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Converting First Time Visitors to Loyal Readers

This week we’re looking at a variety of tips for helping medium sized and somewhat established blogs to grow to the next level. Yesterday we looked at building upon your strengths and successes – today I want to look at the topic of turning first time readers into loyal ones.

This issue is particularly relevant for blogs who’ve achieved a certain level of authority in search engines and who get a steady flow of traffic as a result of this ranking (although it is relevant to blogs getting traffic from any source).

It is always an exciting thing to get this first search engine traffic to a blog.

A Case Study

I recently felt this excitement on my Twitter Tips blog TwiTip which after a few months of life has seen some steady growth when it comes to traffic from search engines.

twitip-search-traffic.png

While this graph is encouraging as the owner of a relatively new blog the reality is that getting the search engine traffic is only half of the job – the REAL challenge is converting these 1000 or so daily visitors into repeat visitors. Unfortunately unless you do this second step the majority of your search engine visitors will simply never return to your blog.

This is a task that I’m setting myself for the next month and it means a shift of gears from what I’ve been focussing upon in the first few months of the life of this blog. Up until now I’ve been focusing upon building a core readership (we’ve hit around 5000 visitors a day and 5500 RSS subscribers) and building the content archives up (we’ve hit 170 posts published).

Now that the blog has achieved in those areas and the search traffic is coming in it is time to shift gears a little. I’ll continue to work on both of those tasks – but now it is time to work on ‘stickiness’ (or capturing first time visitors) a little more.

I’ve previously written a fairly extensive post on how to make a blog sticky (with 21 tips that I recommend you read) so I won’t regurgitate all of that information here…..But I did want to mention three things that I’m planning to do on TwiTip to make it more sticky:

1. Redesign

The theme that I’ve been using to this point (Thesis) has been fantastic. In fact the way it is set up is probably one of the reasons search traffic has grown relatively quickly for the blog – however in the coming month I plan to give the blog an overhaul (I’ve already engaged a designer). The main reason for this is that I’ve largely used Thesis in its default mode and want to enhance it to make it more sticky.

The redesign will include a custom logo (branding), a distinct look (differentiating it from other blog), more prominent subscription options (designed to grab attention and connect with new readers), a variety of tools to integrate it more with Twitter (increase reader interaction and connection with its primary audience – twitter users) etc.

2. Highlighting of Best Posts

One of the challenges of blogs once they have more than 100 or so posts in their archives is that it gets difficult for readers to find the ‘best’ and most ‘helpful’ content for their needs. One of the techniques that I have on my agenda for TwiTip is to develop a number of ‘sneeze pages’ that will be linked to prominently that will target new readers specifically. One such page will be a page for beginner twitter users – highlighting some starting points for them as twitter users (and linking to a number of posts for beginners). These sneeze pages are fantastic at converting first time readers into loyal readers.

3. New Subscription Methods

To this point I’ve only really offered RSS as a way to subscribe to Twitip. I will definitely include in the new design an option to subscribe via email – and I’m also considering a weekly email newsletter.

As mentioned above – there are a lot of other ways to make a blog sticky and convert readers. These three methods might be relevant for your blog – but so might some of the others covered in my how to make a blog sticky post.

What have you done to convert first time visitors to 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. At the time of reading I am actually working on a new theme for my blog. I already had a test with highlighted posts, and it does help.

    Also, if you have related posts plugin, it can also give users to move from post to post.

    From my experience very few readers actually browse the categories, most of them come from a directory to read an article/tutorial, and they just go back to the directory site.

    But having a related posts section, can really change that behavior.

  2. Thanks for this interesting post, it is great to see how you have started a blog from scratch and built it up. Right now I’m playing around with branding my site and next I really want to make my best posts easier to find.

  3. Roman says:

    To answer your question about converting first time visitors:

    I daily post the total amount of money that I have made from my website/blog. The intent is that the visitor keeps returning to see the number increase or more sadistically to see it unchanged.

    So far this has worked very well. According to awstats 82% of my visitors are return visitors.

    The website/blog has been up for only a month and a half and does not have a lot of traffic. Lots of the return visitors are probably people like my grandma and next door neighbor. But lately with the increase in traffic I am becoming convinced that other visitors are coming back to check the number.

  4. Thanks. The “how to make a blog sticky post” is really informative. Learned a lot.

  5. Thomas says:

    I find it hard to believe that Twitter, as simple as it is can actually boost traffic.

  6. ITrush says:

    This is perfect, I hope this works for me.

  7. Isaac says:

    I’m running a contest on my blog right now giving away a writing book. It’s a Blogger blog (don’t judge me) so I’ve had some problems lately, but it was working like a charm to get people to comment, and then they were subscribing.

    So, I sort of had to start the contest over and now it’s working again. We’ll see.

    I like your sticky post too. Very helpful.

  8. Ravi Ahuja says:

    I am loving reading this series. The right steps for good and effective blogging.

  9. Lee Ka Hoong says:

    Great post Darren!

    In my opinion, in order to get return visitor, daily or frequent update is very important because every visitor is keen to read more from our blog. Of course, all the article and content must be unique and quality, informative and helpful too!

    I always want to look for designer to create me my own brand and own themes design, but I’m worried it’s too expensive.
    Darren, do you mind to share how much is this problogger.net themes cost? And normally how much it may cost?

    Regards,
    Lee

  10. This is very useful post for me as I started my new blog one month ago. And I’m working hard to convert my readers into subscribers.

  11. I simply make certain to proactively ask readers to share my posts should they find them valuable. It’s amazing how many people will do that if you ask nicely.

    Data points, Barbara

  12. luna says:

    @Thomas — Well, you can make posts go viral on Twitter too. It’s called Retweeting and I’d recommend reading TwitTips to learn how your blog can earn a lot of new and continued readers with Twitter.

    I once had a post, sent from Tweetburner and was retweeted 8 times. I checked the followers of them ones who retweeted and my post potentially hit over 10,000 people. That’s twitter results I like!

  13. I am thinking about a site redesign, and this post is encouraging to me to go ahead and bite the bullet and do it. I would like to encourage stickiness!

  14. Thank you so much for this information. I am in the process of revamping my site. I’m working a header and button (branding) and I have changed my theme. I am going to read up on a sneeze page so I could possibly create one. Thank you for your tips.

  15. Ryan Miller says:

    Great post, I’m definitely going to look into integrating Thesis into my page.

    As someone who has JUST started my blog on Social Media, I’m obviously struggling with visitors, but I’m trying to use my blog address like a business card – posts get linked to from my Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter and all e-mails have links to my blog.

    I’m also always looking for blog posts that relate to content I have written and where appropriate I’ll comment and put a link to the post that might be of use.

    Thanks for another great post

    @ryancmiller

  16. Mark says:

    Darren, Do you plan to use feedburner to handle your email subscriptions on TwiTip??

    I’d love to know as I’m launching a new blog soon and I’ve been looking at feedblitz vs feedburner, and right now I’m going with feedburner as it’s free and feedblitz’s site is almost impossible to navigate.

    Having said that, I noticed the Brian Clarke over at Copyblogger is using feedblitz.

    Any thoughts?

  17. Thx for the useful post. Question about your thoughts on adding a newsletter. I see people all over the map with separate sign-ups/lists for blog and newsletter; people who basically turn their newsletters a series of blog posts (annoying but convenient and maybe not too annoying); and some combination.

    I started with a newsletter aimed at clients/prospects and have gotten great feedback. My blog hasn’t gotten off the ground. I’m thinking of this as a distinction:

    Newsletter: My classroom riffs and lessons
    Blog: The teachers lounge that anyone can listen in on and join (I could post my newsletters with a label “Feb 14th newsletter”
    Twitter: Fast conversation items/links to relevant Blog entries.

    Thoughts? Suggested articles and posts on the topic?

  18. IMO, this will work on established blogs or sites but very hard to apply on new blogs. Also, some or even most readers just come and go. If they already have the information there are looking for or finished reading, they just hit “X” and thats it. And of course it also depends on your niche and other factors… ^_^

  19. These are great tips. I hired someone to do an overhaul of my design, retaining my original banner art for consistent branding but making the site easier to navigate. Having a very visible rss button and adding a subscribe via email option were also two of my main objectives.

    I love the idea of a new reader “sneeze page,” though. I’m definitely going to think about how I might incorporate one. Arriving at a blog for the first time can feel a bit like showing up to a party or conference late, where you don’t know anyone. It really helps to feel like someone’s looking out for you, and recognizing that you might feel a bit lost.

  20. Nate says:

    Is there a free version of Thesis?

    Thanks,
    Nate
    http://debtfreecollege.blogspot.com

  21. Well I would love to hear from you about the news letter and its format. Once in a week is quite ok … as your blog will be there (somewhere in their mind)

    I want to make a newsletter which one is really eye catching and comfortably read. But I want to know what content should I put on …

  22. SEO Tips says:

    I just had to laugh at your statistics instead of crying and committing suicide.

    Your blog has out done my Blog in less than 3 months by a multiple of about 50.

    Just love it…not.
    Anyways, good tips.

  23. http://twitter.com/JoshHurlock says:

    Darren,

    I am in the process of getting my blog up and running. I have been following your problogger posts and I agree with a previous poster that your tips seemed geared towards more established blogs. Nonetheless, I have filed this information away for when my blog gets rolling. I think your posts are valuable information for young entrepreneurs at under30ceo.com. Keep up the good work.

  24. Tuesday Hall says:

    Hi Darren,

    I’m always on the lookout for new ways to improve my blog, thanks for the tips! I especially like the one about hilighting the best posts. Although I think I haven’t gone as far as a hundred yet…

  25. I really liked the new look of Digital Photography school. Has that changed the stats of that blog?

    I have seen other bloggers put up sneeze pages and I go to those pages all of the time, they make me spend more time on their blogs.

  26. Amie says:

    Congrats on the success of Twitip….I am a reader and can tell you that I am looking forward to seeing the re-design.

  27. On one of my current blogs I have an obvious welcome/introduction box where I briefly mention who I am, what the site is and then provide a link to the RSS feed and my Twitter account because I want the visitor to instantly know they have ways to follow me and my content.

    Also what I do is have 3 pages that have large/obvious links to them. These pages are “Who am I?”, “What is this site?”, and “What is this site not?” This is so any visitors can easily find out quickly whether or not my site/content is right for them.

  28. After 3+ months of constant posting, I have a redesign on Marijuana Reviews in the works.

    TBH, the main thing I do to turn new traffic into return traffic is post at least 2 reveiws a day. Some days, like today I’ll post as many 8-10 reviews.

    Most reviews are original and exclusive to MR including pictures. (I post some user submitted reviews too that my users also post on forums)

    And finally I keep my comments set up so that anyone can comment. That way a first time user, that is not registered and has something to say can voice his/her opinion. Once they comment I try and answer or respond to their comment ASAP.

    Hope this helps.

    –Chubbs

  29. Kikolani says:

    I added a “What is RSS” link to my blog, that way first time visitors that may not be familiar with the benefits of subscribing via RSS can get a simple introduction. Plus I have links to my social accounts, so people can connect with me on networks I promote my site on. And I have a newly created Facebook Page that will hopefully keep my site on the top of people’s minds.

    ~ Kristi

  30. I think the key it to really make it obvious to visitors that they CAN subscribe. Reminding them that it’s an option is going to get your more subscribers!

  31. Tatjana says:

    I’m starting from scratch those days.I love reading your tips.I write myself lately more and more about blogging and make full time blogging career. Still holding full time job , but looking in near future to do blogging and create blogs for other.

    I lunch my site few days ago and getting a lots of traffic,and I hope for first reader to come through…

    Anyways, to make long story short, I would like you to give me some input, once you have time to visit my blog.

    I also include your link to my blog roll page :-)

  32. Brad says:

    Nice job with TwiTip, I use it quite a bit as I am new to Twitter and you have some great posts on there. I am using a slightly different approach to my blog and we’ll see if it pays off.

  33. Great simple tips as always,

    I have just redesigned my blog. Do you think its worth paying for premium themes?

  34. PinkSircus says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I just found your blog and it’s very interesting.

  35. dj chang says:

    Since it’s a website for twitter users, you might consider installing a twitter channel using photokit. Here is the twitter channel for probogger. http://twitter.tearn.com/2009/02/problogger.html

    Anyone can get a badge to point to their own channel. Viewers can find, view photos and videos, and chat about prologger over twitter. This invites their friends to join.

    Try it.

  36. Cyrus says:

    I think this is one of the ways to get your 1st time readers to come back for more in the future. I guess, email, RSS and Twitter are the only three I know now to info your royal readers come back to your blog.

    I agree that a redesign of the blog and the logo is very important as well. I will take note of that when I intend to change to a new theme.

    Thank you so much.

  37. Cyrus says:

    How to get your 1st time readers to come back for more in the future. I guess, email, RSS and Twitter are the only three I know now to info your royal readers come back to your blog.

    I agree that a redesign of the blog and the logo is very important as well. I will take note of that when I intend to change to a new theme.

    Thank you so much.

  38. Agent SEO says:

    I agree with all 3 options. As a blogger/designer trying to get my blog established, I need all the tips I can get.

    I’m already planning a redesign & I already have at least 2 ways to subscribe to my blog, however I wonder what I can do past that to make it even more sticky?

    Thanks for the tips…

  39. Tumblemoose says:

    Well ok then. This is me doing my homework and setting up them thar sneeze pages.

    Cheers

    George

  40. Zliggo says:

    It’s hard for me to convert first visitors to loyal visitors sinds My blogs was not interesting enough, especially the theme. I also uses thesis but did not redesign is and it look really plain.

    I guess I am gonna hire someone to redesign thesis for me.

    Thanks

  41. Actually found your site through a message you left me on Twitter – that must be one of the ways you get traffic. Great idea, but I don’t know how to send a message with the “Lynn is now following you.” Anyone have a suggestion for me?

    Very informative site! I’ve subscribed to your feed. Thank you.

  42. Katy says:

    As a not new but inexperience Twitter user, most of the time I couldn’t follow what you were posting on Twitip. I would really appreciate #2.

    I also want to know how to customize my page.

    Thanks.

  43. Thanks Darren,

    The first thing I am going to do, right now, is number 2. What a great idea.

    Elizabeth Stanfill

  44. Nick Field says:

    Some things that I’ve done to increase subscriptions:

    1.
    I’ve put two links before the fold on my site. Meaning when you get to my whistlerwatch.com a link to subscriptions can be seen twice. Once it is shown in my navigation link, beside where my about page and once in the left hand column.

    2.
    I’ve made a contest, so that anytime a reader subscribes they are in a contest to win $50 cash. I choose 1 in 100 subscribers randomly and donate $50 to them. It’s incentive, for them to join. Once they’ve joined I rarely find that they unsubscribe.

    3.
    I remind them to subscribe in some of my better posts. If there”s content that I find is really quite good, I’ll put a sentence reading: if you find this useful, you should subscribe. That seems to work.

  45. Nice post. I think you have achieved quite good in quite less time on twitip. You can do better with the tactics you plan. The design is really nice and Thesis theme is the favorite of many for SEO i guess.

  46. andy li says:

    Congratulations with those blog stats. Very impressive.

    Redesign may be a good idea; who wouldn’t want to look fresh if they know it works?

    Related posts and highlight important and past posts are always good too. Various ways to strike up old conversations and begin new ones.

    My blog has very little visitors, but I guess it’s okay. I’m still trying to find my way around the blogosphere, so patience is virtue for me for the time being.

    Thanks for the good advice everyone!

  47. blogfest says:

    Partially agree with three steps suggested.

    I have mixed views for redesign

    It is a kind of risk, specially with new blogs as visitors get annoyed by complete change in blog design.

  48. Eric Young says:

    Thanks for this interesting post & good advice!

  49. Agent 001 says:

    Getting Loyal Readers is very important. Thanks for the tips on converting first timers to loyal visitors.

  50. Belkis says:

    I think the redesign tip is very useful. People love to immediately see change and that is what keeps them coming back.