All you need to do is make sure that people can find the obscure bits of knowledge you’ve shared in your blog when they need it, even if they don’t know you in the first place. If you get the second question sorted out (finding your own posts), this often comes for free.
The fourth question is: How can people learn from your archives? Okay, you’ve got searchers coming in and reading random pages of your blog. Can they easily find relevant posts they might be interested in? Use categories for simple organization, and use plugins to offer more choices.
The fifth question is: How can people subscribe to your blog? So people come in becomes of searches or links. They like what they see. They read your archives and they think you’ve got good things to say. Make subscription easy. Point it out. Offer an e-mail subscription. Services like FeedBurner let you add all sorts of options to your feed. If you write about a broad range of topics, offer people choices so that they can subscribe to just the kinds of posts they like.
When you’ve figured out the first five questions, you’ve gotten the hang of creating useful posts and making them findable long after you’ve forgotten them.
Then you’ll probably feel comfortable cross-pollinating your social networks: mention you have a blog on Twitter, and point to your Twitter account from your blog, put your blog URL in your e-mail signature and your card. Make it easy for people who value what you share in one area to find more from you in others.
Don’t worry if, in the beginning, no one reads your blog. Start by writing for yourself. Build an archive. Learn from what people value. Make it easy for yourself and others. And have fun!