This post is based on episode 35 of the ProBlogger podcast.
With so many blogs out there (not to mention all the other types of websites), you’ve only got a few seconds to convince a first-time reader that yours is worth coming back to.
So how do you do that? By hooking them quickly with your blog’s design and content. And here are 15 ways you can do it.
1. Provide ways for people to subscribe, follow and connect
You might think this is so obvious it isn’t even worth mentioning. But despite there being so many options available – email, RSS feeds, social media and so on – you’d be amazed how many bloggers don’t provide an easy way for their readers to stay in touch.
You should start by working which option works best. I prefer email simply because it gives me complete control. You only need to look at what’s happening with Facebook in Australia at the moment to see what can happen when you rely on a platform you don’t control.
Once you’ve decided what method works best for you, embed it into your blog’s design as much as possible. While we have links to our various social media channels on our blogs, we have multiple places where we ask for people to subscribe – in popups, in our design, and even at the end of our blog posts.
Which is a nice segue into my next point.
2. Ask people to subscribe in your content
One of the best places to ask for your readers to subscribe is when they’re reading your content. It’s the equivalent of casually bringing up during a conversation, and chances are people will be more than willing to agree – especially if you’ve just provided them with useful content.
When Twitter first arrived on the scene, we ran a number of posts on Digital Photography School about how to use it. And it was the perfect place to ask people to follow us. “We’ve told you all about Twitter. Why not try it yourself? You can start by following us and seeing how we use it.”
3. Make a good first impression with your blog
When people come to your blog for the first time, they’ll want to know what it’s about and whether it’s relevant for them. If they can’t figure it out, they’ll quickly move on.
And I mean quickly, as in a matter of seconds.
So make sure they can quickly get that information from your blog’s design, title, tagline, categories and navigation areas.
Speaking of design…
4. Pay attention to the design of your blog
While your content will ultimately be what keeps your readers coming back to your blog, its design is also important. People will quickly judge whether your blog is professional, relevant and on-brand for them by what they see.
And as I said earlier, if they don’t like what they see they’ll quickly move on.
So make sure your blog is easy on the eye. Use images, headlines, subheadings and formatting to make your posts look inviting. And keep your paragraphs relatively short so they aren’t faced with a wall of text.
And don’t forget about those people reading your blog on mobile devices. How does it look on your phone? Are the images too big, forcing people to scroll for pages just to get to your content? Or is the balance of text, images and white space just about right?
5. Build anticipation
Think about the blogs you’ve subscribed to or follow on social media. Can you remember why you subscribed in the first place? Chances are it’s because they were providing great content, and you didn’t want to risk missing out on any more of it.
A great way to build this sense of anticipation on your blog is to write a series of posts that cover a particular topic. And at the end of each one, explain what you’ll be covering in the next post. There’s a good chance your readers will come back and/or subscribe to avoid missing on what you’ll be covering next.
Another way you can do it is to have a type of post that comes up regularly. For example, every Friday on Digital Photography School we give our readers a challenge: “Go away and take a photo on this theme. Then, come back and share it.” We have some readers who come back every week to read those posts (and only those posts).
6. Link back to earlier posts
If a reader has just finished reading your post on a particular topic, chances are they’d be happy to read about it some more. So if you’ve written posts about that topic in the past, you should definitely provide a link to them. The more useful content they find on your blog, the more likely they’ll subscribe.
You can link to these posts as part of the conversation you’re having with your reader. Or you can create a “Further reading” section at the end of your posts that provides a list of links. There are even tools and plugins that can do this for you automatically, pulling in other posts in the same category or even your most popular posts.
7. Create a sneeze page
If you have a lot of posts that cover a particular topic, then you might want to consider creating a “sneeze” page for that topic.
A sneeze page is one where you provide a list of all the posts (or perhaps the most popular ones) that cover that particular topic. It’s kind of a one-stop shop for newcomers that brings all the information they need into one place, such as our Digital Photography Tips and Tutorials for Beginners page on Digital Photography School.
But while it can be great for your readers, it can be great for you too. Chances are you have a lot of great content buried deep in your archives that people may not know about. A sneeze page allows you to bring these posts back to the surface, so to speak.
8. Use social proof
Just as people are more likely to consider eating at a restaurant that’s full of diners, people are more likely to read your blog if you have lots of people commenting on your posts and following you on social media.
So make sure you show how many comments each post has, how many followers you have on Facebook, and how many people have subscribed to your emails. And if you’re still building up your numbers, try highlighting whatever interaction you’re getting.
Speaking of interaction…
9. Encourage people to interact
People are much more likely to come back to your blog if they’ve interacted in some way, whether it’s leaving a comment, voting in a poll or entering a competition.
So make sure you encourage people to interact at every opportunity. At the end of your posts, ask your readers what they think about the topic, or perhaps the idea you’ve come up with. WordPress has a number of plugins you can install that will let people know when someone has responded to a comment they made.
And of course, you should be responding to everyone’s comments as well.
10. Get personal
People are more likely to connect with you if they think of you as a person rather than a brand. So to try to be as personal as you possibly can.
It can be as simple as including a photo of yourself, which I do a lot on ProBlogger. But you can also do it be sharing personal stories about yourself, and showing that you’re just as much a human being as your readers.
You can take it one step further, and create podcasts or videos so people can hear your voice and even see you ‘live’.
11. Remove the date from old posts
Some people will judge a post by how old it is, figuring that unless it’s relatively current it can’t possibly be useful.
And in some cases they’re right. On ProBlogger we talk a lot about blogging tools and techniques, and what worked a year ago may not work as well (if at all) today. And so showing when those posts were created is important.
But on Digital Photography School we often talk about concepts that never change. I still refer to a post about aperture that I wrote more than a decade ago.
If you have similar evergreen posts you may want to consider hiding when they were written so people aren’t put off by it.
12. Give people an incentive to subscribe
A great way to convince people to subscribe to your blog is to give them something in return.
One option is to offer a free PDF booklet or guide to anyone who subscribes. Unfortunately, some people will subscribe to get their freebie and then immediately unsubscribe once they have it.
A better option might be to provide an ongoing benefit, such as a free course on a particular topic that’s delivered through a series of emails. That way they’ll be more likely to stick around for a while.
13. Work on your About page
One of the most highly read pages on any blog is the About page. People use it to figure out:
- what your blog is about
- who you are
- whether you know what you’re talking about.
So make sure your About page makes these details clear.
It’s also a great place to show a little personality so people will think of you as a person rather than a faceless brand and be more likely to connect with you.
14. Target different readers with different messages
Not everyone arrives on your blog in the same way or for the same reason. And so you may want to tailor your message depending on where they’ve come from and what they want.
There are some great tools out there that let you deliver a different message based on whether they’ve arrived from Google, Twitter, Facebook or somewhere else.
For example, on ProBlogger we use OptinMonster so we can tailor our call to action based on where people have come from. And as people coming from Google often leave again very quickly, our calls to action for those visitors tend to be a little stronger
15. Pay attention to where your traffic is coming from
If a particular post or page on your blog is getting a lot of traffic (perhaps because it’s getting a lot of media attention or has gone viral), make the most of it.
At the very least, make sure it includes an invitation to subscribe to your blog. (If it doesn’t, add one.) You may also want to create a “Further reading” section so you can bring more of your posts to people’s attention.
You may even want to create a follow-up post and then link to it.
Time to start hooking those readers
What are you going to do to start hooking readers on your blog? Let us know in the comments.
Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash