Today’s guest post on the Cat’s Eye Writer blog comes from Ali Luke, who heads up aliventures.com. I met Ali on Twitter and both she and my other half, @bobwp, will be presenting at Blogworld in New York City in June, so I’ll get to meet her in real time. I’m also looking forward to reading her new book, Lycopolis. Take it away, Ali:
Do your readers stick around for the long-term, cheering you on, offering feedback, and buying your products? Or do they flit away after glancing at a single post?
If you want to be a successful blogger, you don’t necessarily need lots of readers. Sure, it’s nice to have your Feedburner widget showing 1,000 or 5,000 or 10,000.
But if your goal is to make money from your blog, then a few hundred truly loyal readers are far more valuable than a few thousand readers who rarely pay any attention to your posts.
You know your readers are loyal if they:
- Come back again and again
- Subscribe so they never miss a post
- Leave comments on a regular basis
- Share your posts on their social media networks
- Buy your products and services
If you have traffic, but it’s not translating into subscribers, or if you have subscribers who never comment, or if you have a big audience but you’re struggling to sell, then it’s time to turn your casual visitors into loyal, engaged readers.
There’s no magic-bullet trick for that— no perfect words that convert a first-time guest into a rabid fan. But there are plenty of straightforward things you can do to increase your readers’ loyalty.
#1: Give Away Valuable Content
One of the very best things I’ve ever done for my blog was to give away a bunch of free mini-ebooks. Every newsletter subscriber gets access to a little library of goodies, for them to download and use at any time. And, from the comments and emails I get, I know how much this means to my readers.
It can be tough to give away your best content, whether that’s in the form of blog posts, recordings, or ebooks. But it’s also one of the most powerful techniques for helping your readers to like and trust you. And if they get great, useful content for free, they’ll be much more likely to take the plunge and buy from you.
Do it: Over the next month, write an in-depth, hugely valuable blog post or mini-ebook that answers one of the key questions you get from your readers/clients. If your goal is 4,000 words, you can do that by writing 1,000 words a week, or just 200 every weekday.
#2: Post Consistently
Whatever you’ve heard from blogging gurus, you don’t need to post every day. Think about your own blog reading habits: you probably prefer blogs that have just one or two fantastic posts a week, rather than a couple of so-so posts every day.
What matters is not how often you post, but how consistent you are. If you post once a week for a while, then go silent for six weeks, it’s hard to build up a high level of reader engagement.
Do it: Figure out a comfortable blogging schedule for you. That might be three times a week, once a week, or even just once every two weeks. Commit to sticking to your routine for at least the next month.
#3: Include Snippets of Your Life
Although the primary purpose of your content is to provide value to the reader, you’ll also want to slip in an occasional anecdote from your own life. That might mean writing about personal experience with the topic, or simply adding occasional moments of trivia about your daily life – perhaps mentioning where you live, a particular hobby, and so on.
There’s a fine balance here: too little information about you, and readers won’t feel a sense of personal connection; too much, and they may wonder what the point is. Ideally, you want to choose brief moments of your life that make the reader laugh, that show how you’ve struggled through something similar to them, or that offer inspiration.
Here’s a great example from Judy’s post, The Introvert Blogger’s 5-Step Guide to Acing an Interview:
The fear started building one day in 5th grade when I gave my lame, over-rehearsed “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” talk to a group of rowdy, pre-hormonal 10-year-olds, including Stewart Granger, who sat in the front row and pretended to pick his nose every time I looked his way.
Do it: In your next post, make sure you have at least a sentence that talks about your personal experience with the topic that you’re discussing. Aim for something friendly and lighthearted.
#4: Reply to Comments and Emails
One of the best ways to build loyalty is to engage in conversation with your readers. That means replying to their comments, emails, tweets, and so on. Yes, it can be tough to find the time for this, but it means a lot to readers to get a reply.
Even if you feel like a small fish in a very large blogging pond, your readers look up to you as an expert source of guidance. A short, friendly reply from you could make their day. Plus, if you want more comments on your blog, replying to them all both boosts your comment count and encourages readers to comment again.
Do it: Use threaded comments on your blog to make it easy to reply to people, and schedule time each day for comment replies and emails (handling them in a batch is usually more efficient than trying to reply to them as they come in).
#5: Encourage Readers to Dig Deeper
When a new reader arrives at your blog and reads a post, do they have an obvious next action to take? If you can encourage readers to stick around and devour several posts, not just one, then you’re much more likely to convert them into loyal subscribers.
Here are three easy ways to do that:
- Each time you write a post, link to at least one other post on your blog (either within the body of your post, or as further reading at the end).
- Have a “Popular Posts” section in your sidebar to help new readers quickly find your most valuable content.
- Include links to some of your best posts on your About page – this is one of the most-read pages on your blog.
Do it: Head to your most recent post and see whether there’s any encouragement for readers to stick around. If not, add a link to a related post at the end.
#6: Give Readers Multiple Ways to Connect With You
Not all readers will want to leave a comment or send an email. Some will be keen to follow you on Twitter, so they can interact in a casual way; others may prefer to use Facebook or LinkedIn, depending on where they feel most at home.
Make sure that readers know how they can connect with you. Don’t assume that they’ll notice the little Twitter logo in your sidebar or that they’ll seek you out on Facebook: give them a clear link on your About or Contact page (or both!). I’ve found that my Facebook page has gained many more “likes” since I added a simple section to the bottom of all my newsletters – “Find Me Online: Handy Links.”
Do it: In your next post or newsletter, mention the key ways that people can connect with you (e.g. by email, on Twitter, on Facebook) and give them links to each. It’s a very simple thing to do— and also very effective.
#7: Include Calls to Action
You’ve probably heard the term “call to action” before. It simply means that you should ask readers to do something. You can technically do that at any point, but the most effective place is usually at the end of a post.
Your call to action could be almost anything, but it should offer some benefit to you, as well as to your reader. For instance:
- “Click here to read my post on …” This helps the reader by giving them more information. It helps you by building reader loyalty.
- “Leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts.” This helps the reader by encouraging them to engage with the material. It helps you by bringing in more comments and feedback.
- “Find out more about my services here.” This helps the reader by introducing them to ways you can assist them further. It helps you by bringing in new customers.
- “Get the RSS feed here.” This helps the reader by sending your content straight to their RSS reader (or inbox). It helps you by building your subscriber base.
Do it: Each time you write a post, think “call to action” at the end. You might want to come up with a list of possible calls to action so you can rotate between different ones.
#8: Guest Post on Blogs with Great Readers
The loyalty of your readers isn’t just to do with what you do … it’s also determined by where they come from. If most of your traffic is from StumbleUpon, visitors may only stick around for a few seconds; if you get traffic from guest posts on relevant blogs, those visitors are much more likely to become loyal readers.
When you’re looking for blogs to guest post on, don’t just consider the size of their readership: look at the comments section below posts. Thoughtful comments (not just “Great post!”) suggest readers who are likely to appreciate your valuable content. If a blog has a high readership, but only a handful of short comments, that suggests their readers aren’t as engaged.
Do it: Find a relevant blog in your niche to guest-post on: look for a site with a larger reader base than yours, but with strong reader loyalty (that might mean avoiding the biggest blogs in favor of slightly smaller ones).
How do you build reader loyalty on your own blog?
What makes you a loyal reader of other blogs?
Ali Luke is currently on a virtual book tour for her novel Lycopolis, a fast-paced supernatural thriller centered on a group of online roleplayers who summon a demon into their game … and into the world. Described by readers as “a fast and furious, addictive piece of escapism” and “absolutely gripping”, Lycopolis is available in print and e-book form. Find out more at www.lycopolis.co.uk.