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Theme Week: You’ve Got Readers To Your Blog – This is How You Keep Them There

Studying at laptop

There’s no denying that driving traffic to your posts is usually at the top of every blogger’s list once they hit “publish”. And while we’ve chatted this week about sharing your posts on social media for the best effect, and how to repurpose your content so even more eyes see it – it’s time now to talk about keeping those visitors on your blog once they get there, interacting with your content, and engaging with you.

Reader comments

Reward your readers

Replying to the comments you do get is one of the best things you can do – not only to encourage that person to be a repeat reader, but also to show other readers that you’re interested in the stories they might like to share. When you put the effort in to have conversations with the people who make an effort to speak to you, it fosters more of a community environment.

Email your thanks

Darren talks about taking the time to email your readers to either thank them for their comment, or to follow up on something they’ve talked about. It is taking the extra step that will make them feel appreciated and more inclined to spend their time on your blog, where they know they will be heard, appreciated, and made to feel welcome.

Ask a question in your reply

If your reader tells you a story or shares an anecdote with you, ask them further questions about it in your reply. It’s likely they’ll come back again and answer you, and you’ve created the beginning of a conversation, not just been hit by a “drop and run” commenter.

Invite future comments

If a reader tells you they’re going to put your advice into action, or make your recipe, or in some other way take your blog into their real life, ask them to let you know how that turns out for them. When they do come back, you can then ask them even more questions: What was easy? What did they find difficult or confusing? Did they enjoy the end result?

Foster conversations between readers

When replying to people who have commented on your blog, you can tag other people in your comments, or highlight where someone’s said something similar, or answered the question they’re asking. You can put the call out for other readers to share their experience, or answer the commenter’s question in your reply to them. By making the environment on the blog conducive to conversation and then letting your readers exchange with each other, you’re only going to see a rise in engagement. This is one of Mrs Woog’s secrets to a highly-engaged community of readers.

“It is the facilitation of these conversations that will give you a really great insight into who your readers actually are. It is this information that will help you to work out what sort of content to deliver to them. What will work, and what will sink.”

Give considered responses

In today’s fast-paced, bite-sized world, a comment is an absolute gift. That someone took the time to read your post, form an opinion, sign in, and leave a comment? and/or perhaps even share your post? that deserves more than a “thanks” or some other brief nod of the head, when you can spare it. Sure, if you don’t have time to reply to every single comment you ever get, then this is better than nothing. But if you can give a chatty reply back, then you are more likely to entice others that it’s worth their time and effort to get involved.

Provide further information

Be useful to your readers not only in the body of your posts, but in your replies to them too. If there’s more information you can point them to, then do so. If there’s someone else’s blog post you can highlight – even better. They might even come back and thank you.

Link your content

If you’re talking about things you’ve covered in posts elsewhere, then highlight that in your text. If the reader doesn’t find anything in this post to respond to, they might be interested enough in something you’ve linked to and feel encouraged to leave a comment there.

Ask questions in your posts

A useful strategy to encourage readers to comment is to not only ask them a question at the end of your post, but also to weave in open-ended questions throughout your text. Create many jumping-off points to start conversations, and let people choose which ones they want. By asking for advice or reader experiences, you’re providing a forum for people to share.

Start a debate

Everybody knows that controversy is one way of getting eyeballs and engagement. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but even smaller-scale contentious points can entice people to comment on which side of the debate they are on. It could be as innocuous as asking readers whether they prefer peanut butter or honey on their morning toast, but it still inspires a desire to answer.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 2.11.18 pm

Use a poll

Further to the debate idea, asking readers to answer a question about where they stand on a subject can be a quick and easy way for people to engage. You can create a post around it, or even have them permanently in the sidebar like the ones on Digital Photography School.

Reader projects

If you and your readers are participating in a blogging challenge, or another type of community project, it can foster a great environment for people to come together to chat about it. It might be something as big as 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, or it could be a fun creative exercise, like blogging every day for a month. When everyone’s in it together, there’s more of a chance they’ll stick around for the conversation.

Hold back a bit

If you say everything that’s needed to be said in a post, then there’s not much for the reader to contribute. While expert, informative posts are incredibly useful, it’s also a much better outcome if the readers are participating in a conversation around it, rather than just writing “great post!”. Leave them something to add.

How-to-recover-a-document-saved-to-office-2011-Autorecovery-2

Be a mini-expert in something specific

There’s lots of posts on the internet solving common problems. Where you might have more luck with engagement is solving a rare problem that isn’t often covered. I have a post about recovering documents that are saved to Office 2011 Autorecovery. I pieced it together after a very stressful lost-file incident, from advice spread throughout many pages and forums. It is so specific I wasn’t sure if it would be useful to many people, but it consistently gets not only regular views, but regular comments from truly relieved and grateful readers who found it at their wit’s end. Even if you think only a handful of interested people will read the post, you might be the only person writing that particular solution to that particular problem.

Site setup

User-friendliness

If your site is clear, easy-to-read, and gives the viewer a pleasing visual experience (like Dustin talked about here in our last theme week on creating community), it’s more likely they will stay. The longer they stay, the more likely they are to want to engage with you. Dustin says:

“When someone lands on your webpage you have five seconds or less to prove that your site and its content is worth their precious time. So if your web design is cluttered, hard-to-read and visually unattractive, you’re content may not have the chance it deserves.”

Make it easy

There’s nothing more off-putting than a hidden comment section, a cluttered comment section, a hard-to-sign-into comment section, or a comment section that requires you to fill in the captcha code. I’ve heard readers say time and time again that they just give up when they can’t get the captcha right. Others go so far as to not even bother trying.

Point people to newsletters

You’re full of useful information, so ensure you’re letting readers know that you’ve got even more of it that isn’t always on the blog. Keep eyeballs on your site by making it easy for them to click over. If they’ve signed up to receive your newsletter, it might be the incentive they need to visit your blog when it arrives in their inbox. Make your newsletter visible and easy to sign up for. Also include it at the end of your popular posts, or in the body of your posts (when logical to do so, of course).

Call to action

It’s obvious, but still not everyone does it – asking outright for comments. Maybe you feel weird about asking readers directly to comment or share (I know I do!), but it appears to be very effective. Whether it’s a casual “I’d love to hear your thoughts” or even a “please comment”, it might be just the push the reader needs to reply.

Think about the kind of reader you are

What entices you to spend time on someone else’s blog and join in their conversation? Think about the kinds of things you like to see and enjoy elsewhere and see if you can’t replicate similar things on your site. There’s a good chance that if you like it on other blogs, your readers will like it on yours.

Make sure they’re notified when you reply

The best way of keeping engagements high is ensuring your commenters know when you’ve continued the conversation. Not everyone checks back to see if they’ve been replied to, but if they have an email notification (such as a Disqus reply) or similar, then it’s more likely they will come back to chat.

Off your blog

Keep an eye on your pingbacks/trackbacks

When you see that someone has mentioned you on their site, it takes two seconds to pop over and thank them for it. By showing you’re grateful and interested in what they have to say means it’s more likely that reader will keep being engaged in your blog and your work.

Return the favour

Being an active participant in the blog community does wonders for the kinds of engagement you can create in your own space. Reciprocity is a perpetuating cycle that’s beneficial for all involved. Comment often. Comment freely. Comment without expectation, but just enjoying the process. Comments beget comments, and while not everyone will return the favour to you, many will. Be one of the people who do.

Reply on social media

While ultimately it is beneficial to have people solely comment on your blog, it is good practice (and a lot of fun!) to reply to their comments on Facebook or Twitter about your post. Some people prefer to have conversations there, and some people are new to you. They might be more incentivised to click over and read if you’re taking the time to care about what they say on their social media of choice.

What about you? What have you found to be a useful way of keeping people engaged on your blog posts, and not just skipping off to the next distraction?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

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Comments

  1. daphne cohn says:

    What a thorough post! Some of your suggestions I already do but many of them I do not. I’ve never even thought of emailing someone who comments on my blog. I noticed you don’t use Disqus. Any thoughts on it?

    • I also hadn’t thought about doing that. It’s such a great idea. I once received a very informal chatty response via email to a comment I’d left on a very popular blog. I was so touched that she’d taken the time to reply that way and that I was apparently important enough to her to do that. She certainly earned my respect and loyalty by doing that. Thank you so much for your idea. I will definitely do that from now on.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Hi Daphne,

      ProBlogger.net isn’t using Disqus at this time, but I have used it on my personal blog for the last three years. Personally, I really like it. It’s easy to use, and notifies people when I reply to their comments. Some people have trouble with it though, and some really don’t like it. I have really enjoyed using it though.

  2. Ricky Willis says:

    Great post! I always try and carry on the conversation after I hit publish whether it’s through commenting or social media.

    Something else I have recently been doing is looking back at older, similar content and if someone has commented, I will ping them an email with the details of the post. I’ll let them know I value their opinion and ask if they would read and comment on my latest content. By doing this I’ve noticed I’m building really close and useful relationships with the people that matter. My readers :-)

  3. Kim Jansen says:

    Stacey,

    These are really valuable points. For me and my blog’s current state, the simple act of holding back is most valuable, because most of my comments are “Great post!” “Love your blog!” And I would love to have a bit more interaction. I wonder if even replying to those simple comments can still drive interaction, if you thank those readers and then ask them pointed questions and try and get some feedback from them. Questions like: “what would you like to see more of on the blog?” or “what was most helpful?” A lot of those commenters may not ever respond, but trying something like that may make a difference in keeping an otherwise fly-by reader.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      That’s true, they might take the time to answer those questions. And tell you why they’re not commenting in the first place!

  4. I’ve seen some disqus comment system and there is a facebook comment system. So what is the most effective system for commenting? Reply on social media is a must, more personalize much better.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      That’s a great question. I think it depends on your readership. Some people don’t have facebook, or prefer to keep their personal facebook off blogs. Others enjoy the ease of the system as they’re already logged into facebook all day. Disqus does require a bit of signing in at the start, but stays signed in across all blogs. So maybe try both and see how you go!

  5. Enrique Vega says:

    Wonderful Tips for those who startups in blogging and also for those who want to have grip to their audience. I have even not tried all, I will definitely work on it and will try more.

  6. Keep the engagement train going and link up like crazy. Thanks Stacey!

  7. Sunday says:

    Hi Stacey,

    This is powerful! Keeping readers engaged to a post is critical for online success. I am truly fascinated on the details with regards to replying comments. If done well, it may bring about good lead!

    One can easily apply these creative ways to keep for visitors engaged and interested in coming back!

    The off blog details are also revealing!

    In kingged.com, this article was shared for Internet marketers, and I have left the above comment after reading the post.

    Sunday – kingged.com contributor

    http://kingged.com/theme-week-youve-readers-blog/

  8. Jane says:

    Encouraging conversation and comments is a great way to keep the engagement up and let the visitors stick to the blog. Encouraging active comments by inviting them is also a smart way to build a vibrant community (that not only contributes to the conversation but will also share stuff across the web for you).

    Thanks for the great post!

  9. Zeeshan says:

    what a nice post. great suggestions for new bloggers. thanks stacey. you are my all time favourite

  10. amansareen says:

    What ever they post that is extremely different and tutorial based post

  11. MSI Sakib says:

    Hello Stacey,
    These are seems most wanted formula to me. But doing all those stuffs daily may be much hard. Although I think email back and notify of reply are easy and more effective. I will try to maintain some more as well. Thanks a lot again Stacey.

  12. Thanks Stacey for the insightful post. I always try to improve design making small changes, wherever I notice any point which may disturb the readers. Rewarding result is very effective strategy for more engagement which may turn ardent readers.

  13. What a bunch of great tips here. I’ve found that by intently reading your followers comments, you can pick up plenty of inflections in their writing. Good writers can say a lot in a short sentence. That leaves plenty of opportunity for you to continue the interaction with them. Plus, once you get to know your followers more intimately, you can easily bait them to comment more often. People who skim by blogs will stay on yours longer if they see a lot of conversations going on. At least I know I always do when I see that. Another great way to get new followers and keep loyal ones is to share their posts periodically on other social media platforms. Bloggers who help other bloggers always get more help in return.

  14. When I reply to comments I always to try to use the persons name -it just feels more personal. I saw a couple of people do it for my replys and I appreciated it.
    I also use the plugin Comment Luv. I then go and read the blog posts that are linked and comment back. I am hoping this builds a relationship.

  15. Aaron Diaz says:

    Such a nice article and I really appreciate this post. There are helpful information and I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for share with us.

  16. Stacy in this article you share such a valuable information which is definitely very helpful for bloggers.Keep it up and share more like that.

  17. Carl says:

    Thank you Stacey for other incredible post. It’s not easy to apply all of this thoughts on our blog, but it helped me to find some insights that can be applied at day-to-day.

  18. Isabella says:

    These are great strategies which I will use in my blogs. Indeed very valuable resources.

  19. Michelle says:

    Yes it’s definitely hard to drive proper amount of traffic on our blog than to maintain that traffic. I’ll try to follow each single points you’be mentioned here into my future blogging days.

  20. Aqib Shahzad says:

    Useful guide for all those bloggers who want to have a grip to their audience. Thanks for sharing these best strategies.

  21. Priya Ranjan says:

    Thanks for an elaborated post. My agenda with the readers – excite them and keep them.

  22. Debarpan says:

    You just shared some very good strategy to keep readers onto our blog.I completely appreciate your effort for serving such an amazing post with us.Thank you.

  23. Robin says:

    I really liked the ideas you have given to get the reader on your blog. I am gonna to do some changes in my blog for measuring the reader’s reaction.

  24. to be honest i never even tough on anything on this list i have been so focus on gaining traffic that i forgot about maintaining it. I’m glad i found this post since i’m starting to gain a little traffic i’ll use this tips to try maintaining it thanks.

  25. عکس says:

    Hi Stacey,
    Thank you Stacey for other incredible post

  26. Great post. I think leaving comments on your readers’ blog is a really nice and useful tip. I’ll definitely try this one.

    I also recommend updating posts with new information that can help your readers and thanks individual readers in posts (if they provide you info or help you out).

  27. This is a very thorough post. Thank you for covering all the areas so nicely. I do implement quite a few of the above-mentioned points, but I still have to begin working on many others.

  28. A lot of bloggers take their readers for granted. And it is so easy to make them feel welcome.

    I always refer to my blog as my house. Yes, I have certain rules in my house (which comments to allow and which not). Yes, I want to make my guests, readers, feel at welcome. I want them to have fun. There starts the giving of value.

    Thank you for al these great ways to reward my readers.

  29. I really think this is awesome post for holding the customers or visitors to our blog or website. thanks for sharing with us.

  30. CrisisMaven says:

    I would agree with most of what you said (though some actions are time-consuming and have to be weighed against other activities one has to fulfill), I am a bit concerned about the “taking the time to email your readers” – at least if a blog commenter has not “double-opted-in” to receiving emails this theoretically could contravene the US CAN-SPAM Act as well as the even stricter Canadian anti-spam legislation coming into force right now. And no, it does not help that the person left their email address. Not only can that not be construed as a solicitation to be emailed – the main thing is that this email could have been entered by anyone. which is exactly why double-opt-in was invented. Now, when the commenter does not tick a “follow-up” message button have they not effectively voted against being emailed?

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      I’m not suggesting all the tips are everybody’s cup of tea. If you don’t like it, aren’t comfortable with it, or it contravenes your country’s laws, then by all means, don’t do it!

  31. Lee Davy says:

    Hi Stacey,

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. My one take away is to personally e-mail people to thank them for making comments. I think that’s a wonderful touch, so thanks for sharing.

    Keep up the good work.

    Lee