One of my mantras that I’ve shared many times when speaking, and here in posts on ProBlogger, is to build blogs that:
My experience is that a blog can really come alive when you not only provide readers with information, but also give them inspiration and a place to interact with one another.
One of the first times I discovered the secret of inspirational content was on Digital Photography School (my main blog) when I started posting image collections of great images that I’d found on Flickr.
Up until this time, most of the posts on dPS would have fitted into the “informational” category of posts—they were largely tutorials and how-to type content.
These new inspirational image collection posts were simply collections of images on a theme, with little written content.
For example, here’s one of the early ones—7 Clone Shots. At the time, thise was widely linked to around the web and rose to the front pages of social bookmarking sites like Digg.
These inspirational image posts really resonated with readers, and were the kind of content people wanted to share. They drove large amounts of traffic, so I built them into dPS’s regular posting schedule.
Inspiration leads people to search for information
After a while, I discovered that besides the traffic that they drove to the site these inspiration posts had another impact: they drove people to our “information” posts.
I noticed this one day after posting an image collection of 15 Long Exposure Images. Not only did the post attract a lot of traffic, but I noticed another post on our site was also getting quite a bit of traffic that day—a post I’d written a year earlier called How to Shoot Light Trails.
This second post was not linked to from the image collection post. What I discovered was that people arriving on that post were so inspired by the images in the image collection that they were using our search tool t find information on shooting long exposures—that’s how they were finding the earlier post.
What was happening here was something I’ve seen repeated many times since—people’s inspiration was driving them to seek information.
I also realised that there were other relevant tutorials in our archives that readers inspired by that image collection might find useful, so I updated the image collection post with further relevant reading (as you can see in the screen shot below).
I tracked the flow on to these information posts over the coming days and saw a significant clickthrough rate to these articles.
I also noticed quite a few extra subscribers to the site that week—I guess the combination of inspiration and information hit the mark.
These days I still use this same technique (in fact we’ve done these image collections many times (here are just a few more examples). Just last week I published 27 Great Panning Images [and How to Take Them].
You’ll notice in the screen shot above that I started the post with an image and then introduced the topic and included links to two previous panning tutorials. I then have a section at the bottom of the post which mentions the further reading tutorials again.
Once again, this week I can see a heightened level of activity on those older tutorials as a result of those links.
Here’s a chart showing the traffic to the Mastering Panning article mentioned in the image collection:
That post (which was published back in 2009) usually gets 150-200 visitors a day, but this week, after I linked to it from our image collection, more than 7000 visitors viewed it in one day. The other post mentioned in the image collection saw a similar spike in traffic.
Inspiration and information leads people to interaction
The last part of this journey of discovery has been to complete the “inspire, inform, and interact” mantra. In the past few months I’d started to follow up each of these inspiration image collections with a post a few days later that invites readers to interact around that topic by doing some homework.
We run these “challenge” posts every weekend to get our readers interacting with us, but I hadn’t not previously made the collections tie in with these interactive posts.
Here’s an example of how I recently tied them together.
- First I led off with an image collection—25 Dreamy Images Shot Wide Open (featuring some beautiful images shot with wide open apertures).
- This image collection linked to information posts on the topic of Aperture, as well as other relevant tutorials.
- A few days later, I ran a ‘Wide Open’ Photography Challenge. This challenge linked back to the image collection as well as the tutorials (and also included a few more inspirational images as examples).
The take-up of our photography challenge that weekend was up on normal figures and it drove a heap of traffic backwards and forth around the site to the image collection and tutorials.
It also seemed to create momentum as the topic built over the week. I had a number of readers indicate that by seeing the inspirational images, reading the tutorials, and then being given an assignment to go away and do, they found themselves really driven to take what they were learning and implement it.
How could something like this work on your blog? Do you inspire, inform, and interact with your readers? I’m intrigued to hear if you use a similar strategy.