Having a loyal readership is key to achieving success as a blogger or online publisher. You may have the best blog in your niche or even the most useful posts, but what good are your efforts if you don’t have a steady stream of readers to appreciate your work?
Even if your blog attracts 50,000 visitors per month, it doesn’t do you much good if your bounce rate is 100%. No matter what your blog may be about, you need faithful readers who keep coming back for more.
With the right promotion and SEO, you might be able to get some eyeballs, but building a loyal readership isn’t something that happens overnight. It is something you consciously have to create, and that is where true marketing comes into the picture.
These nine tips, when executed properly, will show you how to build raving fans for your blog, but grow your revenues.
The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Small Business
1. Know your target audience
Before you even start to market and promote your blog, make sure you are clear about your target audience. Who do you want to reach out to? The whole Internet? Sure. Good luck with that. Writing about every topic known to man makes you an expert in nothing.
Focus your blog posts on a specific subject and you can narrow down your target audience. For example, if most of your current readers are freelance writers, then produce content that will cater to their interests and needs, such as”
- How to become a freelance writer
- How to write better
- How to market your services as a freelancer
The important thing is that you know to whom you are reaching out. Once you’re clear about that, you can mold your content to address their problems and develop a marketing strategy with a clear message. This information will also allow you to determine what types of products or services your readers may be interested in purchasing.
2. Don’t make selling your focus
The Internet – no, the world – has too many people who just want to sell you something and make a quick buck. Consumers/readers are aware of that, and if your site is all about selling your readers something, then they won’t trust you. And no one does business with someone they don’t trust.
Like Warren Buffett said:
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Now, that is not to say you can’t make money or sell anything. The idea is that you do not focus on selling at all. Instead, try to educate your readers and let them make decisions for themselves. In fact, don’t be afraid to down-sell when you believe a cheaper product/service might be a better fit for a client. Positive online reviews and social shares catch on quickly.
For instance, I’ve written about the best free blog sites for new bloggers, which may be found here. In it, I highlight the pros and cons of WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr. Instead of hard selling readers on a self-hosted WordPress site, I objectively offer the advantages and disadvantages. Whether they pick one or the other is completely dependent on their needs because some potential bloggers want to test the waters of building a blog before investing $50 on a hosting + domain package. Instead of glossing over the other options in the marketplace, I also recommend Blogger for casual bloggers or hobbyists, and Tumblr for image/humor-based blogs. In the end, I leave the decision up to readers because they need to do what is best for themselves.
This post builds goodwill with potential “customers” because the focus is to educate them on their options when building a blog, not force them into a sales funnel that convinces them “WordPress is the only blogging platform available and you have to use it if you want to make any money online.”
3. Blog to provide value
I am sure you have read this so many times, but what does it really mean? Value, just like beauty, is relative.
What you may consider “valuable” may be considered “useless” to your target audience. That is why it is important to know your target audience. Understanding your readers – both existing and potential – will be your beacon when deciding what is valuable information.
For instance, if your audience consists of bloggers looking to grow their online business, then you can offer a plethora of tips, guides, advice, and tricks:
- How to build a landing page
- How to optimize conversions
- Understanding consumer psychology
- Essential plugins to increase page load speed
- Best themes to encourage social sharing
- How to write attention-grabbing titles
- Places to get free images
- New SEO news or Google algorithm updates
- How to develop a personal brand
- How to hire freelance writers/editors/designers
- Tips to build a loyal readership ;)
Be as specific as you can, so that you are addressing your target audience’s needs, concerns, and questions. Eventually when you do offer a product or service, your reader’s confidence in your ability to provide “value” will encourage them to buy something you endorse.
4. Put extra effort into crafting your headlines
We’ve all seen how Upworthy and Viral Nova started a trend using the curiosity gap in their titles. This trend highlights the importance of the title because no one clicks through to read an article when the headline doesn’t interest them.
Don’t just use the first title that comes to mind. Think about it. Write it down. Think about it again and again till you find the right combination of words. Some of your better content may be getting overlooked because of an overly SEO’d title.
5. Link to external expert sources
Linking is a sensitive topic, especially with Google handing out penalties left and right. However, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t link out to other authoritative sites or bloggers. In my experience, it all boils down to providing your audience with valuable information, such as research, case studies, white papers, posts from experts or well-known bloggers, etc. Remember the “curiosity gap” link above? This is also one of the better ways of developing relationships with other bloggers.
6. Interact – respond to comments
Content providers do have the main goal of writing and publishing, but your work doesn’t stop there. If you want to develop a direct connection with readers, then you have to interact with them and fellow bloggers as well.
A comments section starts a dialogue. By monitoring and approving comments, you obviously accomplish the task of catching spam that gets through anti-spam plugins. But you should also remember that your regular readers look up to you, and if you’re an expert in the field, maybe even see you as a mini-celebrity. Responding to comments forms a powerful connection with readers because it indirectly shows you care.
7. Engage on key social media networks
When it comes to marketing, social media is a prime tool. While it doesn’t directly factor into Google’s algorithm yet, it can still drive an abundance of free traffic. Don’t turn your back on it, but don’t overdo it, either.
Tighten Your Focus on Social Media
There are so many social media platforms these days, and some bloggers believe it to be necessary to establish a presence on all of them. While creating a profile on every platform is easy enough, not all social media will provide a sufficient return on investment.
What you can do instead is look at the platforms where you have the best results – a growing following, significant interaction/sharing, and click-through traffic. For my site in the personal finance space, I get the most traffic from Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. LinkedIn and Google Plus haven’t had the same impact for me, but everyone has different experiences.
Analyze Your Social Media Stats
Once you have identified your ideal platform(s), then you get down to the nitty gritty. You can’t just publish a Facebook post or tweet whenever you want and hope your readers see it, like it, re-share it, and so on. There are some things to consider when maximizing the reach and interaction of each of your posts:
- When is your audience online? Facebook gives you Page Insights so you can find out what times your followers are online the most. With this knowledge, you can time your posts accordingly.
- What kinds of posts/tweets get most views, likes, comment, and re-shares?
- What type of media do your visitors like and interact with?
- How do you market content on Google Plus?
Additionally, you can use tools to make it easier to manage posting and tweeting as well as analyze their impact. I highly recommend Buffer, which allows you to connect various social media platforms, set schedules, schedule posts, and see stats such as clicks, likes, and shares.
Don’t Be A Mere Broadcaster
Pushing your content on social media in order to get clicks is well and good – we want that! But if you only focus on broadcasting your own content, then you’ll probably turn people off.
We circle back to one thing…interaction!
- Respond to comments
- Like them. Reply to tweets
- Follow other people in the same niche
- Interact with authoritative figures in your industry
- Show your followers the real person behind the site.
8. Create something of extra value, and give it away
More than the usual blog post or article, why not occasionally create something extra, like a guide or how-to manual? A short eBook in PDF form will suffice. The idea is to bring something new to the table, and give it away for free. This can even be used as a hook to get email subscribers and grow your mailing list.
Set up a newsletter
You have a couple of options here. You can provide a roundup of what you have recently published, something like a “Best Of” for 2014. Or maybe an exclusive article only seen in the newsletter.
A few things to consider when creating a newsletter:
- You need to test the best way to convert visitors and encourage them to opt-in. Some sites use a sidebar banner, a plug after every post, or a popup for visitors who have been on the site for at least 30 seconds. You will need to test to find what works best for your traffic and site design.
- Make sure you don’t spam. Be picky about what you include in the newsletter. Make sure you yourself would want to open that newsletter every time it lands in your Inbox; otherwise, you risk losing subscribers and a shrinking mailing list.
9. Have passion
None of this would be possible without passion. You must be passionate about your blog’s subject and genuinely want to help your readers improve their lives or businesses. I once read somewhere that writing is like sex – you can’t fake it, so don’t even try. Like a significant other, your readers can always tell.
With some consistent hard work and execution, you can develop a loyal readership too. Just always try to give more than you ask, and your readers will love you for it.
How do you build relationships with your readers?
Author bio: Gary Dek is the blogger behind StartABlog123.com as well as a dozen other niche sites. His passion is helping new and professional bloggers build sustainable online businesses.
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