This post is part of the ‘What we wish we Knew’ Series. In this post I’ll share readers comments on the topic of finding readers for a blog as well as some of my own experiences and advice.
We’ve talked about setting your blog up right (hosting, domains and platforms), making money from blogs and writing great content – but while all of these things are important to think through, they are somewhat useless unless you have readers stopping by to engage with your content.
It’s no wonder then that the most common question I’m asked is ‘how do I find readers for my blog’.
As with all of the topics we’re looking at this week, how to find readers is something that will vary from blog to blog significantly. But if I had to identify a top 5 things that I’ve learned on the topic over the last 5 years I’d summarize it like this:
1. Know Who You Want to Attract
When I was a younger single guy a wise friend gave me a valuable piece of advice for finding a life partner. He said – ‘Darren, write a list of what you’re looking for in a partner’. He went on to explain that when you define what you want in life you’re more likely to spot it when it comes by your way. You’ll also be more likely to know where to go looking for it. Read more on defining what type of reader you want and going after them.
While I’m not sure my friend would have expected his advice to turn up in a post about how to attract readers to your blog – I think there’s some truth to it. I wish now that I’d spent more time in the early days of blogging thinking about my reader (or potential reader).
2. Build Community
While I will always argue that quality content is essential in drawing readers to your blog I am increasingly convinced that one way to build your readership is to create spaces that people will want to belong to.
Build an interactive space where people feel empowered to add their comments, give readers jobs, give them homework, make your readers famous and create spaces where you step back and let your readers take the lead in showing their expertise and you’ll build a blog that people will want to be a part of and a space that your readers will promote for you.
3. Think Outside Your Blog
I’m about to make a very, very, very obvious point – please forgive me. The readers that you are hoping will discover your blog don’t come to your blog. What?
Let me explain with a short story. I was talking with one of b5media’s bloggers yesterday and they were telling me how much time they’d spent on building a great blog and yet were upset that their readership hadn’t really grown. My first question was – ‘how much time do you spend on blogging each day?’ Their answer proved to me that they were serious about blogging – they were investing hours every day.
My second question was ‘how much of that time do you spend working on your actual blog and how much of it do you spend off your blog?’ The answer was quite illuminating for both the blogger and myself. They spent 90-95% of their time writing content, answering comments and tweaking their own blog and only 5-10% of their time off their blog interacting on other people’s blogs and sites.
While all of the activities that this blogger was doing on their own blog were important, the majority of that effort was spent on internal activities and keeping current readers. The blogger wasn’t engaging in spaces where their potential readers were. I suggested that this next week they see what happens if they decreased their posting rate a little and spent more time on other sites (other blogs in their niche, forums and social sites).
4. Leverage the Traffic Tsunamis
If I have a regret about this area of finding new readers it is that I wish I knew earlier about how to leverage the power of the waves of traffic that do come to a blog from time to time.
Even in my first few weeks of blogging I had some little waves of traffic come in as other blogs linked up and ask the search engines began to find my content. However it wasn’t until a couple of years into my blogging that I realized that I was so over the moon celebrating the peaks of traffic that I had that I was missing an opportunity each time they happened.
The problem was that each time a new ‘wave’ happened I’d find that the next day my traffic levels would return to ‘normal’. A handful of new readers might hang around but it wasn’t really anything I’d done that kept them.
It wasn’t for a long time that I began to experiment with harnessing the power of the waves of traffic that came in and attempting to create reader loyalty (or blog stickiness) at these times.
Now my first reaction when I see a wave of traffic arriving on one of my blogs isn’t to jump around the room thinking about how great I am – it’s in putting strategies into place to make sure that some of those new readers come back again tomorrow. Read more on how to surf traffic tsunamis.
5. Learn some Basic Search Engine Optimization
I learned about SEO in a bit of a backwards way. The search engines found me and started sending large amounts of traffic to my blogs – and then I decided I should work out why so that I could help them send me even more traffic.
I discovered pretty early on that the best way to build SE traffic was the same way that you built other types of traffic – writing great content that people found useful and linked to. This needs to be at the core of your SEO strategies – build a great blog.
However there are other techniques that definitely help in building search engine traffic. I won’t regurgitate them all here because I’ve previously written a guide to Search Engine Optimization for Bloggers that I think sums it up pretty well.
The one thing I will emphasize again here is that SEO is important, but it’s not something to obsess about. Learn the principles and keep them in mind as you set up and run your blog – but don’t let SEO be your only traffic generation strategy. Keep a holistic approach and you’ll build a much more sustainable type of traffic (and the other strategies will help your SEO too).
Remember – strategy #1 for SEO – build a great blog.
Reader Comments on Finding and Interacting with Readers
That’s enough of me talking about finding readers and blog promotion – what did readers write on the topic when I asked them what they wish they knew about blogging when they first started?
Andrei Rosca writes – “I wish i knew the importance of talking to every single one of the visitors that were leaving comments. By just talking to them you show that you care about their opinions and you encourage them to say more often what they think.”
Crazykinux writes – “Network with bloggers in your niche, they are your best source of new traffic at first.”
baiguai writes – “I wish I knew the importance of getting involved. Whether it is with other blogs, or forums, or other online communities. It is through these outlets that I have found my most loyal readers, but it was slow going because I didn’t network enough at the start.”
Expectant Father writes – “I kind of thought that: “If I blog, they will come!” This is so very far from the truth. It takes a lot of elbow grease to feel like you are getting anywhere.”
Patsy writes – “I wish I knew how important commenting on blogs is. I visited tons of blogs in my learning process and I just recently started commenting.”
What do you wish you knew about finding readers for your blog when you first started blogging?
good info for newbie like me…a lot of things that i can learn from your blog Darren..thanks
I used to write just to write but now I know the importance of interacting with other music fans on various forums, blogs and MySpace. It does take a lot of work so start small and move up from there. I am just starting to interact with the music community more and it makes you feel more a part of a group of like-minded people and that will always get back to your blog.
Super helpful post, thank you! It feels like an uphill battle in the first few months. :)
Great information. I think it is so important to put more time into visiting and commenting on other blogs and getting involved in communities like MyBlogLog. It is a lot more beneficial then just staring at your blog waiting for the readers to come to you.
I agree that leveraging traffic surges is crucial. If you don’t make an extra effort to convert as many people as possible into regular readers, the wave will eventually disappear and you won’t be much better than when you started.
I think it’s good to review the basics every now and again. You tend to lose track or forget the obvious. It looks like we all need a nudge back in the right direction sometimes.
“They spent 90-95% of their time writing content, answering comments and tweaking their own blog and only 5-10% of their time off their blog interacting on other people’s blogs and sites.”
It is almost scary how true that is.
Hi Darren, thanks for sharing your secrets, your generosity attracts people to your blog. Writing a list of who you wish to attract works – Law of Attraction! Shorten our learning curve:)
First of all I want to thank you, because I feel worth to visit your blog once a day. Such a nice post.
Getting ‘Blog Reader’ can be done with value writing.
Not only in blog, this formula works everywhere. If the product/ service quality is good or better people will gradually become fan of it.
It is the quality which speaks itself.
That 5-10% off-blog time is what I need to work on. I’ll have to make a note for myself in my blog binder to increase that time, check out other blogs in my niche and join in the conversation.
I like the tip about creating a community. I think I need to implement more of that.
As always, great stuff. Thanks, Darren.
It is all too easy to get caught up with writing and tweaking your blog to make it the best it can possibly be. We get so into it that we forget to do the very thing we want others to do on our site, visit it and comment! If you want people to look at your blog, then visit theirs.
I go through myblogog communities and leave comments on a minimum of 30 blogs per day. I get tired of it but I muster through because I know it I don’t they more than likely wont come looking for little ol’ me. I communicate with blogs outside of my niche as well. Why limit myself.
Like Deborah, I leave comments on other blogs, some like this one, are out of my niche. I don’t leave more than 5 or 6 at the most, because I don’t want to get in the habit of just leaving a comment to attract attention to myself. I don’t mean that as a criticism. I want each of my comments to be meaningful to the site that I leave it on so that I attract other people who might be interested in what I have to said. I want to add value by commenting.
I am checking out sites like this one in order to see what improvements I can make to my own blog. My first article came out on June 1 so I am brand new to blogging. This site and others really help with the tips that I pick up. Thanks.
Very informative – good stuff!
“My first reaction when I see a wave of traffic arriving on one of my blogs isn’t to jump around the room thinking about how great I am”,
That made me laugh!
Great post Darren. Very insightful, and it really makes me think about my own blogging habits. I think the real thrust of entire piece that jumps out at me, and the thing most of us loose track of, is to think beyond yourself.
Whenever a popular medium like blogging explodes into the mainstream, one common phrase you will hear from the majority of unsuccessful practitioners is: “I do it for myself“. People used to write poetry for themselves, people play music for themselves, people paint for themselves and so on. The major flaw with this idyllic thought is that any form of communication is inconmplete without a receiver. It’s fine if you keep your creative output in your super-secret personal diary, or your super-secret loft, or your super-secure personal computer, but once it’s out in the public eye, I’m sorry but it’s not for yourself anymore. Now you have an audience to keep in mind, and blogging is most definitely a creative outlet with an audience. Sharing your thoughts and ideas with the entire world simply does not qualify for the “for myself” clause.
Once you have an audience, success of any measure is impossible with purely self centred thinking. You cannot become a successful blogger by thinking only of what you want, of only your own blog, or only your own ideas. There’s a whole world waiting out there that you need to talk to, and if you want them to listen you had better know who you’re talking to, what they think about, what they love, what they hate, and what sets their hearts ablaze. Because once you know these things you will write for both yourself and them and the world will be your ardent listener.
Actually the fact is, as far as I see it, that it is creating the traffic surge that is the difficult part. Once you have a traffic surge you can do more things then listed in this post to make loyal readers. Actually, you do not need to do much if you have good content. The problem is that good or quality content is loosely defined. Most bloggers and websites which talk about Home Business never clearly define what is quality content. Everyone tells you write quality content but no one knows what quality content is.
The fact is that you can do away with extra techniques if you have the right content. Giving away freebies, jobs, making readers famous, free software – no need if you have powerful content.
So what is powerful content. Content that solves problems. I have read hundreds of articles about ways to get traffic but all the articles I have read are abstract. And if they do offer concrete information, then it doesn’t work.
Some articles promote traffic exchange systems. Now that is pointless. The truth is that good content and traffic surge are all you need. But how do you get the traffic surge. My experience is that there are only three ways – one which is impossilbe
1. Good Search Engine Ranking – Impossible
2. Comment on Blogs
The third option costs money. But if you truly offer quality content and utilize advertising means other than pay per click advertisements, then you will see a positive ROI with time. Yes you will. But you have to spend. I am surprised bloggers do not move beyond pay per click to other opportunities such as pay per lead or pay per action.
Pay per action can make you a millionaire if you combine it with google adwords – also known as search engine marketing. But no one focuses on this.
Oh well I think I have talked enough. But nevertheless good post if your content is weak. Otherwise content is by far the best method to
convert visitors into loyal readers.
Look at Daren. He does it with just content. Not too much else!
To sum it up: “Givers Get.”
Great article, Darren.
– Dave Navarro
Derren how long do you think one have to keep blogging although there is no traffic coming? I mean when do you think is a good time to realise that the blog won’t go anywhere?
Great series! It’s great to get these tips, especially for the newbies like myself. I also like the fact that your readers are willing to share their own experiences in the comments section. There’s nothing like a good story to help us all understand what works.
For all those newbies out there, I’ve put together an article that reviews some of the best products around for new starters. Some are personal reviews and others are from fellow professionals, but these are the ones that are genuinely thought to be the best products out for people trying to set out in this line of business.
Please take a look at the article and the products and best of luck to you.
I wish I´d realized how incredibly vital it is to network with other bloggers and participate in things! I was a bit of a blogging hermit for the first couple of months. As soon as I decided to come out of my shell (with your group writing project, actually), I nearly doubled my traffic!
I think that this is the main area that I still struggle with. Gaining readers is fairly easy, but getting them in numbers were it is worth something is difficult. I am always ready to learn, but this message still hasn’t gotten through to me.
This is getting a bit redundant.
I am bit confused on this one. I did have one blog earlier but I was spending much more time in deleting the pharma and adult comments rather then writing new blog posts on my blog. So I had to close the comments.
I still want to have the commenting option on the blog but am not bothering much as I will again have to delete 5000 comments per day.
Hey everyone, i’d like to see what everyone thinks of http://www.rumory.com, spread the word. It is a rumor mill for the web2 world, the good bad and ugly, learn about a company before taking that job or be a corporate voyeur at rumory – Mr anonymous
Don’t know if it works on other platforms, but you if you’re using WordPress, you definitely need to activate Akismet to avoid most of the spam comments. Good luck1
A note to Keral Patel… There are many plugins that you can use to control the spam. As Janet noted above, the Akismet plugin for wordpress is great. I have only had a few spam comments that it didn’t catch. It has caught well over 2000 since I activated it several months ago. Good luck to you!
This is what I have been trying to do with my website. Content seems to be key. Content that people actually want to read. Once you got that you will have a successful site
I try to make time to do all things and not get caught up in just blogging or just worrying about seo stuff. I’ve found that waking up early in the morning and writing a blog post and focusing on marketing and networking in the evening works best for me. At first, all I did was blog and not join any communities or post any comments. Even if you have to post only once a day or less, it’s better to start marketing your blog and talking to others who do the same thing.
Great post. I think I have at least found a good balance in posting/versus activity external to my blog. I actually spend around 50/50. Some days I might spend 75 outside of my blog and only 25 inside. This is largely because I only am trying to make one post a day at this point, so the rest of my time is spent discussing with others and learning the topics I want to share.
Great information for us newbie’s, i think you have TOO MUCH great information… its an overload! =)
Nice to know the importance of comments. Not just getting them but posting them too. Will start doing that from this instance
Thanks for the info. Hopefully if things work out, I’ll be happy that I knew these things in advance (because right now it’s a lot of work lol). Thanks again!
The best way to get high ranking by search engine is the content of your site and also incoming link. I would use this opportunity to provide some free incoming links for your site. http://www.tegadave.blogspot.com
my traffic sucks site now, thanks for the advice. I am going to try it out and see if you are right. mostly likely are
Thanks for the advice. I’m going to look deeper into it when I have time, but I already feel like the articles have given me alot of knowledge about succesful blogging. Consider yourself bookmarked.
After reading this post…I realized that I’ve been posting too much and not spending enough time outside of my blog. How bad of me. = (
Can’t wait for your next post in your blog. = )
Great post. Really enjoyed the read and am looking forward to implementing these processes with my blog.
Another great post sometimes i find it hard to interact when reading other people’s blogs as the information i am reading i am new to and find it hard to share an opinion or debate on matters related to the article.
Thank you for this post. At first I felt like I was reading rehashed material because I knew most of the stuff you wrote about. However, I never really put THAT much thought into commenting on other related blogs. I just felt that commenting was a boring way to build traffic. But you have made me think of it differently…like a guaranteed way to start building initial loyal readers
One thing that I need to do is keep tract with what I have done on the blog and match it with the spikes. There are a few ways in which I notify people that a new post is up and there are also a few blogs I comment on.
I don’t know how much I should do it but does anyone know how to best keep up with that stuff other than writing it all down?
Great post and I really liked the Thinking Outside Your blog paragraph because that’s what I believe in most. I believe that going to other blogs and forums in your niches helps you a lot to get traffic to your blog.
Its not difficult is it. I mean go to a blog post a comment with your link in it and it will just take you about 5 minutes. You get traffic right away (sometimes in the next five minutes).
I think what other information that could have been added here was to keep an eye on what other bloggers are doing. Do respect their content and don’t copy it but watch and learn from what they are doing.
Free Website Traffic
I wish I had known how slow the going was going to be! I feel like I am writing for no one. I have recently started teaching out through blogging Facebook groups, connecting, and promoting where allowed. I’ve made 1 connection so far, and hoping for many more! Thanks for your post Darren.
This is such a great article. One thing I noticed was that getting involved in other blogs was mentioned a number of times and it’s definitely something I’ve been lacking when growing my deep value investing sites.
I have listened to your podcast and ready many of your blog posts and one question I have about finding readers has to do with posting or getting involved with other blogs of similar fashion. I am curious if I am allowed to take one of my blog posts and post it to someone else’s blog (not needing to link back to my blog) but mostly because I don’t want to lose my best content to someone else’s blog.