This post is part of the ‘What we wish we Knew’ Series. In this post I’ll share readers comments on the topic of finding readers for a blog as well as some of my own experiences and advice.
We’ve talked about setting your blog up right (hosting, domains and platforms), making money from blogs and writing great content – but while all of these things are important to think through, they are somewhat useless unless you have readers stopping by to engage with your content.
It’s no wonder then that the most common question I’m asked is ‘how do I find readers for my blog’.
As with all of the topics in this series, how to find readers is something that will vary from blog to blog significantly. But if I had to identify a top 5 things that I’ve learned on the topic over the last 5 years I’d summarize it like this:
1. Know Who You Want to Attract
When I was a younger single guy a wise friend gave me a valuable piece of advice for finding a life partner. He said – ‘Darren, write a list of what you’re looking for in a partner’. He went on to explain that when you define what you want in life you’re more likely to spot it when it comes by your way. You’ll also be more likely to know where to go looking for it. Read more on defining what type of reader you want and going after them.
While I’m not sure my friend would have expected his advice to turn up in a post about how to attract readers to your blog – I think there’s some truth to it. I wish now that I’d spent more time in the early days of blogging thinking about my reader (or potential reader).
2. Build Community
While I will always argue that quality content is essential in drawing readers to your blog I am increasingly convinced that one way to build your readership is to create spaces that people will want to belong to.
Build an interactive space where people feel empowered to add their comments, give readers jobs, give them homework, make your readers famous and create spaces where you step back and let your readers take the lead in showing their expertise and you’ll build a blog that people will want to be a part of and a space that your readers will promote for you.
3. Think Outside Your Blog
I’m about to make a very, very, very obvious point – please forgive me. The readers that you are hoping will discover your blog don’t come to your blog. What?
Let me explain with a short story. I was talking with one of b5media’s bloggers yesterday and they were telling me how much time they’d spent on building a great blog and yet were upset that their readership hadn’t really grown. My first question was – ‘how much time do you spend on blogging each day?’ Their answer proved to me that they were serious about blogging – they were investing hours every day.
My second question was ‘how much of that time do you spend working on your actual blog and how much of it do you spend off your blog?’ The answer was quite illuminating for both the blogger and myself. They spent 90-95% of their time writing content, answering comments and tweaking their own blog and only 5-10% of their time off their blog interacting on other people’s blogs and sites.
While all of the activities that this blogger was doing on their own blog were important, the majority of that effort was spent on internal activities and keeping current readers. The blogger wasn’t engaging in spaces where their potential readers were. I suggested that this next week they see what happens if they decreased their posting rate a little and spent more time on other sites (other blogs in their niche, forums and social sites).
4. Leverage the Traffic Tsunamis
If I have a regret about this area of finding new readers it is that I wish I knew earlier about how to leverage the power of the waves of traffic that do come to a blog from time to time.
Even in my first few weeks of blogging I had some little waves of traffic come in as other blogs linked up and ask the search engines began to find my content. However it wasn’t until a couple of years into my blogging that I realized that I was so over the moon celebrating the peaks of traffic that I had that I was missing an opportunity each time they happened.
The problem was that each time a new ‘wave’ happened I’d find that the next day my traffic levels would return to ‘normal’. A handful of new readers might hang around but it wasn’t really anything I’d done that kept them.
It wasn’t for a long time that I began to experiment with harnessing the power of the waves of traffic that came in and attempting to create reader loyalty (or blog stickiness) at these times.
Now my first reaction when I see a wave of traffic arriving on one of my blogs isn’t to jump around the room thinking about how great I am – it’s in putting strategies into place to make sure that some of those new readers come back again tomorrow. Read more on how to surf traffic tsunamis.
5. Learn some Basic Search Engine Optimization
I learned about SEO in a bit of a backwards way. The search engines found me and started sending large amounts of traffic to my blogs – and then I decided I should work out why so that I could help them send me even more traffic.
I discovered pretty early on that the best way to build SE traffic was the same way that you built other types of traffic – writing great content that people found useful and linked to. This needs to be at the core of your SEO strategies – build a great blog.
However there are other techniques that definitely help in building search engine traffic. I won’t regurgitate them all here because I’ve previously written a guide to Search Engine Optimization for Bloggers that I think sums it up pretty well.
The one thing I will emphasize again here is that SEO is important, but it’s not something to obsess about. Learn the principles and keep them in mind as you set up and run your blog – but don’t let SEO be your only traffic generation strategy. Keep a holistic approach and you’ll build a much more sustainable type of traffic (and the other strategies will help your SEO too).
Remember – strategy #1 for SEO – build a great blog.
Reader Comments on Finding and Interacting with Readers
That’s enough of me talking about finding readers and blog promotion – what did readers write on the topic when I asked them what they wish they knew about blogging when they first started?
Andrei Rosca writes – “I wish i knew the importance of talking to every single one of the visitors that were leaving comments. By just talking to them you show that you care about their opinions and you encourage them to say more often what they think.”
Crazykinux writes – “Network with bloggers in your niche, they are your best source of new traffic at first.”
baiguai writes – “I wish I knew the importance of getting involved. Whether it is with other blogs, or forums, or other online communities. It is through these outlets that I have found my most loyal readers, but it was slow going because I didn’t network enough at the start.”
Expectant Father writes – “I kind of thought that: “If I blog, they will come!” This is so very far from the truth. It takes a lot of elbow grease to feel like you are getting anywhere.”
Patsy writes – “I wish I knew how important commenting on blogs is. I visited tons of blogs in my learning process and I just recently started commenting.”
What do you wish you knew about finding readers for your blog when you first started blogging?