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How One Blogger More than Doubled Her Comments, Traffic, Shares and Subscribers With a Simple Tweak

Posted By Darren Rowse 28th of March 2016 Writing Content 0 Comments

I tweeted this little proverb a few days ago because it encouraged me in a moment of personal frustration with the slowness of growth of one of my projects (something I’m sure many bloggers can relate to).

After tweeting I went on with my day – only hours realising that the tweet had stimulated a number of interesting responses – mainly via Direct Message.

A few of the DM’s were quite heartfelt with one reader following up with a long email where she opened up quite a bit about not only her blog but personal circumstances.

My tweets get their fair share of retweets, likes and replies but something in this one had touched a nerve and drew a bigger response than my normal tweets.

Tina responded publically:

She went on to write:

I’ve pondered this tweet and the disproportionate response that it got for the last few days.

Why is it that on my ProBlogger Twitter account – which is 98% directly on the topic of blogging – that my tweets that go a little off topic get the biggest response?

2 Types of Needs Your Readers Have

Here’s what I think is happening.

Most people come to ProBlogger with a need that is quite tangible.

  • They want help setting up a blog.
  • They need more traffic.
  • They have a technical challenge.
  • They want to learn a technique to help them with their social media.

These specific, tangible needs or problems are what generally drive people to this blog. I can see this because the search results people type into Google clearly show it.

These needs are easy to define and express and in many ways they are external needs. Things that are about my readers blogs… not about them personally.

But there’s another deeper set of internal needs and problems that I’ve noticed readers of ProBlogger have. These can be a bit harder to spot but when I get to know my readers I notice them.

They are needs like this:

  • I’m frustrated that I’m not getting results
  • I’m fearful that I look stupid
  • I’m worried that I’m wasting my time
  • I’m struggling with confidence
  • I’m concerned about if I have what it takes to be successful

These more internal needs are often a little more hidden.

We don’t tend to go searching on Google for solutions to them… partly because we don’t like to admit that they are there but also because they are harder to articulate.

But they are there inside most of us.

People Come to Have their External Problems Solved… But they Stay When You Meet their Internal Needs

I suspect most bloggers could come up with similar lists of external and internal needs or problems of their readers.

My suspicion is that people come to your blog looking for solutions to their external needs so solving these is important but if that’s all you do you’ll only ever go so far with building your blog.

It’s when you address both the external and internal needs of your readers that the magic starts to happen.

When you address the internal needs of your readers the connection they feel with you and your blog forms faster, goes deeper and lasts longer.

Perhaps another way to express this is that readers come to your blog to have their external problems solved… but they stay when you address their internal needs.

What does this Mean In Practice?

So how do we take this idea and put it into practice in our blogging?

I’m not sure there is any one way to do it but two thoughts come to mind.

1. Mix Up Your Types of Posts

If you have a blog that is predominantly a teaching blog (like mine here at ProBlogger and at Digital Photography School) you’re probably spending most of your time writing about external problems.

From time to time throw in a post that is purely addressing an internal problem.

For example: a couple of years ago I wrote a post here on ProBlogger on the topic of dealing with Fear. I’ve since done a podcast and livestream on similar topics. All of these posts generated an amazing response.

In a similar way my podcast where I talked about my health journey, weight loss, diet and a variety of other personal things has been one of my most listened to podcasts.

2. Create Content that Addresses Both Needs

It isn’t always practical to have posts that go ‘off topic’ into more personal ‘inner’ focused topics. I know if I did this on ProBlogger too often that while some readers wouldn’t mind that it could put off other readers.

So a better solution is to create content that addresses both needs.

This is something I want to do more in my own content and will be encouraging my writers to do too.

It might be as simple as starting a practical teaching post with a story that reveals your own feelings, experience, failings, insecurities with the topic.

For example I was speaking with one blogger recently who writes tips on how to raise kids well. Her posts were quite clinical and practical in the way that she wrote.

The headline and opening line would state what problem the post would solve (always an ‘external problem’ like ‘my kid is angry’ or ‘my child wets his bed’ or ‘m child is being bullied’) and then the blog post would give practical tips on how to solve the problem.

The blogger told me that she was ranking ok in Google but that she got very few comments and hardly any subscribers.

I encouraged her to experiment with starting each post in a more personal tone to establish a connection with her audience before giving the tips.

She began to share a story (either from her own personal experience or a client) at the start of each post. Most of the stories identified not only the tangible problem that the post would address but also other internal feeling that parents have (self doubt, worry about the future, confidence issues etc).

The results were amazing and instantaneous.

  • Comment numbers increased from 1-2 per post to 10-20 per post.
  • Weekly email subscriber numbers increased by 105%
  • The number of people sharing her content at least doubled
  • Within a month she had doubled her monthly unique reader numbers
  • The number of emails the blogger received increased and the nature of them was more personal
  • The rate that the blog drove new clients to the bloggers business increased

To be clear – 90% of the post didn’t change. They remained practical, clinical and actionable but they were framed better and readers responded.

Are You Addressing Your Readers Internal Needs?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Are you a blogger who focusses mainly on the external needs of your readers? Could you tweak your approach to address some of the internal ones too?

Or perhaps you’re a blogger who has the opposite problem – it strikes me that maybe there are bloggers whose main focus is writing about the internal needs of their readers who could potentially benefit from writing about some more external problems too.

Either way – I’d love to hear how this post connects with you and to hear about your experiences and even to see some examples of the content that you’ve created that relates to this topic.

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. Hi Darren! I can totally relate here. I have a website offering Web content writing services. I’m still growing my subscription base and trying to be more consistent with my marketing/engagement with fans. Currently I’m still like a one-man band with everything — though occasionally I hire a VA for some ad hoc tasks..

    But yep, in terms of content, it looks like we really have to target their internal needs as well. Got lots of ideas for blog post topics but there are times when they seem not that engaging enough for readers

  2. Hi Darren,

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m a copy and content writer with 25 years of experience in marketing, branding, communications, and producing and I also write personal essays, some of which have been published, and have a book deal. I’m relatively new to blogging and have been conflicted about using my business website as a place to include personal blogs so was going to set up two separate blogs but that thought made my head explode! A huge thank you for confirming and reinforcing my recent decision to be true to who I am and mix and match personal and business blogs on my biz site. As I work with disruptive, game-changing businesses, brand, and entrepreneurs, I better be one myself! If I lose potential clients because of some ‘real’ posts, then they weren’t the right clients for me! Loved this post and will incorporate even more ‘human touch’ into my blogs, Thank you!

  3. Being regular is also an important thing to keep the user engagement steady. Once you start sharing articles in a continuous interval people gets used to it and things coming in an irregular manner gets less attention.

  4. My readers LOVE IT when I get up close and personal, so I’m not surprised that this blogger had more success when she began sharing snippets of her life!

    One thing I do for my blogger clients is help them like this.

    They love seeing similar results!

  5. Quite interesting way to get more traffic, shares.

  6. Good point Darren! Sometimes we’re so focused on getting out the technical details, that we forget about the emotional and personal aspect. Great advice and this is something I’ll try to incorporate a bit more of in my own Podcast as well. Thanks a bunch!

  7. Hi Darren
    This is a fantastic post and hugely beneficial for us to keep in mind. “People Come to Have their External Problems Solved… But they Stay When You Meet their Internal Needs.” This is similar to the research on motivational drivers where ultimately external rewards go only so far e.g. money, status, material objects, versus satisfying our internal drivers such as meaning and purpose, contribution, desire for growth and development, belonging etc. Thank you!

  8. The most popular post on my blog is one that does this! I don’t know if I even realized it, so thanks for pointing out the internal/external thing. I have a book blog, and a friend of mine asked me to recommend some books for her 13 year old son. (External) In the post though, I include her own words of the request, which convey how frustrated she is by choosing books for him “he says he’s not ought, but he is…” And I think parents of teenagers relate to that! (Internal) It’s maybe helping them feel less alone. So that’s cool. I knew the post did well because it’s easily searchable, but I hadn’t realized that it was probably also meeting an internal need. Here’s the post: http://www.evereadbooks.com/2014/08/books-for-13-year-old-boy-10-exciting.html

  9. Hi Darren,

    I go super heavy on the mindset stuff and have been doing this for a minute.

    My wife’s nudging led me in this direction. She’s a personal development coach so her work rubs off on me, and I like attacking blogging topics from this angle. Few realize this is an inside out game. We feel something within and if we feel it to be true, the truth manifests on the outside.

    Almost all of my blogging courses and eBooks begin with a being chapter. Not a play on words there ;) I simply take time to explain that if you go within, the without changes with alarming speed. Almost like magic. Because practical tips and influential bloggers and all that good stuff and money making ideas and yes, money itself, all flow your way if you patiently do the internal work.

    By far, my inspired posts, focusing on internal drivers, get the most pop. We all want to avoid those feelings of frustration and embarrassment. Even though I’ve lived a neat life I like you – and all human beings – get a bit annoyed with slow progress and the like. Writing on these inspired topics helps me and helps my readers too. Cleansing for both of us.

    I get clearer on my intent by delving into the inner world of blogging and my readers like the mindset-altering angle to it all.

    Many struggling bloggers ignore the mental aspect of blogging 100% and ram their head into the wall after making the same mistakes again and again. When they come across a post that inspires them, and helps them to vibe higher, they can cease making the same mistakes, tune into solutions, and act successfully, and inspired, as they make a beeline for their goals. All because they took time to do the inner work.

    Darren, fab post.

    Thanks for sharing!


  10. Okay, you’ve summarized EXACTLY what I was recently trying to express to a reader who contacted me and ask how in the world I’ve been able to get so many comments on my posts. When I looked at his blog, he had exactly what you referred to as “external” problem solving info. I didn’t see “him” in the post! So I could totally understand why he didn’t get comments!

    You’ve summarized exactly what it is that I do well in my blog. I address their external needs but I also focus on their internal needs. Now, I’ve got a name for this. Thanks for giving me this clarity!

  11. Oh my yes!! I hadn’t quite made the connection until you mentioned it, but I get a LOT of comments on a post I did quite a few years ago called “So Disappointing.” It’s about a recurring problem I was having with my goat’s milk soaps, and apparently I wasn’t the only one! I’m not blogging as regularly as I used to, but I will try to remember to incorporate ways to meet both internal & external needs!

  12. Yes, I’m the person with opposite situation. Way more into internal challenges of my readers and I got lots of ideas with this content here. By the way Darren, I think that next year I will a decade following you! Wow! Thanks a lot for your help and inspiration all those years.

  13. I love this. I try and give my readers a personal touch to my posts but sometimes it just doesn’t turn out that way, I will need to work on this more. I have noticed though, that the posts I do have with a personal touch, do get more comments.

  14. Thanks Darren! I write about intentional living and minimalism on my blog and I try to always include a personal story or how I relate to the post topic in every post. But I’ve realized lately that while it seems that intentional living would be personal, I don’t think I show my own life enough on my blog, i.e. how I live what I’m blogging about and what it looks like in my home, family life, kids etc. So this is a great reminder to do what’s been floating around in my head the last few weeks. My blog growth is definitely a slow burn but I hope that as I open more of my life to my readers and how I actually live and struggle with intentional living and minimalism that I’ll get more engagement.

  15. Agree Darren with being vulnerable and sharing your story and relating it to your audience/clients problems and pains or desires etc, as when we write from our hearts and share that we are a real person who has suffered what they have or experiencing now, we can connect with them at a deeper level. People want to heard and understood, and also they are eager to share their stories. So when connect to their hearts and make them respond at a deeper level by sharing, we can be of better service too, as we can know what they really need at a deeper level, rather than just addressing their surface wants and desires. You can also build up an engaged and connected community of people who sing your praises and recommend your coaching or services.

  16. A very well-timed post for me – I’m about to do a big, practical post on fertilising your garden, and am trying to work out the balance between explaining the basics, such as the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium issues (at which point it will be like every other post on the subject) and relating each question or tip directly to a problem I have in my own middlesized garden (which might be more readable).

    I will go further down relating it to my garden than I would have done if I hadn’t read your post, so thank you.

  17. As an artist, I should know that I am already poised to address the internal. As a daughter caring for a mother with advanced Alzheimers Disease, I already have an armload of internal topics to start with. And I know there are a great many people caring for loved ones who could use either advice, recognition, or uplifting.

    My fear is that addressing this particular set of internal needs will put off more people rather than attract them.

  18. Excellent post Darren…thank you for sharing it. More important, thank you for the reminder about being more personal in the way we share info with our audiences. I forget that far too often…partly a remnant of spending time in the academic world where more sterile, less personal message are better accepted. BUT the reality is that my work focuses on something that was very personal to me and that the ways I help people ultimately revolve around something that is personal to them…namely speaking and presenting in public situations.

    Having overcome my fear of speaking in public (and fear is a mild word) there is a lot to be learned from y personal experiences that can be shared…and I too often neglect to capture those opportunities. BUT this post has inspired me to get back to doing that more regularly, and I am confident it will serve my audience better and help me help them create more impact.


  19. Thanks Darren.

    There are some really interesting points to consider for a spiritual blogger such as myself. I’ve recently re-started a podcast series which is helping to explain some of the knotty issues people find themselves on the spiritual path (and really they are simply human issues). I hope that is meeting people’s internal needs a little more. I do a lot of instructional posts and stories, perhaps this will give my work another dimension for readers/listeners.

    I will go away from this and consider what other internal needs spiritual seekers may have.



  20. Hi Darren–
    Thanks for the reminder. I tend to focus on my area of expertise only but it’s good to mix it up.

    My blogs follow your guidelines and I do get new subscribers, but not as many as I’d like. The problem is my website (which is being redone as we speak). You once wrote a blog on the plug ins to have in the platform and when I showed it to my website developer he agreed 100%.

    I appreciate your knowledge and thank you for taking the time to write how to improve traffic and blog posts in general. Keep it up, I don’t read many blogs, but yours is definitely one!

  21. Hi Darren,

    You have hit on something important here. I have found what you’re saying to be true, although I needed this reminder.

    Most of my content that addresses emotional needs have had the best response (engagement)…then again, sometimes the nuts and bolts type posts that teach a “how to” can do well…I find though that if I don’t mix it up, the audience goes flat.

    People do want a mix of inspiration and knowledge. I’m so glad you pointed this out, as I’ve found this post encouraging.


  22. Thank you for all these wonderful ideas and tip your sharing Darren! It a new blogger like me a lot. =)

  23. Hi Darren. This way is the better way. We are no machines but because all this rush we tend to forget about it. Every day we have to solve a lot of problems but sometimes we need a window to remind us that we are humans and that we have souls.
    I don’t know if you receive my last comment but i have to tell you that this article is amazing. Thank you for this experience.

  24. Thank you for this interesting perspective, Darren! I never thought of it that way but while I was reading, I’d keep thinking “Yes, that’s right.” or “Definitely!”

  25. I really appreciate your thoughts here – I found myself really relating to both why I read blogs and why I started a blog. Even though it is a virtual medium, the blog (and internet) world serves to connect people. Your observations show the true need we have to just shed a little bit of that exterior armor and be vulnerable. Maybe the online world give people just a little bit of a comfort zone to do this?

  26. I’m an author so a lot of my blog posts tend to be geared towards either interests that potential readers might have, or writing problems that other writers might have. I actually find the blog posts I write which highlight films in a particular genre seem to outperform the writing problems posts (I do think people visit blogs purely for entertainment, too) but my highest performing post so far seems to be about why it’s okay to fail. Maybe I need to share more stories about the rejections as well as the successes!

  27. I’m preparing for a presentation to the largest audience I’ve ever spoken to. I’m immersing myself in information about how to write and deliver great presentations and I’m loving what I’m learning. Nancy Duarte’s Resonate book address your point, calling it ‘adding emotion to your presentation’. Note how all those internal needs have emotions attached? She says that will vary depending on your audience – a room full of people at a Greenpeace convention may be more receptive to highly emotional messages than a room full of accountants discussing the fiscal results for the year. But we’re all human, so even technical topics can benefit from a little emotion in them.

  28. Hey Darren,

    Addressing your audience internal needs is what makes your blog more human. I’ve found that this is what really connect people to your blog. When you can tap into the emotions of your audience this will generate more loyal followers for the same reasons you mentioned.

    As for me, I’ve been addressing more external needs than internal needs. But I do have to say when I address the internal needs, I tend to get not necessarily more comments but better quality comments. Especially when they see other commenters admitting their needs or limitations.

  29. And you started this post with a personal story, although 90% of it was advice. I see what you did there…

  30. I need to add a personal touch to my blog – I will try this! Thanks for the great read.

  31. You’ve shown a great key, Darren. Now the trick is learning how to turn it and open the door. Too many bloggers show one side and hope no one notices the other, the personal. And that’s when they move on.

    Here’s a nod to giving just a little more.

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