One thing you may have noticed is that your blog’s feed count is volatile: it fluctuates on a day to day basis.
While much of that depends on how many people read your feed in a given day, some of that is also people both subscribing and unsubscribing. If you could stop people unsubscribing, your subscriber count would always grow exponentially.
While a lot of emphasis is placed on getting more subscribers, it seems to me that keeping the ones you have is just as important.
What is the key reason why a person might unsubscribe? They’ll do so when your posts become clutter: when they stop reading your posts.
Darren has previously listed 34 reasons why readers unsubscribe from your blog. In fact, each of these reasons causes readers to stop reading your posts, which then causes them to unsubscribe.
The question this post seeks to answer is: how can I get subscribers to keep reading my posts?
As long as your subscribers are reading what you write, they’ll never unsubscribe.
Create a gripping headline
The ugly truth is that many feed readers make the decision to either skip or keep reading a post before their eyes have reached the end of the headline. There are plenty of great articles written about honing the ability to write headlines that draw readers into posts — articles every blogger should read. Here are a few of my favorites from Brian Clark and Leo Babauta:
- How to Write Headlines That Work
- Clear vs. Descriptive Headlines: Which Works Better?
- The Sexy Art of Writing Headlines That Kill
- 10 Sure-Fire Headline Templates That Work
- 7 More Sure-Fire Headline Templates That Work
Headlines are your weapon in the constant battle for attention, so it’s crucial that you use them well. A simple hack I often use is to take the headline formula behind a popular article and adapt it to my own post.
Start with a knock-out opening sentence
Once your headline has done its work the subscriber will start with your first sentence. If you waffle, or go off-topic, or write in a bland way, the reader will drop out of your post.
In my experience, there are seven key routes to a gripping opening sentence:
- A tempting offer.
- An irresistible question.
- A curious connection.
- A controversial claim.
- An engaging anecdote.
- A problem.
- A tricky question.
I’ve covered each of these methods in detail here: Grip Your Readers With These 7 Knock-Out Opening Sentences.
Use consistent imagery at the beginning of your posts
If you hold a particular blog in very high standing you’ll be likely to stick with a post even if it starts with a fizzle rather than a bang. If readers knew who was behind a particular post they may well be more likely to read it.
I don’t think readers always do know, however. Most of us group feeds by folder or lump new content into one stream of news. If we make the decision to read or skip based on the headline alone, we may end up deciding not to read an article before we even know which blog it originated from.
One incredibly effective way to brand your posts is to use consistent imagery right at the start. Almost every single post at ProBlogger begins with a distinct image in a unique style. Even if you’re focusing on the headline, it’s impossible to miss that the post originates from ProBlogger (because the image is right below the headline).
Using consistent imagery at the top of your posts will instantly let subscribers know where the post originated from. Here are some strategies you can use to make your imagery unique:
- Use of images of a consistent type or style.
- If you write on them, try to use similar fonts.
- You could also use images of the same size and position.
This strategy is also effective in another way: images slow the eye down. We can scan text rapidly, but it’s a lot harder to scan an image.
Photo by Lost in Scotland.
Use interesting formatting in your own style
Give your posts texture — Your posts might look fantastic as they appear on your blog, but subscribers see them without any of the bells and whistles. Plain text without any formatting can be visually interesting when laid out on a vibrant page. Not so in a feed reader. If your posts are boring to look at it becomes easier than ever for subscribers to ignore them.
Sub-headings, bolded sentences, box-quotes and in-text links all help to add texture to your posts when they appear in a feed reader. Visually interesting posts will excite the eye and help draw readers into your posts.
Brand your posts with formatting — Developing your own formatting style, in combination with distinct imagery at the beginning of your posts, can ensure that it’s immediately obvious where your posts come from.
If you’re reading this in a feed reader right now, you’d probably agree that you recognize ProBlogger posts straight away. If a reader trusts that your blog provides good content then being recognizable is priceless.
Use short paragraphs
Big chunks of text aren’t inviting to a reader. Your blog might display your posts in a generously-sized and well-spaced font, but feed readers tend towards fonts that are small and narrowly spaced. It’s important to use paragraphs liberally to open up the text in your posts.
If your post is broken up into bite-sized chunks it becomes a lot easier to tackle. If your post looks easy to read a subscriber will be more likely to give it a chance.
Break up your text with images
Feed readers are also lacking when it comes to color and shape. A stream of text can become monotonous. You can help your posts stand out by breaking up the text with relevant images.
Always provide value
If you follow the above steps every post you publish should look unique when it appears in a feed reader. It will be immediately obvious that it came from your blog.
This will only be a positive, however, if the subscriber consistently finds value in everything you write. If that’s the case, she or he will probably stick with your post even if it comes with a snooze-inducing headline and a waffly opening sentence.
The essential point to understand is that, while the above tips will draw feed readers into your posts, the strategy will only be effective if your subscribers consistently feel rewarded when they do so.
A subscriber who is reading and appreciating your posts is more likely to link to you, comment, vote on social media and recommend you to friends. That’s something we all want.
Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. You can subscribe to Skellie’s feed for more useful blogging advice.