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Grow Your Blog’s Readership By Targeting Readers

Who is your Primary Blog’s Target reader?

I was speaking with a blogger a couple of weeks ago via IM and he asked me the eternal question that we all seem to ask:

‘How do I find more readers for my blog?’

It’s a question I get asked a fair bit and one that I can easily reel off 10 to 20 strategies for. However on this occasion I decided to answer the question with another question and fired this one back to the blogger:

‘What type of readers do you want?’

The reason I asked the question is that after three and a half years of blogging I’m starting to realize that the eternal quest for ‘readers’ is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Don’t get me wrong – I love finding readers for my blogs, it’s fun to check the stats and see a blog has a growing readership – however if you’re blogging for money or blogging on a business blog of some kind, it is a much more fruitful exercise if you think about the type of readers you’re after and then work at going after them – rather than just going after ‘just any reader’.

Here’s a process that’s been forming in my mind on this topic that might be useful for bloggers looking to build a more targeted readership:

1. Define Your Target Reader

What type of reader do you want? You might want to answer this question in great detail by defining them in terms of age, gender, location etc – or you might be a little more general than that and target different interests or life situations of readers. For example on my Digital Photography School Blog I’ve defined my target reader as ‘digital camera owners who don’t go out of Auto Mode on their cameras’. I am targeting beginner to intermediate digicam users. This is a fairly wide target but is more narrow than some other digital photography sites who seem to be going after beginners through to Pros all on the one site.

2. Identify Where and How they Gather

In this stage you’re beginning to do some research on the type of reader that you’re after. There’s no easy way to do this except to surf the web (and sometime look offline) for the type of reader that you’re after. It makes sense really – if you want to meet someone you need to find out where they hang out. So once again – on my digital photography School Blog I’ve spent the last few months surfing through a wide variety of websites, forums and blogs looking for gathering points for my type of reader. I’ve found a few sites that I’d not seen before and have basically been lurking there – observing what they do. When you’re in this phase try to identify not only the places that your potential reader gathers but also do some analysis of:

  • What language they speak (is it technical or informal, is there jargon or lingo used)?
  • What they respond well and badly to (ie what types of content seems to whip them into a frenzy and what do they react against)?
  • What is cool to these people (are they impressed by great design or are they more interested in the latest gossip or people who write with real expertise)?
  • How do they interact (do they like leaving comments and discussion the topic or are they less interactive)?
  • What is missing (in the established gathering points for your potential readers – is there anything that is not being covered, is there something they are asking for that they are not getting)?

3. Join their Established Gathering Points

Perhaps one of the most effective ways of learning about your potential readers is to join in in their established gathering points. Don’t just set up a blog and hope that they’ll come visit it – but genuinely become a part of the communities that already exist online for your topic. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • For starters – it’s great research – You’ll not truly understand a niche until you’re participating in it. Doing so on the sites that already have the type of readers you want will give you real insight into what they respond to.
  • Secondly you’ll find potential partners – Interact in a niche long enough and you’ll begin to identify others who have similar interests to you, that think like you think and who might be worth being in relationship with as you build your own blog up. They might not join you formally as a partner but they’ll be a good sounding board and will help spread the word for you.
  • Thirdly you’ll get to know other site owners - Some people take a much more competitive approach than I do in starting up blogs on topics where others already are established. They tend to take a a search and destroy approach and to steal readers from other sites – building their own blog by seeing the demise in another. My own approach is different. In most niches there is more than enough room for a number of quality sites or blogs. Instead of tearing down your competitors – get to know them, help them make their sites better and find ways to work with them. Out of this you’ll find there are flow on effects that will improve your own ventures. Rather than having to steal readers or find ways to convince them to swap to your blog – the owners of your ‘competitors’ will often send them to you.

Please Note - I’m not talking about joining in others communities to steal their readers. That’s not really my style and I think there are some good reasons for not doing this.

4. Identify Peripheral Gathering Points

Another way to wider your readership with targeted readers is to find other sites that are not directly related to your topic that will have this type of person. For example some of the largest influxes of quality traffic that I’ve had recently to my Digital Photography School have not been from other digital photography sites but blogs that have related topics (for example technical blogs, gadget blogs, social bookmarking sites, news papers etc).

The readers that they’ve sent were perhaps not quite as targeted as those that another digital photography site might send – but in some ways they were better as they were less likely to be proficient digital camera users (remember I’m going for the beginner market). The other cool thing about these sites is that they will probably be more open to promoting your blog because it’s not a direct threat to them.

When finding these secondary sites it’s worth noting what type of things they link to. For example I recently wrote a post on how to use camera phones on my digital photography blog. While it wasn’t strictly on my topic (digital cameras) it was an effective piece as it was linked to widely from within the cellphone blogosphere (a related niche) as well as more general technology sites and it drew in many new inbound links and readers (the type of readers who are also likely to have a digital camera).

5. Provide Useful Content and Deliver it in Appropriate ways

Out of answering the above questions and research you’ll be in a much better space to launch your own blog.

  • You’ll know the type of reader you’re after
  • You’ll be writing posts that they’ll be likely to respond to
  • You’ll have relationships with some potential readers who you can do some testing with and who might help spread the word for you
  • You’ll know some other related sites – how they operate, where they’re falling short of reader expectations and who their owners are
  • You’ll have relationships with other site owners (both those who are directly on your topic and others on the edges of it) who will hopefully promote your blog.

None of this guarantees you traffic – but it puts you in a much better position than being a blogger that is aimlessly building a blog and hoping for any type of traffic you can get.

update: Just after publishing this I spotted a good post over at Rachel’s blog on a related topic – Small is Ok.

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. Wow. Darren, this is very useful and original. Thanks!

  2. Observer says:

    Original? This is common sense and have been written over and over again….

  3. Darren Rowse says:

    Sorry it wasn’t helpful for you ‘Observer’. I’m sure as a more experienced blogger you might have this type of stuff coming naturally to you but as the majority of readers of this blog are at the beginning of their journey I thought it might be helpful.

    On a side note – you might like to know that when you leave a comment on blogs that your IP address is logged – enabling bloggers to know what other comments you might have left.

    Interestingly you commented a couple of months ago that when you stopped reading problogger your earnings increased dramatically….

    But then here you are again – I find it a little bizarre that you’d continue to come back if reading this site impacted your earnings so badly.

    Of course you’ve been back numerous times since declaring you’re doing better without ProBlogger – often making similar sounding comments to the above one and using made up names (except when it suits you and you’re promoting a blog you own or when you thank me for helpful posts/links).

    Can’t work you out – one minute you’re complaining about it and the next you’re enjoying this blog….

  4. Joel says:

    Darren,

    Along similar lines regarding targeting readers, what is your opinion regarding targeting readers using various social networking sites such as Del.icio.us? I agree probably the most effective method to acquire a solid client-base would be to use your techinques above, however, how effective the above method?

  5. Darren Rowse says:

    Joel – those sorts of sites are good at sending lots of content over to your blog but to be honest the times I’ve been at the top of digg or delicious I’ve found that the level of readers that seems to stay on after the initial rush of traffic is quite small. I guess a certain % do stay on but to be honest I’d rather 100 new visitors from a blog on a similar topic to mine that 1000 or more who come once from a more general social bookmarking site who never come back.

    I guess it’s about finding readers who already have a predisposition to your topic.

  6. Darren,

    Agreed. Come to think of it, I check Del.icio.us and Reddit daily, and while I do bookmark many sites rarely do I frequent them again. I have been researching intensely about how to grow blog readership and while I can say I know what techniques are very effective I have to admit that it is quite a challenge. At least or more challenging than creating excellent content.

    Pardon me if I have not checked the other posts in ProBlogger, however, might you know of any add’l effective ad campaigns other than Adsense (and possibly Chitika). My Adsense campaign on my website (eBaySellersExchange.com and AtLeastOneDealADay.com) are fairly dismal at the moment. And, I am concerned about Adsense’s future. (The reason I say this is I found, purchased and read a book on implementing Adsense in blogs for profit. I always have this feeling however, that when a book is written on a subject of this nature, it usually means that the subject is at its peak or trending downwards.)

    Any recommendations would be great Darren.
    Joel

  7. Quais says:

    My blog has only 1/2 a post so far, so I guess I should get started with the process. thanks Darren.

  8. Helpful post. So great to be reminded of the basics and be introduced to original concepts at the same time. As someone who just swtiched over from blogger.com to my own domain name with a wordpress blog, I am definitely in the beginning stages (4 months).

    Your site has proved incredibly helpful. Thanks.

  9. D. Campbell says:

    I love this particular post! It’s been my personal opinion that new site/blog owners should primarily be using this particular method, as oppose to focusing on “SEO” in the beginning stages of their project.

  10. Jill says:

    I like this post a lot. I think it’s the straighforward way it’s presented that makes it so useful, even if it does technically contain information I’m already familiar with. There’s a difference between knowing something and getting organized to use that knowledge!

  11. Martin says:

    Nice stuff there Darren.

    I’ve been prone to do the same and initially just go for any, and as many, visitors – ie: quantity over quality. It totally defeats the purpose of picking a niche to blog about.

    I especially liked the Peripheral Gathering Points tip – going to delve into that for my blog. Tks.

    The “Small is OK” post you linked to is a good read and includes another link to a good post, and a great quote, from Seth.

  12. Larry says:

    This post is common sense to some extent, but I must admit it was something I overlooked when I started my blog 2 weeks ago. Thanks for the reminder!

  13. Liesl says:

    Darren,
    Just had to say thanks for the tips – everything is common sense when someone points it out to us :)

    My site (www.lieslnet.com) is really new – just a couple weeks old. I find it difficult to define my target reader as my site is on personal development and that is something that so many varied types of people are interested in. But I will take your advice and do some of the research that you suggest here. Thanks much.

    Liesl

  14. Bernard says:

    Hi
    Like Liesl, I have started a blog (http://www.bernard-ong.com) a couple of months back about personal development. I am also finding out about what it takes to have a successful blog. Your posts are really informative and good.

    Thanks
    Bernard

  15. Thanks for your advice, I’ve just started a blog on football/soccer a few weeks ago (http://www.soccer-tricks.blogspot.com) and I need all the help I can get to succeed. I know some of you might say it’s common sense but generally I think it’s very straight forward, informative and easy to understand by many people from all over the world. I’d like the way it is presented theoretically as it gives me some ideas on how to grow my existing blog.

    Thanks again,
    Heikal

  16. binoculars says:

    Thanks for the pointer. Although I hope it will be more details explanation.

  17. MY Hot Image says:

    Darren, i’m new to the blogging world somehow ( only 5 months of experience) but i’m learning alot from this blog

    this will help me alot when i start my own since all my experience with blogging was all the time checking others blogs to learn about the system and to test some blogging softwares and their features and know the blogging terms

    i’ll be always here learning

  18. This blog is very helpful and I thank you for your informative blogs. May I add another way to grow readership? Blog carnivals are a great way to get readers to your blogs and they are very targeted. Thanks.

    -Travis

  19. lanny heaney says:

    My blog focus on earning money in secondlife,and my Target Readeris the player of secondlife. But I DONT Identify Where and How they Gather?
    My blog: http://slmoney.blogspot.com

  20. Paulo Sidney says:

    My blog is for helping people who wish to learn or even brushing up on English Language, but I do not receive so many comments. On other hand the statistics show me a good few number of visitors I say that because I still get wet behind the ears.
    Reading your posting on my feed I’ve got a sense that I am kind of lost … and I ask myself….might I be doing the right things? Am I really on the tracks?

  21. I was thinking that you want to please the Google AdSense advertisers. The more targeted your audience is probably the more sales the AdSense advertisers will get, and they’re probably paying on a pay-per-click basis.

  22. Shine says:

    Great post, another post! Thank you so much.

    I guess sometimes we do miss the most obvious and aha! I know it! (or, I should know it!)…

    Thanks for the important tip for we can be rushing around all day, getting real busy but are actually misplacing our efforts. When come to think about it, there is a lot of research to do in order to track down the target group, not to mention building a relationship with them. Continuing with the search.

  23. Ben Gribbin says:

    Thats a very good article, thanks!

    Do other bloggers get annoyed, if you were to say, post a link to your blog, out of context?

    Thanks,

    Ben

  24. Genesis says:

    I have to say that I appreciate it when you link to older articles in new posts. With four blogs going currently, I haven´t had time to read through your archives and this is a great way to find the most relevant ones! Thanks.

  25. CatherineL says:

    Great info, and well written Darren. I’d just written a draft on being close to your competitors on here, but the info was more applicable to offline business, so I’ll link it to this post.

    I don’t understand readers who complain when you’ve written something they already know about. It’s funny, but the phrase “I know” used to often, stops people from growing to their full potential. Some reviewers on Amazon are a bit like that. I read lots of books that have some stuff in that I already know, but there’s nearly always some useful info in them that I don’t know, and that’s often worth the price of the book.

  26. Joseph Arnone says:

    Darren, I really enjoyed your article. Thank you, ONCE AGAIN! That is why “YOUR THE BOMB!” haha

    Oh, and as for the “OBSERVER” comment, sometimes when you ALREADY know something, you can still find appreciation and value in it and possibly get inspired for your own creations. Think about that instead of trying to be negative.

  27. Anne says:

    I spend quite a bit of time in the forums of other sites covering my industry (travel). The highest concentration of people interested in my topic are my potential visitors.

  28. Peregrin says:

    Darren,

    This post is informative, yet it seems a little vague and sky-level. I admit I am a novice to blogging with only a few months and under a hundred posts, but what I tend to look for in a “how to” is detail. I guess I still have a lot to learn.

  29. Original? This is common sense and have been written over and over again….

  30. gerry says:

    I am quite new to blogging and I find your information helpful.
    Keep up the good work

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Grow your blog’s readership by targeting your readers [...]

  2. [...] If you’re scouting for more blog readers, it helps if you’ll first define your target audience by age, sex, location, profile, and background. But even with these categories, you also need to get up close and learn more about their preferences and needs. In which case, market research analysis is not a requirement. According to Darren Rowse, it is much easier to browse the web, look for sites, and join forums instead. In his blog posted at problogger.net, he also said that those in real search for target readers must take note of the language they use, their response and impressions, as well as the way they interact.  You may also learn more from your competitors by reviewing their sites in search for other possibilities to explore.  Focus on what seems to be missing and attract more readers to your web blogs and sites. Friends Economy Facts Local Dating London Dating Home Improvement Online Education Archives [...]

  3. [...] written about my philosophy of finding readers for your blog many times. The first three steps in that process [...]