Sometimes, it seems like there are more blogs out there than readers.
This has gotten to be even more of a problem with the rise of community content sites like Tumblr and Reddit that give blog readers one-stop shops for information on specialty topics that interest them.
Only a small percentage of blogs have a regular readership. The high rates of abandonment among new bloggers is part of the reason why, but a much larger part is that too many of them are taking Field of Dreams literally and assuming that simply writing quality content will magically draw viewers.
So, if building it doesn’t ensure they’ll come, what will?
Before we talk about how to increase engagement, you need to define what it is and how to track it. The most straightforward metric would be views, but what do views mean if no one’s responding or connecting to your blog?
What you want, as with eCommerce in general, is targeted visitors who will really read your content and return regularly for more. With that goal in mind, you can measure engagement in the following ways:
Comments, questions, complaints: any of these mean your readers are sitting up and paying attention. The type of response you want will depend on your goals though. For instance, adding a name to your mailing list’s opt-in form is also a form of engagement, and one of the most desirable, so it might benefit you to just track that.
But one overlooked metric that will give you a clue into what your visitors are really thinking is the bounce rate—the percentage of visitors who visit your site but leave for another website without clicking any links.
If visitors are only spending a short period of time on your site, it can mean one of two things: one bad, one good. The good cause is they’re checking your blog fairly regularly to see if your content has updated and leaving if it hasn’t, or reading only the latest post if it has. This at least means that people care enough about your site to return to it on a semi-regular basis without being asked.
The bad cause is that visitors are taking one look at your content, determining they don’t care, then leaving without a second thought towards reading more. The way to tell the difference between the two, assuming you have Google Analytics, is to compare the bounce rate to the number of returning visitors. If they’re fairly close, you probably have the first cause. If there’s a big disparity between the two, you have a problem with either your content or who you’re targeting your promotions at.
Improving Your Content
There’s no hard and fast rule about what your visitors will respond to, but in the business world at least, in-depth and actionable blog posts often draw the best reader responses. Search engines also favor longer posts, so just keep that in mind. But don’t let yourself get intimidated. Not every post needs to be the definitive guide to the subject.
That said, one thing you should try to do as often as possible is tell stories. As we recommended in our previous article on brand stories, telling a compelling story is always a good way to draw readers’ attention, especially on a topic that may not be interesting enough to be a page-turner on its own.
Talk about relevant topics. When brainstorming ideas for a topic, check Twitter; Google News; any Subreddits relevant to your industry; and trade-specific blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and forums for any topics that are particularly controversial or newsworthy at the moment. You don’t need to follow every trend and chase every minor development that pops up—unless you want that to be the focus of your blog—but you should at least acknowledge them from time to time.
Your schedule is an important part of the impression that your blog will create on your audience. Although there’s no specific perfect schedule, the general rule is that the shorter your posts, the more frequently you should post them. Whether you choose to create shorter posts more frequently, or longer posts on rarer occasions, you should know how long it takes you to write them, how often you’ll get a chance to write them, plan your schedule around that so you won’t drop the ball.
Finally, I know we say this a lot, but write in a conversational style. It really helps make your posts more accessible to people not already immersed in the industry, who may end up making up the bulk of your new readers. It’s also next-to impossible to convey any genuine emotion or feeling in your posts while using impersonal, technical language.
Making People Want to Respond
There are a few ways to do this.
First, you can ask provocative questions. These will encourage your readers to start talking and to contribute their own feedback to the blog. This has the bonus effect of providing you with ideas for further posts and making you more informed about the topic at hand (assuming your readers know what they’re talking about).
You can also run polls and surveys. These give people a way to weigh in on an issue without having to go through the process of creating an account and typing out a few paragraphs on it. And when you need a question with a series of simple answers resolved, this is often the best way to do it.
Finally, make sure you respond to comments and questions. Nothing’s more disheartening for potential commenters than feeling like their attempts to reach out to you will be ignored. Yes, there may eventually come a point where you get too busy to engage with your community regularly, or when there are so many comments that there’s no way you could address them all, but even at that point, try to pick out a few of the most relevant ones and shoot them a response, so your commenters know you’re paying attention and there’s at least a chance that you might get back to them.
Social Media Promotion
You should also add a Facebook Like button to your blog. Make sure you use one that shows the number of other people who’ve liked it so that you have social proof.
If you’re hosting your blog via WordPress, there are a variety of social sharing plugins you can use to make your job easier. Some include Digg Digg, which will add a bar with all popular social sharing buttons on your website. Facebook Auto Publish will, as the name suggests, automatically share your most recent post with your customers.
Don’t try to take advantage of every social network unless you have someone to help you, though. There are just too many.
Give it time. Building a fanbase is a slow process that takes time to show results. But if you’re following these rules, you’re much more likely to see your efforts pay off with time. It’s also worth noting that a clean design and fast-loading pages will also help your brand image and help your site to rank better in the search engines, connecting you with better-targeted traffic.
How’s your blog’s engagement doing? Any more tips on increasing engagement? Opinions on the best ways? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credit: Ministerio TIC Colombia