Join our Facebook Community

How I’m Increasing Reader Engagement on my Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 5th of August 2009 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

“What is the main thing that you’re trying to get readers to do when they visit your blog?”

Last week during a conversation with an ad network executive I was asked this question as it pertains to my photography site. It was a good question to be asked because it made me stop and think a little about the priorities that I had for the site.

The first thing that I was tempted to answer with was ‘clicking ads’ or ‘buying affiliate products’ – perhaps it was because I was talking with an ad network representative that my mind automatically went to that conclusion…. however the more I thought about it the more I realized that my focus has changed over the last year or two away from having earnings as the primary focus for that site.

I realized that these days I spend a lot more time focusing my energies upon creating engaged and loyal readers.

The main calls to action on the blog and forum areas these days at DPS are to get people to ‘subscribe’ or ‘join’ rather than to ‘buy’ or ‘click’ ads.

I know this hasn’t always been the case – on previous blogs I was much more interested on making the blogs profitable, but these days while I want the site to earn an income I guess I’ve realized that it will only increase in profitability if I work on other aspects of the site.

So my priorities are these days more about ‘creating engaged and loyal readers’ – how am I doing that?

There are many ways that I’ve tried to do this of late with DPS but the main 3 things have been:

1. Content

I’ve always attempted to make DPS as useful as possible but since redesigning the site earlier in the year and expanding it in terms of topics covered (we added a post production tips area and a cameras and equipment area to our previous photography tips and tutorials section) I’ve attempted to increase both the quality and quantity of content.

Quantity – Instead of one post per day we now have two per day. This has definitely boosted traffic but more importantly it seems to have increased reader engagement a little. It’s hard to track it but I’ve had quite a few readers email me over the last few months commenting that they were a little dubious about the increase in posts when it first happened but that they have come to appreciate us widening our topics to cover the new areas of the site.

Quality – I’ve always wanted to keep quality high but in the last few months I’ve made particular effort to create content that is more interactive. On a weekly basis I now try to include either a poll, a reader discussion question or some kind of ‘challenge‘ for people to go away and do. More often than not there’s two of these types of posts in the week. I’ve found that since doing more of these types of posts that reader engagement has increased, comment levels has been on the rise (in all types of posts, not just the ‘reader engagement’ ones).

2. Building a network on Twitter

I’ve put quite a bit more time into both promoting the site’s Twitter account and using it more effectively. I’m not completely satisfied with how I’m doing it yet but am seeing some real benefits of doing so in two ways.

1. Firstly follower numbers have risen quite a bit of late:

twitter-dps.png

The early rise back in May was when I did a post on the blog promoting the fact that we were on Twitter. I’ve also added a Twitter icon to the ‘subscribe’ area of the site (top right hand corner), have promoted it in weekly newsletters and have mentioned it in numerous articles on the site over the last few months.

2. The second aspect of Twitter has been the amount of traffic that it has been driving to the site’s two main areas, the blog and forum.

The Blog – When I started renewing my efforts with Twitter I spent most of the time promoting new articles on the blog. Here’s a chart of traffic coming from Twitter.com to DPS since the beginning of the year (click to enlarge):

twitter-dps-blog.png

You can see that even back before I started promoting the account more heavily back in May it was driving some traffic to the site. This was because we were tweeting new posts on the blog to those few followers that we had and because occasionally others were sharing links.

However lately (particularly in the last couple of months) I’ve started Tweeting not just the automated posts alerting followers to new posts but also the occasional ‘Earlier on DPS Tweet’ later in the day to catch other time zones but also links to popular archived posts. This has helped bring about a marked increase in blog traffic.

The Forum – I’m not sure why, but until a few weeks ago I had rarely shared a link on Twitter to any page in the DPS forum. Why I’d not done this I have no idea but it struck me a couple of weeks ago just how short sighted I’d been. So I began to Tweet links to ‘hot threads’ and cool photos and latest assignments in the forum area. Here’s what happened:

twitter-dps-forum.png

Do I wish I’d been doing this earlier? You bet I do!

All in all a renewed effort and focus upon Twitter has helped to drive traffic to the blog but also it is giving us an extra point of contact with readers – many of whom had not ever used one of our other subscription methods.

Note: keep in mind that the traffic above is just that traffic coming in from Twitter.com and does not include traffic being driven from Twitter clients like TweetDeck.

3. Building Newsletter Subscribers

This continues to be the ultimate goal for me on the blog. I push people to subscribe to the newsletter wherever I can because I know it’s so powerful at increasing reader engagement, driving significant traffic and as a result increasing earnings.

The guys who operate the servers behind b5media hate the days I send newsletters – it sends as much, if not more, traffic as a front page on Digg. My ad network partners always ask me why revenue increases so much on Thursdays – the earnings are so good.

Another chart – firstly daily direct traffic (ie it doesn’t include referring site traffic or search engine traffic) on the blog over the last month. You can see the days the newsletters go out pretty clearly – direct traffic doubles (at least) those days. Page views go up by even more because visitors from the newsletter typically view multiple pages.

dps-blog-newsletter.png

The forum has similar peaks on newsletter days.

The next chart shows the shape of AdSense earnings on the blog (with the actual numbers removed) over the last month. Again you can see a similar pattern.

adsense.png

If I were to chart affiliate earnings the pattern is even more pronounced as I find my newsletter subscribers respond well to affiliate promotions.

I really can’t stress enough the power of this email newsletter that I’ve been running and promoting heavily – it’s certainly been a cornerstone in everything that I do on that blog of late.

Summing it Up

Three years ago if you’d asked me what strategies I’d been implementing on my blogs it probably would have been more about optimizing advertising and affiliate promotions. While I still do work on these things I guess I’ve realized that making money from a blog tends to look after itself a little more when you have an engaged and growing readership.

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Wow very transparent post. Great to know the logistics of a quality blog!

  2. Great Strategy. Lately, I have also been using Twitter and results seem to be good. Although my network is not as big as yours but I do get decent traffic.

    Regarding first step(content), adding weekly poll/discussion is a good point. I will try this.

    Between, the link to DPS is broken(two com’s!) You may want to fix it!

  3. It has to be opt-ins to my free giveaways and building subscribers, for me.

    And for them to like the content and come back.

    Andrew

  4. Awesome and very clearly illustrated post Darren Keep it up

    http://www.tips4blogging.co.cc

  5. Hi Darren,

    Just to point out that there is a mistake in your 1st link to your photography blog. There is an extra “om” at the back of the hyperlink.

  6. Nice tips. I really need to sort Twitter out.

  7. I wonder if newsletters are more efficient in certain genres of content but not in others.

  8. Good idea – on my blog I’m taking a little different approach. The one thing that I want someone to do when they read an article on my blog is “Read one more article. and then one more…”

    I figure with great content, if you can get the reader consuming your archives voraciously then they can’t help but become engaged.

    That’s the hypothesis, anyway.

    Thanks for another great post.

  9. Hey Darren have you written a post about how to get more RSS subscribers without an ebook or a contest?

  10. Well said!

    I’ve been trying to promote my blog through twitter lately, and I’ve gotten some traffic. I was also thinking about setting up newsletters, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.

    I recently tried Amazon’s affiliate program. We’ll see how that goes.

    Overall, excellent post!

  11. yeah, that is the dream of me too.

    A time when I can boldly stare at my adsense earnings and think ‘ yeah, the next post could be about… ” . Until then, I have decided, not to see the adsense or any earnings for that matter :).

    Nice post.

  12. I’m over halfway through “Twitter For Dummies now”, so finally biting the bullet on that one. I’m slow with all these new-fangled things. But no time like the present!

    Gonna get an e-mail letter up and running too. Hey, why not?

  13. It’s interesting isn’t it? As soon as you stop focusing on earning money from blogging, you earn more money from blogging. I’ve found this to be the case a few times in my relatively short problogger career.

  14. yes.. i have a nice experiance in Twitter.
    Thanks for this great post.

    Shajib
    http://www.ebooksdock.co.cc/

  15. Thanks for being so open and honest about some of your blogging strategies. It’s encouraging to see how these simple tips work even on such popular, well-established blogs.

    I’m impressed at how powerful newsletters/mailing lists are. I mean, I’m constantly hearing about how important building a list is, but seeing some of these graphs really drives the point home.

    Every time I read a post here I learn something new (or am reminded of something important I’ve forgotten). Thanks for posting!

  16. That was a great way to drive traffic, I agree that if you do what your target audience want, they will return to you more, and even share what your findings and direct other traffic to you.

    Good job!

  17. I’m working on getting a comment ratings system to engage my readers. I think it will be fun to vote other people up and down.

  18. Great insight Darren.

    To me, an interacting reader is far more important then the same reader clicking on the ad, leaving the site and ending up not buying anything.

    ~Igor

  19. This is a great post analyzing the effects of both quantity and quality of posts in a blog.

    The other factor that equally affects the visitor growth is the constant updates on the blog, without a lull in the post frequency. If ‘m not wrong, I guess that a quality blog comprises of more than 37% frequent visitors. They visit the blog with the hope of finding something interesting.

  20. I feel, when the money hasn’t come, most people will go for the money part, while the readership comes later, when the money is done, readership will often become the first priority.

    For me I choose readership, that is why my blog is low in income every month, but again going for money is not always the best option as there are just too many blogger who just failed to understand what blogging factors and elements behind really are.

    But I think you had done a great job with your blog, which, to me the answer is always readership.

  21. The tip about tweeting “earlier” posts is a good one. That one never occurred to me. I’m definitely going to try that. It is always a challenge to come up with new ways to engage your readers. Asking them open-ended questions and giving them activities to do seems to be very helpful.

  22. Great post, Darren! I’m just getting started with my blog, but need to “get with it” on Twitter to build readership. Thanks!

  23. What I love about this article is the emphasis on GOOD CONTENT. In my mind, that is always the most important factor driving traffic. It doesn’t always bring FAST traffic, but it always brings LASTING traffic.

  24. Hi Darren,

    Newsletter subscribers are number one.

    That’s such a huge point that I think a lot of bloggers miss. I got that lesson directly from Yaro Starak back in August of last year. Since then I’ve been putting all my focus on building my Newsletter readership; even more focus than my RSS subscribers – just because (as you described in such great detail) Newsletter subscribers seem to respond much better to product promotions and new blog posts.

    P.S. As an aside I’m really curious, what software are you using to publish your polls on DPS?

  25. Very good post Darren. I’m all about reader interaction lately. Been very active trying to get people to ask me dating advice and the like for me to answer in post form and it’s been working quite well. Also just recently started a forum for my readers to engage with each other, though starting off slow I think there’s lots of potential in that. Throuhg forums I can engage with my readers even more than just through the comment section of each post.
    Cheers!

  26. My sole focus is growing a community centered around my blog. That means the only things I really focus on are:

    1. Consistent, compelling content
    2. Growing my RSS
    3. Growing Newsletter
    4. Gaining followers

  27. Engagement has been widely overlooked and it’s power underestimated. It is essentially the key, as a readers choices across the web are infinite. Now that you’re talking about it at length Darren, it will be top of mind for many. And that is a good thing. Once we all start sharing successful methods for engagement the ideas come in huge waves.
    Angela Connor
    Author, “18 Rules of Community Engagement”

  28. Wow Darren, you have really managed to nail the traffic on Twitter.

    I am just starting to look into twitter at the moment, I have a ton of followers, but need to utilize them to greater effect.

    This post has just given me some great ideas :-)

    Talk soon,

    Paul

  29. Great read. I had no idea of the importance of a news letter. While I see it being more helpful for your particular niche I’ll have to keep in mind of ways I might be able to implement one into my blog in the future.

  30. Great post

    I as well have been feeding twitter with my blog posts and putting the blog address with a message in the auto follow tweetkater thing but it hasn’t proved to yield huge results yet.

    The next plan is to introduce video to the blog so all the combined efforts of social websites and video should start to yield results

  31. It is awesome that you are able to one focus on so many blogs at one time, but two that earning revenue is no longer the main focus.

    One day maybe just maybe I’ll be in that possition as well.

  32. This is a perfect blog post Darren, it contains useful data backed up with quantifiable results (I always look for them!).

    How much effort does it take for you to gain more followers (by tweeting) vs. posting new threads on forums?

  33. One of the things I love about blogging is the interaction with readers and the community you can build around the blog. I’ve always used techniques to encourage the interaction but lately I’ve been looking at even more ways. I plan on upping the ante in the next couple of weeks so this post was timely for me.

  34. nice post! I like the tip about tweeting “earlier” posts

  35. Reader engagement is a must to keep readers coming back.

  36. I’m a newbie to Twitter but over the last couple of months I’ve seen a nice increase in traffic. Connecting with other writers and lefties has helped to, as I discover new bloggers to connect with and even those with similar interests that don’t blog.

  37. Dear Darren,

    I lost my job due to the Economic Crises and now I have total focus on making money at home with my Blog.

    You have probably heard this before but I want to let you know how inspiring I find your Blog. I believe it actually gives a person a lift when they read it, so inspiring it is, and informative, well it does me anyway.

    Many people with no job should do something constructive with their time. Instead of getting down and being depressed. I think, as a part of their job recovery program, read Problogger.net. Not just for the money making tips, but for the intelligence and helpfulness of the blogging content.

    I have referred you to four of my friends already, all of them have full time jobs, and was pleased to do so.

    As a fan, just want to finish by saying a big THANK YOU,
    I hope you never stop blogging,
    sincerely,
    Jim Cassa

  38. Good tips, Darren. Building an opt-in subscriber base that knows, likes, and trusts you is huge. If done like you suggest, the affiliate marketing will, in a sense, take care of itself.

  39. Hi Darren, something I have noticed from “Probloggers” is it seems their way of engagement with their readers is different from those who are not Probloggers.

    For example, there are over 30 comments on this article thus far and I haven’t seen you comment or engage at all, and to be honest, it seems it’s usually like that.

    I’m not saying you’re doing anything wrong and I love reading your articles, but I’m just mentioning something I’ve noticed as well as a lot of other bloggers – that A-list bloggers don’t typically engage with their readers the way others do.

    From what I gather from your post, by engaging your readers, this entails producing good content, quantity of content, tweeting about it, and offering a newsletter.

  40. Loved this post! As a new blogger, I’m still refining what I really want for my blog and how I’m going to get there. This post was very insightful and helpful. Thanks!

  41. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    Josh Mann – you could be right about them being better in some niches than others. I think any niche that is ‘how to’ or that gives advice they can work. That’s the area I focus most upon so can’t speak for other types of blogs.

    Asswass – I’ve written more on getting RSS subscribers here

    Steve – I just use WP-Polls to run the polls on DPS

    John Hoff – the main reason I didn’t comment yet on this post was that it went live at midnight my time (I’m in Australia) and I was asleep. The other reason is that my strategy here at ProBlogger has been to build a community that answers one another’s questions rather than just have me at the centre of them all.

  42. Quality post with some great advice for generating interest, Darren. Thanks.

  43. Hi Darren,

    I had also noticed the things @John Hoff had said.
    There was no engagement at all from you for the last few posts written by you (31st, 29th July). No single comment on last 5, 6 guest posts. (On his Aug 4th post Adam Steer had mentioned you saying “I’d love to follow up with just such a post if Darren will allow me… :)”)
    And another thing I have noticed is that, most readers only once comment on a post. That might be due to the lack of your engagement within the comments.

    Regards.

  44. Interesting point John Hoff.

    Conversations and such seem difficult to have on a blog like this, mainly because of how many comments there are. To be honest, a lot of the time I don’t even read the comments on blogs as big as this because there are so many, I don’t have time.

    I’ll usually subscribe though and follow comments later to see if someone happens to respond to what I say, or in this case, someone’s raised something I feel like responding but it’s rarer in bigger blogs because the comments don’t seem to get noticed as much. Each comment is just a drop in the ocean.

  45. great info
    I really like it

  46. Darren
    …right! Time difference. Gets me every time. Thank you for clarifying things, too.

    But just out of curiosity and wondering from your perspective, do you see a difference in how A-list bloggers work with their community rather than bloggers who are not considered A-list?

    Do you think it can send mixed messages when an article on an A-lister’s blog talks about how replying to comments and visiting other blogs and commenting helps to build a community but then that person doesn’t necessarily do that?

    I’m not trying to point fingers by any stretch of the imagination. Just curious if you’ve seen this and what your thoughts might be. I don’t see a lot of talk about it from A-list bloggers but lots of chatting about it from non A-listers.

    Then again, I could simply be delusional and it’s perfectly ok to tell me that I am LOL.

    • John – it’s certainly a lot harder when your blog grows to be able to interact with everyone. For example on an average day I get 100-200 emails from people asking questions, with problems or wanting to interact…. plus all the comments.

      The advantage that I do have though now that I have traffic is that quite often readers answer one another’s questions.

      I think the ‘leave comments on other blogs’ advice is good for those starting out but I guess you get to a point with your blog where you have critical mass and your ‘marketing’ takes a different form. Similarly, responding to comments takes a different form also as you just can’t do it all. For me it means I tend to respond to people via email more than as comments because I live more in my inbox than in the comments section of my site.

  47. I’m now trying on the facebook social networking and hoping to see an improvement on my blog’s traffic and reader.

    The iPhone Blogging

  48. Great tips here. All very helpful as I’m looking to boost Twitter followers, improve interactivity on my blog.

  49. Analogy alert:

    Same thing works in restaurants: when you stop focusing on them, the tips just start rolling in.

    People that focus on making tips are transparent: they want to do the minimum work to get those tips, and will say anything, and suck up to people who seem richer to get them.

    People who focus on doing the right thing for customers get the tips anyway but don’t have to be fake, and don’t see people as means to an end.

  50. Darren,
    Ah see, a delay in my response because I had to sleep LOL.

    Thank you for taking the time to put things in perspective. It certainly makes sense and in many respects growing as a blogger parallels growing as a business owner.

    As your business grows, so does your marketing and business plan. The difference is, I suppose, is an A-List blogger typically does their “blogging” duties alone (i.e. no secretary).

    I hope you haven’t seen my questions in a bad way, I’ve been following you for quite a while now and would hate to think I’ve caused any issues. You personally have really helped me grow in my endeavors. And for that, I thank you.

A Practical Podcast… to Help You Build a Better Blog

The ProBlogger Podcast

A Practical Podcast…

Close
Open