One of the most exciting things about blogging is logging into your blog after a night’s sleep to find that overnight some large site has linked to you and that you’re in the middle of a deluge of visitors. Your statistics package graph (which you check every 13 minutes) has a massive mountain in it in the middle of something that looks like a flat line. Your heart beats faster as you realize how many people are reading your content and if you’ve got Adsense ads on your site you begin to dream of the things you could buy with the income that the influx of visitors might bring – if only you could keep them coming back to your blog….
Of course this is where the problem lies – most influxes of traffic from other sites are usually pretty temporary in nature – they last as long as your link lasts at the top of the other site’s page – a few hours, a day or two perhaps at most – and then things return to normal as your new readers surf off to the next great link put on the site that had linked to you.
Does it have to be this way?
What if you could not only enjoy the influx of visitors but could also convert them to regular and loyal readers of your blog? What if each time you had an big incoming link you had the ability to captivate a percentage of your new readers in such a way that they’d keep coming back?
I’ve been pondering this topic for a couple of years now and whilst I don’t want to pretend I have all the answers (otherwise I’d have 200,000 daily visitors rather than 2,000) I’d like to share a some things that I’ve been working on lately to see if I can convert some of those one off visitors into regular readers.
One of the first things you can do with any new reader that is likely to pique their interest is to engage them in conversation. Blogs are ideal for this as most have a comments section that invites it – but you need to be willing to interact with your readers – especially new ones. The way you write posts can draw readers into conversation on many levels – ask questions, invite opinions and experiences, leave your readers room to be experts (don’t answer all the questions for yourself all at once) etc. When readers leave a comment email them or reply to the comment wherever you can. I know if there is a robust and interesting conversation happening somewhere on the web I can go back to it numerous times in a day to check for updates and every time I go back I’m a little more likely to add it to my regular daily sites that I visit.
One of the things that I love about writing a series of posts is that it creates momentum and anticipation on a blog. If your readers know you will be continuing a topic of discussion that they are interested in tomorrow they are likely to make a point of returning. I’ve found this 31 Days Project has also created a lot of anticipation in the wider blogging community and know that many of those reading ProBlogger today that were not reading it a fortnight ago have been drawn into the momentum that we’re building here.
Relationship goes beyond conversation and is perhaps why some of your most loyal and long term readers keep coming back to your blog. It takes time to build real relationships (after blogging at this domain for 11 months I feel we’re just getting to this stage) but out of it comes some amazing collaborations and partnerships. I’m not just talking about you as the blogger and your readers either – create a space where your readers can meet and interact with one another and grow friendship and you’re even more likely to retain readers. In fact the best people to recruit new regular readers to your blog are those who already are regulars. Find ways for them to evangelise on your behalf and you’ll find they are often much more effective than you’ll ever be. People want to belong to something – give them a place to hang their virtual hat and spend some time.
Ok, I’m not talking about slipping into something more comfortable – no I’m talking about making your blog a sensory experience. The web is filled with dry, uninteresting, forgettable sites that do little to spark imagination – break the mold with the look of your site a little – do something that will be remembered, something that is a little mysterious, a little fun, a little sensual. Use pictures, spaces, colors – anything you can. One of my favorite books is Lovemarks (affiliate link) which talks (in part) about how marketers engage the senses in their efforts to make us buy products and services these days. Get yourself a copy of that book and read it – I’ve found it incredibly helpful.
Generate Mystery and Intrigue
– This is similar to what I’ve written about being ‘sensual’ in that it comes from Lovemarks also which talks about how a lot of marketing messages these days have a sense of mystery about them. This might include the way you design your blog but could also include the way you write and engage readers on a heart level. Here’s a quote from the book that I love – ‘Mystery opens up emotions. Mystery adds to the complexity of relationships and experiences. It lies in the stories, metaphors and iconic characters that give a relationship texture.’ Some of my favorite blogs use story, pictures, anonymity and symbols in ways that keep drawing me back for more.
Get readers active in your blog. Invite contributions, involve a guest blogger, start a project of some sort. People like to feel like they are a part of making something better or achieving something so give them space to do that.
I’ve been writing in the past couple of days about how email newsletters can help you in your blogging – perhaps the best thing that I’ve found about them is that they are great for turning one off visitors into regular readers. I suspect that many blog readers intend to come back to blogs that they find helpful but that in the busyness of life that they just forget. Get permission to remind them.
Yes you might ‘own’ your blog on one level – but the sooner you realize that your blog is nothing without it’s readership and actually hand over some of the reins in making decisions about where it’s headed to them the better. I’ve let readers make some big decisions over the years about my blogs and always find that in doing so it improves the level of participation and the quality of the blog.
What other tools, methods and strategies have you used to convert one off readers into regular readers of your blog?