I started a blog 2 years ago for my business, and from what I've been told, it’s really good, but I just don’t seem to be building my readership. I had a growth surge initially, but now I just seem to have plateaued. I’m frustrated because I see other blogs growing but not mine, so I’m hoping you can help. How do I get people to read my blog? – Jen C.
Jen, thank you for being so transparent with me about being discouraged. That’s a rough place to be, and it took a lot of courage for you to ask your question in such a public way. That tells me you’re a go-getter, so I’m excited to help you.
I also want to encourage you that your question is a very common question among bloggers, even people who have been blogging for years. The good news is that I can definitely help you.
I’m going to give you a step-by-step process to growing your readership, but I want to be really sure that you know that any process is only as good as the effort you put into it. So you’re going to have to do some work to get the results you want (but I know you’ve got what it takes, so I’m not worried.)
Another thing about step-by-step approaches is that you have to actually go in order
(step-by-step . . . get it?) :)
“Start at the beginning, then work your way up one step at a time . . . Try to run before you learn to walk, and you’ll never stop crawling.”
Step One: Identify Your Audience
The first step to anything you write is knowing who is going to read it. If you don’t know who is going to read your blog, then how can you know what to write? In my recent post “5 Smart Ways to *Really * Build a Killer Online Platform” I said there’s a reason so much is written about target markets, niches, & customer profiles . . . because they matter.
Here’s a really simple exercise (but super helpful if you actually do it!)
Describe (in words) what your audience already looks like. (This is different than a target market- this is who is ALREADY reading you.) Include age, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, marital status, etc. Get really specific. If you’re an artist, then you could even draw them (full disclosure, I’m a terrible draw-er (?), and I drew my little stick figure audience member). The more you know about your audience, the better you'll be able to find and connect with them.
No, seriously, don't just read this and think, "That's a good idea. I don't need to *really* do that."
You do. Yes, you. This article isn't going anywhere. Go get a piece of paper and a pen and do. the. work.
It's the little things like this that actually do matter. I promise.
Want to see what my business coaching client profile looks like? I'll show you-
Here's an example of my customer profile: (I’m getting real personal today!)
I coach online business owners who have found success, some have hit a growth plateau and don't know how to build systems to scale their business. (I built this profile from the recurring qualities I saw most often.) They have children, are married or divorced, 35-55, have no wiggle room and no time to waste, believe that their work is doing good in the world, they are go-getters and motivated. They all had a dream to help others and live life on their own terms.
Don't even think of reading more until you write down your audience profile. I'll wait. :)
Step Two: What Does Your Audience Want to Hear?
The #1 rule of writing online is answering the reader’s question, "What's in it for me?" (tweet this)
What is in it for your readers?
1. Look at your analytics and see what posts had the most traffic.
Does your audience love posts about how to negotiate contracts but hate posts about your kids (or vice-versa)? Take a hint.
2. Look at your sharing plug-ins and see what posts were shared most.
(Pro Tip- If you have the option for your readers to share on 89 million services but they all use 3- keep it simple. Remove the useless options. It's clutter.)
Let common sense be your content guide. Write more about what your readers want to read and less of what they don't. (tweet this)
3. The next step is to determine what they want and “need” to hear.
Think of the difference between “want” and “need” like the difference between pain relievers and vitamins. Imagine this: Your readers have a headache. When they are in pain, they “want” pain relief. It’s all they can think about. They want their pain relieved. But when they are well, and are no longer thinking about their pain, they “need” vitamins. Vitamins keep them energized and pointed in the right direction.
4. Your readers want relief from their pain.
What gives them pain? The hassle of how to code an app? The pain of not knowing how to properly install a ceiling fan? Find the pain points and give them some relief!
5. Your readers need vitamins.
Once you have continually provided your readers with pain relief, start giving them vitamins. Start writing about other things that are interesting to them as well. When you have established that you are an authority on one topic, they’ll tend to trust you in other areas as well.
Step Three: Produce Insanely Spectacular Content
Content is not king. Incredible content is all over the web. The Internet is a magical place where the exceptional is now the norm. In five minutes you can learn how porcupines mate (very carefully), watch bird's-eye-view videos of people jumping from mountain cliffs with GoPros on their heads, and instantly send money to pay for a well in Uganda (Boom. Helped change a village for the better!).
I'm trying to tell you that people have options. Great content is just the beginning. Be it text, video, audio, illustration, photography, smoke signals- your content has to be awesome.
(Sidenote- I'm assuming your site is well laid out and does not suck.)
A Word or Two About Great Content
If your content doesn’t have any value to your readers, then they aren’t coming back. (tweet this) ESPECIALLY IN THE BEGINNING. In the beginning, your content has to be stellar. But once you’ve established yourself as a trusted resource and authority (because you alleviated their pain) and you continue to provide great content- you are on your way to a massive audience build.
What makes content awesome you ask? (I’m so pleased you did!)
- It’s relevant to your people
- It’s helpful
- It’s formatted for the web (instead of formatted like your old college term papers)
- It conveys your unique wisdom, humor and perspective
- It helps position you and your brand/small business for success that is in line with your long term business goals. (I'm talking to you consultants, product creators, future authors, and 99% of the world- you need to pay attention to this!)
Jen, You've been blogging for 28 years in Internet time. Step back and look at your site and ask yourself what your readers want more of. When you give it to them, it's then your audience will multiply! You can do this.
Here's a super simple wrap up of today's points for you:
1. See what works
Do more of what is working for the people who love what you do
2. Decide how to provide real take away to your people
Write awesome stuff that is of value for the people who love what you do
Final Thoughts- (Buckle up!)
This is the part where you may wonder why I didn't mention promoting your content. Many sites that offer online business advice would focus on using Pinterest, Instagram or any other social media service. Not this one.
Social sites are full of people screaming, "COME LOOK AT WHAT I WROTE!" without any real thought of what people actually want to read. If you want readers, you write for them. If you don't want to write what people want, then stop promoting your online musings or get a journal. For Real. Otherwise you will feel hurt that more people aren't interested in your content. And when writers (subconsciously) let their self worth get tied to the feedback they receive on their sites- it's not healthy.
Here's the deal- Promoting yourself and your content is a crucial part of marketing your work but if your content isn't stellar; if you don't know who you are writing for; and you aren’t relieving their pain, then all the shiny social sharing objects in the world won't work.
(steps off her soapbox)