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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How to set up a mailing list on WordPress.com

Mailing lists are a key tool to help any author build an audience, and for fans of the author’s work to have access to exclusive content and information about new releases before anyone else. These are not to be confused by your blog sign-up, which informs those signed up of new blog posts.

At the end of last week I announced to the world that I’d set up a mailing list to inform people about any future releases. While the mailing list has proved popular (getting a free book may have helped) by far the biggest question I was asked was: how did you set up your mailing list?

Sadly, unlike on wordpress.org self-hosted blogs, there isn’t a specific widget available to link to a mailing list service. However, there is a workaround you can use. I set my mailing list up with MailChimp, an excellent free-to-use service. There are many other services available but this example is specific to MailChimp.

Before you start you will need to:

1. Register on MailChimp and set up a mailing list

2. Upload an image you want to use to promote your mailing list into your media library (I used the MailChimp icon but you may wish to create something more specific).

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.49.35Step 1 Login to MailChimp and select Lists from the left hand Menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.50.28Step 2 Click on the drop down arrow on the left hand side and select sign up forms

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3 Click on General FormsScreen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.50.57

 

 

 

Step 4 You need to either copy or note down the sign up form URL.Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.53.01

This sign up is one of a number of form that come as standard for any MailChimp user (you can click on the down arrow when on site to see them all). They are unique to you and can be amended as you see fit. The pages themselves are hosted by MailChimp and therefore separate from your WordPress blog.

**At this point I would recommend you go through the MailChimp sign up forms and amend them to however you want them to appear. To find out how to do this, click here**

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.59.17Step 5 Go to your WordPress.com dashboard and select appearance – widgets

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.01.30

Step 6 Select an Image widget and drag it to your sidebar

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.02.21Step 7 Complete your widget form.

Widget Title should be the text you wish to see above the image

Image URL: This is the URL for the image you previously uploaded to promote your mailing list. You can find this URL by clicking media and selecting the appropriate image. The URL will be on the right hand side of the page.

Link URL is the URL you either copied or noted down from your MailChimp sign up page.

Then press save.

 

You should now have a working sign up image on your blog!

If you found this blog helpful, you can always sign up to my mailing list by either clicking here or on the image at the top right hand side of my blog. In return, you will receive one of my e-books, of your choice, absolutely free! I promise not to spam you or pass on your details to anyone else.

Twitter tip for WordPress users

twitter logo

image source: twitter.com

One of the great things about the WordPress platform for blogging is the sharing facility. These little buttons at the bottom of each post allow people who have liked what you’ve written to share it across many different social media platforms.

Like many other bloggers I use twitter. Twitter is fantastic a platform on which to share you content, but I’ve noticed recently that a a number of bloggers I follow are missing a great way of expanding their online community by not linking their blog to their twitter account.

Why is this important?

Whenever anybody shares one of your posts by twitter using the share button, your blog generates an automated tweet structured like this:

Blog title – blog post url – linked twitter name

Below is the text generated for my last post:

The difference between creativity and inspiration http://wp.me/p3Dds0-fH via @hearndylan

If you notice, I’ve already linked my twitter username, @hearndylan, to my blog. This means whenever anybody shares one of my posts, I get a notification from twitter letting me know what has been shared and by whom.

This is incredibly valuable information.

Think about it for a moment. This person has not only read your post, they liked it so much they wanted to share it with all their twitter followers. And if they enjoyed your post, there is every chance their like-minded followers will also enjoy the post and share it to their followers, and so on. Every time this share is retweeted, your twitter username is tweeted with it, meaning you get to see each and every person who enjoyed your post. How cool is that?

But what should you do with this information? The most effective twitter users know that engagement is key to building a strong following. This is where the true value of linking you username comes in. If the person who retweeted your post likes your writing so much, wouldn’t they be a great person to get to know better? The very least you can do is thank them for sharing your post. You could ask them what they most liked about it, you could follow them (if you don’t already), respond to some of their tweets in return. From these small interactions, friendships blossom. I’ve lost count of the number of great twitter friends I’ve met this way.

But, if you haven’t linked your blog to your twitter account, all this information is sent to @wordpressdotcom, and is lost to you forever.

So how do you change your settings?

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 09.10.08The good news is this setting is very easy to change. Simply go to your Dashboard – Settings – Sharing. Fifth from bottom you will see an option snappily titled “Twitter username to include in tweets when people share using the Twitter button”. Replace ‘wordpressdotcom’ with your own twitter username (without the @), then press save.