So you’ve written a great blog post, uploaded it to your site and hit the “Publish” button…. Now where are all your readers?
The sad reality of blogging today is that there are so many existing sites out there that writing stellar content isn’t enough to get your website noticed and gain a dedicated readership. Take WordPress’s estimate that there are roughly 68,124,670 sites on its network, for example. That’s more than 68 million other sites where internet visitors can spend their time – not to mention all the other sites hosted on networks like Blogger and Drupal, as well as those on custom CMS systems and embedded on business websites.
Competition is high, but that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to failure. Give the following ten strategies a try as you help your blog cut through the digital noise in order to grow:
Solve a Pain Point
One major mistake that most bloggers don’t know they’re making is choosing blog post topics based on what they want to read. They’re interested in a subject, so they assume that their readers must be interested as well. Unfortunately, this often leads to a disconnect between writers and readers that results in readers gradually growing apart from sites they once found interesting.
The easiest way to solve this issue is to write blog posts that solve your readers’ pain points. Not only does this guarantee that you’re tackling issues your readers will want to read about, it substantially increases the likelihood that your existing audience will pass your articles on to others in the same boat. Let’s look at an example…
Suppose Kevin runs a business selling natural skin care products. He’s trying to build his client base with an informative blog, so he starts by launching a series of posts detailing the different ingredients in his products, how they’re sourced and why he’s chosen to use them – subjects that he finds very interesting.
The problem is that the average skin care buyer doesn’t care much about the history of a given ingredient’s usage. What she cares about is that there’s a giant pimple on her chin, and how can she get rid of it before her big work presentation on Friday (preferably without resorting to harsh chemicals). As a result, she’s far more likely to open and read a blog post titled, “How Tea Tree Oil Zaps Embarrassing Zits – Fast!” than “The History of Tea Tree Oil Usage in Skin Care Products.”
Make sense? To get your creative juices flowing, take a few minutes to think through some of your customers’ pain points and brainstorm at least 5-10 potential blog post topics that would help them address these concerns.
Publish Actionable Advice
In the example above, Kevin’s reader isn’t just more likely to open the pain point-solving article than the boring alternative – she’s more likely to share it with others in her life who are experiencing the same problem. And in a digital environment that’s oversaturated with great content, this viral sharing is one of the biggest factors that can help a blog cut through the noise.
So what other kinds of posts do readers like to share? Those that give them the information they need to actually do something! These types of posts are often structured as “complete guides” or “step-by-step guides” because they show readers exactly what they need to do to complete a given task. Kevin, for example, could take advantage in readers’ interest in practical, “how to” information by publishing posts like “The Complete Guide to Natural Skin Care” or “A Step-by-Step Guide to Eliminating Pimples the Natural Way.”
Not every post on your blog needs to include this kind of actionable advice, but those that do can be surprisingly effective. Here are a few examples of this type of post in action:
- The Complete Guide to Building Your Blog and Getting More Email Subscribers – Blogging Wizard
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your First Mobile App – Entrepreneur
- The Definitive Guide to Conversion Optimization – QuickSprout
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Bouncing Back After Your Online Reputation Has Tanked – KISSMetrics
- 20 Pre-Production Steps to Successful Video Content – Single Grain
Find Your Tribe
What do you think is easier? Trying to cut through the noise while competing against every other site in the search results or cutting through the noise amidst a small crowd of people who already share your interests?
Ok, so the answer to that one is pretty obvious, but it’s a lesson that many new bloggers seem to miss when it comes to promoting their sites. Instead of making things harder for yourself by trying to find your niche in a broad audience, go to the places where people who are likely to be interested in your site are already hanging out.
In Kevin’s case, he’ll probably have better luck finding potential readers hanging out on beauty websites, natural parenting forums or paleo blogs than on vast communities like Reddit or by focusing on SEO in the hopes of connecting with people in the natural search results. No matter what industry you’re in, there are likely already niche community sites or popular blogs that cater to the kinds of readers you want to attract. Starting there minimizes the amount of noise you have to cut through in the first place, speeding up your results significantly.
Of course, it bears mentioning that the way you approach these existing communities matters. If you show up, dump a bunch of links to your site and leave, you’re only going to create a bad reputation for yourself and your site. If, on the other hand, you take the time to become a part of the community by responding to other posts, sharing your own experiences and helping others, the natural curiosity of members of your new tribe may turn into dedicated new readers for your blog.
Leverage Authority Figures
Interacting directly with members of your tribe can help your blog get noticed, but for even better results, consider connecting with people who have already made a name for themselves in your community. Think about it… The authority figures in your niche have already cut through the noise. If you can get in with them and get them to mention your blog to their followers, you can leapfrog past the time-consuming process of building your own industry relationships.
Obviously, this is usually easier said than done, as authority figures aren’t just sitting around, waiting to promote the content of whomever crosses their paths. If you want authority figures to share links to your blog, you need to a) make sure your site is at the top of its game, and b) clearly demonstrate what’s in it for them. Following from this second consideration, you’ll find that the three paths below are the easiest ways to connect with industry authority leaders:
- Engage on social media – One of the best things about social media is how easy these networks make it to share interesting content. On Twitter, for example, sharing messages posted by others is as simple as clicking the “retweet” button – and that’s exactly what you want your industry’s authority figures to do. Start building a relationship by sharing these leaders’ content and contributing to their discussions. Then, share links to your own best posts. Ideally, as you interact more and more with these thought leaders, they’ll see your updates and deem them worthy of passing on to their followers.
- Guest post on their sites – Plenty of popular blogs host guest writers, who contribute content for free (or for a small payment) in the hopes of gaining free publicity. The owners of these sites get quality content without having to write it themselves, making this a “win-win” for everybody. To find these opportunities, search Google for keyword combinations like “[your industry] + guest blog” or reach out to the owners of the niche sites you’re already active with to see if they’ll post your articles.
- Interview them – Another alternative when it comes to leveraging authority figures is to interview them and then publish your conversations to your blog. Recording audio or video interviews is easier than ever, and you’ll find that many seemingly-unreachable thought leaders are flattered by your request. Not only will your readers love hearing from the leaders they hold in high regard, many of these authority figures will share your interviews with their audiences – expanding your blog’s reach even further.
As you might expect, the same rules that apply to making your presence known in niche communities apply to reaching out to authority figures in your niche. Be respectful, be polite and be appreciative of any response you get. All it takes is one negative interaction to build a bad reputation for your blog within your industry.
Hone Your Unique Voice
Think, for a second, about your favorite blogs. Chances are a big part of the reason they resonate with you is that you connect with the voice used by the author. Voice – or, the language, tone and style you use in your posts – plays a huge role in creating a blog that stands apart from the competition. If it’s unique, readers will come back again and again. If it’s not, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle convincing visitors to stay.
To see what I mean, check out the following great examples of unique blog voices:
Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project, in a post on the misconceptions associated with working from home:
“Maybe you haven’t noticed, but while your rapidly declining derrière has been vacuum-sealed in between two black plastic armrests, I’ve been traveling to these things called countries, meeting these creatures called humans, having these things called experiences, making these miracles called memories, doing those things you gasped at in 50 Shades of Grey, and building these assets called companies—all of which take an incredible amount of money and energy. (Especially the 50 Shades of Grey thing).”
Caleb Wilde of Confessions of a Funeral Director, in a post on how embalming is beautiful:
“Death sits in paradox. In it we find impossible co-mixtures of intrinsic opposites. Perhaps, this is why death is the muse of so many philosophers and theologians. For example, in death we find the cohabitation of utter darkness and blinding light. The darkness of separation, of grief, of powerlessness; and yet the light of community, of togetherness and the power of love. In death we find the conflicting desire for both words and silence. There’s everything to be said and yet nothing to be spoken.”
Erica Allison of the Allison Development Group, in a post on slowing down and enjoying life:
“I’ve always been in a rush. As a child, I was in a rush to get to school. As a high school student, I was in a rush to get to college. In college, I was in a rush to be “an adult” and begin my life. That tendency to speed through life sets us up to miss things. For those of us on the fast track, until we’re hit with a major occurrence, we don’t stop, or even slow down. We just keep moving forward.”
Did any of these post snippets strike a chord with you? That’s the power of voice! To work on improving your own blog’s voice, take advantage of the following tips:
- Write as if you were speaking to a friend or colleague. Blogs don’t need formal language (unless your industry calls for it). Write casually and let your personal flair flow through.
- Think about the personality you want to convey. Do you want to come across as educated and intelligent? Pepper your posts with big words. Or do you want people to see you as a “balls to the wall” risk taker? Then, let your language veer a bit more to the extreme to subconsciously reinforce your desired image in the minds of your readers.
- Write more. If you haven’t done much writing in the past, it can take time to develop your voice. The solution? Write more! The more you write, the more your personal writing voice will reveal itself to you.
Upgrade Your Images
Yes, your words are important when it comes to distinguishing your blog from its competition. But so are your images! In fact, images are the top shared form of content across all social media platforms, according to the Fresh Take on Content blog. And since, as mentioned above, viral content sharing plays a big role in cutting through the digital noise, upgrading your blog’s images is an easy way to build your readership.
Where should you get started? Consider any of the following 10 suggestions provided by Fresh Take on Content:
- Overlay blog post titles onto images
- Highlight products or services
- Share inspiring quotes
- Share recipes
- Say “Hello!” from your office
- Show sneak peeks and “behind the scenes”
- Make a digital promotion or invite
- Share weekly or daily tips
- Share “how tos,” tutorials or lists
- Share information or data in infographics
Go crazy with these ideas and share them liberally on your blog and social profiles. As they’re shared between your followers and their networks, you’ll see your blog traffic grow exponentially!
Change up Your Content Formats
No audience is the same, which means that any recommendations on the best ways to cut through the noise and connect with readers must be tested and verified. For example, I could tell you that you’ll attract readers by posting video clips to your blog, but if your target visitors respond better to infographics or audio recordings, you’ll wind up missing out on potential followers.
If you truly want to connect with your readers, you’ve got to test the waters by offering up different content formats. Then, keep an eye on your analytics. Over time, you should see trends that indicate which of your content formats are being read most.
To get started with your tests, try publishing content in any of the following formats:
- List posts
- “How to” instructional posts
- Link curation posts
- Image galleries
- Video clips
- Audio recordings
- Slide decks
Certainly, this list isn’t comprehensive. To find new content formats to experiment with, keep an eye on the most popular posts on your competitors’ blogs (which are usually highlighted in sidebar sections or “Start Here” pages). If you see trends among their most visited posts, there’s a decent chance these content formats will perform well on your site as well.
Take our sample seller Kevin, for example. Suppose he’s competing against two other sites in his niche. He takes a look at their sites and sees that both blogs have list posts occupying the top spots in their popular post listings. As a result, Kevin decides to run with an article titled “17 Commercial Products that Screw Up Your Skin” and sees better results in terms of page visits and average time on page than with any of his past posts.
Tug on Some Heart Strings
Let’s face it… There’s a reason Upworthy is one of the internet’s most viral publishers!
According to data released by Newswhip in December 2013, Upworthy blows other publishers out of the water when it comes to Facebook Shares. Currently, the site averages about 75,000 Facebook “Likes” per article, roughly twelve times as many as popular viral competitor Buzzfeed:
Although some critics argue that Upworthy’s carefully cultivated post titles are responsible for the site’s viral success, website editors make the equally valid argument that, if the substance of the posts wasn’t appealing to viewers, they would have failed long ago.
Use what Upworthy has learned to your site’s advantage by curating content that will tug on your viewers’ heartstrings. Narrow down the content pieces you’ll create or share according to Upworthy’s own quality guidelines for best results:
- Is the content substantive, engaging, and maybe even entertaining?
- If 1 million people saw it, would the world be a better place?
- Does the content actually deliver on the promise of the headline?
Pull a Newsworthy Stunt
Finally, if you want your blog to cut through the noise that currently exists online, do something that will make the noise-makers sit up and take notice! Check out the following examples to see how other businesses have successfully used publicity stunts to drive interest in their websites, blogs and social media profiles:
- New Relic gives away branded t-shirts to new customers (so does Single Grain).
- Morton’s Steakhouse impressed a hungry traveler (and the entire social media world) by delivering a steak dinner to the Newark airport.
- The BrewDog brewery captured news headlines by issuing a formal apology for ‘not giving a shit’ after violating alcohol marketing rules.
- GoldenPalace online casino – which is restricted in the ways it’s allowed to advertise on traditional media – paid volunteers to have its logo tattooed onto their bodies.
None of these strategies directly relate to the blogs of the companies in question, but similar tactics – executed well – could easily be used to help a young or stagnant blog grow its readership. To see how, consider any of the following examples that our friend Kevin could use to drum up PR interest in his blog:
- Host a “Worst Acne in America” contest in which readers can leave a comment on a blog post describing how their acne has affected their lives in exchange for the chance to win a year’s supply of free products.
- Set up a “You Deserve It” booth at his local farmers market and offer free skin care treatments to anyone who shows up and signs up to receive newsletter emails containing links to new blog posts and other helpful tips.
- Ask blog readers to leave comments on a post soliciting input on their favorite charities and then donate part of the month’s proceeds to the organization readers select as their favorite.
Can you think of any other newsworthy promotions Kevin could run to help his blog get noticed? Or, do you have any other questions about the tactics described above? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!