Welcome to the first post in the Finding Readers series here on ProBlogger.net. Corinne runs the successful blog skinnedcartree.com, and consistently gets genuine engagement from her readers and community across the board. Corinne introduced forums at the beginning of the year and has seen that engagement increase sharply. We are very excited to have her here to share her secrets with you.
I only started blogging late December 2012. To be honest, I had no strategy or goals. I knew nothing about growing an audience or how to promote myself. The only two things I knew were:
- I wanted to write.
- I wanted people to read what I wrote.
I understand there’s more to successful blogging than simply getting comments, but I wanted engagement. So I did what made sense to me with the little knowledge I had, and it worked.
What I am about to share with you is simply how to build a network of regular commenters. It’s not a quick and easy tactic, and it’s not going to make your PageRank soar, enabling you to quit your day job – but is a key step towards doing so.
Call me an idiot, but during my first year of blogging I went against one of the most common blogging tips: I didn’t use Twitter to promote my blog. Since starting a Twitter account in January, I’ve been asked the same question multiple times – How do you get so many comments?
Twitter is great for getting traffic to your blog, yet I find it’s not so fantastic at encouraging engagement. Those that engage with me on Twitter tend to only do so there rather than on my site. The same can be said about other forms of social media. It’s fabulous for page views, but does naff all for building a community within your blog – and as I can babble for England, a community is what I wanted.
How I created community and drove up engagement:
Twitterless and clueless, the only way I had of promoting my blog (or so I thought) was through commenting on other blogs. I had no idea how to find them, so I would comment on the few I knew. Then I would look at who else commented, visit their blog and find something to contribute.
The idea I had was that I was targeting:
- People within my niche who would probably like my blog.
- People who left quality comments on other blogs.
You can do this for hours – and I did do it for hours – aiming for around 20-40 blogs a day at one point.
We all know starting a blog isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t quick. I don’t know about you but I’m sick of reading ‘write good content and they will come’ like it is the only thing you need to do to grow (I’ve never been a ‘sit and wait’ kinda gal). Good content is vital, but what’s the point if nobody knows you exist? The real trick is getting them to your blog and then getting them to return. As soon as they start engaging with you and contributing, they are more likely to return as they’ve invested precious time in you.
Remember: The quality of the comments you leave will reflect the quality of comments you receive. People are not stupid, it is obvious and frustrating when a comment is left purely to link drop. Nobody likes a spammer, yet people still use it as a tactic. We’re looking to build longstanding relationships here, not fickle ones.
I find consistent posting makes a huge difference to the amount of readers I get. I’ve seen the daily number of readers that subscribe to my blog triple since I’ve started to update daily, as have my page views and the amount of traffic I am getting from search engines. I was updating every 2-3 days, but in the past few months I’ve posted daily and it’s the best thing I ever could have done for my blog. I have posts scheduled for the same time each day and link back to my previous two posts at the end to make it easier for readers that don’t visit daily to access them, which was one of my main concerns around daily blogging. The only downfall is finding the time to push out quality content, I plan my posts in advance using an editorial calendar and will sometimes write 4-5 posts in one day around my work schedule. Planning is key!
Once I received comments, I replied to every one and returned the favour by leaving a comment on their next post. This encouraged them to return and even subscribe. I was using this tactic for around 10 months until I was unable to keep up with the amount of comments I was getting.
But guess what? I don’t need to keep up anymore and I no longer struggle with the ‘write vs. promote’ conflict like I used to. I find I need to spend less time commenting and am able to concentrate on creating daily quality content – I now have a mixture of long term readers I’ve made through commenting, and people who discover my blog through other blogs, social media, Google, etc.Leaving 20-40 quality comments on new blogs daily is a time consuming activity and is difficult while having a full time job. I aimed for 20 comments on work days and 40 for days off. I wasn’t blogging daily so had more time for getting my name out there and I commented a lot while watching TV on an evening or listening to music – I’ve always been a multi-tasker and struggle to sit and watch TV while not doing anything else. I often gave myself ‘goals’, such as leaving a certain amount of comments to a time scale. I found the more comments I was leaving, the easier it was to think of something engaging to say – it just became something I could naturally do.While I am still an active commenter, I comment on those blogs I love, rather than as a marketing tactic. If I have a spare hour or so, I may visit a few new blogs within my niche and leave a few comments, but it is not something that I do daily.You may have loyal readers that will lap up every word but don’t always comment, so I’ve targeted those blog readers that are active in commenting and brought them over to my blog.
Point of difference: Adding forums for your readers
I wanted to take my community to the next level by giving my readers a place they could all come together and share ideas. I find Twitter too fast paced and comments on blogs restrictive. As I’ve always been a lover of forums – joining my first in 2002 at 14, then being an administrator for another for over ten years – a forum was exactly what I was looking for. Finding none within my niche, I bought a new domain and set up my own.
I spent a couple weeks preparing the site and researching, then on 1st January 2014, I launched them, alongside a Twitter account. It’s early days yet – we are in the process of growing our member base with a view to branch outside of the current niche, adding specific forums as requested to welcome more bloggers to our community. We share our posts, ask questions, share tips and sometimes just have a general natter.
Top 3 benefits to creating the forums:
- Great for traffic – people will click my profile and then go to my blog as well as click links I leave on the forum.
- Great for post ideas – some of my most popular content has come from ideas from the forum. Members ask me questions all the time which has led me to write posts with useful information and blogging tips on my main site – these are easily my most shared and most engaging blog posts.
- Great for finding new blogs – I now read blogs from a variety of niches from our members.