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How to Plan an Editorial Calendar: Webinar

Wondering what is the best way of setting up an editorial calendar? Itching to know what kind of posts work well, and what you should have more of?

In this webinar (available in full on ProBlogger.com), you’ll see how Darren and the managing editors for both Digital Photography School and ProBlogger.net (that’s me!) prioritise content, work out what topics are the most useful and the most popular, plan ahead, and keep their sites fresh and interesting.

There are case studies, stats, and breakdowns of content types, as well as Darlene’s (DPS) and my top three tips for creating engaging content. You don’t want to miss it!

Theme Week Roundup: Which Tip Will You Put into Practise?

FINDING READERSLast week we delved in deep to the things you can do with your post once you hit “publish”. Some people feel as though that’s the end of the road, and others feel as though it’s only the beginning!

There are plenty of things you can do to keep your post current on social media, ensuring it is optimised for SEO, how to repurpose it for different channels, how to keep readers on your blog once your post is published, and how to extend your ideas for the future. It was a week packed with information, and plenty of takeaways for you at home. Let’s have a look at what we covered, and we’d love to hear your feedback on the ones you think you might like to try (or ones you feel as though didn’t quite work in your situation).

How to Socialize Your Posts For Maximum Effect:

Darren wrote extensively about where you can post your posts on social media to be in the right information stream for your readers. He broke down the choice of social media to what kind of time you have to spend, where the majority of your readers are, what suits your content best, and where your competitors might be. He explained how a rhythm to sharing is important, and outlined how to do this for maximum return. He gave great tips for sharing on Twitter and G+, and the kinds of resharing he does after the initial push. Which tip resonated with you?

Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Readers Will Be Forever Lost:

Rand Fishkin reminded us all that content can stay current after its inital social media push by optimizing it for search. He explained how fast your post can die if not supported in the first instance with good SEO, by paying attention to keyword research, the best way to go about finding a title and what kind of information to include in body content, and the best ways of reaching out to your network to get your content seen by the right people. I loved the presentation he included called “How To Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul” – something to think about if you feel as though optimising and keywords take away from the beauty of writing from the heart to connect with your readers. Did it have an impact on your thoughts about it?

How To Repurpose Your Content and Why You Should Do It:

Repurposing content isn’t just re-promoting your posts on social media, as Darren explains. It’s about changing up your content for different media streams, and for the different interests for your readers. It heightens your search result rankings, and readers can also connect with your work more deeply. Of course, there are risks present, and Darren outlines those, and he also gives his best advice for how to repurpose your content for the best results. There are some solid tips and concrete examples – which ones do you think you’ll try?

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

Day four was all about keeping readers excited and wanting to engage after you’ve optimised your post for SEO, published it to all the right channels, and even repurposed it for different reader needs. I broke it down into site design, reader comments and how to interact with them for the best results, and what you can do off your blog to drive traffic back to your posts. Everything from responding to as many of your readers as you can, being useful, sparking conversations between readers, to having a clear design, making commenting a breeze, and returning the favour of a comment on someone else’s blog. I’m sure at least one of those tips would be successful if you used them today – which one will it be?

Extend Your Ideas With Future Blog Posts:

Darren explains the problem he is seeing with current sites focusing on curated content, and how sensationalist headlines will only get you so far. He outlines the best tips to make you stand out from the crowd – how to go deeper with information, and how to provide genuine, interesting, useful content. He tells us how to find future post ideas in the post you’re currently writing, and how to extend previous posts you’ve written for a new readership. What is something you can adopt in your daily writing practise to help your information go further?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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.

Top Tips from the SEO for Bloggers Webinar on ProBlogger.com

Recently over at ProBlogger.com, we held a webinar with Kristen Holden of MarketingPartners.com, and Jim Stewart from StewartMedia.biz. They covered:

  • The top three tips every blogger should know about SEO
  • How to rank well in searches
  • How to tag images to boost SEO
  • Keyword optimisation
  • What to expect when you are a new blogger
  • Strategies for getting more traffic
  • The most important things to consider when setting up a blog on WordPress
  • Google Authorship Plugin
  • The best SEO plugin for your blog
  • The role of social media and where to spend your time
  • Whether Google + is useful
  • Guest posting

And much more. You can see a snippet in this five-minute clip, and ProBlogger.com members can see the entire webinar as part of their membership. You can join the club here – and meet with like-minded bloggers, exclusive access to Darren’s tips and tricks, and a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips to make you the best blogger you can be.

Top Three Takeaways from Finding Readers Week: What Can You Do Today to Create Community?

FINDING READERS

 

In the first week of May, you heard from several bloggers with unique perspectives on how they grew their readership into a force to be reckoned with. It was the fourth Theme Week we’ve held here on ProBlogger this year, and it was an interesting one. We had discussions about introducing forums, how to get people to read your personal blog, how to drive traffic to a startup blog, and how to create a beautiful blog that people can’t help but share with their friends. And while everyone had different advice, they all agreed on these three tips:

Top Three Takeaways from Finding Readers Week

1. Relationships

The universal sentiment was honour your reader. Give them great content and be approachable. DJ from SteamFeed says to “nurture them”. Talk to real people in real ways.

Mrs Woog agrees, saying she writes like she speaks, and that resonates with her readers. She likes to interact with her readers both on the blog and on her Facebook page. She says that she’ll start the conversations, and watch them develop – even seeing readers chat with each other. She advises being available to respond to your readers, and carve out time especially to do so.

Corinne took interacting with her readers to a whole new level when she shared her number-one tip for finding readers – to comment on other people’s blogs. She dedicated hours to doing this, and in turn, was rewarded with a highly-engaged readership who have a real sense of community. She then took it one step further and added forums for her readers to interact.

In addition to having great content delivered on a great platform that inspires sharing, Dustin recommends “writing for real people”, and said having a voice that people can relate to is crucial in growing your readership. He also advises having a reader profile so you know to whom you are talking.

2. Consistency

Whether it’s honing your voice and practising your writing often like Mrs Woog, or posting consistently so your readers know what to expect, like DJ, keeping a rhythm was important across the board. Be reliable. Be dependable. Make blogging and writing a priority. Keep at it. Sound the same in every post. Be recognizable everywhere. Corinne was consistent in commenting on others’ blogs, and that was a successful strategy. Dustin was consistent with the visual experience his readers would receive every time they clicked over to his site. When readers know what to expect (and they know they’ll get an honest, authentic voice), they’ll come back for more.

3. Be Where Your Readers Are

It can be an uphill battle throwing your blog to the internet and hoping it gets seen. A strategy that works better is to hang out online in the places your readers hang out. Or where your potential readers hang out. For some of you, that might be Instagram. For a majority, it will be Facebook. Your cohort might be the people who keep G+ rolling. Wherever they are, that’s where you can be. Mrs Woog is active on Facebook, using it as a tool to converse with her readership as well as a place to promote her new posts. DJ recommends syndicating your blog to other sites, and marketing it well. Corinne thinks Twitter is pretty useless for her blog, so went elsewhere for readers. And Dustin believes the right social media channels make all the difference. He advises to ignore the people saying you should be on all of them, and instead focus on cultivating a couple that really drive results. Above all, though, it has to be a platform you enjoy using.

I know I learned a few new things from such different perspectives – did something resonate with you, too?

Finding Readers Week: Mrs Woog’s Tips to Create Conversations on Your Blog

MRS WOOGToday in our Finding Readers week is successful Australian blogger Mrs Woog of Woogsworld. With a thriving Facebook community and a comment section that makes the rest of us green with envy, she’s learned a thing or two in her time. Here she spills all…

Engagement. Not just diamond rings mind you, but getting people together and talking. In the world of social media, engagement is everything. After all, if a blog post falls in cyberspace and no one is there to read it… (Insert something profound here…)

There are several things that you can easily do to increase your engagement across the social media platforms that you use. It might be your blog, Facebook, Twitter or a combination of all three. I am pleased as punch to be able to share my knowledge with you, and hopefully, if you find my advice useful for your particular genre, you can see your engagement soar!

What is important to remember when creating content if you want repeat readers:

Voice – Well it is the big one, no? With so many writers and bloggers seeking to grow their readership, your voice needs to be clear, consistent and above all else, your own. The thing about SM is that there is a readership of your own out there; you just need to give them a reason to swing by.

I am coming from this as a personal blogger, which I think is the hardest niche to try and carve out. I write the way that I talk. It is just that simple. I write about mundane topics that people can relate to. I keep things light, fast, and hopefully people can get a giggle or take something away from my posts. So, practice, practice, practice and the best way to do this, is consistency. Writing is like a muscle in a way. The more you use it and do it, the stronger your words will be.

theme week whats next

 

 

Readers like to feel like that they are a part of a social group. One of the things I have noticed lately is the interaction that readers are having with each other. It makes me feel like I am hosting one great big Cyber-Party. I start the conversations and then watch them develop. It is a truly delightful situation. And of course there is always going to be one nob that wants to crash the party, but they are shown the door quickly and with minimal fuss.

And a small spank on the bottom.

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.

I call writing a post that gets no comments, “DELIVERING A DOUGHNUT” which means a big fat zero when it comes to interaction. Happens to everyone. I just move on, like the Soup Nazi…. NEXT!

 finding time

 

It is not always possible, interact with your “guests” as much as you would like to. If someone takes the time to email you, reply to him or her. If someone takes the time to comment, try and acknowledge their involvement. Depending on where you are in your blogging life, this will vary. I like to make time during the day to do it – 15 minutes here and there. Treat every reader with respect.

And please don’t be chicken shit when it comes to discussing the big issues. 

Why, it’s the three P’s!

PARENTING
POLITICS
PHILOSOPHY

Have an opinion and share it. Present your case and back it up with facts. It is the single most immediate way to drive up the engagement on your blog. It is not about arguing, but people want to share their point of view and you are providing the platform to do so. Plus it is fun! I am always prepared to be proven wrong. Try it!

 theme week social media

 

My social media playground is the blog, Twitter and Facebook, and I approach these very differently. It was not something that I consciously set out to do, but on reflection it is just the way it turned out.

Facebook for your blog? Everyone has one, and if you don’t, you should.

Why? Because it is the best WORD OF MOUTH was to get your blog onto people’s screens. Because it is the easiest way to get your content shared. Because it is fun and interactive. Just because, ok?

My first post on my facebook page?

image My blog is my-free-for-all cocktail party and my Facebook Page is my “Drinks with the Gals” night. People choose to be a part of it. It is inclusive and respectful and we all have a good old laugh. Sure, there are the occasional biffos, but that happens in any social group, no?

And then there is Twitter, or as I like to call it, the seedy backroom bar of some dodgy pub. Fast, fun and fancy free, you need to keep your wits about you on this popular, but sometimes much maligned social media platform. Make one mistake, and you can be taken out by faceless trolls (Just ask my friend Tracey Spicer!) but as quickly as things can flare up, they die away.

theme week top takeaways

So my top 3 tips for increasing the engagement on your social media platforms?

  1. Make a spelling mistake. People LOVE to point them out to you.
  2. Tell people you think vaccinations are the devil’s work.
  3. Write a blog post about how you are over blogging and are thinking about quitting.

What’s that? You want serious tips? Fine.

  1. Be around. Dedicate time to write and share and promote and respond. Be consistent.
  2. Give them content that is worth reading. Ask yourself, what are they getting out of this post? Give them a reason to come back and get involved in the online world that you have created, and reward their loyalty with fantastic (and varied) content.
  3. Be brave. A dog never barked at a parked car.

 What are your tips? Does Facebook work for you?

Finding Readers: Dustin outlines the 5 Crucial Elements for Growing Readership

growing-readershipIn today’s instalment of the Finding Readers theme week, we delve right into Dustin Stout’s incredibly eye-pleasing site, dustn.tv, and hear how he has built a blog people just can’t help but read and share.

When I launched dustn.tv in March 2011, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I had some insight and skills that people needed and I genuinely enjoyed helping people.

Between then and now, I’ve had successes and complete WTF-just-happened failures. Through all of that I believe I’ve landed on a handful of crucial elements that have allowed me to get to where I am today.

1. Give the Reader A Beautiful Experience

It doesn’t matter if you have the most amazing, jaw-dropping, slap-yo-mamma content in the world, if people don’t read it. 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.

One of the primary reasons people continue to visit and read my blog (rather than just through an RSS reader or email) is because the reading experience is enjoyable.

With all the templates, themes, and examples of good design permeating the digital space, there’s no excuse for poor design. You don’t have to be a designer in any sense of the word to create a beautifully-designed, content-focused blog. Just find what’s working, what you would enjoy looking at, and imitate it. You can read my tips for creating a stunning reading experience for your readers here.

2. Write For Real People

Once your canvas is ready (your design) you can now fill it with glorious content that knocks people’s socks off! But the most important thing to remember is just that— you want to knock people’s socks off. Not robots: real people.

Having a voice that people can relate to is crucial to growing your readership. If people can’t relate to what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, why would they return?

One thing that has helped me to communicate effectively to my readership is focusing in on exactly who I’m speaking to. No, I’m not talking about my demographic or target audience— that’s not specific enough. To effectively write from an authentic, relatable voice you need to write as if you’re talking to one person.

Try this as an exercise– the next time you draft up a blog post, think of one person in your life that could benefit from the information you’re about to write, and write it in such a way as if you’re talking directly to them. This will help you communicate your message more clearly and your voice will be more authentic.

And people will love you for it.

3. Engaging Content (Actionable)

Another thing I’ve found when crafting content is that the actionable always wins out on engagement. Give people clear, easy-to-do actions and watch your engagement soar.

People don’t always know right off the bat how to take the action you may be moving them towards, so make it easy for them. Tell them exactly what to do.

4. Compelling Content (Sharable)

Making your content sharable is a crucial peice to the continued organic growth. When people share with other people there is power that no degree of marketing could ever capture.

In order to compell people to share your content, you have to first understand why people share things. The motivations are many but here’s just a few powerful reasons someone would share your content:

  • It makes them look smart
  • It makes them look funny
  • It makes them look cutting-edge
  • It makes them look interesting

Do you see a pattern there? People tend to share content based on how it will make them look to others. So if your content gives someone the chance to look better in front of their peers, they will be compelled to share it.

5. The Right Distribution Channels

Okay great, so you’ve got your awesome content written and wrapped inside a beautiful package (your web design) ready for people to consume, engage, and share. So now how do you get people to that content? Distribution channels, otherwise known as social networks.

The right distribution channels make all the difference. For everyone’s audience it may be different. If your target audience is mommies looking for great recipes, then Pinterest may be your best channel. If you’re ideal audience is teenagers who don’t want their parents knowing what they’re up to, then Snapchat may be your ideal channel.

My biggest piece of advice though when it comes to distribution channels is to resist the lie that you have to be on all of them. I’ve built the majority of my audience by doing one network really well. You can either do a mediocre, semi-invested job at many networks or you can knock one single network out of the park.

The latter will grow your audience faster than the former.

For me, I’ve found that the most powerful distribution channel in both driving traffic and acquiring new readers is Google+. No platform has yielded the return on investment that Google+ has, despite what lazy journalists might have you believe.

For me it’s about being able to not only distribute content, but also to be able to create and repurpose content in different formats such as images and video. With Google+, the number of tools at your disposal is beyond that of any other platform making it the most diverse, feature-rich and multi-demensionally engaging platform of them all.

Ultimately though, your perfect distribution channel will be one that has all of the following characteristics:

  • Your audience is there (or at least willing to follow you there).
  • You can fit it into your workflow.
  • You thoroughly enjoy the platform.

One Last Thing

Above all else, be true to yourself. Don’t be someone or something you’re not. Be uniquely you because that is your secret sauce.

Nobody else has the perspective, experiences, and thought process as you in the same combination of skills, knowledge and insight. The more true you can be to yourself, the better you can relate to your ideal audience.

Top 3 Takeaways

  1. Make it more about them than about yourself.
  2. Give them an enjoyable reading experience.
  3. Be a real human, not a regurgitation robot.

Finding Readers Week: Corinne Talks Commenting, Engagement, and Are Forums Right For Your Blog?

Theme Week

Welcome to the first post in the Finding Readers series here on ProBlogger.net. Corinne runs the successful blog skinnedcartree.com, and consistently gets genuine engagement from her readers and community across the board. Corinne introduced forums at the beginning of the year and has seen that engagement increase sharply. We are very excited to have her here to share her secrets with you.

I only started blogging late December 2012. To be honest, I had no strategy or goals. I knew nothing about growing an audience or how to promote myself. The only two things I knew were:

  1. I wanted to write.
  2. I wanted people to read what I wrote.

I understand there’s more to successful blogging than simply getting comments, but I wanted engagement. So I did what made sense to me with the little knowledge I had, and it worked.

What I am about to share with you is simply how to build a network of regular commenters. It’s not a quick and easy tactic, and it’s not going to make your PageRank soar, enabling you to quit your day job – but is a key step towards doing so.

theme week social media

Call me an idiot, but during my first year of blogging I went against one of the most common blogging tips: I didn’t use Twitter to promote my blog. Since starting a Twitter account in January, I’ve been asked the same question multiple times - How do you get so many comments? 

Twitter is great for getting traffic to your blog, yet I find it’s not so fantastic at encouraging engagement. Those that engage with me on Twitter tend to only do so there rather than on my site. The same can be said about other forms of social media. It’s fabulous for page views, but does naff all for building a community within your blog – and as I can babble for England, a community is what I wanted.

How I created community and drove up engagement:

Twitterless and clueless, the only way I had of promoting my blog (or so I thought) was through commenting on other blogs. I had no idea how to find them, so I would comment on the few I knew. Then I would look at who else commented, visit their blog and find something to contribute.

The idea I had was that I was targeting:

  1. People within my niche who would probably like my blog.
  2. People who left quality comments on other blogs.

You can do this for hours -  and I did do it for hours – aiming for around 20-40 blogs a day at one point.

We all know starting a blog isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t quick. I don’t know about you but I’m sick of reading ‘write good content and they will come’ like it is the only thing you need to do to grow (I’ve never been a ‘sit and wait’ kinda gal). Good content is vital, but what’s the point if nobody knows you exist? The real trick is getting them to your blog and then getting them to return. As soon as they start engaging with you and contributing, they are more likely to return as they’ve invested precious time in you.

Remember: The quality of the comments you leave will reflect the quality of comments you receive. People are not stupid, it is obvious and frustrating when a comment is left purely to link drop. Nobody likes a spammer, yet people still use it as a tactic. We’re looking to build longstanding relationships here, not fickle ones.

theme week get your stuff shared

I find consistent posting makes a huge difference to the amount of readers I get. I’ve seen the daily number of readers that subscribe to my blog triple since I’ve started to update daily, as have my page views and the amount of traffic I am getting from search engines. I was updating every 2-3 days, but in the past few months I’ve posted daily and it’s the best thing I ever could have done for my blog. I have posts scheduled for the same time each day and link back to my previous two posts at the end to make it easier for readers that don’t visit daily to access them, which was one of my main concerns around daily blogging. The only downfall is finding the time to push out quality content, I plan my posts in advance using an editorial calendar and will sometimes write 4-5 posts in one day around my work schedule. Planning is key!

theme week whats next

Once I received comments, I replied to every one and returned the favour by leaving a comment on their next post. This encouraged them to return and even subscribe. I was using this tactic for around 10 months until I was unable to keep up with the amount of comments I was getting.

finding time
But guess what? I don’t need to keep up anymore and I no longer struggle with the ‘write vs. promote’ conflict like I used to. I find I need to spend less time commenting and am able to concentrate on creating daily quality content – I now have a mixture of long term readers I’ve made through commenting, and people who discover my blog through other blogs, social media, Google, etc.Leaving 20-40 quality comments on new blogs daily is a time consuming activity and is difficult while having a full time job. I aimed for 20 comments on work days and 40 for days off. I wasn’t blogging daily so had more time for getting my name out there and I commented a lot while watching TV on an evening or listening to music – I’ve always been a multi-tasker and struggle to sit and watch TV while not doing anything else. I often gave myself ‘goals’, such as leaving a certain amount of comments to a time scale. I found the more comments I was leaving, the easier it was to think of something engaging to say – it just became something I could naturally do.While I am still an active commenter, I comment on those blogs I love, rather than as a marketing tactic. If I have a spare hour or so, I may visit a few new blogs within my niche and leave a few comments, but it is not something that I do daily.You may have loyal readers that will lap up every word but don’t always comment, so I’ve targeted those blog readers that are active in commenting and brought them over to my blog.

Point of difference: Adding forums for your readers

I wanted to take my community to the next level by giving my readers a place they could all come together and share ideas. I find Twitter too fast paced and comments on blogs restrictive. As I’ve always been a lover of forums – joining my first in 2002 at 14, then being an administrator for another for over ten years – a forum was exactly what I was looking for. Finding none within my niche, I bought a new domain and set up my own.

I spent a couple weeks preparing the site and researching, then on 1st January 2014, I launched them, alongside a Twitter account. It’s early days yet – we are in the process of growing our member base with a view to branch outside of the current niche, adding specific forums as requested to welcome more bloggers to our community. We share our posts, ask questions, share tips and sometimes just have a general natter.

Top 3 benefits to creating the forums:

  1. Great for traffic – people will click my profile and then go to my blog as well as click links I leave on the forum.
  2. Great for post ideas – some of my most popular content has come from ideas from the forum. Members ask me questions all the time which has led me to write posts with useful information and blogging tips on my main site – these are easily my most shared and most engaging blog posts.
  3. Great for finding new blogs – I now read blogs from a variety of niches from our members.
theme week top takeaways

  1. Target bloggers in a similar niche to you.
  2. Leave comments that leaves them wanting to know more, or asks them a question.
  3. Remember, 20 readers that regularly come back and comment are more valuable than 2000 one-time readers.
Are you an active commenter?

Theme Week: How To Find New Readers and Create Community on Your Blog

FINDING READERS

If you’ve been around this year, you will have seen that we are running a themed week each month, focusing on a specific blogging topic. It is our aim that you will get a great deal of useful tips and info that will arm you with all the things you’ll need to stand out in that field.

Our first foray was in creating content, we moved into a week chock-full of info for new bloggers just starting out, and last month Shayne and I delved deep into creating products – an in-depth, step-by-step set of posts that aimed to answer all the questions you have about creating, launching, and selling products and services on your blog.

This week we have reached out to ProBlogger readers from various niches to share their success stories on how they found readers for their blog, and how they encouraged engagement: comments, shares, and a creating a thriving community.

Stay tuned for tips from the fashion, personal, social media, and blogging-about-blogging genres. No doubt there will be some fantastic information you can action that day that will help you on your journey.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter about this week’s theme.

The posts:

Corinne Talks Commenting, Engagement, and Are Forums Right for Your Blog?

Dustin Outlines the 5 Crucial Elements for Growing Readership

Mrs Woog’s Tips to Create Conversations on Your Blog

From Seed to Sequoia: Growing your Blog one Reader at a Time