One thing you may have noticed is that your blog’s feed count is volatile: it fluctuates on a day to day basis.
While much of that depends on how many people read your feed in a given day, some of that is also people both subscribing and unsubscribing. If you could stop people unsubscribing, your subscriber count would always grow exponentially.
While a lot of emphasis is placed on getting more subscribers, it seems to me that keeping the ones you have is just as important.
What is the key reason why a person might unsubscribe? They’ll do so when your posts become clutter: when they stop reading your posts.
Darren has previously listed 34 reasons why readers unsubscribe from your blog. In fact, each of these reasons causes readers to stop reading your posts, which then causes them to unsubscribe.
The question this post seeks to answer is: how can I get subscribers to keep reading my posts?
As long as your subscribers are reading what you write, they’ll never unsubscribe.
Create a gripping headline
The ugly truth is that many feed readers make the decision to either skip or keep reading a post before their eyes have reached the end of the headline. There are plenty of great articles written about honing the ability to write headlines that draw readers into posts — articles every blogger should read. Here are a few of my favorites from Brian Clark and Leo Babauta:
- How to Write Headlines That Work
- Clear vs. Descriptive Headlines: Which Works Better?
- The Sexy Art of Writing Headlines That Kill
- 10 Sure-Fire Headline Templates That Work
- 7 More Sure-Fire Headline Templates That Work
Headlines are your weapon in the constant battle for attention, so it’s crucial that you use them well. A simple hack I often use is to take the headline formula behind a popular article and adapt it to my own post.
Start with a knock-out opening sentence
Once your headline has done its work the subscriber will start with your first sentence. If you waffle, or go off-topic, or write in a bland way, the reader will drop out of your post.
In my experience, there are seven key routes to a gripping opening sentence:
- A tempting offer.
- An irresistible question.
- A curious connection.
- A controversial claim.
- An engaging anecdote.
- A problem.
- A tricky question.
I’ve covered each of these methods in detail here: Grip Your Readers With These 7 Knock-Out Opening Sentences.
Use consistent imagery at the beginning of your posts
If you hold a particular blog in very high standing you’ll be likely to stick with a post even if it starts with a fizzle rather than a bang. If readers knew who was behind a particular post they may well be more likely to read it.
I don’t think readers always do know, however. Most of us group feeds by folder or lump new content into one stream of news. If we make the decision to read or skip based on the headline alone, we may end up deciding not to read an article before we even know which blog it originated from.
One incredibly effective way to brand your posts is to use consistent imagery right at the start. Almost every single post at ProBlogger begins with a distinct image in a unique style. Even if you’re focusing on the headline, it’s impossible to miss that the post originates from ProBlogger (because the image is right below the headline).
Using consistent imagery at the top of your posts will instantly let subscribers know where the post originated from. Here are some strategies you can use to make your imagery unique:
- Use of images of a consistent type or style.
- If you write on them, try to use similar fonts.
- You could also use images of the same size and position.
This strategy is also effective in another way: images slow the eye down. We can scan text rapidly, but it’s a lot harder to scan an image.
Photo by Lost in Scotland.
Use interesting formatting in your own style
Give your posts texture — Your posts might look fantastic as they appear on your blog, but subscribers see them without any of the bells and whistles. Plain text without any formatting can be visually interesting when laid out on a vibrant page. Not so in a feed reader. If your posts are boring to look at it becomes easier than ever for subscribers to ignore them.
Sub-headings, bolded sentences, box-quotes and in-text links all help to add texture to your posts when they appear in a feed reader. Visually interesting posts will excite the eye and help draw readers into your posts.
Brand your posts with formatting — Developing your own formatting style, in combination with distinct imagery at the beginning of your posts, can ensure that it’s immediately obvious where your posts come from.
If you’re reading this in a feed reader right now, you’d probably agree that you recognize ProBlogger posts straight away. If a reader trusts that your blog provides good content then being recognizable is priceless.
Use short paragraphs
Big chunks of text aren’t inviting to a reader. Your blog might display your posts in a generously-sized and well-spaced font, but feed readers tend towards fonts that are small and narrowly spaced. It’s important to use paragraphs liberally to open up the text in your posts.
If your post is broken up into bite-sized chunks it becomes a lot easier to tackle. If your post looks easy to read a subscriber will be more likely to give it a chance.
Break up your text with images
Feed readers are also lacking when it comes to color and shape. A stream of text can become monotonous. You can help your posts stand out by breaking up the text with relevant images.
Always provide value
If you follow the above steps every post you publish should look unique when it appears in a feed reader. It will be immediately obvious that it came from your blog.
This will only be a positive, however, if the subscriber consistently finds value in everything you write. If that’s the case, she or he will probably stick with your post even if it comes with a snooze-inducing headline and a waffly opening sentence.
The essential point to understand is that, while the above tips will draw feed readers into your posts, the strategy will only be effective if your subscribers consistently feel rewarded when they do so.
A subscriber who is reading and appreciating your posts is more likely to link to you, comment, vote on social media and recommend you to friends. That’s something we all want.
Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. You can subscribe to Skellie’s feed for more useful blogging advice.
While I like the emphasis on post formatting, I personally find a lot of sites that I subscribe do not include all these best practices… yet I stay subscribed loyally because the information is highly relevant to my interest and needs.
The last point that you’ve made is most crucial. Always seek to provide value above everything else and you’ll keep your subscribers.
Some ways of doing that include cutting down on noise and filtering/aggregating information on the behalf of your subscribers and keeping your blog’s focus air tight and developing an editorial calender to sustain interest.
I wouldn’t bother too much with post formatting…although the points you’ve mentioned do work to attract the attention of both subscribers and first time visitors. :)
I have a lot of experience working with advertisers. Just recently I had a conversation with an adverting expert and basically it comes down to this : a reader will read your title and then scan your post quickly. If the post looks really bad visually there is a chance that the reader will move on … That should tell you how important it is to have a good title and afterward take into account how to brand your post as you said …
http://www.newmediatype.com – web entrepreneur’s blog …
Nice post. I realize how important it is to write catching headlines and great opening sentences. Each post should match your blog in formatting and style.
What a great post. I have started to implement some of the things like shorter paragraphs and pictures from earlier posts. After reading this I am assuming my problem is coming from the titles or the opening sentences. Thanks for the great post!
I love the tips given here. I use images in my posts just because I do not like to see long blocks of text. I had no idea that helped to keep your subscribers but I am going to keep doing that.
Another blogger also told me to put in bold or italics to highlight certain parts of the post because readers skim even when they are on the blog so I did that as well.
Thanks for the tips and I will work on using more of them in my blog posts in the future.
“If you could stop people unsubscribing, your subscriber count would always grow exponentially.”
It’s important to realize that the trend will grow exponentially. Your actual subscriber count (the number reported by feedburner or whoever) will still be volatile for the exact reasons that you mentioned.
THis is great information. I was trained as a print journalist years ago, and just about every item you mentioned could be translated into print media as well. Looks like the two (blogging and print) are becoming more and more alike everyday.
I like your point about breaking up your text with images. I’ve noticed you and DoshDosh each do this well.
Who do you guys recommend for a blog redesign? I like the layout of this site and copyblogger a lot.
Man, that fluctuating count can really go crazy sometimes. You’ve provided a great deal of information here, Skellie. I’ve found myself that it can be sometimes really tough to keep readers, and I’ll try to keep these thoughts in mind in the future.
Might I suggest suggesting a feed reader to your readers? Sometimes they might find it really helpful to keep up with blogs, I know I do. A lot of people might not even use them, and forget about blogs that they used to love.
I just wanted to say that I enjoy your blog, and have been a subscriber for a long time. I so appreciate all your tips, even if my blog is still in its infancy. Thanks!
Very useful post.
I like this point ” Break up your text with images”
These are all good points. An additional one to consider is matching the frequency of your posts with your subscribers’ needs. Many of my subscribers signed up to receive posts in their email. Before I post, I pause to remind myself that I’m about to interrupt more than 100 people with an email, so it had better be worth it.
Short paragraphs are SO IMPORTANT. My team is starting to judge the entries for the writing contest, and people who know how to format and present their information in digestible chunks are doing much better so far.
it seems to me that keeping the ones you have isare just as important.
wow… I tried to do a correction but the html didn’t work. So, “it seems to me that keeping the ones you have is just as important.” should be “it seems to me that keeping the ones you have are just as important.”
One thing that I used to do was to start each blog post with the same two words: Brain Broadcast. I thought that it would create a consistent look and feel that would help brand my blog.
Over time, I decided to start using unique titles for most posts except for two days/week, which are theme days. The rest of the time, each title is specific to the post it describes.
The sad thing is that I really have no idea if changing my title naming method has had an impact on my traffic or not. Personally, though, I’ve grown to like the idea of unique post titles.
Fantastic ….. posting.. Darren! I dream about that…
You are very right about not always knowing which blog you’re reading (if you’re reading all of “Today’s Articles”, for example). I actually thought I was reading a Skelliewag post until I came here to comment!
Great article, good things to remember and act upon. Big paragraphs is one of my weaknesses!
One things I find is helpful is when things are set up properly the post might have an author name associated with it. For Problogger my feed reader tells me whether it’s Darren Rouse or Skellie writing a post. My feeds have that as well, which leads me to believe it might be FeedBurner inserting that helpful little tidbit.
I also tend not to read posts from blogs that update several times a day. I find that I can’t keep up with all the posts Unless blogging is your career then people who update too much have not spent enough time researching and proof reading their posts.
Haha, I just flicked over to Darren’s article that you linked to and too many posts is first on the list! I’ll go read that post now.
Great Post, I am new to the blogging scene and I firstly need to get subscribers. Images in post I think are a fantastic way to break up the post.
@ Jeremiah: My suggestion would be, that if you’re going for a free theme, pick something unique. There are a lot of themes that get used on thousands of blogs and I think you should stay away from those. Your blog needs to be unique visually as well as in terms of content.
@ Mark Dykeman: That’s a really cool idea. That would let visitors know immediately what blog the post was from.
@ Everyone: Thanks for the kind comments! I can’t respond to all of them, but I do read them.
This is an interesting post because it is something I’ve noticed.
I’ve set my feed to the summary in order to make them shorter, but it removes the pictures. Is there a way for me to include the picture, but keep the RSS feed content to about 400-500 words?
I did follow the advise of another marketer, and I did create a signature at the bottom of my RSS feed to let readers know that if they click on the link it will take them to the main post which contains photos, links and more info.
I also added a reminder for people to join our membership.
I would appreciate any advise you might be able to give on this, as I do believe that keeping your RSS feed subscribers growing is very important.
I like your point about breaking up your text with images. I’ve noticed you and DoshDosh each do this well.
Some eBooks charge a fortune for this kind of information.
Nice post Skellie ! Adding value is the key for your reader’s to stick to your blog. You may get their attention for a while, but this does not mean this will last forever. We should always be innovative and creative to keep them coming to our blogs. This is easier said than done…
Great points thanks! I’m going to try and put some of those in effect on my blog:
Keep up the GREAT work!
Interesting post, I know that everyone is aiming of how one can keep his subscribers intact but don’t know how. Great article.
Cheers for the info. Mine is only 6 at the moment lol so I’m focusing on more subscribers at this stage
This is a great post. We all know that the more subscribers we have the more traffic we can get and keeping subscribers forever would be a great help.
One thing that annoys me and leads me to unsubscribe from a blog is really short useless news items on a blog. I want content, not little titbits and news posts. An example is some bit about a website redesign or other site being updated, etc. I’ve almost left this subscription from this a few times I’ll admit.
So my question about this is, I have several categories I post to on my blog and users can subscribe to all posts or individual categories to help them filter out the stuff they don’t care to read. I’m not sure yet if this is useful (or if I should just tune my blog on a narrower subject which I don’t yet want to do), any comments on this from the group?
Keeping your readership is not easy. I believe the key to success is to be somewhat consistent in your writings, because return readers are back to receive ‘another dose’ of your great ideas, whatever they may be. Bloggers cannot control the mindset of any reader, so they must also be dedicated to the area they are writing about. There is nothing greater than original content that is delivered with both professionalism and sincerity. Regards, Keith Johnson, M.S. Education