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How to Create a Sense of Anticipation on Your Blog

AnticipationYesterday I shared a theory – that creating a sense of anticipation on a blog is an important element in getting people to subscribe to it.

My logic is that people subscribe to blogs that they think will enhance their lives in some way in the future.

Many bloggers create a sense of anticipation on a blog quite instinctively – but there are numerous things that you can do quite intentionally to create anticipation and increase the chances of someone subscribing.

So how do you convince people that something that you’re yet to create is worth signing up for?

Today I want to share one effective strategy for building anticipation on a blog with some practical ideas on how to implement it. Like yesterday’s post – it’s not rocket science – but it is something that has worked for me.

Highlight Current and Past Quality Content

Probably the most convincing argument to a reader that you’ll write something that they can’t live without in the future is to have already written something that they have connected with.

Your current and past posts are your most effective advertisements for a continued relationship to those arriving on your blog.

As a result – one of the most effective strategies for creating anticipation on a blog is to put your best content in front of those visiting your blog – show them what you can do and let the quality of that work speak for itself.

Think back to to blogs that you’ve subscribed to lately – if you’re anything like me you’ve subscribed in most cases as a result of reading a post you thought was helpful, interesting, entertaining… etc

Most of us click the RSS feed icon or subscribe link based upon the quality of what we already read in the hope of seeing more of it.

So what’s the lesson here?

Actually there are two lessons – one is obvious and the other many fail to do.

1. The obvious one is to write great content and to do it regularly – its got to be your number 1 priority as a blogger.

2. The less obvious one is to put your best content into the view of those who are yet to subscribe to your blog – particularly first time visitors (who are crucial to target if your objective is to build the number of subscribers to your blog). Let me share a few ways you can do this.

How to Highlight Your Best Content

There are numerous ways to highlight your best content so and in doing so give people reason to subscribe to your feed.

DPS Sneeze1. Sneeze Pages – Perhaps the most useful technique that I can show you is to creating Sneeze Pages on your blog. I’ve recently done this on Digital Photography School. Look at the ‘Digital Photography Tips’ section in my sidebar (pictured left) – these links point to ‘sneeze pages’ that highlight my best and most popular content.

In having these sneeze pages I not only increase my page views – but I show new readers to my blog just how much I’ve already covered and hopefully increase the sense of authority and credibility that I have.

The subscription rate from users hitting these sneeze pages is extremely high (note – I have prominent ways to subscribe on these sneeze pages and the pages that they link to).

2. ‘Best of’ Sections – Another is to create sections in your sidebar or front page that highlight your best work. One example of this is the ‘Best of ProBlogger’ section on my front page of this blog. This section is ‘hot’ – quite literally. Check out this heat map (taken a few months back using the CrazyEgg tool) of this section to see how many people click on it.

Heat  Map

The benefits of this are numerous – but ultimately it’s about driving people to previously written quality content. My observations are that it’s these popular pages where many subscribers to my blog come from.

3. Landing Pages – Another strategy is to use a plugin like Landing Sites to sense when a reader is arriving on your blog for the first time and showing them other posts you’ve written on the topic they are searching for.

This works well – particularly if you have a large archive – because someone arriving on your blog not only sees one post on the topic that they’re looking for but numerous (increasing the perception that you’re a comprehensive source of information on that topic).

4. Interlink Posts – You should be regularly linking to your previous best quality posts in new posts. In doing this you constantly drive people to the pages where they see writing of a quality that is likely to convince them that you know what you’re talking about. The more pages that they view that they find useful the more chance of them subscribing.

But Wait There’s More

The key to the above four techniques is to send new readers to your highest quality and most helpful posts and then to present them with opportunity to subscribe on these posts (update: here’s my post with more tips on how to build anticipation on your blog).

However this highlighting content isn’t enough on it’s own.

It will definitely work to some degree but there are numerous other ways to create anticipation on a blog and to these I’ll be turning my attention tomorrow.

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. Blogging Mix says:

    Darren, I have a problem with the best content. When you said “your best content”, what exactly do you mean? Are we talking about the most viewed post, the most commented, the ones you find most useful to your readers or the ones that drives the most traffic from search engines?

    I’m using worpress plugins to highlight my post (most commented, most popular and the most recent).

    Cheers!

  2. Great points you made but the one question that still remains for me is how do I know what is the BEST quality posts I have created. Do you highlight the ones you had the most comments on, the one you feel was well written, etc? Thank you for all the helpful information that you provide.

    Mad Mike Media

  3. Dan Cole says:

    How can we know what are the best posts are? I’ve written great posts, but they flopped. Then other times I just hit my head on the keyboard a couple of times and hit submit… then got 10 times the traffic and comments. Their are plug-ins to judge which posts are best, but you have to rate it on views, comments, trackbacks… this can be a little trick and their seams to be only wrong answers.

  4. I typically put my most viewed content prominently on my web site. I use a WordPress plugin right now to help me to determine what is the most viewed (although it isn’t working perfectly right now) so it is a little easier for me to manage.

    You could always look at your statistics over the past few months or year and see which articles were the most popular and just list them out if you had to temporarily though.

  5. Ahhh! Talk about anticipation. Well, when you actually mentioned this whole thing yesterday, I actually ‘anticipated’ a different twist to the today’s article.

    But nevertheless… Great Tips! Adding something to that, maybe you could also

    1. Have a good convincing phrase next to the traditional RSS feed button in the sidebar, speaking out loud about the prospective subscriber’s privileges in subscribing.

    2. Have a similar phrase at the end of every post in your blog, asking the reader to anticipate similar content in the future and to subscribe.

    Well, just a few ideas off the top of my head, those are.

  6. simon says:

    i like to highlight my best posts though plugins, and related posts and will regularly link to quality posts within an article…

  7. Darren:

    Very useful information and as you stated really obvious but sometimes the obvious is jsut starring us in the face.

    I love the article with the real life examples.

    Like the old adage or my old memory

    tell ‘em what your going to tell em
    Tell ‘em
    Tell ‘em what you told ‘em and now
    Show ‘em what you told ‘em

    Your new member item is what I actually encounter when I visit a blog for the first time. I do I quickly find some other useful info to read and therefore decide to make this a RRS feed.

    Thanks again

    Niels Henriksen

  8. Hi Darrin…I think your “best of” section is the best way to attract new subscribers. Best is my opinion is most commented on. Thanks!

  9. Laura says:

    Another way you can highlight related topics on your blog is to use Lijit as your search function (at http://www.lijit.com).

    It has a couple of neat features such as if you search on you blog using Lijit or you use a search to get to the blog, it also shows related posts in the sidebar (if that’s where you put the search widget). At first I didn’t think more about it than just having a search feature but this extension has driven up my page views per visit.

    They are currently tuning up their search feature so that it picks up archives correctly (still working on mine) but I believe they’ll work that through very shortly.

    (BTW, I have nothing to do with Lijit, just a user)

  10. Hi Darren,

    Another great post. im not sure if your aware but the link to your sneeze page in number 1. goes to a 404, page not found error.

    Keep up the great work
    Andy

  11. Bob Angus says:

    To me, the subscription decision is a more emotional one, just like what hooks us to watch certain TV shows. Something makes me watch Law & Order (and the reruns) everytime. And any Lost fanatics know that there is something visceral that keeps you tuned in every week.

    For blogging, I think that the regularity of the posts, the consistent style of the posts, and ultimately the value must all combine to match what readers want. Just like the TV programming you love. Maybe it’s the regular weekly links post (if you don’t treat it like a breather from your regular posts).

    I like the concept of highlighting great content – most read, featured posts, related posts, internal linking, etc. You have to do those things to increase time on site as much as subs.

    Back to Darren’s point, the emotional switch you want to trigger is that the reader thinks you and your content “will enhance their lives in some way in the future.” We can learn a thing or two from TV.

  12. Catherine L says:

    Thanks Darren – this has been very useful.

    Is there a plug in you can get for the sneeze pages?

    After reading what you’ve read so far, I can see that some of my posts are far too long and could have been broken down over a few days.

  13. Lid says:

    Thanks for this Darren

    I noticed at Digital Photography School, you title your sneeze file “Digital Photography Tips”

    Do you think everyone should rename sneeze files, or only in specific circumstances?

    Also, in terms of sidebar content, do you recommend sneeze files appear above latest posts and categories – probably a better way to ask this is what takes precedence in a sidebar? :)

    @ Catherine L

    There is a WordPress plugin written by Alex King called Popularity Contest. It takes into account things such as number of comments, trackbacks, views etc.

    I haven’t used it myself, but I understand it is decent. Sometimes though, it is just easier to manage your own sneeze file using a text box using the same factors, or the product Darren talks about – Crazy Egg.

  14. What a timely post. I recently wrote a Three Month Anniversary post that listed (IMO) my best posts of the last three months. The response was excellent, and one of my old posts got a lot of attention and some social bookmarking love.

    So this week I’ve been giving more thought to how I can connect readers with my older, quality content. First, I am considering a blog redesign that will give me tabbed post lists like you have here on ProBlogger. A redesign will also make my content more user friendly and easier to access.

    Well, I’ll be back tomorrow for the rest of the story…

  15. Greg says:

    This is very interesting stuff… I’d never think of it… but of course. Although I wouldn’t advise writing a post in multiple parts (more than two that is). Never worked for me…

    Greg
    http://www.internetling.com

  16. When it comes to choosing your best content, I think gut can be your guide. My most “popular” posts are the ones that are wildly off topic, but people subscribe for the informative stuff, like Marketing School. I get 15 comments on a marketing school post, compared to 35 or 40 on an everyday one. I also know that the informative stuff provides the best value for new readers, so I try to highlight both in my “Best of…”

    I think your choice of best content really depends on why your readers come to your blog. I had over 100 comments on a response to a Problogger post, but that was mostly a handful of people arguing with eachother… I certainly wouldn’t say it was one of my best. So it certainly is hard to gauge what people liked best.

    You could always have your readers vote, I guess.

  17. Today, I am celebrating my First Anniversary as a blogger. I have spent the first year focusing on writing quality content. I love the writing part. I am passionate about making a positive difference in people’s lives and making the world a better place. I write about living with purpose, being more conscious, and realizing your potential.

    What I need to focus on this next year is to build traffic.

    What are the best things for me to do to build traffic. I guess I need to go exploring on this site.

    I welcome your feedback and ideas.

    Joseph
    http://www.ExploreLifeBlog.com

  18. Julia says:

    Thanks for the great post! I always love reading your tips, and this is something that I can apply to my own blog. Also, I love how you created a sense of anticipation by not giving every tip in one post. That’s a very smart tactic that I have thought of employing in my own blog. Now that I see it works, I will.
    I’m definitely going to read tomorrow’s post and any other posts you do on this subject. It’s fascinating to see how many ways one can enthrall readers! Thanks again.
    - Julia

  19. SEO Blog says:

    I couldnt agree more, getting return visitors is the key. Anyone can get someone to try something the first time, but the second third and forth time and the tricky ones.

    Thats why these tips are so helpful, I have implemented some of them to my blogs and I get subscribers left and right because of it.

  20. One technique I used recently was to have a “starter” post (in a similar way to Darren’s on this topic yesterday) that I promised would lead to a series of posts.

    The first post was three sets of three excuses that people commonly come up with to avoid improving their health and fitness:

    http://www.theofficediet.com/2008/01/24/whats-your-excuse

    The series takes each excuse in turn, examines it, and demolishes it! I’ve created a category “Excuse-Busting” to contain the whole series.

    I’m part way through (with one in every three or four posts being an “Excuse-Busting” one and the others being one-offs) and I have definitely seen some increase in readership.

    Ali

  21. Troy says:

    When I do highlight my best posts, I usually do it by the ones that Analytics says are the most popular, while weeding out a few that I don’t think are the best representation. For example, if I had enough space in my sidebar (which I don’t right now), my best post list would be a mix of popular resource lists and tips, but not my rant about firefox or StumbleUpon.

  22. David Baron says:

    Very helpful article. I just started a blog on a hosted site/server not laong ago.

    If someone would be king enough to take a quick look and tell me if I’m on the right track, it would be great. My bacic concern is overall appearance and layout.

    http://www.thecuttingpoint.net

    Oh, and one other quick question; would it help me to comment or blog elsewhere and include a link to my site to get traffic?

    By the way; the above link is not inted to gain traffic, I just really need the opinions of the pro’s.

    Thanks, David.

  23. BW says:

    I’ve recently changed templates and incorporated a ‘most popular’ section.

    I also manual add ‘related posts’ at the moment and choose posts that I think are good.

    Now I just have to figure out why google is not loving me anymore…

  24. Darren Rowse says:

    A few of you have asked ‘what content is best content’:

    Well by ‘best’ for me I mean content that has a track record of connecting with readers either by generating page views, incoming links, comments, positive feedback.

    The key here is to put content that connects with people in front of them – so I’d say anything that has done that in the past is likely to do it again.

  25. BW says:

    Use something like google analytics or your host should have stats available for your site.

    You can see what posts / pages get the most views.

  26. Geek Riddles says:

    Great tips.

    I guess I create some anticipation intuitively on my blog by publishing a riddle, and posting the answer the next day :) .

    I’ll use some of the tips to create more anticipation – I’ll be a little more explicit on the benefits of subscribing.

    Good luck!

  27. Thank you for all the tips Darren. I personally think that the last paragraph in your post does the trick fine!
    http://electronrun.wordpress.com/

  28. I’ve been to a lot of good blogs lately and a lot of them have what you call sneeze pages or the best of links. I blog for other people but I also have a personal blog that’s quite active. I’m thinking of doing a best of links list on one side of my personal blog, actually. That should be pretty interesting. Hmm… Maybe I’ll be the clicking on it every now and then myself, too!

  29. Feed Flare says:

    Nice post series Darren, I am looking forward to tomorrows post.

  30. Keala says:

    This was still useful to me.

    My blog needs a lot of work. Do you have any suggestions?

  31. Keala says:

    Thanks for sharing. My blog needs a lot of work. Do you have any suggestions?

  32. JK Swopes says:

    Man, great advice Darren. I know you have it down to a science with the quality you produce and the repeat readers you have.

    I’ve already had you in my rss, but, will definitely be reading more, as I’m sure I can learn quite a bit from you. I hope to get your book soon as well. :)

  33. CJ says:

    Nice post! I am sure this is gonna help me to keep the visitors coming back..