I’m a big believer in strong content – it’s the fundamental piece to making social media work for a business. In fact, last week Mark Shafer eloquently debunked the 80/20 rule when promoting content (the ‘rule’ states that we should spend 80% of our time promoting content and 20% developing it). He understands that strong content is what breeds loyalty in the form of ‘return readers.’
However, a good number of my clients and prospects want to know how they should go about building their initial blog following. Some of them have very few readers, if any. While content is what keeps people coming back, let’s analyze how we get them there in the first place! Here are a few ‘must-haves’ for doing just that.
Use a paid WordPress platform. To get the most out of blogging, I recommend utilizing a paid WordPress (.org) website rather than the free service (.com). The cost for the domain is about $15/year, but you’ll own the content and can add the elements that you see fit, including the elements I mention in this blog. It’s not a deal breaker if you’re already using another platform, but it’s optimal for those who are just starting out or looking to re-vamp their efforts.
Offer subscription options. Encourage people to sign up to receive an email when a new blog is posted by including an email sign-up widget on the sidebar. This is the single best way I’ve been able to secure my initial loyal readership. In fact, over the years, I’ve noticed two things about those who subscribe to my blog: 1) less than a handful of people opted-out of the content and 2) the subscribers are the ones who frequently and consistently share my blog content.
Install necessary plug ins. WordPress sites seem to offer the most plug-in options, but there are similar options you can install if you use other platform. Of all the plug-ins available, the two I recommend the most include:
- WP Socializer –This plug-in creates social share buttons so that your audience can easily share your blog post after reading it. This plug-in also allows you to customize the handle when sharing the blog (using your actual Twitter handle instead of something generic such as @Wordpressdotcom or @AddThis).
- Yoast SEO – This feature helps your blog posts be found by the search engines by optimizing the content.
Execute blogging basics. There are certain tasks and features that every blogger must understand and execute. These include: tags (keywords), hyperlinks (linking to other sites, including others’ content, your past content or your website), photos (which also help your probability of being found in search) and categories so new readers have a way to easily navigate your content by topic.
Write a strong headline. Headlines can make or break your readership. Make sure your headline is accurate – meaning it’s relevant to the actual content in your post, but that it’s also catchy and keyword-laden. The first five words of the headline are most important for search engine optimization. Incorporating all of these elements every time will be a challenge, but I’ve found that practice makes perfect when it comes to writing strong headlines.
Promote! Publish your blog on your social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. If your blog includes a photo, you can also publish it to Pinterest; and if the content is relevant, you could publish on a few LinkedIn Groups. Don’t be afraid to promote it more than once on your social media channels. I like to publish my blog twice – once in the morning and once in the evening. Encourage your audience and readers to share the content if they think it’s relevant. Social sharing helps you gain authority, which is a key element to increasing search engine rankings.
Truthfully, an entire book could be written on the topic of getting people to read your blog. My hope is that I’ve given you a few simple and actionable steps to start building your readership. Of course, I’m going to take my own advice and ask that you ‘share’ this blog on your social networks if you found it valuable!