Do you ever wonder why some blogs are widely successful, attract a massive following, and magnetize reader comments, while other blogs resound in the sound of their own silence? I’ve been on a personal quest to understand the secrets of successful bloggers, because, face it, the more traffic your blog gets, the more influence you have and the more money making potential there is.
What I found was that the most successful bloggers posted excellent content. It didn’t even matter that they posted infrequently, or that their blog posts were magnum opuses and not the recommended short attention span 200-500 words. The moment they hit publish, readers swarmed to their site and devoured every word.
Want to be a top blogger?
Here are eight ways you can magnetize readers and encourage engagement on your blog.
One: Post Excellent Content
There are plenty of bloggers who post entries that are comprised of regurgitated information, useless conjecture, or angsty rants. By providing valuable information and including links to other useful sites, you will build trust and give users an incentive to add useful information of their own.
How do you define excellent? Excellent content is content that inspires, like Chris Guillebeau’s Art of NonConformity blog. It’s content that solves a problem, answers a complex question, or provides valuable insight, such as this well organized, thoughtful blog post on Thesis Theme versus the Genesis Framework. It’s content that has value that will stand the test of time, such as this ultimate guide to social entrepreneur funding. Or it’s controversial, which incites the participation of ardent believers representing both sides of the fence.
Two: Post Consistently
If you create scintillating content, you don’t have to post every day or even the recommended minimum of twice a week. But a one hit wonder will not keep readers coming back. If your content quality tends to vary, then by all means, try to post twice a week. I know it’s tough – having a website is like having a kid – it’s another mouth to feed. One of my favorite, moderately updated blogs is Glen Allsopp’s ViperChill, whose long, detailed, but easily scannable blog posts provide valuable insight to complex activities such as his in-depth guide to the art of buying and selling websites on Flippa.
Three: Use an Engaging Voice
Most of us learned how to write in college, and most of us were trained to write long, dry, academic research papers citing tons of trusted resources. Blogging, however, is a conversation. The blogs that receive the most interaction aren’t the stuffy, academic blogs. Rather, they’re the ones that use an authentic, interesting, and humorous voice that invite you to participate in discussion. This makes it seem like you’re a real person (you are — remember that), and makes it less intimidating for readers to speak up. Check out this woman’s rant on privacy issues with the now defunct Google Wave for inspiration. Google Wave, RIP.
Four: Post a Question
Many blog entries don’t get a response simply because they don’t invite interaction. Inviting participation can be as easy as adding a question to the end of each post. However, you can take audience participation to the next level by seeking audience engagement proactively. Hosts of the highly addictive Lifestyle Business Podcast, Dan Andrews and Ian of the Tropical MBA program are masters of audience engagement. They invite their audience to get in touch with them, ask them questions, and recommend show topics at the beginning, middle, and end of every podcast. Listeners can contact them by phone, email, comments, or Twitter. Dan and Ian answer listener questions, use feedback to develop future podcasts, and even include message sound bytes from their audience on their shows. Listeners become fans, because they know the hosts care about what they have to say and this increases participation.
Five: Make it Easy for People to Contact You
Beyond simply allowing comments, allow users to get in touch with you in other ways, such as by email, phone, Twitter, or Facebook. And, rather than burying the contact link deep into your website in the hopes that no one will actually get in touch, make communication visually prominent using attractive icons. If you are concerned about privacy, then use a contact form plugin that will route the message to your email inbox or to your CRM, if you require a plugin for WordPress lead capture instead.
Six: Interact With Your Audience
When people comment, comment back. And comment back immediately. This can be hard to do if you are busy, get a lot of emails, or, like me, have a day job on top of your blogging activities. However, people have short attention spans on the web, so the longer you wait to comment, the harder it will be to continue the dialogue. Commenting right away shows readers that you care about their feedback, and allows you to develop a relationship with your blog commenters, which has side benefits like turning them into fans who will promote your content or link back to you down the road.
Seven: Reward Commenting
Coming up with a thoughtful response takes time. You can make that time worthwhile to your commenters by using CommentLuv, a WordPress plugin that gives commenters a do-follow link back to their website and leaves behind a link to their latest post. The out of the box WordPress comments feature assigns no follow attributes to blog comment links, which is meant to discourage spam. Using Akismet with CommentLuv, you can easily manage spam, identify the good comments, and reward participation. Check out this great post on Kikolani on Reasons to Love CommentLuv.
Eight: Actively Participate in the Blog Community
Some of the top bloggers I follow say that the most effective strategy they used to build up their reader base is to read, comment, and guest post on other blogs. Read other blogs and leave relevant comments that link back to your blog or profile. Further, guest blogging or posting response entries can be a great way to both expand your audience, invite interaction and strengthen your personal online networks. As more people discover you, they will also discover, subscribe to, and participate on your blog, as well as mention you on their blogs. Giving to the blog community creates social capital -coined the Whuffie factor by community marketing maven Tara Hunt– which is the currency of the web.
By following these simple steps, you will open the floodgates to interaction and communication on your blog. Before you know it, your blog will successfully have evolved to the level of “community,” and readers will be as much a part of the experience as your writers are.