This week, I shared some tips on deciding what you should blog about and The Husband shared his wisdom with regards to setting up a blog the way we did. Once you successfully set up your own blog, the next step is to try and make sure that you find the right kind of audience for your blog and attract more like-minded people who share your passion. What I have personally learned so far is that there is no secret formula to gaining your perfect audience and among other things, good old-fashioned hard work and a few lucky breaks are what helped me to grow my blog traffic. Nevertheless, there were definitely a few core values and systems in place from day 1 which in hindsight, seemed to have helped with the process.
So without further ado, let's jump right into the process of decoding the method of building a community of your people on your website. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Be yourself: It's going to sound like I'm starting off with the last point from my previous post but please hear me out. Write a blog that you would want to read. You're obviously writing because you enjoy reading so be your own critic and audience. Be your own reader. Once you understand this point, you'll get why this is important to attract more people like you to the blog. I can't tell you the number of emails and messages I have received from people who have listed out the number of similarities we share. It's the best feeling in the world to be connected with your people. So first and foremost, write a blog that you would read.
Quality: One of the basic ideas I want to put out there is that while you may not have complete control over who you attract to your site, you do have full control over who you repel. So avoid driving people away with your content quality (or the lack of it). This is a very subjective view of things but personally, when I read a blog, I get immediately put off by shoddiness. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about - all those sentences that begin with small letters, the 'I's that are not capitalised, text message language (or should I say "txt msg" language) in what is most definitely NOT a text message, shabby spellings, careless spellings ("anywya"), and while we're on the topic of spellings, let's not leave out all those messed up homonyms (they're-their, stock-stalk etc). And last but not least, unforgivable grammatical errors. I mean the kind where you say "I went to the store and got an dozen eggs". Honestly, even the little errors at times get to me and I must confess to having closed tabs in the past for the same reason.
However, sometimes no matter how careful and conscious you are, a few errors do manage to creep in. You might end up typing "I was too tired too go out" and might even miss out on noticing it in your final read-through before publishing. But trust me, when a person reads that sentence, he/she will totally get that it was a typing error. These, I would say, are the forgivable kind of mistakes.
There are many ways in which you can avoid at least your basic spelling and grammatical errors. First, by being old fashioned like me and checking for them at least twice before hitting the publish button. But recently, I came across a little trick that can make my life a lot easier. I noticed on The Husband's laptop that he had installed a Grammarly Chrome extension. Shane used to be a little bit dyslexic as a child and would often misplace his d's and p's, and make silly spelling errors. He doesn't have that problem when he's typing because he recognises keyboard patterns. But because he's slightly paranoid about his spelling and grammar especially when it comes to writing for this blog, he sought out help. I feel that this is a genius aid to anyone who might need a little help in this department. In fact, I'm planning to install it myself in order to make my job of re-reading and cross-checking before publishing a lot easier.
Trust: You need to consciously put in the effort to gain the trust of your audience. You need to understand the importance of your relationship with your audience no matter how many or how few they are in number, and try to maintain that relationship the way you would with any other person in your life. At least that's what I believe and strongly uphold. I feel that if someone took the time to comment on one of my posts or send me an e-mail, the least I could do to show them how much I appreciate it, is respond. There may be people out there who don't agree with me, but I've found that building a relationship with my readers has helped me gain their trust and understanding. This, in turn, helps me remember that even if no new visitors come to my blog starting tomorrow, I will at least be backed by my core group of readers who've stuck around pretty much from the beginning.
Consistency: I can never tell you the right number of times to publish to your websites. It's a very personal choice to make based on what works for you. You could publish every single day of the week or once a week or like me, every weekday. But it's important to have some kind of a system or schedule in place because there happens to be a secret code between you and your readers that you may not even be aware of. I'll explain in a minute.
When I started blogging for an actual audience after practicing for three months, I made a conscious decision to update my blog every weekday and take breaks on the weekends so that both The Husband and I would be occupied and free at the same times. Now with the added responsibility of the podcast, I'm beginning to make the switch to not publish a post on Thursdays, which is when we release a new episode of the podcast. This decision was made with two things in mind. 1) I didn't want to divide my audience between the two mediums on one day and 2) I found it a bit stressful to do both on a Thursday. Nevertheless, here I am, publishing this post on a Thursday!
Once you start following your own schedule for a few weeks, your audience automatically gets in tune with it and knows when you will be updating next. I have been pleasantly surprised on many occasions when I received messages from my readers on the weekdays that I went without publishing a post. Sometimes when I tried to get away with publishing at a different time, some of my readers would notice even that. It's simply fascinating.
Our holiday in Southampton for our first wedding anniversary was the first time we were going away for a whole week and I actually kept it from my readers. I prepared a collection of 5 short stories, 1 anniversary post and 1 post explaining our whereabouts, a few weeks in advance so that I wouldn't have to write during my little break while also ensuring that I publish as usual. When I finally announced where I was throughout the time I'd been updating the stories, I received a few kind messages from readers who appreciated my dedication to the blog. They still keep in touch with me and I feel that in a way, by respecting my commitment to my blog, I showed them that I respected both them and their time. It has been unbelievably rewarding. Which is why I cannot stress enough that you need to establish some form of consistency or the other. Try not to go missing without a warning as your readers will definitely appreciate being kept in the loop. Try to communicate with them through your actions that you're here, you're still around, you're still doing what you do, and they're more than welcome to join you. It kind of goes back to the element of trust I discussed above.
A Social Media Presence: We're blessed to be living in a time when we can still reach out to an old acquaintance from school through social media. Even if you haven't spoken to someone in 7 years, you still know where to find them. So in the business of blogging and other online endeavors, it's ideal to make use of all the resources available to reach out to your audience. You never know who you might find in the process. I've been pleasantly surprised over time to discover that someone I had never even thought about in years was an active reader and a well-wisher of mine.
Facebook is a very useful tool when it comes to growing your followers but in my personal experience, GooglePlus has done a better job at it. A major lucky break for me was when Google started featuring my collections to various audiences around the globe in March of this year, and this has helped me to gain about 100K followers on my collection called 'Husband Shenanigans' till date. Similarly, Instagram and Twitter also help you find your niche audience very easily but I personally do not do much to actively gain followers there.
So I would advise you to pick your tonic. If you're capable of running campaigns to gain an audience in all of these mediums, then by all means, DO IT. But if you, like me, feel more comfortable with a select few, then it's best to stick to your comfort zone in this case. In my case especially, a lot of bloggers who do exactly what I do, tend to use Twitter more. But what did the trick for me was GooglePlus and Facebook so I chose to mainly stick with those.
Search Engine Optimization: This is my weak point. I often forget the importance of this step. Search Engine Optimization is something that gets automatically done for you with the paid services of Wordpress and other blogging platforms. But since that's not what I use, I need to manually make sure that the posts I publish appear in a certain way on search engines. An easy way to go about it is by taking care to pick your blog titles by bearing in mind what people generally tend to search for. For example, this particular post is pretty well optimized because chances are that it will show up when someone searches the words "How to grow your blog traffic" on a search engine. However, because I remembered to do it this time, I went to my "Metadata" setting and optimized my title for search engines as just "How to grow your blog traffic" as opposed to the actual title, "Let's talk blogging: How to grow your blog traffic". Not that it makes much of a difference in this case but imagine all my other posts. Chances for someone to go searching for "braindump" are pretty slim, aren't they? For the type of content I produce, it's quite hard to optimize for search engines but if I remember, I try my best to do it. Turns out that my post titled "#boyfriendgoals" actually did pretty well on google for the same reason.
Before ending this post, I want to go back and remind you of something I mentioned in my previous post. If you're hoping to grow your blog, you absolutely need to learn the art of patience. As long as you know that you're doing everything in your power to make your website as appealing to your audience as possible, you should give yourself the time to grow. It's hardly ever an overnight process so you need to remember to keep doing what you love, simply because you love it. The rewards will follow.
Tomorrow, The Husband will be back with his witty comments and his thengakola to teach you how to set up Google Adsense and monetize your content online. He also dishes out on other ways in which you can make money blogging.
I hope that so far this week, you've found our input beneficial. Do leave us a comment if you get stuck at any point and need us to clarify something.
On that note, happy blogging you guys!