This is a guest post from Klintron. Enjoy.
I've been blogging since the dark ages of 1999. My oldest and most popular blog is Technoccult, which I've been doing since 2001. My most important tips are non-technical and platform independent, and I'm presenting them first. The second part of this article covers WordPress tweaks and plugins, which is what Justin actually asked me to write about.
If you don't read any of the hints, just keep this in mind: Do everything you can to make reading your blog easy, and avoid annoying your readers. Write a good blog, retain your readership, and it will grow. Your readers will e-mail and IM your URL. They will link to you on their blogs. They will link to you on social media services. That's how you build traffic. Search engines are always making changes in how they rank stuff, so question SEO wizardry and focus on reader experience.
The important stuff: non-technical hints
5. Comment on relevant sites. You'll see this on pretty much every list of "how to get traffic" so I won't belabor the point, but I have "met" a bunch of cool people, including Justin, either by commenting on their sites or reading their comments on mine. Also, credit the sources of your links. I've made important connections this way too.
4. Stick with it. Most blogs are abandoned soon after creation. Supposedly, your Google Page Rank goes up naturally with age.
3. SEO people tell you to post every day because search engines like frequency. If you can post quality material every day, go for it. But the important thing for building traffic is to get people to share your content, and to do that you need to keep people reading. I unsubscribe from feeds that don't have a good signal to noise ratio, even if there are occasionally really really good posts. So you need to post on a regular basis, but never post just for the sake of posting. Even just one good post a week will put you well ahead of the curb.
2. E-mail people and ask them to link to you. You'd be surprised how well this works.
1. Write clear headlines. Make it clear what you are linking to. I can't emphasize this enough. Why is Boing Boing so popular even though you can find all their links days earlier on other sites? Because Boing Boing is remarkably easy to read. They write clear, informative headlines, include relevant excerpts from articles they link to, and always make it clear what they are linking to. No clever headlines, no "zomg best link ever" posts.
Jorn Barger of Robot Wisdom is the master of writing good headlines. Read his link blog and learn from him. He has some hints for bloggers himself
* Turn on Akismet, which requires signing up for an account at WordPress.com. Kills spam dead.
* Set your permalink structure to "date and name" or "month and name." People say this is for SEO, but most importantly it makes your URLs more useful: people can tell they are clicking on before the click.
* Make sure you include full-posts in your RSS feeds. Including only excerpts won't help your click-throughs. Seriously. But it will make it less likely that someone will read your RSS feed and share your content.
* Make the post headline the first part of the title for single pages. Example: your single post titles should be Awesome RSS Tips for Bloggers | Joe's Blog, not Joe's Blog | Awesome RSS Tips for Bloggers. This is the main "search engine optimization" thing I do. It makes it easier for someone reading a list of search engine results to see the relevancy of your post. Supposedly it will also increase your search engine placements, but like I said - search engines are fickle creatures.
This will require you to mess with the HTML of your template, and apply some knowledge from the WordPress Codex on applying the title tag correctly. Even though this functionality is now built into WordPress, you may find it easier to use the Optimal Title plugin.
* The other SEO thing I use is Google Sitemap Generator. Gets your posts indexed by Google faster.
* I use ShareThis to supposedly make it easier for people to add stuff to link sharing sites. I have no idea if this really helps, but Technoccult does get a lot of StumbleUpon and Reddit traffic.
* Install WordPress Database Backup and use it.