In 2014, Dustin Stout outlined how he grew his audience, and how you can find readers too. It’s worth revisiting so you start this year off on the right foot. What would you add?
In today’s instalment of the Finding Readers theme week, we delve right into Dustin Stout’s incredibly eye-pleasing site, dustn.tv, and hear how he has built a blog people just can’t help but read and share.
When I launched dustn.tv in March 2011, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I had some insight and skills that people needed and I genuinely enjoyed helping people.
Between then and now, I’ve had successes and complete WTF-just-happened failures. Through all of that I believe I’ve landed on a handful of crucial elements that have allowed me to get to where I am today.
1. Give the Reader A Beautiful Experience
It doesn’t matter if you have the most amazing, jaw-dropping, slap-yo-mamma content in the world, if people don’t read it. When someone lands on your webpage you have five seconds or less to prove that your site and its content is worth their precious time. So if your web design is cluttered, hard-to-read and visually unattractive, you’re content may not have the chance it deserves.
One of the primary reasons people continue to visit and read my blog (rather than just through an RSS reader or email) is because the reading experience is enjoyable.
With all the templates, themes, and examples of good design permeating the digital space, there’s no excuse for poor design. You don’t have to be a designer in any sense of the word to create a beautifully-designed, content-focused blog. Just find what’s working, what you would enjoy looking at, and imitate it. You can read my tips for creating a stunning reading experience for your readers here.
2. Write For Real People
Once your canvas is ready (your design) you can now fill it with glorious content that knocks people’s socks off! But the most important thing to remember is just that— you want to knock people’s socks off. Not robots: real people.
Having a voice that people can relate to is crucial to growing your readership. If people can’t relate to what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, why would they return?
One thing that has helped me to communicate effectively to my readership is focusing in on exactly who I’m speaking to. No, I’m not talking about my demographic or target audience— that’s not specific enough. To effectively write from an authentic, relatable voice you need to write as if you’re talking to one person.
Try this as an exercise— the next time you draft up a blog post, think of one person in your life that could benefit from the information you’re about to write, and write it in such a way as if you’re talking directly to them. This will help you communicate your message more clearly and your voice will be more authentic.
And people will love you for it.
3. Engaging Content (Actionable)
Another thing I’ve found when crafting content is that the actionable always wins out on engagement. Give people clear, easy-to-do actions and watch your engagement soar.
People don’t always know right off the bat how to take the action you may be moving them towards, so make it easy for them. Tell them exactly what to do.
4. Compelling Content (Sharable)
Making your content sharable is a crucial peice to the continued organic growth. When people share with other people there is power that no degree of marketing could ever capture.
In order to compell people to share your content, you have to first understand why people share things. The motivations are many but here’s just a few powerful reasons someone would share your content:
- It makes them look smart
- It makes them look funny
- It makes them look cutting-edge
- It makes them look interesting
Do you see a pattern there? People tend to share content based on how it will make them look to others. So if your content gives someone the chance to look better in front of their peers, they will be compelled to share it.
5. The Right Distribution Channels
Okay great, so you’ve got your awesome content written and wrapped inside a beautiful package (your web design) ready for people to consume, engage, and share. So now how do you get people to that content? Distribution channels, otherwise known as social networks.
The right distribution channels make all the difference. For everyone’s audience it may be different. If your target audience is mommies looking for great recipes, then Pinterest may be your best channel. If you’re ideal audience is teenagers who don’t want their parents knowing what they’re up to, then Snapchat may be your ideal channel.
My biggest piece of advice though when it comes to distribution channels is to resist the lie that you have to be on all of them. I’ve built the majority of my audience by doing one network really well. You can either do a mediocre, semi-invested job at many networks or you can knock one single network out of the park.
The latter will grow your audience faster than the former.
For me, I’ve found that the most powerful distribution channel in both driving traffic and acquiring new readers is Google+. No platform has yielded the return on investment that Google+ has, despite what lazy journalists might have you believe.
For me it’s about being able to not only distribute content, but also to be able to create and repurpose content in different formats such as images and video. With Google+, the number of tools at your disposal is beyond that of any other platform making it the most diverse, feature-rich and multi-demensionally engaging platform of them all.
Ultimately though, your perfect distribution channel will be one that has all of the following characteristics:
- Your audience is there (or at least willing to follow you there).
- You can fit it into your workflow.
- You thoroughly enjoy the platform.
One Last Thing
Above all else, be true to yourself. Don’t be someone or something you’re not. Be uniquely you because that is your secret sauce.
Nobody else has the perspective, experiences, and thought process as you in the same combination of skills, knowledge and insight. The more true you can be to yourself, the better you can relate to your ideal audience.
Top 3 Takeaways
- Make it more about them than about yourself.
- Give them an enjoyable reading experience.
- Be a real human, not a regurgitation robot.
Great tips Stacey. Beyond great content which is a must moving forward, it’s amazing how many clients I work with that have truly ugly websites. In fact, it’s amazing that website owners don’t realize the importance of a great looking, easy to navigate website. As you stated, there is no longer an excuse to have an ugly website with inexpensive themes available.
Personally, I find myself leaving websites before reading their content if they look like the design was last updated in 1997.
Because of your post, I am now going to revisit Google+.
Justin and Stacey the thing that jumps out at me is the note of enjoying your platform of choice.
This carries over to blogging.
I gotta be honest; for 4 to 5 years I didn’t really enjoy blogging. I conned myself into thinking I did but I blogged to get stuff like money.
In the past 1 to 2 years I finally enjoyed blogging because I blogged to free me and to free my audience.
Find your motivator and darnit, blog from a place of joy so you can seize and use each of these practical, powerful tips.
I’d add to become a story telling machine.
My travel stories infused posts are my most popular because folks love a good story, a fascinating experience that they can live vicariously through.
I think the point that stood out most to me was the one on compelling content. I know that’s why people share but it’s definitely a worthy reminder.
And I completely agree about Google+ being one phenomenally good social media channel for bringing in traffic. I love the engagement on that site. Takes a bit of work to develop a following, but it’s by far my favourite in terms of layout and usability (and I really dig all that white space).
What really makes a difference in blogs I visit and what I need to focus more on in 2015 is creating a community by consistently commenting on specific other blogs. People are busy and even if they know the quality of the content you write, if you aren’t visiting them on their blogs and interacting with them there they are far less likely to take the time to read, comment, and share your content.
Bloggers need to decide whether they want that community feel and are willing to take the risk or they place getting search engine traffic ahead of their relationships with their readers. I choose my readers.
Be true is the key to actually putting a great article and sharing personality with readers, not just ideas that readers want to get and ideas seem to be available all over the web.
One big takeaway from this article is, understanding why people share. If you think about it, the reason they share is that it makes them look good to others and gives them credibility. People are much more likely to share well-written, engaging and fresh content and ideas than old rehashed goo.
I especially agree with topic #5 Distribution Channels. I have been blogging for a while and have low traffic. I need to distribute my content better this year.
In your opinion, is Facebook better for Distribution than Twitter? Lately it seems like I’m hearing a lot more about Twitter being better for promoting blog posts.
Please share your thoughts
Writing for real people is so important. But the funny thing is – it’s not always as easy as it sounds. You really have to know your audience, and you have to speak their language.
I added the Sumo Share plugin (free) and it is working well at a couple of my sites. I think writing great content is the priority, but then you have to have the perfect way to share it – and this plugin seems to be it.
I love this, and teach parts of it to my students, but have already shared this article for them. The last three takeaways should be key to ANY writer. Humanity counts!
Great article, I particularly like the part on the characteristics of a share-able content and it is so very true. Can you please elaborate more on Google+, which features make them so ideal for propagating the content far and wide and how it is better than FB or twitter for that purpose?
Great tips! Every author who wanna be successful with his blog should take those strategies into consideration. He must always rember that his is writing for real people not for SEO or commercial purposes.
Many people write content just to get good search engine rankings and could care less about their readers. This is where they fool themselves. When you do the transformation work of writing wallaby content and lots and lots of content for the purpose of meaningfully connecting with readers, everything else that’s good automatically falls into place, such as improved search engine rankings, increased readership, or RSS subscribers, and earning more money from affiliate programs.
I like this article.. cannot agree anymore.. thanks :)