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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.

Analyzing Successful Sites SEO

Ross Dunn has a good article on Demystifying Your Competitor’s Ranking Success which gives you some hints to analyzing other blogs and websites in your niche – particularly those who rank well in search engines. He uses a hypothetical example as he outlines the areas to analyze.

It gives you a number of suggestions on what you can look at in terms of how they are ranking highly. Of course in doing so Ross runs you through some of the basics of SEO.

found via Andy Wibbels

Matt Cutts Google SEO Videos

If you want to learn more about how to rank well in Google and you want it straight from the horse’s Google employee’s mouth you might like like to check out some videos that Matt Cutts has recorded and posted in the last few days. At the time of posting this he’s recorded 6 on a variety of SEO questions. You can see the first 3 here and the second 3 here.

NB: I’m yet to watch them but will do so tomorrow afternoon. I’ve been doing a little lecturing at a local university the last couple of days and the sessions finish up tomorrow (it’s been fun but I’m looking forward to attempting to get life back to normal).

The Problem of Default About Pages

One of the common problems that I find being made on many WordPress Blogs is the default ‘About Page’ being unchanged.

You’ve probably seen them as you’ve surfed around – you click on the ‘About’ link in the blog’s template and are taken to a page that says something like this:

“This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.”

Do a search for the first few words of this message and you’ll find just under 200,000 examples of what I’m talking about. Surprisingly it’s not just new blogs that have it – I’ve seen quite a few established blogs with it.

This message is the default message that WP uses when a page in a blog’s template hasn’t yet been edited. There are variations on the message but they are only meant as a message to you as the blogger and they are not meant to be left up for your reader to read.

Editing these pages is simple. In your WordPress backend/dashboard hit the ‘manage’ tab and then hit the ‘pages’ tab. In the list of pages that you see there you’ll find the page that needs changing (in this case it’s the ‘About’ page). Click the ‘edit’ link and make some changes.

On an ‘About Page’ you’ll obviously want to share some information about you and/or your blog. For some tips on what to put on about pages you might like to read two previously written posts on the topic here and hear.

Alternatively – if you don’t want and About Page (while it can add a lot to your blog it’s not compulsory) find it in your blog’s template and delete it. All you do by having the default one is frustrate your readers. There’s nothing more of a turn off for a blog that doesn’t go to the effort of making sure all it’s menu items lead to useful information.

AdSense on Google Page Creator

It’s been coming for a while now but today it was made official – you can now put AdSense on Google Page Creator pages.

I got a bad feeling that this could be a spammers paradise!

Introduction to Desktop Blog Editors

LifeHacker ran a reader poll last week on what desktop blog editors bloggers are using. The results showed that just over 60% don’t use any. It was a close race after that with Performancing’s Firefox extension winning out with 11.7% and w.bloggar coming in second at 10.2%. Ecto, Qumana (I reviewed an early version of Qumana here) and Zoundry were the others but got only between 8.4% and 3.2%.

As a followup post Lifehacker has done a little introductory comparison between the editors and includes BlogJet and Flock’s blog editor in the wrap up.

Another one that I know some people use is Thingamablog (although it’s been a while since they updated). There’s also Blog Desk, Post2Blog and Mars Edit. There are others – feel free to let us know what you use in comments below).

Do you use a blog editing tool outside of your blog’s platform?

Why would you use a Blog Desktop Editor?

Here’s why I use ecto (for Mac) and can’t imagine blogging without it (the reasons I mention here would be similar to why most bloggers use different editors):

  • One Click Blogging – most blog editors have a way of publishing to your blog with one or two clicks from your browser. Ecto for instance has a bookmarklet that allows me to highlight text on a web page, click the bookmarklet and have what I’ve highlighted come up as a quote with a link back to the page. I can format how the quote and link looks as a default – add my own comments and then post publish.
  • Manage Multiple Blogs from One Point - at one point (a year back) I was blogging on up to 20 blogs each week. Many blog editors allow you to set them up to blog to them all without having to log into the back end of the blogs. It will also allow you to have multiple blogs on multiple platforms, so if you have TypePad, WordPress and Movable Type blogs you can edit them all from one spot. This speeds up your blogging. Many editors will let you set each blog up differently with it’s own defaults and settings.
  • Image Management – drag and drop images into the editor, resize them like you would a Word document, rename them, create thumbnails etc. While many blog platforms now allow this from within them I find editors slightly more functional.
  • WYSIWYG – again, blog platforms are headed in this direction but I find they they can be a little buggy in this mode. Of course you can always go into HTML mode also if you’d prefer to edit your posts that way.
  • Offline Blogging – one thing I especially love about using ecto is that I can head to my local cafe (where there’s no WiFi) and blog away to my hearts content in ecto. Then when I come home or hit a WiFi area I can simply publish my posts. Previously I had to type things up in a text file, copy them across, format them and then publish.
  • Backed Up Content – another reason I like to have a desktop editor is that it means I have a copy of my posts on my desktop for easy reference or backup purposes. I’ve never needed it as a backup but regularly look in ecto for old posts rather than search for them on my actual blog. ecto has a ‘search’ feature that will scan old posts if you’re looking for a word or phrase – very handy to see what you’ve previously written or if you’re on the road speaking somewhere and want to use an old post in your presentation
  • Spell Check – again, it’s built in to many blog platforms but having an as you go spell check is very handy – especially for me who is spilling challinged. If it could only do grammar too!!!
  • Integration – I can’t speak for other editors but ecto integrates with delicious, has tagging of entries built in, automatically pings different services and has a range of other automated features that make blogging a breeze.

Each editor will have it’s own feature set but in all I find desktop blogging editors to be an essential part of my daily blogging rhythm. They are especially useful for busy bloggers or bloggers who are managing multiple blogs.

Do you use an editor? Which one? Why? What features would you like to see in your ‘dream desktop blog editor?’

31 Days to Building a Better Blog – Revisited

200607310918-1Welcome to August.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to walk back down memory lane to what was happening on this blog a year ago today.

August 2005 was a special month at ProBlogger as I launched my first month long series with these words:

“Starting Monday I’m going to turn up the ‘Blog Tips’ volume to 11 and am going to attempt to vomit onto you everything I know about how to make your blog better.”

The month was a pretty amazing experience. I wrote my little heart out and also received a lot of submissions from readers to be included in the project.

Over the course of the month I covered a lot of ground including:

All in all I wrote 47 tips over the month and readers submitted 169 tips. You can see the complete collection of links to all 216 tips at:

31 Days to Building a Better Blog

I thought I’d post a link back to this project for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it was so much work and I often look back at it and feel sad that it just languishes away in archives.

Secondly, I’m proud of it. While the series almost killed me I had a very satisfied feeling by the end as I looked back at what we’d done together. It must be one of the most comprehensive collections of blog tips and tutorials on the web.

Thirdly, since last August the readership of ProBlogger has doubled and I know that many of you were not around when the series took place. Most of what was written last August is still relevant for bloggers today – hopefully in linking back to it readers will find a few undiscovered gems.

Enjoy