How to Develop a Plan to Grow Your Readership

Today’s episode is about developing a plan to drive new readers to your blog to grow your readership. Many bloggers I talk to think that if they write great content, readers will just show up. This simply isn’t the case. Almost every successful blogger I’ve met has spent significant time on proactive activities that will grow their readership.

In this Episode

You can listen to today’s episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment). Today we talk about:

  • How trying to grow your readership without a plan is hurting your blog
  • How to work out who your ideal readers are
  • How to find where your ideal readers are spending their time
  • How to connect with your ideal readers
  • What I learned from meeting Tim Ferris
  • The secret magic of the ‘servant heart’

Further resources

Further Reading:

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Welcome to day 29 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog and the 29th episode of the ProBlogger Podcast. Today, I’m issuing you the challenge of developing a plan to grow your readership. We’ve done a lot of writing challenges in this series of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

Writing is really important, but today, we’re going to get off your blog and start to think about how we’re going to drive some readers to it. I’ve included some tips on that in the episode. I’ve also got six really important questions to ask yourself as a blogger, to help you to tap into where your readers are gathering and how you can build a presence in those places, that will hopefully help you to build today’s plane. There’s a lot in today’s episode so I’ve included some show notes with some further reading at Let’s get into today’s episode.

Hi. This is Darren from ProBlogger and welcome to day 29 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. As we’re approaching the end of our 31-day challenge, I want us to switch our focus a little from creating content and the day-to-day of building community on our blogs, to do something a little bit more forward-thinking and strategic 

On day 12, you created an editorial calendar for your blog to help you plan content creation. Today, I want you to create a plan in another really important area of blogging, that of growing your readership. Many bloggers I talk to have the expectation that if they build it, readers will come, i.e., build, write, and create great content, and people will just show up. This magical expectation certainly hasn’t been my experience.

Almost every successful blogger that I’ve met has focused at least some of their time on proactive activities that help to grow their readership. In fact, most successful bloggers that I know spend a fairly significant time on promoting themselves rather than just writing content.

Today is really about developing a plan to be a little bit proactive about building your readership rather than just focusing on content. I want you to build a plan today to get off your blog and promote your blog in some way. 

Many bloggers don’t do this and that’s one of the problems that I see in this area that bloggers have. Another problem that many bloggers have is that they just sort of drift along in this area. They spend a lot of time doing good things, things that could help them to grow their blog but they end up wasting their time along the way. 

I admit freely that this is me and you may relate to this kind of scenario. You get on Twitter to promote your blog, then you follow a link, then you follow another link, and then 30 minutes later you’ve just followed links. Then, you decide, “I’m going to get onto Facebook,” and then you spend about 45 minutes there talking to an old high school friend, following a link, then watching cat videos.

Then, you get onto Pinterest and you end up thinking about sharing links to your blog, then end up designing your new office. Then, you go back to Twitter and then you’re over to stumble upon. Before you know it, three hours have passed and you’ve done really not much at all on a series of sites that have the potential to help you grow your blog, but you end up really not doing much of it.

It’s very easy to just drift through the act of promoting your blog, not end up doing much of it at all, and wasting your time in the process. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wasting a bit of time on social media. I kind of enjoy relaxing there. If we’ve got this goal of growing our blog, we, perhaps, need to get a little bit more focused. Sometimes it’s good to step back, assess what we’re doing, and to come up with a plan so that we can be a little bit more strategic. 

That’s my encouragement for you to do today. I want you to step back. Hit pause on how you’re currently promoting your blog, even if it’s just a pause for a day, and create a more strategic plan about how you’re going to move forward and use your time more effectively. After all, you spending all this time creating great content for your blog would be a pity if no one read it.

What I’ve done today is I created a series of six questions that I want you to ask yourself that will hopefully bring a little more clarity to how you promote your blog. Take a few minutes on each question. At each point, perhaps press pause on the podcast and jot down your thoughts. Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll have a clearer idea of how to be more focused for your blog. This is the exact strategy I’ve used over the years and it’s one that just instinctively I’ve seen other bloggers using as well. In fact, I heard a podcast the other day from Tim Ferriss. He pretty much described exactly the same thing. I’ll tell you a story about Tim in a moment.

The first question to ask is this. How much time do you have? How much time do you have to promote your blog on different parts of the web? Now, remember you need to leave enough time to create content, to build community, to think about monetization, and then, of course, have a real life. The time you spend promoting a blog is just going to be a percentage of what time you’ve got to put into your blogging altogether.

Keep in mind that this might change over time, both the amount of time you’ve got to put into blogging but also the amount of time you might put into promotion. In the very early days, you probably want to spend more time creating content. Soon after, you’ll switch into needing readers. In the first year or so of blogging, I probably spent a lot more time on promoting my blog. In more recent years, once momentum has grown, I’ve spent less time although I still do put myself out there. So, how much time do you have to promote your blog?

The second question is who is your ideal reader? You may have already created a persona or reader profile or an avatar, as they often called, and that’s great; you can skip over this question. Get clear in your mind who you want to read your blog. This sort of persona or avatar should include sort of logistical kind of stuff or demographic stuff like gender, age, and location. 

Dig a little deeper. What are their needs? What are their problems? What are their fears? Who are they? You could spend a whole heap of time on this. I do encourage you to spend time building a reader profile, but for today, if you haven’t already got one, just spend 10 or so minutes trying to define who that reader is that you’re trying to reach.

Once you’ve got that clear in your mind, ask the third question, that is, where is this type of reader gathering? Where are they hanging out online? Now, I want to give you some really specific things that you can plugin here. On a piece of paper, jot down the top three blogs that that type of person would read. What three blogs do they read? Jot down the top three forums that they would have joined. What forums are they active in? What are the top three social networks that they would use? Go beyond just Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn here. Think a little bit more outside of that. 

For photography, I know a lot of my readers are on Flickr or they’re on 500 px, which are kind of photo-sharing sites, but there is also a social networking aspect to them. Maybe there’s something like that for you, too.

Once you’ve got the top three networks, actually go a little deeper. If one of your networks is Facebook, jot down on the page the top three Facebook pages that they’d be following. Jot down the top three Twitter accounts that they’re following, the top three Pinterest pages that they’d be following, the top three people they’d be following on LinkedIn. Just do this for the accounts that you think your readers would be using. Jot down the top three podcasts that they listen to, the top three conferences that they attend, the top three books that they’d read—you kind of get the picture here. 

You want to get really specific about where your readers are gathering, where their attention is focused, both online, and offline Once you’ve done this activity—I really encourage you to spend a little bit of time on it—you’ve got a whole list now of places, events, activities, and people where your ideal reader is focusing their attention and places where they’re already gathering. 

The fourth question is this, what opportunities are there to build a presence in those kinds of places? You’ve got this long list of places, people, social media accounts, blogs, forums, podcasts. Now, the key is to start identifying things you can do in these places or with these people to build a presence. What goals could you set for meeting the people on the lists? What goals could you set to appear in the events, in the places, in the podcast, and the blogs that you’ve already mentioned?

It’s now time to start brainstorming. Let’s go through the list again. The top three blogs and podcasts that you’ve listed, are there opportunities to guest post on these? Could you be interviewed by the blogger or the podcast? Could you pitch a story to them? Could you leave comments? Ask questions that spark posts? Could you be useful to the blogger in some other way? Perhaps to volunteer or become their intern for a month? How could you build a presence in that place?

The saying goes for a forum. Could you spend time each day answering questions in that forum? Could you identify and network with the key influencers in that forum? The owners of that forum? Could you volunteer your time as a moderator? 

The social networks. Do you already have a page, group, or profile there? Could you start more? Could you advertise on that social network? 

When it comes to the social media accounts that you’ve mentioned, the pages that your ideal follower might be following, or the Twitter accounts that they might be following, how could you get to know the people behind those pages? Could you submit a suggested link to those people and those accounts? Could you engage them in conversation? Could you promote them and help them achieve their goals in some way to get on their radar?

The events that your ideal reader attends, could you attend those events too? Could you volunteer to help at these events? Could you even submit to speak at these events? The people on your list, the key influencers, could you spend time with them in some way? Could you get on their radar? Could you get on the radar of people that those key influencers respect? Their friends? The people who influence them? 

Brainstorm. Anything goes at this point. I want you to come up with a list of ways that you could appear on these blogs, forums, podcasts, that you could appear at these events, that you could get on the radar of these key influencers. Hopefully, by the end of this activity, you’ve got a long list of potential ways that you could promote your blog.

At this point, you’ve got a long list. You might be a bit doubtful that you could get on the radar of some of these key people, but I’ll tell you you can. Here’s where I want to tell you a little story about Tim Ferriss. I don’t think he’d mind because he pretty much described what he did in a recent podcast, and I’ll link to that in the show notes. 

I was in Washington, DC, must have been about eight or nine years ago. That was before Tim’s book, The 4-Hour Workweek, came out. I got an email from him. I never heard of him at this point. I got this email and he said, “I am attending this conference that you’re at. I’d love to grab a few minutes with you. I’d love to buy you lunch.”

Now, I don’t always respond to people who make that kind of approach but there was something about him that made me say yes. I spent half an hour or so with him and he basically told me about the book he was writing. He picked my brain on how to build a blog and through that conversation, we got to know each other. 

That conversation led to him guest posting on ProBlogger. This was before his blog had even begun. Tim didn’t really have a profile. He didn’t have anything to leverage but he made me a priority because I had the type of reader that he was trying to reach. 

Now, I know for a fact that Tim did this with lots of other bloggers. I’m not even sure he went to that conference for any other reason to meet with me, but it worked. He appeared almost overnight on at least 10 or 15 blogs and many of the blogs had shared readers. It appeared like he was just everywhere all of a sudden. Those were the exact type of readers that he was trying to reach with his blog and with his book. Listen to Tim’s podcast. Again, I’ll link to it in the show notes. You’ll see him describing almost the same process that I’m describing here. 

The fifth question, once you’ve got this list of blogs, forums, and places that you want to appear, how are you going to spend your time? You’ve got all these key activities and things that you could do. Now, you need to start to prioritize. Which ones will you do first? How much time will you spend on each activity? What will you be doing on these sites?

Be really specific with this. You may say, “I’m going to spend 15 minutes every day on Twitter and I’m going to do these activities. I’m going to share links to useful content, I’m going to interact with this list of key people, and I’m going to search for questions I can answer.” That’s really specific. It means that you are much more focused on the time that you’re spending on Twitter.

What are the main goals that you have? What are the things that you need to do first before you can reach those goals? For example, your goal might be to write a guest post on the biggest blog in your niche. How are you going to get that to happen?

Many of those big blogs get pitched. Many blogs. You might need to do a little bit of research on the type of posts that do best on that site. You may want a guest post on some smaller blogs to build up your guest blogging portfolio. You may want to get to know the blogger a little bit, who owns that site. You might want to follow them on social media and begin to engage with them there. These are small steps that can lead you to that bigger goal.

The last question that you need to ask is this, what needs to change in the way you currently spend your time? This one is a key one. To do the activities that you’ve just outlined that you want to do, you’re probably going to have to spend some time on that. You’re going to have to get that time from somewhere. Do some analysis on the type of activities that you are currently spending your time on and whether they’re worthwhile.

Where are you being distracted? Where is there no traction? Where are there no conversions? Where are you wasting your time? What will you give up to be more strategic about promoting your blog? Now, I’ve just used that word strategic and this might all sound a little bit strategic. It may even sound like it’s bordering on manipulative, tracking down key people and then working out how you can appear on their blog.

In some ways, it can be a manipulative process but the reality is that if you’re not looking for a win-win, this isn’t going to work. I’m not going to let you guest post on my blog unless you pitch an idea that I think is going to benefit my readers which then benefits me. 

You need to be looking at how you can provide value, how you can be useful with those you’re interacting with if you want to get any win for yourself in the long-term. Reach out with a servant’s heart, reach out with the goal of being as useful as you possibly can in the places that you’re building a presence. This genuine interest in helping other people will shine through in the way you interact in those places. 

My last advice today is don’t become obsessed with building a profile so much that you forget to work on your own blog. I’ve certainly seen this happen to numerous bloggers over the years. They are so prolific in the way they promote themselves. Then, you go to their blog and they haven’t updated for weeks and months. You need to keep this in balance. Don’t give up creating content. Don’t give up building community with the readers that you already have. In fact, those readers that you already have can be a big part in growing your readership, so keep it all in balance.

Well, there’s a lot of content in today’s episode so I’ll summarize some of it for you and give you some further reading on some of the different aspects of what we’ve covered at, where there’s also an opportunity for you to leave a comment. I’d love to hear a little bit about the plan that you’ve developed for finding readers for your blog. Head over to the show notes, leave us a comment. Tell us what you are planning to do in the month or two ahead as it pertains to finding readers for your blog.

You’ll also find on those show notes a quick survey that I’ve designed for listeners of this podcast to tell us a little bit about who you are, what your needs are, what your questions are, what the problems are that you’re facing so that we can base future episodes of this podcast upon you and make them as relevant as possible for you. 

Lastly, I’d love to get your review of this podcast on your favorite podcast listening, whether that be iTunes, Stitcher or something else. I do read all the reviews that you are leaving and I really do appreciate the ones that have already been left. It does help us to get the word out about our podcast if you could do that for us. Even just a sentence or two, telling us a little bit about how you found the podcast over at iTunes or stitcher, I’d really appreciate that.

I look forward to chatting with you tomorrow on day 30. We’re almost at the end of this 31-day series, 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

How did you go with today’s challenge?

What new ways will you try to connect with your ideal readers?

I’d love to hear what you have planned in the comments below.

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