A website isn’t just the numbers behind it, and a blog can’t be defined by its clicks alone. If you want visitors to stick around and come back for more, you’ll have to offer them a cool place to hang out. The amount of clicks you get won’t even matter when you start focusing on what readers really want: a reason to stay.
Here is your 12 Step Plan to getting your blog the readership it was meant to have and your website the interaction it’s been yearning for.
1. Relax Your Voice
While putting your content down, envision sitting at a bistro table with a colleague. How would you present your thoughts to them? What word choices would you make and where would you insert slang, if at all?
Blog writing should generally be more casual, but that all depends on the topic at large and the audience that’s listening. Your best bet is to check out trending blogs that are comparable to yours. It may give you some insight into how your target audience wants to be addressed. Once you’ve done your research, adjust your tone accordingly but make sure to keep your voice your own.
2. Promote Your Posts
If a piece gets posted in cyber space and no one’s around to read it, does it make a difference? You can put up story after story without missing a beat but all of that work will go unnoticed if you don’t promote yourself. And there’s a completely acceptable way to go about it without truly bothering anyone.
- Use elegant propaganda. Include a little written hype (your headline, a brief excerpt or a one line synopsis) with a direct link to the post.
- Include an image when you can. Something that reflects the topic of your piece.
- Anytime you publish an article online, make your rounds.
- Tell your dearest friends and colleagues about the post in hopes that they’ll share it. Never guilt-trip. Unless, of course, you’re the boss.
- If your website doesn’t publish new material every day, there’s nothing wrong with sharing the link across the same platforms again the next day. Recycle the link, jazz up the vernacular.
3. Be a Gem
In this field, readers come first. Be that blogger that curates their material around what their readers are interested in. This doesn’t mean you have to sell your soul. Most people want the same thing: helpful advice and interesting information.
- Brainstorm blogging trends to see what’s being covered – and then fill in the gaps. For example, we wrote a post on video marketing recently and while researching the topic, we noticed how seldom anyone touched on the cons. So what did we do? We focused on an alternative view and made a rather well-rounded and unique article that way.
- Offer up secrets of the trade. Little lessons you’ve learned along the way. Readers will appreciate your insight and may even thank you in a comment.
- Be helpful and give guidance. Let your writing show readers that you’re here for them. Touching on topics that can truly benefit the reader (and not just your own agenda) will, as they say, give you ‘major street cred’.
4. Always Answer Questions
You offered guidance and information to your audience, but that isn’t where it ends. As you get more attention, your communication with readers is bound to increase.
- Respond quickly to all questions and inquiries.
- Be kind to your audience. Even if a question or comment is negative. Remaining calm and responsive will make people respect you.
- Be knowledgeable in your responses. If you don’t know the answer to a question, do some research and point that person in the right direction. They’ll love you for it.
5. Be a Presenter
When you’re typing up a post, imagine that you’re teaching a class or giving a presentation. You don’t want to stand in front of a crowd, reciting dense text without pause – because that’s boring. Pose questions, offer ideas, and break up blocks of copy with pleasing images. And ask yourself this: how would YOU want to be engaged?
6. Consider Chapters
Let’s say you’ve got a great topic you want to write about. Let’s also say that this topic is quite dense and has many layers (i.e. How to Write a Blog, for example). You won’t want to overwhelm your readers by tackling such a subject all in one blog post. Consider turning your thesis into a blog series; each post holding another piece of the puzzle, leading to a well-rounded, completely thorough learning experience for the reader.
- Don’t release it all at once, of course. Posting each chapter on separate days, gives the reader a reason to come back.
- Though this technique may annoy those viewers that crave instant satisfaction, it’s worth the risk.
- Unless you’re a big site like MarketingProfs, your posts aren’t likely to be read and shared right at the time of publication. So most people will have the pleasure of piecing together your entire story in one sitting.
7. Connect Your Posts
Think of interlinking through the mind of a salesman. If you’re selling a customer on a nice juicer, what would be the harm in mentioning that you also sell melon ballers and cherry pitters? Both are gadgets in the same family, both could make you an additional profit, and you’re likely to gain a deeper rapport with the customer from doing so. When you interlink posts, you not only make it easy for search engines to spot you but you also give the reader another reason to stick around. As long as you don’t go hogwild and clutter your post with links to other posts of yours, you’re on the right track to getting a following.
8. Don’t Offer Distractions
Attention spans are constantly fluttering and it’s rare that they sit still for long. Only ever add links to your post that are resourceful and beneficial to the article. And when publishing the post, always remember to have each external link open in a new tab. Your readers don’t need to be lured down another website’s rabbit hole just yet.
You may want to also consider plotting a list of references at the end of the piece. Those links are like your article’s little index, so why not put it at the back of the book?
9. Leave a Trail to Your Media
If readers do stray from your page, let’s hope it’s to one of your social networks. When people like what they’ve found, they turn into their own detective. With magnifying glass in hand, they begin the search to see what else you’ve written and all other ways they can follow you. Be prepared for such sleuthing by already having those buttons in place.
10. Know the Difference Between Follow and Share
Hopefully you’re already familiar with social media buttons; those little icons you see in clusters on most websites and articles. These clickable studs offer the readers the quick option to either share your information or follow you on a chosen network. Both of these are helpful in different ways.
- Social Media Share Buttons let your visitors share your content through their own social connections and networks.
- Whereas, when visitors click on your Social Media Follow Buttons it means they’re a fan of yours and want to keep an eye on what you’re doing or creating in the future.
You should definitely have both forms of buttons on your site. Unless, of course you created your blog on accident and aren’t interested in attention…
11. Create Eye-catching Headlines
A headline is the first (and sometimes only) impression you get to make on a potential visitor. Grab their attention by coming up with something originally striking but that also sells the story. Find the most intriguing factors within your story and use them to create an effective headline.
- Numbers and lists work well. Just look at the title of this post!
- “Best”, “quickest” and “greatest” or descriptors of that degree can surely pull people in with their grandeur.
- Always include your keyword in the title. It keeps Google happy and viewers will know what they’re getting into.
12. Judge the Book by Its Cover
And the blog by its website… Everyone’s drawn to beautiful things. Don’t try to deny it. Whether you like it or not, your blog’s appearance is the first thing people see and people these days can really judge… But in all seriousness, if your website and blog are your creations then you should be proud of them. Don’t put up any old website template just because it’s free or you’re itching to get out there. The internet will still be there tomorrow, so relax. Would you speak in front of a room of strangers dressed in whatever FREE thing you could find? We certainly hope not. Take design seriously and readers will do the same for you:
- Start simple with a design that is modern and clean.
- Use relevant, attractive images. Don’t just grab whatever you can find on the internet.
- Refrain from watermarks. Images that have an obvious watermark splashed across them look tacky. And it’s distracting from the image itself.
- Color scheme is important. Make sure your font stands out enough from the background it’s on. Don’t use tiny patterns that could cause headaches. Avoid colors that are too dark and depressing or too bright and blinding (AKA No neon).
- Represent your objective. What is your blog’s purpose? Your website’s design and presence should reflect that answer.
Now you know how to use design, promotion, and a bit of backend tinkering to captivate and conserve a long-lasting kinship with your audience. After that, all you have left to focus on is the caliber of your content. So what are you waiting for? Get creative!
A version of this article was published as Your 12 Step Plan to Long Lasting User Engagement by Andrea Cochran on March 18th, 2015.