My top 10 blogging tips on building an audience

blogging wordcloud

image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barnett/ licensed under creative commons

 

It’s been a week of milestones for my little blog. Firstly, I passed the 30,000 views mark. For a blog that’s been going less than two years, where I post on average once a week, I’m both thrilled and humbled by this achievement.

The second milestone is that this is my 200th post. It has been quite a ride since I first posted about a cat that defecates in my garden and I’ve learnt an awful lot along the way. My blog has changed from being a platform for me to play around with writing to a blog about writing, and specifically self-publishing. During my blogging time I’ve published two books, met many wonderful people, been introduced to the wonderfully supportive writing community, as well as discovered some fantastic books by new and exciting authors.

Thank you to all of you who read, comment and share my posts. You are a wonderful group of people and it’s a pleasure knowing you.

In order to celebrate these milestones, I thought I’d pass on my top 10 tips on building a blogging audience. Of course, if your blog is very personal, building an audience may not be your goal, so many of these won’t apply, but if you are looking to increase your readership then these tips are a good place to start.

1. Post regularly

The more regularly you post, the more likely people will find you and follow you. I see a significant drop in my weekly visitor averages if I post less than once a week. If I post more than once a week those averages not only rise, but grow week on week. It’s hard work (which is why I usually write just one post per week) but the response is worth it.

2. Have a purpose

When I first started blogging it was purely as a medium to play around with writing. I wrote about all sorts of things, some of which people found interesting, others that were barely read at all. However, as my blogging became more about one subject – writing and self-publishing – I found an audience – you! That doesn’t mean I post solely about writing and self-publishing, but the majority of my posts are in this area.

3. Keep posts to under 1000 words

This is a great rule of thumb. It doesn’t mean every post should be under this limit, but the shorter the post, the more likely it will be read to the end.

4. Don’t think what you would like to write but what you would like to read

This is based on a lesson I learnt while writing fiction. During the first draft, an author will often include lots of back story and explanation. It’s an important part of the writing process and enjoyable to write, but it’s as dull as hell to read and often gets culled during the editing process. Just because something is fun to write, doesn’t make it interesting to read. Make sure your posts offer your readers something, whether it’s knowledge, insight or a different perspective.

5. Interact with your readership

Except for my Recommended Reads, I always end my posts with a question (there’ll be one at the end of this post too). Sometimes this can be ignored but often it starts a debate which generates further interest in the subject. If somebody is kind enough to comment on your blog, answer them, promptly if possible. I’ve met many of my favourite bloggers and writers this way, as we discuss the topics raised, but even if it’s just a plain ‘thank you,’ it will mean a lot and encourage them to visit again.

6. Be yourself

The best blogs develop a little community of regular readers, based on a shared view, love or experience. The only way you can do this is by being yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t exaggerate or suppress aspects of your personality as you write, but to be effective there has to be a core part of you within your blogging.

7. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated

I’m not suggesting that every post should be deliberately provocative, but people like a good argument. If you have an opinion on a subject, give it. You will never be able to please everybody with what you write so don’t try to. Rather than avoid subjects or opinions you feel could be controversial, embrace them. Sure, this may turn off some readers but at the same time you will get to find your audience.

8. Be gracious when people disagree with you

If you are going to give your opinion, expect people to disagree with you. When this happens, read what they have to say and see if it makes sense to you. If it does, then don’t be afraid to concede the point. If it doesn’t, be gracious in your reply. Some of my favourite readers disagree with me often. Occasionally they have a point. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

9. Use social media to promote your blog

The WordPress reader is a lovely tool to discover new blogs but it has a limited audience. It was only when I started to actively promote my blog via twitter that my numbers began to grow. WordPress have a great system called Publicize, where you can link your blog to social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and each time you post it is shared on the social media platform of your choice. Using the right tags and hashtags also helps to promote your blog outside your existing audience.

10. When in doubt, use a list

Can you see what I did there? There’s nothing better than a large block of text to turn readers off. Instead, structure it into a way that’s easy to digest. By far my most popular posts are structured around lists. This is no coincidence. With lists, people are able to quickly discover the gist of the post and decide whether to read further or not.

So, these are my top 10 tips, but what are yours? I’d love to hear from you.

 

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102 thoughts on “My top 10 blogging tips on building an audience

  1. 30,000 views. Wow – that is a lot of views. Thanks for the really useful tips. My kids have advised me that photos of ‘cute ass puppies’ will draw views as well (their words, not mine). I’m thinking about trying that.

  2. Great advice. I have trouble with #1. I’m a sporadic blogger. #10 is a good one. I love lists, and I’ve found the posts where I have tips broken down into bullet points or numbered paragraphs are the most popular.

    • I have trouble with #1 too, as I mentioned. It’s partly about time but also about having a suitable subject. That said, when I have blogged every other day I’ve found the ideas easy to come by.

  3. Pingback: A Cute A** Puppy and….a Duck? | S.D. Gates
  4. Congrats on the 30,000 views, Dylan! Another point for me is to be a good citizen on other people’s blogs. I have had people find me through my comments. I try to find the time to comment when I like someone else’s post. And I agree with responding to reader comments…I’ve commented on blogs where the writer never replied, and it feels like you are being snubbed. Not a good way to attract followers!

  5. My Blog has been going for quite a bit longer than yours and I’ve produced about 370 posts but my visits number is very significantly lower than yours. Possibly, apart from the quality of my posts, this may have to do with my poor grasp of other social media. My Twitter followers lurch between 170 & 180 for no apparent reason. Last week two people followed and then un-followed me without apparent reason for either action and I confess I struggle to get a grip of the marketing advantages posed by the platform. More fool me eh, but luckily rescue in the shape of a tea mug is never far from hand. I do do a lot of what you suggest above, but there you go !

    • I think it’s much harder for blogs where the content is primarily fiction to generate a readership as quickly as those of us who primarily deal with opinion & information, even fiction as wonderfully written as your own. For some reason the demand for blog-based fiction just isn’t as high, so I wouldn’t try to make a comparison. I would continue with the tea, though. You can’t beat a good cuppa or two.

  6. Thanks so much for these advice. This month is my blog’s first birthday and I’m very excited. I don’t have your following, though I nearly have your same number of posts. I’m already following most of your advice and am slowly seeing mumbers raise.
    Let’s see where this will bring me 🙂

    • Thank you. It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest. When I started blogging I was thrilled the first time somebody I didn’t know personally responded to one of my posts, 30,000 views is beyond anything I ever expected.

  7. Woop- woop. 30Ks. Brillig, old chum. Another fine set of ideas and info. I blog rather too much and rather too randomly I expect it’s kind of ‘what’s on my mind today’ and a lot of it is sort of memoir related. I suspect if I both cut it down and focused it a bit more – maybe if I had a day for this and that or separate blogs – then the readership might change and be better channelled but then, as you say, you have to be yourself and the squirrelling is defo me. Always after the next juicy nut. I guess what I might add, and it’s something you do, is the pay it forward idea, whether as you do with your promotion of fellow Indies (thank you again, kind sir) or other blogs and bloggers. The best thing I’ve found is the lack of jealousy and proprietorship people feel about their followers, often passing on either generically those who interest them or specifically to me someone who they think I might like to link up with because of a post I’ve written. Thanks as usual Dylan.

    • Pay it forward is probably the thing I’m most proud of. It has brought me into contact with so many great writers and I’ve read and enjoyed books from genres I’d never otherwise have tried, and if it’s brought additional exposure and sales to those authors, all the better.

  8. Just an FYI regarding tip number three, length of blog posts: since I’ve been blogging, I kept my blog posts between 500-750 words because I had this personal rule never to read anyone else’s posts that were over 1000 words, so that’s what I was going to write, because I assume everyone else is like me, in all things. 🙂

    Back in January, I attended a meeting that included a brief presentation regarding business applications of social media, which mostly involved explaining Instagram to a bunch of older folks, but I did perk up when the speaker turned to the issue of blogs (which may or may not be dead, according to this speaker, so that was helpful), because she gave a bit of advice that ran contrary to my long held opinion: search engines seem to prefer longer posts to shorter posts, as shorter posts may be dismissed as spammy. Longer posts are more “credible” to the search engine overlords (that’s what SEO stands for, right? ;)), or that’s the theory. She gave the optimal word count at 1500 words.

    So that was her advice, for what it’s worth. No doubt in six months time, she’ll be saying, “No, no! Shorter posts!”

    I guess blog length depends on your blogging goals: do you want folks like me (and I suspect Dylan) to read all the way to the end, or do you want to maximize the number of eyeballs finding your post?

    • I should add that since that meeting, I’ve been experimenting with writing longer blog posts, but it’s absolute struggle for me to get to 1k words.

      • I have the reverse problem. It was a struggle keeping this post under 1000 words (1048 if you wanted to know). Sometimes a post has to be as long as it needs. If it’s a short post, it’s a short post, padding it out won’t improve it. Then again, with longer posts it’s always worth reviewing what you’ve written to see if it can be tightened, as with any writing.

    • It’s a good point, although I’ve found SEO and searches have had less to do with generating traffic on my blog than shares on Twitter or Facebook or reblogging via WordPress, so I’m not sure whether that should be the main driver. It’s worth keeping in mind, though.
      And of course everyone is like you. Why wouldn’t they be? 😉

      • ok, my experience is the opposite. Almost all my traffic comes from searches.

        I’m not sure how “followers” are calculated into the mix, because I believe that folks who receive posts via email or read posts within the WP Reader, do not count as page views, until they actually click on your page and come to your site. Hoping someone will chime in to correct me if I am wrong about this.

        You may have already blogged about this topic (I’ll search your archives when I get a chance later), but I’d be interested in reading about your experience using social media to grow your blog readership.

      • I saw a real upsurge in blog views once I started using the publicize function to automatically tweet my posts. I was actively growing my Twitter following at the time (something I now regret in some ways) and the two went hand in hand.
        With Twitter, the use of hashtags is very important. It makes your tweet (and therefore post) available to a much wider audience. #writingtips and #amwriting have proven particularly good for this.
        Not all followers stay with you, but I’ve got to meet a number of great bloggers through Twitter.
        I also receive a lot of traffic from Facebook, even though I don’t have an author page, so most of this comes from other authors.

  9. I read somewhere that 1500 words is the optimum length for a blog post… mine are usually about 1200, unless I write a piece of fiction. Thanks for the tips, and congrats on your stats and milestones… love this blogging journey!

    • Thank you! 🙂
      Yes, Karen also mentioned that 1,500 words is recommended, at least for SEO purposes. All I can say is that I notice a definite drop in interaction when my posts are longer than 1,000 words, but then again it may be more to do with my writing 😉

      • LOL! I doubt that! I know from my own experience that following a lot of blogs means you don’t have a lot of time to read them all, and my heart sinks when I see a post is longer than a thousand words! I hate to say it, but that is often enough to put me off reading…

  10. Couldn’t agree more with the above, Dylan. Lovely work. Bet you anything you’ll have doubled your views by the end of 2015 – the Internet’s funny like that – thankfully!

    • I think on the longer blogs you can play around with the presentation to make it less intimidating to the casual reader and a little more digestible. There’s a reason most newspapers write in columns broken up with subheadings. They’ve spent decades perfecting the way to draw readers in. 🙂

  11. Reblogged this on Reflections and commented:
    Welcome to the second installment of Reblog Thursday! Many of my readers who are new to blogging are attempting to build an audience. Even more veteran bloggers are still interested in growing their readership. Therefore, there is information in this post that is beneficial for everyone.

    • Thanks so much for reblogging my post. I’ve been away for the weekend and have come back to find my blog has exploded! I’m really glad you enjoyed the post and found it useful 🙂

  12. Great post – I particularly like the one about writing what you want to read as opposed to what you want to write… think I could definitely learn from that one!

    • Thank you! I saw a great Venn diagram the other day with two circles. One said “what you know” and the other said “what people are interested in” and the intersection read “blog about this”. I think that pretty much sums things up 🙂

  13. Hi Dylan – I think my big problem is one you struggled with early in your blogging days. I write about what I like, and the range of topics is rather wide. I know I should narrow it down, but I worry I will get bored with a narrower focus. Plus, my interests are changing over time. I struggle with this because I am very eager to grow my audience. Even if I get folks to share a post on FB or Twitter, they rarely subscribe. Another issue. Seems like the most popular blogs are those that offer how-to tips, or information that readers really need, which keeps them coming back. I seem to have only questions, and very few answers. Thanks for all your ideas!

    • The biggest help to building your blogging audience is time. The longer you blog, the more chance you have of connecting with like-minded people. It may take a while but it will happen. Good luck with your blogging 🙂

  14. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS is the KEY to building your blog and the way I have been able to do that is by scoping out other people’s blogs who I can relate to, and leaving comments and subscribing to them, following them, etc. I also belong to a lot of Fitness/Health/Food communications and ambassadorships, which have connected me with tons of amazing people who support me just as much as I support them!

    • Absolutely! It’s all about making connections with like-minded people. It’s relatively easy to create “click-bait” style articles to attract in new readers, but finding your true, long-lasting audience comes down to building relationships, one at a time.

  15. This is a good list. I do most of these, and I’m happy with how far I’ve come over 3 short months. Congrats to you as well 🙂 This is worth a reblog 😉

  16. Reblogged this on Romance Done Write and commented:
    This is a great list for those looking to expand their audience. I’m a little leery of the be opinionated. 1. It’s not me (for many other bloggers I know, it works, so I’m not knocking it) 2. I do many of these things already and I’ve seen posts from other power bloggers that repeat the same advice. So check it out!

  17. Congrats on 30k. I think I’ve had that many in the past year and a bit, and I’m approaching 40k in the next few days. I’m doing a list post tonight! Something I like doing is to give back to my readers. Every month, I make a post about my top 6 commenters, link to their most recent post, and in general thank everyone for commenting. I always reply to comments. A couple new commenters to my top 6 this month were very happy to be mentioned.

  18. I would add under the Keep it under 1000 words, to also write at least 300 words since this will help you get a higher SEO score. A lot of search engines tend to ignore or at least give less emphasis to articles of less than 300 words.

  19. Thanks for the tips! As a new blogger these are important things to remember. And congrats on your blogging milestones!

    Visiting from the SITS girls link party.

  20. Hello Dylan,

    I found your blog by way of a Reblog by Janice Wald. This is a great post! What caught my eye was #6, be yourself. Why?
    In the past 6 months I have been hammered on LinkedIn by 2 different Professional Journalist’s commenting in 2 of my Book and Writer groups, very rude comments about my grammar. I blog more from the heart, not as a professional writer. So I like to use a wee bit of humor, and keep my posts more lite and more personal. It is what my readers enjoy about my book promotions blog. My clients like it as well. But it does bother me that journalist’s think we have to be perfect writers.

    I’m far from it, as I am still a “writer in progress.” Your thoughts?

    *Catherine* 🙂

    • Without knowing the context it’s a little hard for me to comment but personally I find any form of destructive (as opposed to constructive) criticism unhelpful at the very least, and sometimes downright harmful.
      I think as a writer, if you are blogging about writing or giving writing advice you have an obligation to do your best to get your grammar and punctuation right, if only to yourself. At the same time each blog has its own style and readers of the blog should take this into consideration.
      On my about page I have the following disclaimer “I limit myself to spending only one hour on each post, plus a bit of extra time for editing, because I prefer to concentrate on writing my fiction. However, this does mean you may find the odd typo or grammatical error. I blame my fingers.” I think it explains the situation very clearly 😉

  21. Hi 🙂 Thanks for posting this. I’m new to blogging, and on my two sites I’ve only had one like and a couple of views, so I’ll keep these in mind. Thanks again 🙂

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