Secrets of Increasing Blog Readership
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All bloggers want to learn how to get and grow blog readership. They want tens of thousands of blog visitors. This Plan Step is very specific about how to do that. Everything you have done in other steps has set the stage for this essential step. That means you have already:
- Decided on a blog topic
- Purchased your domain name
- Secured a hosting service
- Created your WordPress blogging platform
- Planned your next 30-to-90 days of blog topics
- Written your first 12-15 blog posts and uploaded them so your first visitors have something to read and reason to return
Now, you must focus on attracting visitors.
So, how do you get them? Well, it depends. If you saw the movie, “Field of Dreams,” then you probably believe that “If I build, they will come.”
Well, they won’t come just because you created a blog. Your blog is invisible. If you want site visitors (traffic), you must take action, and take it often, to build a following.
There are many things you can do to get visitors, so let’s look at that now.
The Secret of Long-Term Relationship Marketing
Here is a secret that most bloggers don’t understand and is why they fail.
What is the secret? It is this: “All marketing is relationship marketing.” To build a blog audience, you must build relationships. You don’t have the time or money to tell everyone about your blog. You can only tell a few and do that in a way that those people will tell others. You want to trigger a chain reaction of “word-of-mouth.”
To build traffic, your first question is not, “What can I do?” It is, “Who do I know?” You may start with ten relatives and ten friends, but if you can get each of them to tell 20 of their friends and relatives about your site, then you’ll have up to 400 visitors overnight. If your blog content offers something of value, that may jump to 8,000 in the next round of sharing, and 160,000 in the following round. Of course, not all will share so you’re unlikely to get that kind of immediate traffic. But it does happen. This kind of spontaneous sharing is why things “go viral.”
The key idea form relationships with those who will share your blog with people they know.
Part of the genius of the Internet is that it facilitates this kind of chain reaction. Your computer is connected to a network, and it’s your job to use the network already in place to network your own ideas, products, and services or those of people you promote.
How to Expand Your Relationships
One of the best ways to get fresh people in your network is to open a free Quora account. People ask questions on that site and you can answer them. You establish yourself as an authority when you answer questions on the topic of your blog. In your Quora description, which appears at the top of every answer you give, you can give your credentials, including that you have a blog on the topic. You can even link to your relevant blog posts in answers you supply, but be careful to follow all the Quora rules and don’t be a spammer.
What is the downside of Quora? It can become a horrible time-waster. My advice is to stick to your blog topic, and answer questions about it, and not go off chasing rabbits. Keep your focus.
Another option is Medium.com. You can open a free account and read and write articles. This has the same downside as Quora in terms of being a sinkhole that will suck away your time. It has the added negative of being a pay-to-play site. You can write for free, but your posts get wider exposure if you pay $5/per month.
I suggest you use the free option, but with a twist. Cut and paste your original blog post hook and maybe your first point, then add a link that says “Click to continue reading.” That link takes readers to your original blog post. You get traffic from Medium that way without squandering your precious time writing posts that appear only on Medium. Medium allows this as of this writing, but you always want to check the terms of service on sites like this.
A third suggestion is to paste your complete blog post on your free LinkedIn account. Linkedin is all about building relationships anyway, so adding blog posts just enhances that. Don’t worry about the duplicate content–that will not hurt you Google SEO. However, you do want to devise a way to drive your LinkedIn readers to your blog. The entire point is to build relationships connected to your blog, and LinkedIn is just a means to that end.
When you are able to add your name, blog name, and a link to your blog, you can expand your relationships. Be sure you have a subscription list in place, with a nice inducement to sign up, so you can continue to build the relationships you start in this way. Relationships require ongoing communication to exist.
How to Leverage the Relationships of Others
You can and should piggyback on the relationships of others. No, you don’t want to use and abuse other bloggers, but try to find ways to work together in mutually advantageous ways. Boggers benefit when they cross-pollinate their audiences.
The best way to do this is to do a guest post. Write a unique post on your blog topic, one tailored for the blog where your guest post will appear and offer it to the blog owner. Offer your post in a polite way, and if they use it, you’ll get fresh visitors because they will see you are an authority on the topic. Part of the deal is that you get a link back to your site. Not all bloggers will accept your offer of a guest post by you, but some will.
Podcasting offers another way you can leverage the relationships of others. Your job is to identify the podcasts on the topic of your blog. Then, pitch your idea for an interview with the podcast host. Offer then something unique and insightful. You don’t need to be an expert on your entire blog topic, just have some depth the idea you pitch. You’ll engage an entirely new network of blog followers when you appear on podcasts in your niche when you leverage the relationships of others in this way.
Another great way to leverage the relationships of others is to offer a contest or giveaway. It can be as simple as the prize going to a randomly selected person who signs up for your newsletter each month, or something more complex like having people submit writing or images to you, or by reposting to a special hashtag you create.
The key to successful contests or giveaways is to keep them simple. Establish and publish rules. Have a prize people will want to win. Make sure it lasts at least a month so you can maximize your exposure. You MUST promote it. Then, of course, have fun with it.
The point is to use the contest or giveaway to expand your relationships.
Power-Up Social Media to Build Relationships
Most bloggers use social media all wrong. Yes, you should have a least a Facebook page and Twitter account, and perhaps Instagram. Don’t try to have a presence on all the social media outlets available. Select just 2-3 of your social media favorites.
In each case, you want to establish new accounts so you can promote your blog. Don’t use your personal accounts because you are looking for relationships that have a different foundation. You may invite a few friends from your personal account to your blog account, but that’s your choice.
Know Social Media Boundaries
Here are some social media principles that you’ll find helpful:
- Think of social media as relationship marketing on steroids.
- You are not trying to build a huge following but to develop an audience of the people that are a good fit for your blog niche.
- You want to “broadcast and interact,” but you must set time limits. An hour per day is usually enough. It’s counter-productive to become addicted to social media.
There is a Prime Directive about social media. That is, NEVER use your blog to drive visitors to social media. ALWAYS use social media to drive traffic to your blog.
In my case, I have automated some of my blogs where I use Facebook and Twitter. Whenever a new post appears on those blogs, an excerpt automatically appears on both my accounts for that blog. Every week, I make an effort to go to each account and interact with people. Also, I look for new contacts who show an interest in my blog topic and engage them.
Those are my boundaries. You need to decide what’s best for you in your case. Always remember, however, that the relationships you build are more important than some abstract number, like the “Likes” you have.
If you have a Facebook “Like” button on your blog, people go to your Facebook page. Other than offering social proof, that’s a dead-end street. It provides you little or no readership-building benefits. You want a “Share” button. That way, your blog visitors share a post they like on their page and all their friends see it. That process of multiplication is what builds your readership.
This is the principle that most bloggers miss. They think lots of “Likes” make them famous. They fail to see that ALL their social media efforts should support good old-fashioned “word-of-mouth.” That means your ultimate goal is not to reach people on a one-to-one basis. It is to trigger one-to-many relationships. Those relations should drive people to your blog, not to your various social media accounts.
The top image shows why a “Like” is a dead-end street. Even when you have many Likes, it is a one-to-one relationship. On the other hand, “Share” triggers a chain reaction, and that’s how you get new blog visitors. It’s also how content goes viral.
When people “Share” your blog post on their own social media page, all their friends see it, visit your site, and share it with their network. That is modern “Word-of-mouth” in action.
The same is true with Twitter and other social media. It may be nice to have 10,000 “Likes,” but getting them by sign-ups from your own blog is counter-productive. You want to build blog traffic by getting your social media followers to share your content with their own followers. Your followers must Tweet about your post (Retweet) to all their followers to get a chain reaction “word-of-mouth” effect going. That’s how you build a readership.
Use social media wisely. Allocate time each week to promoting your blog, so make and keep a schedule. Persist.
You’ll find that response to your social media will not be immediate. It builds over time. That’s why perseverance is essential. You must learn to continue without instant gratification. When you become frustrated, listen to “Let it Be” by the Beatles.
This is why having Google Analytics helps keep you motivated. It records your traffic, and when you can see your incremental blog traffic growth in easily-understood chart form. It is a real encouragement to see that arc edge upward over time.
Leverage Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
People find you by searching for topics that are of interest to them. Once they find you, you have the opportunity to build a relationship with them. How do they find you? Via SEO.
SEO is a set of actions you can take to improve your blog post ranking on Google and other search engines. Ranking is the position of your blog post link in search results. Most search engines work similarly, but Google is the Big Dog, so that will be our focus here.
Go to the back of a college textbook and what do you see? An index. It’s a topical listing of the contents of the book in alphabetical order. Generally, the topic is listed and related sub-topics are listed under it. If you want to find something specific and find it fast, you go to the Index, not the Table of Contents.
That’s precisely what the Google search engine is. It’s a humongous index database. However, it is not sorted in alphabetical order, of course. It is sorted by the search term that users put in the search box. The sorting is done according to a set of rules that Google imposes, and those rules are called an algorithm.
How do you feed the Google algorithm to get a higher search page ranking (SERP)? I offer seven insights about how to get Google algorithm love here. Once you get the big picture in this Step, you can view that to drill down to those specific techniques.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you wrote a blog post on a popular topic in your niche, and every time someone used your keyword search terms, your post ranked #1, the top of non-ad Google results? When people see your post at the top, they click on your link, and you can get thousands of free page views.
But getting the top spot is not easy. There is a lot of competition, and they are using SEO techniques too, so others already hold the coveted ten places that you want to capture. You want to be on that first page of Google search for particular keyword search term results whenever possible.
There’s an old joke among bloggers. It goes like this:
Question: “Where’s the best place to hide a dead body?”
Answer: “Page 2 of Google search results.”
If the keywords or phrases you have used don’t get you on the first page of Google, then your blog is practically invisible. People searching for content usually only view results on the first page. They seldom go to page 2 to see what’s there. Google may report “975,000 results in 0.44 seconds” at the top of each search results page, but that statistic is meaningless.
An Introduction to the Google Algorithm
Using keyword phrases are important because search results are “keyed” to the search request that a user inputs.
You want yo use keyword phrases that equal particular search queries that people use..
If a Google searcher types “What time of year is best to plant roses” into the search box, they are more likely to see your site in the rankings because you used the keyword phrase “The best time of year to plant roses.”
But an information seeker will not necessarily see your site. The simple truth is that Google uses hundreds of different metrics (probably far more) in their massive algorithm to measure the usefulness of your website, and that’s how they decide your page ranking on Google search.
I can’t go into all the metrics here, of course, but let me tell you what I think is an essential metric. They call it a “Quality Score.” The Google spider cannot collect data from your post and say, “Wow, this writing is good. And it covers the topic so well.” Therefore, Google uses secondary methods to determine quality. They use these methods:
- Number of visits to the page
- Length of time visitors stay on the page
- How many other sites link to that page
Those are metrics that Google is capable of collecting. When many people visit a particular page, stay to read it for a least a few minutes, and think it is so good they share a link to it on their own site or social media, then Google has reason to put that page near the top of the rankings.
SEO is necessary. You can’t afford to ignore it, even when it seems insane. But, you can overcome the worst of the insanity with minimum effort.
Climbing the Ladder
The first SEO principle is that Google doesn’t care about you or your blog. Never forget that and you can be at peace with the universe.
Google cares only about Google. When someone searches for any topic, the first entry they see are advertisements that someone paid Google to place in that spot by bidding for it using Google Adwords. Google makes about $100 billion per year off that little trick alone.
Google is making it harder to climb the ladder and get on Page 1 in Organic Search Results, which is the purpose of the SEO you do. Back in the day, Google had ads off to the side, so people doing SEO had a chance at being seen. Now, they put advertisements at the top and they add to the clutter and confusion. Do most people ignore ads? The research says yes (see above), but Google sells billions of dollars in ads, so people are reading and responding to them. Otherwise, companies would not buy them.
After all the ads, Google places People Also Ask (PAA) graphs, those accordion-style information caches. Google selects the content in them, so there is little you can consciously do to get placement there. Many searchers click on one of those topics and don’t bother to scroll further down.
And what is located further down? The Organic Search Results so many people are desperate to get. This is actually where being in the “Top 10” of Google search results actually starts, but Google has buried that prime real estate.
So, if you are a blogger, and don’t want to place an ad (you normally shouldn’t), how do you get to the top of the heap? You think like Google. You see, they’ll sell more ads if they offer what they believe to be the most useful information on that topic.
That means if you want any visibility at all, you must offer content that Google thinks is better than the other contenders.
Let me be blunt. Your blog post is nothing more than bait to hook people to click on the advertisements Google displays. If Google continually offers the best information, people will continue to use Google to search, and they will continue to click on those ads. It’s a side-effect, as far as Google is concerned, when they send you free traffic when you appear in their non-paid search results.
You Must Feed the Spider
Google is a leading technology company. They collect massive amounts of data from around the world. They can predict how you’ll spell a word and will correct it. They will give you choices about where to eat or what movie to see based on your online behavior. They’ll show you ads for products that they anticipate you may want to buy. That’s a sophisticated use of data. It’s like Big Brother is watching you.
However, when it comes to SEO, Google is as dumb as a bag of hammers. Or at least pretend to be dumb.
Google sends out what they call a “spider” periodically to index or update the index of every site on the Internet, including your individual blog posts. Yet, with all their massive technology, their spider doesn’t know what your blog post is about or what ranking to give it in the Google search engine.
To me, that’s just crazy. Google is smart enough to suggest where you should eat lunch but too dumb to know what it’s indexing.
Managing the Spider Diet
SEO is a way of managing the craziness. You “optimize” a page for high Google ranking by including keywords or key phrases in your blog content to help the Google spider understand who it should handle your content.
If your blog is about gardening, and you do a post on planting roses, you could repeatedly use the word “rose” to give the Google spider a clue about the topic of your post. But the problem is, a million people are using the keyword “rose,” so it’s useless for ranking purposes. In fact, it’s a waste of time, in my view, to use any single word as a keyword. Instead, you want to integrate keyword PHRASES.
What is a good keyword phrase to use in this case? It might be something like, “The best time of year to plant roses.” Use that in your blog post title, your headers and sub-headers, and in your text.
When you use keyword phrases like that, then the Google dumb bag of hammers take on life-like the broomsticks in Walt Disney’s Fantasia.
Don’t be guilty of “keyword stuffing.” Google warns against “repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural.”
Never place them in your post randomly, Never hash-mark keywords. Google hates that. There are many people that the importance of keywords is declining in the Google search algorithm (see below), but you still need to include them even though the Google spider is getting slowly smarter. Many SEO gurus say that your keyword phrases should not be more than 2%-4% of your total word count.
A Great Tool to Simplify Basic SEO
If you use WordPress as I recommend, you can simplify all this by using the free Yoast SEO plug-in. It’s easy to use and it gives you a fighting chance for a high search page ranking. I discuss how to use it in page optimization in detail and show some explanatory images.
In summary, you fill in some blanks with your keyword phrase and other information. The Yoast plug-in analyzes what you have input in comparison to your post content. If you get a green dot, it means your keyword phrase is adequately optimized. If not, the plug-in generates a list of the things you need to correct to get SEO optimization.
The Yoast plug-in also recognizes the SEO importance of content that is effectively written. It doesn’t identify you as a Hemingway, and it just analyzes the mechanics to make sure you are conforming to Google’s expectations. This analysis is beneficial, of course. It helps you remember that you are not writing for search engine ranking, but also for real people to whom readability is important.
Pinterest in Your Plan
One of the most exciting ways of getting the word out about your blog is Pinterest. It has become trendy in recent years, but it is still a vastly underrated way to use “Word-of-mouth”-style networking to your advantage.
One of the things that makes Pinterest a sleeper, in my opinion, is that people think of it as a place to share pretty pictures. But it is more than that. It is a potent stealth search engine.
You load images (Pins) into your account, under specific topics, and other people collect and share the images like baseball trading cards.
The incredible thing is that each picture you post is like a tiny billboard for your site. And even more astounding yet, you can link that image directly to a page on your blog. Instant traffic!
Most people add the Pinterest image they create to their corresponding blog page as well. That way, your site visitors can click on it and “Share” it on their own Pinterest accounts, much like you would share a link on Facebook. “Sharing” always enables you to get the maximum reach with minimal effort.
So, your image is like a “disguised” ad that offers an enticement and value to those who click on it. People are sharing these images among themselves, so your exposure expands. If any of your images go viral on Pinterest, then you can expect massive traffic on your blog and a corresponding explosion of income.
The Parts of Pinterest Pin
Pinterest uploads have three basic elements:
- An attractive image
- An overlay of attention-grabbing text
- A title and description about your post and a link to it
You add the title, description, and link after you have uploaded your image. Be wise about the title and other data you add. The title and description are how people find your Pins when they search, so you want to use appropriate keyword phrases.
You select keyword phrases in the way I describe in the SEO section above. However, you input your ideas into the Pinterest search box to get relevant ideas.
By the way, you can change the word “Why” to “When” and you’ll get a different set of keyword phrase ideas.
You want to use as many relevant keyword phrases as you can. But add them with some finesse. Your Pinterest title and description must be reader-friendly. Don’t be guilty of keyword stuffing.
Where Do Images Come From, Mommy?
Use free images from one of the free Public Domain sources I have provided here.
Place text over the image using a font that is reasonably large and readable. Check your contrast. You want light text on a dark background and dark text on a light background.
Think about the message of the text you add. You want to hook readers so they are motivated to click on your image and go to your post.
How do you marry the image and the text? There are many ways to do that. Some use Photoshop or a free alternative like Paint (my favorite Photoshop clone) or Gimp, Gimp works, but I sure hate the name.
Many Pin People like Canva. It’s an online solution that has many templates to get you started off right. Among the many templates are those for Pinterest. You insert one of the images they offer into a template and add your text using one of the many fonts they offer. There are enough free image components to satisfy most people, but you can pay to upgrade to even more resources.
There is some debate about the Pin size you should use. That’s because Pinterest is trying to standardize things. The ideal Pin size is 6 x 9 inches, always vertical (portrait), never horizontal (landscape). It seems that Pinterest is still allowing double-height (6 inches wide and 18 inches tall) and other legacy sizes, but they seem to be phasing them out. Best to stick to the 6 x 9 portrait format.
How many Pins should you create? A least a few dozen to start. I produce hundreds of them to start and feed the Tailwind machine.
Pinterest is a great way to drive traffic to your site. You don’t need to depend solely on Goggle search or other methods, including paid ads. When you use Pinterest properly and consistently, you can get tens of thousands of page views for your blog posts.
If that was not good enough, some sites help you systematically distribute your images. The main one is called Tailwind. It’s free to start, but if you are going to spend money on enhanced promotion, this is the place to do it.
Tailwind allows you to join “Tribes” of like-minded people, and that accelerates the wind distribution of your Pins.
Another benefit is that the Tailwind process is automated. You load 50 or 100 images, and it releases a few a day over time, so your coverage remains constant.
Yes, you should visit Pinterest for 5 or 10 minutes each day to manually pin your own Pins, or add the Pins of others to your own “boards.”
All of this may sound alien, but the process is relatively simple. You distribute your own Pins and redistribute the Pins of others. At the same time, you build a group of followers, and you follow others. Go to Pinterest if you haven’t been there before and have a look around. Be sure to type the topic of your blog in the Pinterest search box. You’ll get an exciting array of ideas.
Step 4 Action Plan
It is essential that you, as a new blogger, know that blog visitors don’t suddenly materialize. You must take action to get them to visit. You need to know and implement these secrets of increasing blog readership.
Your goal is to create a strategy where you can get the most attention for the least outlay of cash.
- Word-of-mouth is always the best form of promotion. You always want to ask yourself, “What can I do to trigger others to share my blog with their network of friends, relatives, and colleagues?”
- Use social media, but don’t depend on it. You may have a Facebook page or Twitter or Instagram account associated with your blog, and that’s good. But the essential issue is that you use them to drive traffic to your blog, not use your blog to drive traffic to your social media accounts.
- No one can afford to ignore SEO. Every blogger needs to know the basics and implement them. A WordPress plug-in like Yoast SEO simplifies the process. You can get significant traffic to your blog when you do SEO optimization for each blog post.
- Use alternate methods to trigger other people to spread the word about your blog and your blog posts when you release them. In my opinion, the best method to use at the moment is Pinterest. You can reach a large number of people with minimal effort, and that traffic source can be huge.
- Advertising gets visitors quickly, but it is costly. Even if you have a big budget, my advice is to be very careful with ads.
Sit down and draw a diagram of the methods you intend to use to get blog visitors. Rank them by your skills and interest. Then, put the amount of time you will invest in each method.
After you launch your blog, consistently invest the allocated time for 30 days. Check results by comparing the method with the traffic you get.
Spend more time on the method that gets you the best results. Keep in mind that the increase comes slowing at the beginning, so give this process at least a few months.
This is how you get blog visitors. It is a never-ending task. But it can be fun, and you can do it anywhere at times you choose. The more blog traffic you get, the higher your income when you offer ads, affiliate offers, and products and services that stimulate reader action.