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Blog Promotion: Are You Preaching to the Converted or Are You Reaching Out to New Readers?

preaching to the convertedToday John Chow just made a post reflecting upon a competition that he ran with Shoemoney to see who could get the most new RSS readers in a month. Over the month both John and Jeremy had some great success at increasing their numbers – both by over 4600 and in the post John explained his strategies.

John and Jeremy’s Competition to find New Subscribers

shoemoney-chowWhen the competition was announced back in October I was quite excited to see how it would pan out. Two very clever blog marketers doing their thing to promote themselves and find new readers. I looked forward to seeing how they’d go about finding their new readers.

However as the month progressed and I watched them work hard at increasing their RSS feed reader numbers something didn’t quite feel right to me about it. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time – but today in reading John’s post outlining his strategies I realized what was behind it.

Both Jeremy and John did a great job at creating buzz among their readers about the competition, both pulled together some great prizes to act as incentives for people to subscribe and both obviously got some great results – but it struck me today that they’d both focussed most of their efforts on their current readers.

John writes in his post that his ‘Ah Ha’ moment was when he realized that if he could get his current readers to subscribe via Email that they’d be counted every day instead of only the days they checked email. So a lot of his efforts centered around getting people to sign up for his daily email updates. He also emailed all of his newsletter recipients to get them to sign up for the daily email also.

His other strategy was around running competitions through the month by offering some cool prizes to those who were subscribed (something Jeremy also did).

Preaching to the Converted

Now I’ve got nothing against either of these methods. Having people sign up for more than one way of subscribing to you isn’t a bad thing (it increases the places that they’ll come across your content) and having competitions is great (I find that it builds loyalty among readers and creates a sense of fun and momentum) but I come away from John’s latest post wondering how many actual new readers his strategy brought in or was it just preaching to the converted?

Don’t get me wrong – a feed counter that is 4600 higher is nice (and I’m sure some of them were actually new readers) – but if the goal is to grow one’s reach, influence and actual readership (rather than just a number on a chicklet) I wonder if it might have been better to have some strategies that were more focussed off the blog and upon new readers than on current ones.

Turning the Spotlight…

OK – so while this might seem like a bit of a dig at John and Jeremy I’d like to turn the spotlight onto the rest of us – because I think we’re all guilty of it from time to time.

Many bloggers (including myself) spend so much time on their current readers that they forget to put themselves out there and into places where people who don’t yet read their blog are gathering. It’s easy to get complacent – I know because I catch myself doing it all of the time.

While you don’t want to go hunting for new readers at the expense of current readers – if all you ever do is promote yourself to those who are already converted then your blog will stagnate.

How to Find NEW Subscribers for Your Blog

So how does a blogger put themselves out there and find these new readers rather than just keep promoting themselves to those who are already loyal to them?

I’m glad you asked…. because next week I’m going to publish a series of posts that I’ve been working on over the last few days that covers this exact topic. Rather than kick it off on a Friday (as it currently is here) I’ll kick it off on Monday to give us plenty of space to explore it. I’ve got a few techniques that I’ve been experimenting with to share and hope that you’ll share your own experiences as we go.

So make sure that you’re subscribed to the ProBlogger feed (I had to do it) and stay tuned.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Excellent review there on the RSS contest , but if you have a option to select the best one of both , which blog would you personally select darren? :)
    PS : shoemoney here.

  2. Interesting insight Darren!

    I was one of those RSS guys that signed up for both of their feeds as I hadn’t done so yet. I had read both sites for some time and had them bookmarked, but I had not subscribed.

    I can’t wait to see the article you have on increasing your readership. I’m sure can use it!

  3. I unsubscribed from John’s blog after his hundredth post on this stupid RSS contest. The only way to find new subscribers is to create content that provides value to readers, new and existing alike. Rest all is bunkum.

  4. I’m looking forward to reading your series Darren.

    I totally love the readers I already have (I might be biased but I think I have a very high quality set of readers!) but I’m not going to say no to some more…


  5. Nice post, D.

    I try to appease both crowds, but I think it’s harder to win new readers than to satisfy the current. I’ve noticed that when I write a really compelling headline that comes across as almost gimmicky, I’ll see a little spike in RSS readers. Almost one-for-one.

    Look forward to your upcoming series as well.

  6. That is an interesting topic. One thing I’ve wondered is how important is the placement of your “Subscribe” buttons. Will having an RSS button that’s big and pretty really get you more people to subscribe? I’m looking forward to your series!

  7. Another great post Darren. None of my feed counts are too high, but I noticed that I’ve been getting a lot of traffic from people coming from here.

    I’m very interested in the strategies that you have to offer in this matter. I’ve already subscribed and can’t wait for the series!

  8. Do you find the there are more RSS users in certain niches than others? I kind of see a trend that blogs that are blogging or tech related have a much higher adoption that lifestyle or entertainment blogs.

  9. Personally, I didn’t subscribe to either of them. Seemed a bit childish to me. Come on, pull up your “big boy pants” and get back to work. :)

  10. I’m really looking forward to this upcoming series of posts.

    It is certainly more difficult to get new readers, which is no doubt why both those guys went for the easier option (and I don’t blame them for the purposes of their competition!). But for longer term growth I think reaching out is the key.

  11. It’s being done in everyday marketing. It’s like a car company with different styles of cars then making them compete against each other but in the end the company reaps the profit just the same.

    Ah! Google gave me a PR 2 from PR 4 today. :( Welcome to Google world!

  12. Darren, this is a nicely done summary :) Whichever way they have done it – growing subscribers count by over 4k is nothing to sneeze on. I actually thought that John Chow’s post was a great overview of his tactic but just like you mentioned I felt something was wrong but couldn’t put my finger on it …

    What you have summarized actually made a couple things clearer to me. I think we all can learn from their experience and while implement some of the strategies, perhaps overlook others … Blog’s popularity is still determined by that number in chicklet and it does provide a validation, social proof to other visitors that others are reading very same blog.

    I think it is a crowd mentality that exists in all of us (whether we admit it or not) that make this number actually matter and be watching your blog closely for promised tips :)


  13. Hi Darren, looking forward to your series next week.

    I agree with you – what’s the point of simply increasing your chicklet count by getting your current readers to sign up through different means? Isn’t that more about ego, about who’s got the bigger feed count (LOL)? ;) It’s not a true representation of how many readers their sites have.

    BTW, isn’t your chicklet count higher than both of their sites?

  14. If I subscribe in a reader, doesn’t mean I will “read” a blog, so is that really a good test of a blog’s popularity?

    Or, is it just a “numbers” thing?

  15. Yes I was one of those people who was subscribed to both feeds at the start of the contest. In actual fact I got so tired of the contest that I actually unsubscribed from Shoe’s feed!

    To get new readers you have to get outside of your own blog. You’ve already talked extensively about one of those strategies which is blog commenting but here are some other suggestions:

    – Guest posting
    – Submitting your work to blog carnivals
    – Participating in Social networking sites
    – Participating in relevant forums
    – Article marketing

    Looking forward to your series Darren.

  16. I disagreed with you somewhat on the Johnchow.com post so I won’t repeat it here. However, I want to say that the post is great to get people to subscribe to your feed!!!

    Actually while I was typing that up, I realized that your last sentence to get people to subscribe (while still good) is just the same as the competition – something that gets current readers to subscribe.

  17. great post. I really think people focus too much on their current reader, but you really need to focus on growing and marketing your blog/website so you become most profitable you can possibly be. I personally like using forums and other blogs.

  18. I guess we should have seen that one coming.

    I noticed that very same thing when I read John’s post earlier. He is resigning the same folks, but that was the goal of that particualr contest. Now those folks have to go and read the feed, that’s really what’s important.

  19. Great post Darren. As a blog newbie, I eagerly await next weeks series…I sure could use some (long-term) readers!

    Barbara brings up a good point though,

    “If I subscribe in a reader, doesn’t mean I will “read” a blog, so is that really a good test of a blog’s popularity?”

    I assume that the answer to get people reading your blog constantly would be the content? If there’s a more complex answer, I’m all for hearing it, because I have the same concerns that Barbara stated.

  20. Hey everyone – only 30 minutes to go in the 2007 Weblog Awards and Darren is losing!

    Go vote for him now
    There’s no money just a bit of kudos..

  21. When I read over John’s contest summary post, I thought their efforts were along the lines of magazine publishers who try to get the folks who buy their magazines at the newsstand to sign up for a subscription.

    Sure they’re not reaching new folks, but boy those circulation numbers definitely help in the ad sales department!

  22. Always check your 3 basic stats: number of visitors by Referrals, Direct, and Search.

    I aim to follow the best SEO guidelines as possbible and with more content beign added every day (if you post daily), your serach numbers will increase.

    However, a high number of those search results produce a bounce rate of 100%!

  23. Hey Darren, hows it going down under?
    My .02$ ? I suppose this strategy makes sense if you’re looking for total RSS saturation for your current base while adding a few who came to the banquet or late to the party.

    Though I dont think having a bajillion rss subs means your blog is “popular – I agree.

    Would popularity have something to do more along the lines of how many people are talking about it or linking to its content pages.

    What I get that theyre doing is looking for increased content and advertising impressions and therefore more sales.
    So there is something to be said for this kind of contest strategy, amongst some of the other types of contest strategies to increase reach.
    Would be interesting to hear sometime in the future from about if this ploy has lead to more sales.
    Have a good on Darren, looking forward to monday

  24. How about visiting a whole heap of blogs that you do not normally comment or even read and comment!

  25. A step-by-step guide to getting new subscribers to your blog? OMG, this is like winning at the lottery.

    I just closed my Aweber account and I’m still shaking my head in disbelief. If all my efforts and high quality content aren’t enough, then what?

    I’m quite looking forward to Monday!

    Thanks Darren for sharing.


  26. Give your converts a temple (their blogs) and let them bring in the new guys by spreading your word.

    That’s how it has been going for the past few centuries in every religion. It works!

  27. all that reading and now i have to wait to find out how to find chunks of outside readers? ok i’ll wait.

  28. You are so close to 20000, so maybe you should give a prize to 20000th reader..

  29. Darren, I’m waiting for your strategy to increase your RSS reader with more creative way :)

  30. The focus definately should have been on the content, not upsampling the current reader base… a form of cheating i would say (multiple subscriptions to the same feed).

    Readerbase is important… the number is more of a novelty. The content should drive the numbers… the numbers should not drive the blogger.

    Just my 2 cents.

  31. Hello Darren, I think you already presented a very effectiv way to get more rss subscribers.
    You made us curious about your new post series and the best way to not miss it is to subscribe to your rss ;-)

  32. What is the point of getting the same readers to subscribe through a different channel? I think the competition needs to be about expanding the reader base to new areas.

  33. charlie says: 11/10/2007 at 5:15 am

    Hey Darren! Great post! I am very much looking forward to your series. Thanks for doing this series stating on Monday. I cannot wait!

  34. I haven’t bothered to get in to the habit of reading rss feeds and I don’t expect my readers to either. I’d rather have them hit my page daily to see what I’ve been talking about instead of my feed…

  35. Nice, nice way to get people to subscribe, subtle and unique, excellent. Grin.

  36. Looking forward to the tips from you Darren.

    Jeremy and John’s contest was interesting. They reallt pulled off a lot of readers and probably loyal one’s for their blogs.

    This post couldn’t have come at a right time as lately I have been seeing very good numbers in terms of traffic but havent really been able to get new subscribers and the feedburner’s 24 hours aggregation throws me off everytime.

    Will be looking forward to all the posts next week

  37. Well I don’t preach to anyone. Hopefully I’m offering something informative or entertaining that they take in on their own accord.

  38. Surprisingly, I find myself reading blog RSS feeds I subscribe to…I initially only started signing up because I bit the contest bait, but I do read them now because it’s conveniently in my inbox. Anyway, I’m looking forward to next week’s post!

  39. I am looking forward to the series! This is exactly the stage I am in. I am a newer blog and now I think I have enough content (and future content) to start reaching out to new readers. Thanks in advance!

  40. Darren – this is a really good point. And something I have also been guilty of. I’m looking forward to reading your tips on reaching out to new readers.

  41. My sentiments exactly Patrick, It pained me every day to read the same old same old stuff. I hope no-one ever does this again.

  42. I’m kind of glad John came to his senses. I like both John and Jeremy, have been a sunscriber to both of them almost as long as I’ve been a subscriber to ProBlogger … actually I think I found them both through ProBlogger, so far as that goes.

    But that month long contest? Frankly it was the most boring month either of those blogs has had … first month in ages I didn’t read all their posts … instead of new techniques, reviews, contreversy, etc., there was nothing bt “help me beat the other guy” and win this or that prize … Zzzzzzz.

    I’ve noticed alot of blogs resend into this over-domne contest vortex (Problogger suffered quite a bit in the last prize marathon as well, I felt).
    A contest on occassion is certainly fun, but the past few months have seen entirely too many … and it doesn’t seem as if they are preaching to the converted, it seems more as if they are _ignoring_ the exisitng, faithful readers. Moderation is the key, perhaps.

  43. You’ve read my freaken mind once again!!! I have been pondering this issue for awhile. Even search results only bring me readers that are aware of my niche. I want newbies…people unaware that a blog like mine exists.

    I am so looking forward to hearing what you have to say. I can’t wait. I feel that if I can overcome this obstacle I could easily triple my income to near the 10k a month I’m shooting for.

    Thanks for this blog!!!

  44. Looking forward to seeing those series of tips Darren!
    *Waves at his guru*

    Best Wishes,
    – Wakish –

  45. I look forward to reading your blog this week. My site is a parody of John Chow’s in attempting to follow in his foot steps. I am sure that I will learn a lot and get http://www.notjohnchow.com will be soaring up the page ranks!

  46. I’m a new reader to ProBlogger, and if this is the kind of content I’m to expect from this blog, then I think I’m in the right place!

    Keep up the good work. I can’t wait for the post about how to find NEW subscribers, since that’s what all my subscribers would be. Ha!

  47. Aryan says: 11/13/2007 at 5:40 am

    I am new to problogger but i heard about this website in many website i usually post my stories in http://www.laadi.com and i am getting very good amount of traffic from there and my ctr is also good but i like to read your upcoming topic.

  48. I’m looking forward to reading your series Darren.

  49. I just found this post by searching the blog for “increase subscribers” because that’s my current little goal. I then tried accessing the archives to find the series but I’ve not found it so far, so I came back to read the comments here. I’ll have another look.

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