Most of us who write do so because we think we have something to say. If we write a blog, we do so with the idea that we want someone to read what we think, even react to what we think. Early on, then, we’re looking for ways to let people know we exist and that we have posted something for them to see.
Usually, we let our friends, family and acquaintances know we’ve put stuff out there and invite them to take a look. Perhaps we do that by email or social media. Soon after we wonder how we can get even more to stop by and see what we’ve done. We begin to do searches of our blog on Google or Bing to see if we show up, and how high up, if we show.
The reality is that we may not show up on these searches and we’re a bit perplexed. We assume that Google finds everyone on the web. There’s no place to hide, so we wonder how we managed to do so.
Well, it’s not all that simple. Let’s highlight a few things we need to consider in our pursuit of readers.
1) Who Is Your Audience?
It is one thing to say I have something to say and that is why I’m writing, it is another thing to be able to specify to whom I am writing. More specifically, who would be interested in what I am writing?
The answer is not “everybody”.
While it may not be clear to you at the outset, soon you will want to have a pretty clear sense of what your blog is all about. If it is product focused, then stay on task. Gardening, art, politics, travel, lifestyle? Doesn’t matter. Lock onto it and develop it.
This will allow you to define the typical person who would appreciate what you write about. Gardening, is good. You might say that you write for amateur or hobby gardeners. Or, is it really urban gardeners? Wait. Is it vegetable gardens for urban dwellers?
The clearer you are as to the profile of the person you wish to speak to, the more directed and specific your writing to that potential reader can be. You know who you’re talking to.
2) Attracting Readers to Your Blog.
We write because we have something to say. Getting people to listen to us is part of challenge for any blogger. As noted earlier, we probably hit up our friends, family and acquaintances to get the ball rolling. That’s perhaps the low-hanging fruit in the process of building readership.
Let’s drill a little deeper by talking about some things you can do to keep growing this readership.
Who Are You?
Spending time specifying our audience is time well spent, but it is only part of the mystery that creates a connection between you and your audience. It is very likely that you are writing on a subject that is written on by many, many people before you showed up.
So, why read yours?
You. You haven’t written on the topic yet. So, who are you? The person… that comes through your writing. Perhaps it’s your wit or humor. Maybe it is your academic or authoritative perspective on the topic.
Write with personality – probably yours would be good.
Titles that Draw People In
In a world with a constant stream of headlines filling our computer or phone screens, we become harder and harder to excite, or to get curious. We see too many headlines we’ve learned are just irritating gimmicks to get us to click the link.
You know what I mean. Headlines that read something like these: “Shocking Truth about ….” or “Never before Seen….” Or “You Won’t Be Able to Stop Laughing after You See This…” I’m not laughing.
I don’t click these headlines. They are annoying.
Without having to go that far, we can and must become more creative. So, using the gardening theme again, I could title my article in a factually accurate way, such as “Preparing to Hoe Weeds in My Garden with a Hoe” (yawn). Accurate, without hyperbole. That’s also pretty much death on the scale of refreshing to you’re-killing-me-here.
You could be a bit more interesting: “A ‘Hoe’ Down: Me, My Hoe and Them Weeds”. Well, you get the idea.
Content that Ahhhs and Ooooos Them, Regularly
An interesting title may draw them in, but it’s also about what’s in the package you have for them that will determine whether you have something worth hanging around for.
It’s all about value proposition. The reader exchanges time for a worthwhile experience with you. That exchange might be about information or entertainment. But it is about something of value to the reader.
For us writers, it’s our brief moment to make a good impression. Let not the title be the highlight of the exchange. Give them good stuff!
Oh, and one more thing. Write regularly. Pace yourself so that you can deliver content in some regular pattern. Consistency is better than a flurry and then silence for weeks or months at a time.
Become Part of the Conversation
Depending on the time you have, consider participating on a forum or two, or following and commenting regularly on related blogs. This will put your name and your blog in places that have relevant traffic to you. Some of the readers there will stop by your blog based on your well-considered comments and positive engagement.
Be selective. This type of activity can be time-consuming if you don’t keep it under control. Each of us must maintain our blogs, first, and extend our writing into other venues as time permits. This includes guest blogging on related blogs.
Using Social Media
This is related to the previous point. Promoting your content, your blog, is an important part of increasing the value of what you write. This too works best when there is regular and consistent exposure of what you’re writing and inviting people to come by.
There are a lot of options out there to choose from. It is best to select two or three outlets to use and develop. This is another task that can take up a lot of time and deliver no noticeable improvement in your traffic, time on your pages, or subscriptions. Again, keep it manageable.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about doing what you can to make your blog and its content accessible to those who wish to find it. This means when someone searches words on Google or Bing related to gardening, your work will eventually show up in the search results.
Notice I said eventually.
Look, if you just launched your blog, it will take a while before search engines will even find you. By a while, we mean a few days. Even then, there is no promise you’ll be indexed.
But let’s get a jump on this by telling Google, Bing and Yahoo that you’re now online. [embed links below into related search engines]
Before doing this, make sure you have something there. You know, like, content!
Ok, so you have notified the search engines that you’re here. Next thing to pay attention to is that your content is optimized.
That is, make sure your title and content contains keywords that search engines will use in a search. For example, words like gardening or urban gardening will be used in the title and article. It is not necessary to plaster your titles, subtitles, and articles with the same keywords over and over.
Aside from driving your readers crazy, it is not necessary for Google to conclude that your content fits such a keyword search. Search algorithms are becoming smarter and able to recognize relevant content without exact word matches all over the place.
You are trying for consistency in the usage of such words and contextual meanings in your writings. They reflect the content and audience you claim to be about.
A backlink is a link pointing to your blog or blog article from another website. It occurs when another site mentions your blog or article on their site (and links to it). You might mention your article and link (or someone else might) in a guest post on someone else’s blog, in a post comment, or in a relevant forum.
Backlinks are viewed by search engines as a measure of how significant your content or site is. Quality over quantity here. Well established or authoritative, and relevant, sites that link back to your blog are far more valuable than less relevant and poorly rated sites.
There’s so much to be said here, but we’ll leave it here. It is something you want to do, and systematically do. That is, spend the effort to locate relevant players in your genre and work to connect with them over time. That means, comment on their content and add real value to their discussions and site value.
The aim is that at some point, they’ll reciprocate. It is an investment in your future.
Blogging is part art and part science. Pay attention to what articles get responses, shares and subscribers. This intelligence gathering can guide your efforts as to what articles get attention: content, post length and themes.
In the end, you want readers and you want them to subscribe. Don’t be afraid to ask them to subscribe.