Do you want to grow your blog? Are you looking for new ways to attract and retain more readers? We asked the finalists of our Top 10 Social Media Blogs contest for their best tips on how to grow your list of blog subscribers.
Here are their best tips. I think you'll agree there are some excellent ideas here.
#1: Be Active in Other Communities First
“You'll have no semblance of community unless you're an active community member in other spaces. If I had to do this all over again and start from scratch right now, what would I do?
Without question I would start a blog and fill it with relevant and valuable content for the community, but I would spend ten times as much time adding value to the five or ten existing communities where my potential members might be hanging out, reading and connecting.
It's not a ploy and it's not a trick—I would do this because I'm interested and want to engage with the other community members. I would also be hopeful that those community members would appreciate my contributions and take a chance on checking out what I'm up to on my own space.
Give more than you get.”
#2: Write About What You Love
“The best advice I can give anyone who wants to grow their subscribers is write about something you love and are passionate about and keep writing.
Readers can tell the difference when someone writes about a topic because they feel it and love it, it's their life, versus someone who writes about a topic because it was just assigned to them. No magic formula, no secret trick… just hard work on something you love.
Since my first website in 1995 I've learned that users will find and continue to return to content which is genuine and created with a passion.”
#3: Write Insanely Great Content
“Blogging is not my full-time activity. I have a thriving business, I teach and I have family activities and charitable efforts I'm devoted to. So when it comes to the blog, I only have time to concentrate on one thing: INSANELY GREAT CONTENT.
I tend to look at things from a unique perspective that seems to set fire to interesting conversations. That's all I know to do, really! Celebrate smart conversation.”
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#4: Answer Questions for Your Audience
“The number-one way that we've been successful in driving readership to ReelSEO, though I realize this is a bit cliché, is through creating compelling, informative and unique content. For ReelSEO, we've found that the most read and most compelling content usually comes from two sources.
First, we respond to our readers' requests and often solicit feedback both on and off the site. When a reader reaches out to us to ask for advice, we can often safely assume that all others would be interested in the topic. As a result, we often write articles that specifically address our readers' requests.
Second, we try to write about those things that we (internally) are interested in learning more about but can't find sufficient information online to address the learning.
For example, I searched everywhere for a list of apps to record video with Skype in order to do some video interviews. I was unable to find any useful resources on the Internet. So, I assigned this topic to a writer and not only did I learn what I wanted, but our readers were extremely pleased that we offered up this resource.
Additionally, because it was a question with few results in search to address it, we obtain new readers every day through long-tail search.
If you're truly passionate about your blog's area of expertise, you can successfully grow your audience and continue your own learning through answering all the unanswered questions.”
#5: Offer Real Value
“Offer REAL value to your readers. Instead of just offering generic simplicity—like the Top 10 Twitter Management Tools—offer reasons and strategic comparisons why.
What sales benefit does this have? How can you use something like HootSuite to manage campaigns? How can you then track this using Google Analytics? And how should you use this information to adapt future campaigns?
Don't just offer an easy top 10 list—get deep and explain the mechanics behind your choice, and really give your readers a reason to come to you over generic blogger X.”
#6: Be There for Your Readers
“For me the key to building a strong and loyal readership is to create content that matches their needs.
I know that many small business owners read the Social Penguin, so I look to ensure that the majority of our posts will appeal to them and most importantly will help them.
Having an opinion is also hugely important, as well as showing a willingness to respond to comments and questions. People take the time to read your content, so make sure you give them time back.”
#7: Say Something New
“The best way to grow blog subscribers is to write content that's useful, creative and original. Blogs are a dime a dozen nowadays and most bloggers are writing the same thing. No-one has time to read a dozen blogs saying the same thing.
If you want more subscribers, say something new, say something helpful and say something awesome.“
#8: Make Your Readers Feel Good
“People want to feel like they're part of something and that what they have to say is smart and well-regarded. When they take the time to comment on your blog, they want to know you're reading and considering what they have to say, even if you don't agree.
But the real magic happens when people begin commenting to one another and the blog takes on a life of its own. As the blogger, your responsibilities are to pose one side of a debate and open the conversation. At times, it's even important to continue the conversation in the comments.
But if people begin commenting to one another and you can be graceful about differing opinions, your subscriptions will increase because people will be coming to your blog for their daily brain food.
I always say that blogging is mostly about stroking other people's egos and making them feel good. I get A LOT of pushback about that because most people don't want to take the time, nor do they consider it part of increasing their readers. But, if you scratch others' backs you'll be amazed at what you get in return.”
#9: Respect Your Audience
“The single most effective method I've used to build up my subscriber list, both RSS and email, has been always to respect my audience. I made a couple of decisions earlier, such as not using pop-ups or not abusing the frequency that I send out email, among others. The intention is to grow organically.
Sure, my growth rate is not as explosive as I've seen with other bloggers, but I believe I'm compensated with a higher-quality base of subscribers and with an “unsubscribe” rate of 0%. I think for now I'm happy with the results.
What I do recommend to everybody is setting up Goal Conversions on Google Analytics to be able to track what percentage of your visitors are actually signing up for any of your subscriptions.”
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#10: Focus on Evergreen Content
“From my experience, I've found ‘problem-focused evergreen content' to be the killer bait for attracting blog subscribers. This content is useful year after year—hence the ‘evergreen' title. Evergreen content works because it rewards readers with comprehensive answers to their problems.
Readers eat up this content and reward the blogger with their attention and subscriptions. For maximum effectiveness, build your editorial schedule around writing 10 to 12 in-depth posts. Your focus on solving problems will appeal to readers, get shared, garner high search rankings and fill your list with loyal subscribers.”
#11: Know Your Goals and Stick to Them
“In a lot of ways, I'm the last person on this list you should ask about growing subscribers. While mine have grown considerably over the past year, BrandSavant certainly doesn't attract the kind of traffic that some of the other Top 10 Blogs do.
I marvel at the ability of people on this list like Jay Baer have for not only producing quality content, but producing it prolifically!
If I could offer some advice, though, it would be this: know exactly what you want to accomplish with your blog, and do not waver. I don't have advertising on my blog, nor do I have any information products or reports to sell. So traffic does little for me.
I get paid when people hire me to ask smart questions and develop insights around the answers. So I made up my mind early on that I would not be a curator of content (which is a fine approach, of course), but would only author my own original insights, and I would only hit ‘publish' on things that I am proud of that adequately represent the quality of my thinking to prospective clients.
Some weeks I get two or three posts up; others (like this week!) only one. What I've found from this approach is that often when I first publish a post it may or may not get traffic immediately. People might click over from a Twitter link, see some gigantic discourse and not read it right away. But they come back to it—sometimes weeks or even months later. That's when I know I've accomplished my goal.”
#12: Deliver as Promised
“The most important thing a blog can do to grow subscribers is very fundamental: give readers a great reason to subscribe every time you publish.
That means making a promise about what you'll deliver (promotion of your blog overall as well as promoting individual posts) and keeping that promise (great content that leaves readers satisfied and wanting more).
There are numerous functional ‘tricks' like using plugins that detect new visitors and then solicit them to subscribe or contests that incentivize subscriptions. To build real value among a community of readers and inspire buzz about your blog, being able to ‘deliver as promised' goes a very long way.
Social Media Examiner and the Top 10 Social Media Blog winners do this very well. They understand who their audiences are and make an effort to both create and promote great content on a regular basis.”
#13: Give Each Reader Opportunities to Interact With You
“Always remember the little people. You can't build your readership one reader at a time. That method, while it sounds nice, is too slow and time-consuming. You have a life off of the Internet and you can't spend your days coaxing one or two new readers.
However, you can give each and every reader a chance to interact with you and make that interaction special and memorable. Not every reader will take that chance, but when it happens and you exceed their expectations, you'll gain a reader who will bring more readers than all of your efforts to court one person.”
#14: Ask for Subscriptions at the End of Your Article
“Prominently place the subscription form. If it's above the fold and the clear call-to-action on the page (the CVI, center of visual impact), then people will see it more and in turn subscribe more. This same concept holds true for pop-up subscription forms, but I rarely advocate these, as they are usually an annoyance to the user.
Emphasize email, not RSS. More people know email and check it daily than RSS. And if someone really wants your RSS feed, they're used to looking for a smaller RSS icon.
Ask for subscriptions at the end of an article. If a reader makes it to the end of the article, he or she has gotten value and will be more likely to sign up for more.
Post daily, or at worst on a regular schedule. People subscribe to a regular schedule of content and daily blogs get way more subscribers.”
#15: Place Your Subscriber Box at the Top
“My best tip is to move the subscriber button/box to the TOP of the blog, or at least make sure it's ABOVE the fold. I did this on my blog and instantly noticed a 30% increase in email subscribers.
It also helps if you have a Google Reader button at least, in addition to the standard RSS button.”
#16: Offer a Benefit
Ricardo Bueno, author of the popular RicardoBueno.com social media blog for real estate and small business, recommends:
“Offer a free eBook. Don't know what to write about? Well, what's your blog about? Think of ways to share some of your best ‘how to' content.
For example, I author a blog on social media for the real estate industry. So last year, I interviewed eight top real estate bloggers on their methods and techniques for building a successful real estate blog. I compiled these interviews into an eBook that I could give away for free and offered it to my opt-in subscribers (I had 73 subscribers in the first day).
If you use AWeber to email your content, you can easily set up a follow-up email with a download for your PDF. If you're using FeedBurner, you might try the RSS footer plugin to provide a download link for your PDF.
Bottom line is to offer a benefit (something of value) to people who subscribe. Then, deliver good content consistently to keep their attention.”
#17: Let People Follow You in the Way They Prefer
“My best tip for growing blog subscribers is not to focus so hard on forcing readers to pick one particular method of subscription, but give lots of options.
Personally, I subscribe to different bloggers in different ways including via my RSS reader, email and StumbleUpon. For some blogs, I know I'll want to share their content with my followers, so I ‘subscribe' to them by setting up their RSS feed in Twitterfeed to automatically share their latest posts on my Twitter account.
If you want people to follow you, let them follow you in the way that best suits them. Make sure links to your RSS feed, subscribe via email, Twitter, Facebook fan page and other social networks where you update your latest posts are easy to find on your website. The top spots would include your sidebar and the end of each of your blog posts.
Some other great ways to grow your subscriber list would be to include your subscription links in author bios for guest posts, social networking profiles, email signatures, free reports/eBooks and pretty much any other place where you can insert them. The easier you can make it for readers to find your subscription links to your blog, the more subscribers you will gain.”
Now It's Your Turn
These tips are the beginning of a great foundation to grow your blog audience and blog subscribers.
What do you think? How do you grow your blog subscribers? What other tips do you have to share? Please leave them in the comment box below.
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