In this instalment of Words that Bite, I investigate strategies you can use to increase your blog readership.
If you want people to read your blog, make it worth reading
In my last post, I talked about how useful blogging can be for a business.
After all, marketing experts are constantly talking about how blogging provides a unique platform for communicating with a target audience and building a sense of community around a brand. They also emphasise how a blog can boost your SEO because Google likes nothing more than a freshly-updated website.
At the same time, we all know that the web is infested with blogs of different shapes and sizes, dealing with topics as varied as a personal take on first-time motherhood to scholarly discussions on high-level business strategies.
In short, blogs are everywhere, covering every imaginable topic. As a result, the noise in the blogosphere is sometimes almost unbearable.
The key question for business owners who want to use a blog to promote their product or service is: How do you find a readership for your blog?
The answer is: It isn’t easy and it will probably involve a lot of work.
Who is your competition in the blogosphere?
At any one time, there are about 7,000,000 to 10,000,000 active blogs on the internet; however, probably only 50,000 to 100,000 of these generate the most page views. There is a long-standing joke in the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one.
So, if there are so many blogs on the web, how do you ensure that your blog doesn’t get lost in the crowd and you attract the kind of readership that increases sales?
Here is my evaluation of the strategies commonly used to ensure that a blog attracts attention.
Quality of the content
The golden rule of blog writing is: if you want people to read your blog, you need to ensure that the content is of a high quality. This means that what you say should be useful and/or interesting for your readers.
In short, you don’t want people to fall asleep at their computer as they read your blog.
So, if your blog is merely a plug for your business, it probably won’t attract much attention. However, if you can find a way of providing an educational service to your readers and presenting some useful ideas, you have a better chance of finding an audience for your blog. In addition, you may find that your blog helps you push potential customers and clients through the sales-conversion funnel.
You should also try to say something new, rather than simply rehashing what everyone blogging on a topic is saying.
Ensure your blog is well-written
Obviously, any blog should be well-written.
You can have the most interesting and useful content in the world, but if it is difficult to understand, you are going to lose readers faster than you can say ‘I love blogging’.
In short, if your blog tastes like castor oil, no-one will read it.
Write for your clients and customers, not your colleagues
One trap that business bloggers often fall into is writing for their colleagues, rather than for their customers or clients. This is a particular pitfall for professional-services bloggers.
For example, blogs can work well for lawyers. However, a large number of the blogs that law firms produce read like they were written for other lawyers, rather than for clients. If your blog falls into this category, it can actually discourage clients from retaining your firm; especially those clients who want a practitioner who can explain complex legal concepts in plain language.
Update your blog frequently
If you want people to read your blog and become regular readers, you need to update it regularly – once a week is ideal.
Research conducted by Technocrati and quoted in the New York Times indicates that about 95 per cent of people who start blogs end up abandoning them.
Don’t give up if you find your blog isn’t attracting readers immediately. Like everything, building a readership for a blog takes time. Be patient. Work hard.
Use keywords to boost your blog’s SEO
Obviously, any blog post you write should be search-engine optimised. This means you need to think about the keywords you are using and whether they are going to attract readers to your blog.
When I say this, I don’t mean you should stuff your blog with keywords. Rather, you should employ a keyword strategy that reflects your topic and has a realistic chance of attracting readers to your site. As I’ve pointed out before, often it is better to employ long-tail keywords, rather than short-tail keywords.
Encourage comments on your blog
You should also encourage comments on your blog because commenting engages your readers. People are more likely to become loyal readers if they see others are following and commenting on your work.
On way to do this is to pose a question in your blog posts and it is always a good idea to respond to comments to keep the discussion going. Most people love participating in a lively discussion.
Promote your blog via social media
Another useful way to promote your blog is to promote it on social media as soon as you post it.
Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn are useful forums to promote business blogs, even if you start by only communicating with your friends. Depending on the type of business you are running, Pinterest and Instagram can also be effective platforms for promoting a blog.
You can also attract readers to your blog by writing guest blog entries for other sites that publish in your niche area.
The idea is that if you provide an interesting guest blog, it will attract readers to your own blog. Obviously this strategy needs to be carefully targeted, so that you write for websites that attract the kind of readers who are likely to be interested in the topics you blog about.
Some blogging experts recommend saving your best material for guest blogs because, especially when you are starting out, they will play an important role in generating interest in your own blog.
Writing articles for sites that potential clients or customers visit
In my view, one of the best ways of attracting readers to your blog is to target websites, magazines, and newspapers that your clients might read, submitting high-quality content on your area of expertise.
This strategy serves a number of purposes:
- You boost your profile.
- You can attract readers back to your own blog.
- It is a step towards becoming a thought-leader in your area of expertise.
Commenting for links
The issue of commenting for links is controversial and I am not convinced it works.
In theory, it is a great idea. You comment on someone else’s blog in your niche area and leave a link, in the hope that readers of that blog will then click through and read your blog.
The problem with this tactic is that it has been abused by spammers. Basically, if you suddenly appear on someone’s blog with a comment and a link, people will be suspicious of your motives. In addition, popular blog software such as WordPress nofollows links in blog comments, so the strategy is unlikely to work.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t comment on other people’s blog posts if you have something useful or interesting to contribute; you definitely should. That way, people get to know you and may even seek out your blog.
Buying and swapping links
In the past, people have purchased links in order to attract attention to their blogs and websites because, as I’ve talked about in a previous post, links are a valuable currency online. However, it is an expensive and high-risk strategy that Google has clamped down on in recent times. You may even find yourself hit with a nasty penalty if you are caught buying and selling links. In short, it is a ‘black hat’ technique that should be avoided.
An older ‘black hat’ technique is to swap links. As with link buying, this technique has a bad reputation because it has been abused by spammers.
Another way to boost the popularity of a blog is link baiting – a technique that can be either a ‘black hat’ or a ‘white hat’ SEO strategy, depending on how it is used.
Link bait refers to the placement of content that is solely intended to tempt other pages to link to that website or blog. Basically, anything can be link bait as long as it leads people to link to the web page and draws visitors. Link baiting emerged after the Google Penguin Update, which clamped down on the various ‘black hat’ forms of link building that had emerged.
Examples of link bait include:
- Humour hooks, such as funny stories, practical jokes, pictures, or videos.
- Information hooks, such as news articles or ezine links.
- Tool hooks, such as useful tools that can be downloaded or used on a web page.
- Evil hooks, such as mean, inflammatory, or unpopular editorial comments.
Matt Cutts (head of Google’s Webspam Team) has stated that link bait doesn’t have to be a bad thing because, at the meta-level, it can simply be something interesting enough to catch people’s attention. He points out that link bait can involve doing a whole lot of work to generate data or insights, or merely involve being creative. You can also use controversy to generate discussion.
Cutts believes that, although link baiting sounds like a bad thing, if it is interesting or informative it doesn’t have to have negative connotations. He does believe, however, that it is better to produce interesting data or have a creative idea than to spout controversial ideas 100 per cent of the time. After all, if everything you say is controversial, it may be interesting but it also makes it harder to maintain long-term credibility.
Building a readership for a business blog is a slow and painstaking process. There aren’t any short cuts. Once again, there is no doubt that the quality of your content is crucial.
In addition, you can help your blog find readers by:
- Providing content that is useful and, ideally, educational.
- Ensuring your content is well-written.
- Updating your blog frequently.
- Writing for your clients and customers, not your colleagues.
- Becoming a guest blogger.
- Writing for websites, magazines, and newspapers that your potential clients and customers read.
- Creating interesting content that people will want to link to.
- Refraining from using ‘black hat’ link building tactics to promote your blog. They won’t work.
In the next instalment of Words that Bite, I return to the nuts and bolts of preparing website content and examine what you should include on your home page.
Are you too busy running your business to look after your blog? Would you like someone to look after it for you? If so, call the Pink Rottweiler on +61 (0)409 609 903 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who is the Pink Rottweiler? The Pink Rottweiler is Genevieve Burnett – a copywriter who will take the time to research your business and come up with the smart words to sell your product or service.