This guest post is by Beth Hayden of Blogging with Beth.
You wake up in a cold sweat.
You bolt upright and gasp for air.
You’ve just realized that your blog has only one true fan—and it’s your mother.Dear old mom reads all of your posts. She comments every week with supportive but embarrassing encouragement. She even calls to tell you what a great job you’re doing with your site and how much she loves your writing.
Your mom is great. She’s always there for you. But if she’s your only true fan, you’re in trouble.
Here are some reasons your mother might be your blog’s only reader.
1. Your blog doesn’t have enough tension
A woman recently came to me for help for her blog. The site detailed the life lessons she learned from her pet. I didn’t have any major complaints about her design. The writing was a little precious for me, but it wasn’t BAD. I couldn’t figure out exactly what feedback to give her on how to make her site more compelling.
Writing and creativity coach Cynthia Morris says blogs can really fall flat if they don’t have enough tension. Tension indicates there’s some central problem you’re trying to solve, some shared issue you want to work on together. Tension helps readers know they’re not in it alone—that they’re part of a team of superheroes working together to fight bad guys.
With my client’s pet psychology blog, there was no common problem holding the readers together, no psychic tension creating a line between the author and her readers. Tension creates interest. Without it, your readers won’t come back, because their curiosity won’t pull them back to your site.
Does your subject matter have enough tension? Is there enough to keep your readers coming back for more? Your mom won’t care about this, and your readers may not even be able to articulate it—but they will care. Find the tension, find your readers.
2. You’re not connected
Are you connecting with others in your field? Are you regularly reading other blogs in your niche, and commenting on their posts? Are you talking with your peers using social media tools, and making a real effort to truly connect?
Networking with other bloggers is one of the all-time best things you can do to make your blog better. Other bloggers can inspire and transform your writing and grow your audience through online and offline support. Once you start connecting, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without your online community.
Make sure you’re using your Twitter account for networking, instead of just wasting your time. (Hint: if you have to pause to consider the last time you brought in any business or made a critical business contact using Twitter, you may be wasting your time.)
Commit to making this a regular part of your blogging life, not an afterthought. Because it’s connections—both with other bloggers and with the influx of new readers you’ll get when you revamp your blog—that will assure that your mother is not the only one cheering you on from the stadium bleachers, not the only one waving a big #1 foam finger for your blogging team.
3. Your blog’s not getting enough exposure
Is your mom your only fan because she’s the only one who knows about your blog?
Your writing can be good enough to win a Pulitzer, but if you don’t have enough eyeballs seeing it, you still have to rely on Dear Old Mom for comment love. Are you truly doing everything you can to bring traffic to your site?
If you’re developing relationships with other bloggers (see #2), you can also start to approach your new friends for guest posting opportunities. Guest posting is one of the fastest ways to grow your audience and get new readers and customers. For advice on doing your research and approaching people for guest posting spots, make sure to check out Jon Morrow, the King of Guest Posting.
You can also use email marketing in conjunction with your blog, and both will benefit. Grow your list and you can grow your blog.
Make sure you’re truly doing everything you can to get more eyeballs to your posts. As your traffic grows, your fan base will, too.
4. You’re not engaging your readers
Your readers need to feel like you truly understand them and get their problems. If you’re writing about the care and feeding of guinea pigs, then make sure you know everything there is to know about guinea pig owners and their needs.
Stop talking about you. Start talking about them.
One way to start doing this is to write a post and ask your readers some questions. What’s your biggest problem with X? What are you struggling with right now? If you don’t have a ton of readers, then publicize the heck out of this post via social media, email and forums on your topic. Get as much feedback as you can.
Then make sure to use the feedback you get from that article to write more posts that answer their questions or address their frustrations. The more you can let your potential readers know you understand their needs and can truly give them answers to their biggest and most pressing questions, the more they will love you.
Inquire, get feedback, respond. A simple and powerful recipe for great content that will keep people coming back over and over again.
5. You’re not posting enough
Posting once a month is not going to get you lots and lots of readers. If you’re not happy with the amount of traffic you’re getting—if your comments section is filled with lines like “Go, honey! We love you!” then make a change in your posting schedule, and make it today.
If you’re hesitating to hit “Publish” because you’re waiting for your post to be perfect, you need to let go of the idea that that there IS such a thing as a perfect post.
Write a couple “good enough posts.” Get your thoughts down on paper, make sure your grammar and spelling are as good as they can possibly be, correct typos, then put your posts out there. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable and scared. It builds character and helps your blog.
Then let all those “good enough” new posts start to build a road right to your doorstep. It’s a simple fact—the more you publish, the more traffic you will get.
6. You’ve got a site design only a mother could love
One of the things that really turns people off a blog is ugly site design.
If your site is so filled with peek-a-boo social media widgets, flashy banners and Google Adsense ads that your readers can’t tell what your site is about, you need an overhaul. If you’re still using a template from four years ago, and it wasn’t that attractive when you originally put it up, you need an overhaul. If your readers can’t tell in under ten seconds what the topic of your blog is, you need an overhaul.
Build your design using lots of white space—it truly puts the spotlight on your content and allows your readers to absorb what you’re trying to say. Add a gorgeous, professional banner with your site name and a great tagline that tells them exactly what you’re about.
Then add a few classy, attractive graphic elements to the design. Remember that they say “less is more” for a reason.
Web professionals can really help you create an amazing design that represents who you are as a blogger, writer, and businessperson. Consider consulting a design professional who can help you bring your site’s design in line with your content and your business goals.
7. Your writing needs work
If your site is filled with run-on sentences and spelling errors, people will notice. And they will leave you alone with your mother in a sad desert of bloggy loneliness.
Clean up your writing by brushing up on your grammar basics—Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is a great start.
If comma placement and spelling still confound you, find a great editor. An editor will not only help you with grammar and punctuation, but can truly help you make your writing better.
Editors also give you someone to mentally speak to on the page when you’re struck late at night and don’t know what to write. Editors are your best friends. And no—it doesn’t matter if your mother is the world’s greatest editor. You need someone else, someone not related to you, to help you clean up your writing.
Bring it home
Mom’s a fantastic fan. But you need more people supporting what you do and cheering you on—but put some effort behind these seven areas, and you can get them, one new fan at a time.
Pretty soon you’ll have a stadium full of fans, all waving #1 foam fingers with your name on them. And your mom will be standing there with them, yelling at the top of her lovable lungs.
Beth Hayden helps business owners make more money by helping them create fabulous websites, blogs, and social media campaigns. Get her best tips for achieving blogging nirvana by downloading her free report, From Blah to Hurrah: 25 Ways to Make Your Blog Bigger, Better and More Profitable.