A little bit different from my usual posts this one. I usually stick to topics relating to reading or writing fiction, but a Twitter pal requested recently that I do a post offering what advice I can on how to build and grow the numbers of people who view your blog – so here it is.
If you are passing by, please take a moment to check out my book Song of the Sea God. You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.
Ok, so I’ve been doing my blog for around 18 months now and I suppose I’ve learned a few things in that time which might be of use to those just starting out, or who want to grow their blog traffic. The advice I offer here is just what I’ve picked up over time through trial and error and through listening to other bloggers – it’s what has worked for me – so I hope you find it useful.
The first thing I’d suggest is that you adopt a regular pattern of posting on the same day each week. If you have the stamina to post twice a week, or even more often, then great – pick your days and update on each day like clockwork.
What this does is let people learn when you will be posting a new update so they can look out for it. I post on Saturday morning every week and consequently, Saturday is by far my biggest day on the blog for views – double or even triple my other days.
If you are interested in building a following for your blog the other very basic tip I would give you is to keep on keeping on. For the first few months I did mine, maybe even the first six, my figures were fairly stable and fairly low – looked at on a monthly basis they were always pretty much the same – disappointing. And I admit I did start to wonder if there would ever be a breakthrough. Then suddenly, around month seven, a lot more people started taking a look at my blog – and this rise continued over the next couple of months. I found I had shot up to three times my viewing figures in a matter of weeks – and maintained this new much improved position.
I will be honest and say I don’t know how I did it. I didn’t change the nature of what I was writing. I don’t think there was one big magic wand I waved. But over time I adopted some of the strategies I outline in this post. I think the main lesson is just to persevere and keep at it. It takes time for people to find you and to cotton on to what you are doing.
When I first started I didn’t think it mattered what my blog looked like – I kept it all white and basic. I didn‘t think about pictures too much either. A blogging pal asked me why I didn’t make my offering more attractive like hers was? I took a look at hers and at mine, and she was right. I know mine’s not a rainbow of fruit flavours now but I have made an effort to make it at least easy on the eye.
Equally, be inviting in what you write – have an eye to entertaining a little as well as informing. I always think: I’m taking up five minutes of someone’s time which they’ve been kind enough to give to me – I should repay that by giving them something they can use or something to make them smile, preferably both.
It’s great when people comment on your blog and I’ve found the posts which encourage people to do that most successfully are the ones which discuss issues and ideas. People will comment if there’s something to comment on – if you have raised issues they feel they have an opinion on. So a ‘think piece’ which raises questions your readers can answer for you, or starts a debate they can take part in, is a good idea.
I’m just throwing this out there – and it is very much a ‘do as I say not as I do’ kind of tip. But I’ve noticed some of the most successful blogs are ones in which people discuss their lives very openly in all sorts of ways. People follow people I guess and if you are up for making your life an open book it’s one route to blogging success. It’s not for me though, I do try to put a little of myself into what I write on the blog but you won’t find any ‘dear diary’ entries on there. I always take the view that other people are a lot more interesting than me – and I prefer to write about them, in my fiction and in my blog.
I do like to have visitors on my blog – I find other writers fascinating and like to give them a platform to talk about themselves and their work. This also helps bring their readers to my blog – and perhaps once they’ve found me, they will even come back another time to look at some of my other posts.
News You Can Use
Some of my most successful blog posts in terms of numbers of visitors, are the ones which offer advice and information which people can use. I would predict that this post, for example, will be popular for that reason. Some of my post popular posts so far have included:
Tips on how to get followers on Twitter
Advice on how to find a publisher for your book
An interview with my publisher about what they are looking for in a book they take on.
These are posts which are not only popular in the week they appear, but keep getting regular hits over the weeks and months which follow.
I think it pays to learn to give people what they want. If you have had a particularly successful post then look at doing something else in the same vein. Also, if friends on social media suggest a topic you might like to have a go at then do your best to accommodate them. As I said at the top, this particular post was in response to a request and I’m finding that happens more often as my blog has become better established.
Help them find you
Search Engine Optimisation is something of a specialist area and I’m certainly not claiming any particular expertise but I would offer a few tips.
Firstly – pop into the help and advice section of your blog platform and put in place the optimisation tips you are offered there. I followed the bits and pieces of advice offered by WordPress, it took me about half an hour and didn’t stretch my limited technical ability. Has it made a difference? Hard to tell, but it’s done now and I’m sure it can’t hurt.
While we’re on the subject – it’s also a good idea to include relevant tags when you put up a new post. Again, it’s something I never bothered with to start off with but always do now, it doesn’t take two minutes to add some tags and it can help search engines find you by topic and theme.
This is a bigger deal for SEO I think. Google loves Facebook and it loves Twitter. If you have decent followings on these two social media mega-sites then link to your blog on there regularly (without being too spammy obviously).
I get more referrals from Twitter than anywhere else, followed by Facebook.
Not surprisingly Google also loves Google+, even though the rest of us make it feel about as welcome as a red-headed step-child. I’m not suggesting you use it like Facebook but just open an account and stick your blog links on there for the SEO benefit – job done.
They have a link shortening tool called su.pr which is worth using in preference to tiny.url or similar because, as well as making your links short it also gives you access to the Stumble Upon community and gets you extra blog traffic that way. Worth doing!
* UPDATE SEPT 2013: su.pr now appears to have been closed down as a service by Stumble Upon as part of an update, which is a shame as it was useful. It is still worth adding your pages to Stumble Upon as this does encourage some extra traffic to your blog – you can still add pages etc, it’s only the link shortener which is no longer in service.
Final tip – Have Fun!
How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
When you are writing a blog it never hurts to chuck in a few jokes.
Any tips you would like to add – or corrections to mine? You know the comment drill!