For those who don't know, my "day job" is web content editing and internet marketing. I do a lot of work with social media, websites, and blogs. After doing so for the last few years, I've learned a lot about what draws users to blogs in particular.
It's difficult to gain and keep blog followers. It's much easier to attract followers for short media (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook) because reading a short blurb is less of a commitment than an entire blog post. However, there are a number of ways to increase your blog's appeal and get people to come back for more.
First, the superficial fixes that make your blog look good and welcoming.
Make sure your blog is readable. Avoid busy backgrounds, text that is too bright or too light, text decorations, or funky fonts. They may seem quirky and fun, but they make your blog really difficult to read, and if people can't read, they won't bother following or coming back. Why would they?
Leave out all the extra bells and whistles. Appealing blogs have structure and look clean. Have you ever come across a blog that has 800 different widgets and awards and GIFs and doohickies in the sidebar? Don't do that. It's messy and distracts your readers from the important thing: your content. I know it's a lot of fun to post all the various cute blog awards you've won and widgets for all the groups you've joined over the years, but seriously, don't. It should be easy for visitors to find certain things in your sidebar, like your follow button, Twitter link, or contact info. Reserve the sidebar for the important stuff. If you absolutely must have those extras, put them beneath the important info.
Get rid of the automatic music player. We all love music. Believe me, I know. But not everyone likes YOUR music. There are few things more annoying than surfing to some blog on your lunch break at work and getting blasted with Ke$ha. Viewers will not approve. This is why I always post my "song of the day" as a link. If people would like to go listen, they can click and check it out. It's okay to have a music player on your blog if you really want it, but make sure you turn the auto-play off.
Simplify. Tying in to the "bells and whistles" point, it's best to keep your blog design simple and to the point. It should reflect your personality and your audience, but it should look clean and streamlined. Keep sidebar blurbs short. Make your links and contact information easy to find. Optimize images for the web so they don't take forever to load. Select an easy-to-read font in an easy-to-read color. Make sure things don't look too small or big or cramped or weird.
Now on to the other stuff.
Create consistent, interesting content. First, you need to find your niche. What is your blog about? Your writing journey? Book reviews? Advice? Humor? Make sure you know, and make sure your readers know. Readers come back when they have an idea of what they're going to get. Watch for which of your blog posts get the most hits and try to figure out why people are so interested in that topic.
Keep length consistent, as well. Most people don't want to read a giant wall of text. They want to spend a few minutes on your blog and then move on. Usually it's best to keep blog posts to 250-600 words. However, if you establish early and often that you tend to write a little longer, people will be aware of that. Just remain consistent.
Be sociable. I know I'm terrible at this when I get busy, but it's really important. Respond to people. Let them know you're listening and glad that they're reading. Visit their blogs when you can. Be a friend.
Keep a schedule. Whether that schedule is once a week, once a month, or every single day, make sure you keep up with it as best you can. People like knowing when to come back for more content. If you make them wait too long, they'll lost interest.
Share and link. If you have a blogger friend that you really like, link other people to their blog with a short explanation as to why you enjoy them. Ask people if they'd like to do guest spots. Link to articles, videos, and other content that you feel is relevant to your audience. Don't just talk about yourself all the time. Unless you are a super interesting person, it gets old pretty fast.
Have fun. It's really obvious when you come across a blogger who's blogging because they feel like they should, rather than actually enjoying it. If it's not fun for you, seriously, don't do it. There are better ways to spend your time. Blogging isn't for everyone, and that's okay.