Building Blog Readership – An Evolving World

When I started this site in March, after I stopped working with Vario Creative, where I had previously been blogging, I expected that the same traffic building steps that had worked for me before would work here.  After 5 months, I can safely say, that’s not the case.

You see, when I started blogging at Vario, the important keys to getting readership were Technorati position and getting trackbacks from other sites.  In today’s world of sploggers and spammers, the trackback is dead, and Technorati is increasingly irrelevant.  In fact, now Google Blog Search is really the source for accurate linking information, so much so that WordPress has a feed of links from them in the blog dashboard.

My stats have been looking really good, upwards of 240 readers a day, but when you dive into them, you’d find that the majority of the traffic is coming from Google and is associated with an image of a shark eating someone.  It’s driveby traffic, they come into the site, and it’s one and done.  No long term readers, no comments, no added value.  Yesterday, Google realized the error of their ways and my image is no longer showing up in Image Search.  The Google well has run dry.

So this begs the question, where too from here?  What I’ve decided is to do the same thing I had done on Cycling.com – an open field test, this time for building blog readership.  The metrics I am seeking:

  • Unique users are nice, but they’re a poor measure for success – This is gross tonnage statistics, and only the depth of visit statistic will be of any real interest.
  • Measure reader involvement – I want to make this more of a discussion.
  • Encouraging links – For a while I was getting really good links, such as BusinessWeek.com, Entrepreneur.com, but I haven’t seen much lately.

Action List

  • Content – I’ve been writing fairly compelling content, as always, but I think I need to look at creating more open calls to discussion.
  • Linking – I need to provide more links to people writing on the same issues I am writing.
  • Value – I need to find ways to provide better value to the reader.
  • Understand the Readership – In many ways, I’ve been writing for myself here.  Perhaps I should think more about what the market really desires.
  • To Develop Community, Use Community – I need to spend more time reading and commenting on other blogs in my sphere of influence.  Of course I will use my site in my signature.
  • Increase Post Volume – I’ve been slacking off, with only an average of 3 posts a week for a while.  Time to increase the number of interesting tidbits on which I comment.  Not every post needs to be a definitive guide on a subject.’
  • Social Networking – I’ve been doing social networking since 1995, so I guess I should be able to leverage it better than anyone.  I’m updating my Facebook account with posts, I post to Twitter when I have an important post, and generally leverage that aspect.  I do notice a bump when I post to Twitter, but it depends on the time of day, etc.  I worry about burning out my network there, so I try to only self-link a couple times a week.
  • More Community – I need to get more involved in communities where I’ll be in front of people whom this blog is written for.  That’s not the Reel-Time.com or Cycling.com crowd.  Luckily I have just such an opportunity coming up very, very soon.
  • Homepage Summaries – I’ve been posting full content to the homepage of the blog, hence I can’t tell when anyone dives in deeper, and it doesn’t really tell me what people are reading.  That’d going to change.  I also worry I’m getting slapped by our Google Overlords for having duplicate content.
  • Dive Deep into Google – I’m not liking what I see in my Google results.   I know this stuff backwards and forewards so I need spend some time doing SEO on my own site.  Right now, I know Google Webmaster is barking about problems with my Feedburner Rss feed.

So what’s really happened to blog building?  I think we can lay it to rest on two basic issues:

  • Sploggers/Spammers have made trackbacks/pingbacks utterly irrelevant.  The Trackback is Dead, get over it.
  • I believe in a lot of ways, microblogging apps have made us less focused.  Our info now is finding us, and it’s coming in 140 character bits of text.  This enables us to be a little lazy.

Resources:

30 Blog Traffic Tips from DailyBlogProject

Blogging for the Long Term – WordPressTip.com

Building Blog Traffic – Best Practices – Blog-World Watch

The Secret to Building a Popular Blog (and Getting Tons of Readers) – Doshdosh

Building Blog Readership One Comment at a Time –  Air Blogging

31 Replies to “Building Blog Readership – An Evolving World”

  1. Mark – Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have been thinking about many of the same things lately and you captured it perfectly. I’m really interested in how things go as you tackle this subject so please keep us posted. It will be great lessons for us all

  2. Great piece of writing, and I’ve noticed the same thing. I’m not sure if I agree 100% with a few on your action list, but I suppose everything is worth a try.

  3. Nice list of tips. I think the main point, that every blog takes a different promotion strategy, is a good one. And the game does truly change constantly. What works today might not work tomorrow. But there are some standards. Enjoyed it.

  4. I like your post on building blog readership. I am going through something similar. One of the things I am learning is you really have to ask your readership what they want. I spent some time asking in various forums and they told me somet interesting things.

    1) You need an interesting very personal biography.
    2) Your text should mostly be on the left, people read from left to right in english.
    3) Find an easy font for people to read– Sans Serif font is preferred.
    4) Your blog should be center aligned and not fill the whole screen.
    5) Develop a strong invdividual style that shows who you are.
    6) The most important thing is to have great personal content.
    7) Combine pictures with words.

    These are just some suggestions which I got when I asked what people really wanted to see.

  5. Just asking, but when you talk about providing links, are you basically saying you’d just add the links to your site, or are you hoping to talk people in to reciprocal links, or am I totally off the mark?

  6. It’s funny you mention the trackback is dead, as I’ve read reports to the contrary.

    I’d suggest not to worry too much what Google thinks or says. Go by what you think or say, and gauge your gut by groupthink, such as me. I just found you via Chris Brogan, and I see you have some neat ideas. I’ll be back.

  7. hey man,

    it was the first time i read your blog, and found this great post…. so helpful… Really thanks.

    Sorry about my english, i’m brazilian guy and i’m studying english only 9 months…

    Have a nice day.

  8. Hi Mark,

    We are struggling with the same dilemmas… last month we decided to do a traditional marketing campaign a Draw… anybody registering in our site enters in a competition for an iPod Touch.

    Our site is for professionals of HDTV, Smartphone, VoIP and Storage…

    Campaign was initially designed only for paper (leaftets to give in a professional event). But then we decided to open it also ONLY in our site as internal promotion for current internet users of our site.

    Suddenly we had a big pick of traffic… and people registering with Yahoo, AOL, Gmail acounts.. ??? Profesionals ?

    Well, it seams that somebody learned about our campaign, and posted it some forums…

    Result, some of the new subscribers are not targeted for our content, and provably will unsubscribe in a week or two

    We do not have a Shark eating someone, perhaps the shark will be bite us 😉

    Next time we will add some qualification requirement before the Draw!

  9. @Ari Herzog – great advice – it’s just so hard *not* to look to Google for approval. The real metric we want is engagement. That’s not as hard to measure as we might think – numbers of comments, the quality of the discussion.

    It all harkens back to a post I saw on Chris Brogan’s blog back in March or April noting that you should avoid social media consultants who don’t have active discussions, etc. on their blogs.

    The trackback seems to me to have been turned off by many users – I just had this discussion with with the producer of a huge community site I am redeveloping (go live in 2 weeks) where he’s got 900k uniques a month – and they’ve had to turn them off just because managing them would be a full time job. Comments aren’t nearly as tough.

  10. Agree, I just found you through Chris Brogan as well and the content has been excellent. Continue to do what you are doing and the readership will grow and grow. I plan on adding you to my RSS now and look forward to future posts. As someone who is slowly starting to begin a blog for our company I am going to try to implement the tips you offered. Thanks.

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

  11. Mark,

    Like many other readers, I also found your post though Chris Brogan.

    (Where were you hiding?)

    (I noticed that one reader identified himself “As a novice”, so am I.

    Good Action List.

    Good Resources.

    May I suggest that you present a “Reading List” or two?

    The first list could be a basic list of what Social Media – Social Networking is and how it works.
    (This list could include how Social Networking is defined. I know that many people have different views on it)

    The second list could be a list of what the current thinking is on Social Networking

    Keep up the good work.

    Pat O’Mahony, pomahony2@hotmail.com

  12. @Patrick – Another excellent selection – I’ve got tons of content and I’ll admit, I am often pulling lists of items for people to read on certain subjects, so it’d be great to have a few reading lists.

    I’ll be doing a quick “upcoming topics post” later today to get people energized for the stuff that’s upcoming (I will be looking at an audience acquisition plan for a site with 900k monthly uniques that relaunches in two weeks, for one…)

  13. Well, I seem to be the exception — I did NOT find your post through Chris Brogan. A link to this post was sent out to the Blog Book Tours group and I came from there.

    Interesting ideas and suggestions. I’m fairly new to Twitter and wonder what times of the day you feel work best to tweet. I try to spread out my tweets over the day, only do one tweet at a time, give a link whenever appropriate (whether to my blog or someone else’s) and try to keep my tweets on topic (for me, that’s writing or publishing).

  14. Mark, I’m joining the “referred by Chris Brogan, now subscribing” club as I really enjoyed your post. Although I instantly recognised your name which made me wonder why I wasn’t subscribed already.

    A lot of the points I probably knew already (or should have) but it’s that well-written reminder effect that really gets you in the right frame of mind. So thank you.

    I’d agree wholeheartedly with Ari Herzog, too – you really can focus on Google too much. In fact I advocate almost ignoring search engines completely. It’s part of my philosophy which I’d love your opinion on if you have five spare minutes.

    In fact, you say yourself that it’s not even unique visitors that matter but visitor engagement so what does it matter that you’ve got good rankings so long as your target audience are finding you and enjoying your posts?

  15. Can I also offer two suggestions?

    I think you’re text is too small, I’d say it needs to go up quite substantially.

    Secondly, you only have one very tiny link to your RSS feed right at the bottom of your pages. Your making it really hard for people to subscribe and actuall engage, like you want them to. I’d recommend a big orange RSS icon above the fold on every page.

  16. @Philip John – Text size is larger and I’ve added both a large RSS button and link as well as a “Subscribe Email” link which goes to the Subscribe 2 Plugin I just installed. Great Tips!

  17. I found you via twitter, and that was by allowing all @ comments (instead of those just for me which I think is the default). I find a lot of good sites that way. What keeps my interest is those that actually participate on twitter and not just autopost their blog posts.

    Being “retweeted” puts you out there, as well as being listed as being followed. So yes, continue to capitalize with Twitter.

  18. Thanks for your comments about Google Blog Search. That has been my blog search engine of choice for sometime now. I find Technorati entirely too frustrating and unreliable, so have largely given up on it.

    Since so many commenters said they’d found you on Twitter, I’ve decided to follow you there, too.

    Laura Christianson
    co-founder, HeBlogsSheBlogs.com
    https://twitter.com/HeBlogsSheBlogs

  19. Mark.
    Thank for the post. It is nice finally to read a post by someone who does not have 10.000+ daily readers, but the experience to handle it – and go for specific goals.
    Very inspiring.
    Must go blog… 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.