My friend and former coworker, Mike Desjardins asked me about how people go about growing a blogging audience. It’s a great question. I run into tons of people who have wonderful blogs that deserve much more attention than they receive. So what gives? What can one do to grow your audience? If you want to grow your audience, you need to know who they are, give them easy to consume chunks of content, promote your work effectively, and be persistent.
Let’s Start With Audience
First and foremost, who are you writing this blog for? If the answer is “myself” and you have more than one RSS subscriber, congratulations. You’ve done it. If the answer is, “Anyone into _____,” like “anyone into tech,” and you have more than 10 subscribers congratulations. Be clear about the audience. If I’m going to bother giving you some of my time, I want something back.
Let’s take Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation. This is a top shelf blog, with clearly written content, that speaks to people looking to better understand the future of digital influence. Brillant work, considerately written, and created in such a way that I come away thinking about how this impacts me. Perfect. Spot on.
Other great examples of a focused blog that targets its audience well:
- Problogger (I’ll send a few posts over shortly, mate.)
- Web Worker Daily. I miss Anne Zelenka, but the rest of the team are doing great.
- Copyblogger. I miss Brian posts, but the one I linked to shows you how to add subs.
- Livingston Buzz
Technically, I could give you links all night, but the point is this. Look at how the content is focused on a specific audience. Look a few posts forward and back. Except for a few exceptions, you can tell exactly who the audience is.
When my audience dips, it’s because I lose my focus. But there’s more to it than that.
Your Content Needs to Be Well Chunked
First off, journalists know this, but I’ll tell you: start with the best stuff right up at the top. Don’t do it as a build-up. Second, make it such that people can read it in chunks. Look up at this. I’ve got headings that break up the post. I’ve got bullets that break up the post. I’ve led with a graphic. I could pull out a graphic or a pull quote to keep it looking better.
Break things up so that human eyes can read them easier. Dense posts and super long posts are a turn-off. Oh, and that’s another thing. Brevity. It rules. Pass it on.
Promote Your Blog Effectively
First, make sure there’s a very prominently displayed link for folks to subscribe to your RSS feed for your blog. The bigger and more attention-drawing, the better. Second, add an email subscription option to your blog. I prefer using FeedBurner to manage all that.
Second, be sure your blog’s URL is loaded into pretty much every social network where you belong. Add it to MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Flickr, and wherever else you can bring awareness. Make sure you submit it to directories like Dmoz.org, and Yahoo and Google. Get that URL out there where people can find it. I’ve had lots of interesting moments where someone has found my blog via Facebook or LinkedIn.
Third, add it to your email signature and your business cards. If your company doesn’t give you business cards, go to Overnight Prints or Vista Print or Moo and buy some. Thirty or so bucks and they help people find you (and your blog!).
In services like Twitter, promote your blog posts from time to time. Not EVERY post, but ones where you feel you’ve done well. I never use automatic post-to-twitter links. They just don’t seem to net decent conversations. Instead, try using a conversational tone. For instance, when I’m done this post, I will send to Twitter something like this: “I shared my thoughts on growing your audience. What are YOUR ideas?” and then the link to this post. You don’t have to follow, but you’ll know exactly why I asked for your attention.
One quick note: it’s not always about your blog. Don’t be that guy.
I could also say “be consistent,” but in this case, I want you to persist in not only putting out your content, but also making it better. EVERYONE can make their stuff better. I could do to focus on my takeaways. You might need to pare down the word count. There’s always room to do better work.
Further, do lots to try new things. Stretch out the medium. Think of new ways to ask the same old questions. Decide on challenging approaches to blogging in ways that powerfully reveal the information your audience seeks from you. Persist in such matters, never accepting that your work is flawless, but instead analyzing your responses and uptake or downturn in traffic, and giving more effort accordingly.
And Now, the Bonus Round
Other ways that I’ve built traffic to my blog include the basics: comment on great blogs. Write and submit guest posts to top blogs in your similar space (but be careful of HOW you guest post). Add occasional links to your blog posts in places like Flickr. Consider contests. Participate in other people’s events. Find groups of bloggers you like and see if you fit their circles of friends. Write series so that people want to participate and come back for more. Make your URL memorable.
And beyond all that? Be as human as humanly possible, only do that in the most interesting senses of the idea. Make sense?
What else did I miss? The part where I ask you questions so that you help add YOUR personality and ideas to the conversation?
Photo Credit, Chel Pixie shooting for Financial Aid Podcast