Friday, May 4, 2012

Mission: Grow a Blog Readership

Whether you're trying to get noticed by magazines, publishers, or just want to banish the danged "comments" goose egg from your blog, it's all about growing an online readership. And while attracting thousands of online readers may mean actually understanding and using aggregators, SEO and web 2.0, the good news for newer bloggers is that there are easier ways to get things moving. By making the few changes listed below, I've already attracted subscribers and increased the number of daily hits to my parenting blog.

Channel Your Favorite TV Program

There's always that one show that you wait for every week. And the producers and television stations put a lot of forethought and planning into making their show THAT show for you. They consistently give you great content, and deliver it reliably on a certain day every week. After awhile, you build the show into your schedule and wake up the morning looking forward to the evening (okay, that may have to do with a certain toddler's 7pm bedtime). 

Ever get hooked on a show that played on random days, at different times, without letting you know ahead of time when it will be on? Recipe for failure, right? And yet bloggers do this all of the time. Ehem.

The successful bloggers not only post several times a week and on set days, but they tell their readers in advance about schedule changes. Some even post "repeats" during vacation or other busy times, to make sure they don't let their readers down or lose interest. 

Zero in on a Topic

I've gotten the same advice from several professional bloggers, and it involves answering two questions to focus your blog posts and find a niche that will attract a target group of dedicated readers:  
  • What do you want to get out of the blog? 
  • Why will your audience want to read it? 
I created my parenting blog to grow a readership and attract book publishers to my writing about parenting. With that in mind, I've decided to write most posts as full essays, in the style and tone I'd use to write a book. All involve the theme of getting back to your former self after having kids, and so my audience would be newer mothers with young children, who want to commiserate and share suggestions. 

If I suddenly started writing about "how to blog" or "my sister's vacation," I'd lose that focus - and my readers.

Looks Matter

Once you've determined your niche, check out the design of other top blogs in the same niche. For example, if you scan the top writing blogs (links are listed on the right), you'll notice most have a "less is more" look: simple wordpress themes with plain white backgrounds, clean black font, and possibly a touch of color. Parenting blogs have much more personality, often incorporating pale colors, cartoon graphics and "handwritten" signatures on posts.

It seems the advice for all blog types is to make sure your "subscribe" box is in a prominent place where readers can easily see (and hopefully use) it, and that you encourage readers to stick around by providing links to related posts you've written, through services like linkedwithin

If you'd like more tips for growing a blog, check out the below Related Posts and articles:

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