Many small business owners start a blog as a way to connect with their audience, grow authority and help educate their little corner of the world. But even the best content goes nowhere without an audience. As a small business blogger, building your audience means finding ways to continually bring new subscribers and eyeballs to your blog. But how do you do that?
I’m no stranger to blogging for business and have found there are many low intensity ways for bloggers to increase and encourage people to subscribe to their blog. Below are some suggestions.
Ask: Did someone make it to the end of a post? Throw a text box in at the bottom that encourages them to subscribe if they liked what they read. Rather the call to action is at the top? Use the Greet Box WordPress plugin or the What Would Seth Godin Do plugin (I prefer this one) to take care of that. At the Outspoken Media blog, we also use the Comment Redirect plugin for WordPress to send first-time commenters to a special page asking them to subscribe to the feed so they don’t miss the content. Often people really do want to subscribe to your blog, they just forget to do it. Remind them.
Explain how: If you’re not blogging on a specifically techy topic, it’s very possible that your readers aren’t even familiar with the term RSS. If that’s the case, you’re going to need to educate them. One way to do that is to create a Subscription page near your RSS buttons and in the footer of your posts that explains what RSS is, how to use it and how it can help them stay up to date with your site. Obviously, you’ll also want to put a link to your feed on that page. Just to be extra helpful.
Make RSS Buttons Visible: Don’t bury your RSS button low on the page! It should be up top, very visible and very obvious so that readers would be blind not to see it or know how to use them.
Reply to Commenters: Replying to the people who comment on your blog shows readers that new voices are welcome and that they’re walking into a warm and inviting active new community. These are the types of places that readers seek out on the Web. They want to be a part of communities where voices are validated, where they can have an impact and where the blogger in charge helps lead the conversation instead of simply talking at people. A good example would be famed Problogger Darren Rowse. Over the weekend I was reading a guest post by Darren and was struck by how often he was responding to commenters. Often A-List bloggers forget to give back to the community but Darren certainly hasn’t.
Frequent & Consistent Posting: If you want people to subscribe to your blog, you have to give them a reason. That reason is often frequent posting of quality content. If you want people to become invested enough in your blog to subscribe, put yourself on a consistent schedule so people k now when to trust new updates from you. No one’s going to waste their time subscribing to a blog that only updates a couple of times a month. If you want readers to invest in you, you have to invest in them first.
Use Media: Using media like images, video, slideshows, etc, help make your blog more appealing and easier to digest. As a writer, this drives me crazy. I think my posts should rest on my words alone, but the word far more visual than that. Give people what they want.
Use Full Feeds: If you’re using partial feeds because you want to increase page views so you can monetize your blog – stop. There are many people who refuse to subscribe to a blog that is not full-feed. Don’t force people to come to your blog. Social media and this new wave of marketing is about understanding that people are going to take in your information the way THEY want to, not how you want them to. If they see you’re only offering partial feeds you may turn them off before you get a chance to turn them on.
Master your Headlines: Headlines are arguable the quickest thing you can fix to see the biggest upswing in readers to your blog. They draw people in and encourage them to engage with the content. If you can create a pattern of producing deliciously sexy and provocative headlines, you’re going to see an increase in your blog subscribers. People are going to want to keep tabs on what you’re talking about and engaging back.
Be Interesting: Break out of your industry’s echo chamber. Don’t repeat the day’s news just because it’s easy and that’s what everyone else is doing. Take hard stands. Provide information that people can’t get anywhere else. Become the source for what’s new and fresh in your community. Talk about what you’re seeing first hand instead of what you heard. It’s hard to do but the more ways you can find to break yourself out of the box, the more readers you’re going to attract. No one likes “me too” blogs.
Comment on Other Blogs: Commenting on other people’s blog encourages people to click through to find out more about you and, in the process, increases your own visibility. It also shows that you’re interested in people and things outside of yourself, which promotes the warm and fuzzy feeling that the blogosphere has always been about.
Reward Commenters: Give people a reason for participating in your community. Yeah, it feels good to have your voice heard, but sometimes people like to be validated in other ways. Reward top commenters with a member board, badges, a dedicated shoutout section in your newsletter, special roles on your site, etc. Find ways to offer benefits for getting involved and subscribing to your blog.
Those are some of the simple tips and tricks I use to help grow subscribers on my blogs. What works for you?