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Converting One off Visitors to your Blog into Regular Readers

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.

Create Conversation

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.

Build Anticipation

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.

Foster Relationship

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.

Get Sensual

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.

Involve Others

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.

Obtain Permission

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.

Create Ownership

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?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. IO ERROR says:

    Now that’s interesting. When I stripped all the graphics off my site, two things happened: first, my ad revenues went down briefly, then rebounded and have gone well above previous levels; second, my number of regular readers went down briefly, then rebounded and have gone well above previous levels.

  2. Tonya says:

    At a time when I’ve been drifting back and forth on the revenue vs. relationship issue with my own blog, I appreciate this series. It’s possible to have both, certainly, but the line is fine (in my world anyway) and seems to be a moving target. Thanks Darren!

  3. Darren, I include hear a link to a stats graph that represent one of those big “mountains” that you talk about. After I was linked by Microsiervos (a very famous blog in spanish) my Bloglines subscribers number went from 1 (me) to 17.

    I found out that it is very hard to get subscribers if your are not linked by another blog.

    PD- The graph is part of a proyect were we measure what we call Congregation Power (Poder de Congregacion): That is the number of visitors a blog can drive to another website just by including a link in a post.

  4. oh, Darren, you are THE ONLY useful metablogger. Others, like blogherald.com etc are just useless bunch of wannabes.

    Thanks for that article,… and now back to my own “Foster Relationship” activity…

  5. I’ve been thrilled at the mountain in my graph, called “ProBlogger Mountain!” The subject of retention is directly related to quality content. When we realize that we have stumbled upon a gem, we add it to our feed reader or otherwise subscribe. A lot goes into getting that to happen, but I’d say the big two are: first impressions of the design and quality content.

  6. rento says:

    hi… im new here :D
    This is a good point…
    “most influxes of traffic from other sites are usually pretty temporary in nature”
    Thanks Darren… i enjoyed reading your post…

  7. Dave says:

    I agree with Michael, first impressions count for a lot. I was talking on my blog yesterday about the importance of naming your blog, with uncatchy names being off-putting to visitors when they see a list of blogs that they might consider visiting. The same goes with the initial design, if its unoriginal, difficult to read, or badly laid out, you won’t retain visitors.

    Content is important, but decisions about websites can be made in seconds, before any words are read.

  8. Eric says:

    Hi Darren,
    I’m new to blogging and have been experimenting with how to get people to come back. My site is focused on spiritual growth and manifestation tips.

    Here’s couple of interesting things that have happened.

    When I offered a free ebook for a newsletter subscription (which I rarely publish) I picked up 50 subscribers in about 3 weeks (approximately).

    And my non-search engine or direct promotion (like Blog Explosion) traffic went to 30-40. Steady, every day traffic. So I think it’s repeat visitors.

    At the same time I started making an effort to post at least once but as much as 2-3 times a day.

    4 days ago I switched my color scheme. It used to be greenish and increased the white space. Stanford’s web credibility study showed that if a site looked like sites they felt were credible then they thought of the site as credible.

    I have slowly but steadily picked up regular readers as a result.

    It’s a wonderful puzzle to work on.

    Thanks for all the great tips. Your RSS feed has made it much easier to keep up with your blog.

  9. Eric says:

    Sorry. Fingers and brain weren’t working together. The Stanford study was studying other people’s feelings about web sites. Not how the researchers felt about the sites.

  10. One thing I do when a big site links in is to point to the link. It let’s my readers see what others are saying, without any marketing hype.

    Another good book that deals with emotional responses to advertising is The Advertised Mind by Erik du Plessis. I think you’ll enjoy it!

  11. Gone Away says:

    Ask, and it shall be granted. I’ve posted a few more suggestions on turning visitors into regulars.

  12. Gone Away says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention: due to the way my blog is constructed, I’ve had to tack it on to the end of today’s post. Just scroll on down and you’ll get to it. ;)

  13. Thanks for those tips Darren. I have done a couple of those things, and will push on the others.

  14. yunasville says:

    I wondered why I can’t get people to comment often on my site .. After reading your post, I think I got a handle on the issue… I haven’t been proactively creating some spaces for people to comment… I always try to write a complete and informative story. I rarely ask questions in my post or inviting opinions. On the other hand, i was also afraid that if I do, the “Comments(0)” would rather be embarrassing…

  15. Darren — Great points as usual. I’ve been most successful with writing like I’m speaking to one person and inviting others to comment. It really adds value to the quality of the post. I truly enjoy the interaction with the people that are interested. And on my blog, they can also email questions. That option appeals to people who aren’t quite confident enough to leave their message in a public space.

  16. EmilyB says:

    This is great :)! I see that you already have an RSS feed for your site, but I’d love to see incorporation of RSS as a recommendation for getting return visitors. These days time is so tight that unless a site has a feed I can syndicate I just don’t bookmark it – I put aside time on the weekend to check RSS feeds where I can filter the content myself, but I just don’t have time to be checking a bookmarked site every few days to see if something new has been added.

    I think your ideas about interacting with the audience and having projects are great too, thanks for the post :)

  17. mark says:

    Of course!.I do the same as yunasville – I try to create complete thoughts, rather than ask questions and invite readers to comment. I have to start inviting comments.

    EmilyB – I’m the same way – I can’t keep up with sites that don’t have a feed, but don’t forget how few people still use feeds. Of course, if I practiced what I preached, I’d have an email newsletter as well as a feed on my site! Do you think that some people don’t use feeds because they can lose track of visitors?

  18. Mac says:

    I don’t have enough visitors yet to say anything from experience, but as Mark and EmilyB say, surely feeds are more important than newsletters? I got so sick of having my inbox clogged with newsletters that I had no time to read when they arrived… and once my mail is marked as read, it doesn’t get a second chance unless it demands an answer. That’s why news feeds are such a relief.

    Darren, I notice you have 2 flavours of RSS, *and* Atom feeds, all on the auto-discovery doodah. (As well as feedster etc icons.) Is there software out there that only allows certain types of feed? My poor little Blogger account only provides Atom by default, does that mean I’m losing, say, 1/3 of my visitors?

    (Fortunately I don’t think it’s possible to lose 1/3 of one person :-)

  19. Kathy says:

    I’m a bit late to this conversation but wanted to add: I have a static link on my blog that points to a post that invites questions. This effectively lets readers start new topics. If they can’t find existing posts & commentary on their topic, they just post it as a new comment in the “ask Kathy” post. Then I usually make a new topic with my reply, & we end up with a whole new discussion thread. It works really well both for new content creation & reader interactivity! :)

  20. I have a couple of extra points.

    1. Naming your posts imaginatively also goes a long way. A good caption can launch a thousand hits. ‘Catchy’ catches’em, I think.

    2. Keep your posts short and sweet. The form should suit the medium. Long posts, if not exceedingly well-written, are turn-offs.

  21. TiVo Blogger says:

    I just wanted to add that return visitors, while always good to have around, will sometimes not do much for your revenue. Return visitors tend to become accustomed to the look of your site, and they learn not to look at your ads. I’m wondering if it might pay to change the ad layout on your blog once every few weeks. Particularly if you have a large number of return visitors. If the bulk of your traffic comes from search engines, this might not be needed? Any thoughts?

  22. GMATxperts says:

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  23. Mike says:

    Great stuff. It’s always a great mindset to have returning readers than always new ones.

  24. Alan Thomas says:

    On a related subject – how do you convert one off adsense clickers to regular clickers? I have found that when I get that spike in readership I get a spike in income. Then it dies down – and while base readership is up a bit – the adsense income retuns to a trickle.

    Is it that adsense only works with first time browsers – who A. then know where the ads are placed and then look around them for the regular content or B. if you are in a small niche for content your readers soon will have seen all the ads that will be delivered to them.

    Any thoughts?

    Alan Thomas
    Rowing Science Weblog

  25. Niko Bellic says:

    Give something for free perhaps, a contest, then run another one shortly after and you’ll have people coming back to enter and see the updates.

  26. David says:

    My welcome page is full of sensual stuff and mystery so i tried making it a static front page. So it wouldn’t be hidden away among the other pages. But then I was running Bad Neighborhood to check on my links and it only looked at the static page. It ignored the rest of my blog. When i took it off it ran fine. So I think I should leave it off so the search engines can find all the posts. And the mystery had to go back into it’s page hideaway.

  27. Josh Hall says:

    Well, I’ll give it a shot. I think my site might be too much at once, and no real direction on where they should stick around. Mystery is a good one though. Thanks for the post full of suggestions.

  28. Deb says:

    Well I have just started blogging recently, and out of all the resources out there (including Blogger help centre), I have found this problogger site the most useful.

    Many thanks to your contributions to the community. My site is more of a rare niche – as it’s about the music industry. Not too sure how to up my readers – because i have none! haha But following the advice (& given that it’s only been a few days), that might change soon. Best of luck!

  29. Ryan McLean says:

    I struggle to get readers to sign up for my feed. After 5 months I have between 0-9 readers. Its so frustrating

  30. Oh no, I have so much to do still. I share Ryan McLean’s concern… so few readers. :(

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  2. [...] ProBlogger writes today about some useful tips to turn your visitors into regular readers, which is of course the goal of every blogger. Create Conversation Build Anticipation Foster Relationship Get Sensual Generate Mystery and Intrigue Involve Others Obtain Permission Create Ownership [...]

  3. Mas sobre como mantener tus lectores e inclusive iniciar tu propio blog

    Converting One off Visitors to your Blog into Regular Readers:
    y si eso no es suficiente vaya y lea lo que  Steve Bass
    tiene que cedir y conste que es columnista de PCWorld!

  4. [...] Day Five of ProBlogger’s 31 Days to Building a Better Blog has several suggestions on how to convert one-off visitors to your site into regular readers. [...]

  5. [...] Over at ProBlogger, Darren Rowse has posted an article entitled Converting One Off Visitors into Regular Readers. It’s excellent and should hold the attention of any blogger. [...]

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