A Plan For Bloggers Struggling to Find New Readers

This article was guest blogged by Skellie from SkellieWag.org. She is a regular contributor to some of the top blogs like ProBloger.net, CopyBlogger, and ZenHabits. In this post Skellie will talk about ways to acquire new readers to your blog.

photo by IonBuckThe early stages of your blog are always the hardest. As your audience grows, others will shoulder some of the burden: they’ll link to you, recommend you, and vote for you on social media. In the beginning, however, there are few people around to help.

The process of ‘finding new readers’ is something every blogger needs to do. The word ‘finding’ very accurately describes the process. You can’t wait for an audience to find you. You need to go out and find them. You need to work out who they are, and go where they go.

In this post, I want to provide a concrete plan of action for anyone struggling to pull their blog out of a rut and find new readers. I used these same strategies to grow my own blog from nothing to 1,050 subscribers in three months.

1. Define your target audience

You can’t source-out new readers if you don’t know who you’re looking for. You also need to make sure the content you provide suits the kinds of people you are drawing to your blog. For that reason, defining a target audience is the first step any blogger should undertake.

If you haven’t and you’ve already started blogging, don’t fret. You can work out a target audience at any stage in your blog’s growth.

Your target audience essentially refers to whoever you are targeting with your content. What kinds of people will benefit most from what you write? What are they interested in? What are they not interested in?

If you have some readers already, you can work out what types of people they are by the comments they leave and the questions they ask. Are they bloggers? Designers? Gamers? Wannabe martial artists? Lawyers? Literature lovers?

Once you work out who you’d like to write for, this makes finding new readers a lot easier. If you know who you’re looking for, it’s a lot easier to deduce where they’re likely to be hanging out!

TIP: once you’ve decided on your target audience, let them know that the blog is written for them. After all, if you knew a blog was written specifically for you, you’d feel confident that most of the posts would be of interest.

Mention your target audience on your about page, or your tag line, or even within your blog’s title (SEOmoz, for example, is written for people who practice SEO).

2. Find your target audience on other blogs and websites

Other blogs and websites in your niche will be a perfect place to find potential readers. The question you need to ask is: how can I get links to my site on other blogs and websites in my niche?

If you think of all the ways you can do this, the list looks something like this:

  • Leave comments and link up my username to my site.
  • Write guest-posts and get links in the by-line.
  • Purchase a link or banner ad.
  • Get links from within posts.

When building my own blog in its early stages, I focused heavily on writing lots of guest-posts and leaving lots of comments. My target audience is bloggers and webmasters, so I focused my efforts on the blogs about blogging niche.

TIP: if you want to write a guest-post, ask first. Work out what kinds of content work well on the site you’re targeting and think of a post idea that sits in line with that. Send an email to the blogger summarizing your post idea, and ask if they’d like you to write the finished product (for their consideration — no obligation as yet).

If they say yes, send it to them. If not, you can use the idea somewhere else, and you’ve wasted no effort. You’d be surprised how many bloggers will say yes if you only work up the courage to ask.

ANOTHER TIP: bloggers do recognize the names of their regular commenters. If you regularly comment on a blog, you’re more likely to be indulged when you ask for favors. Send a link to the post on your blog that’s best suited to the target blogger’s audience and simply suggest: “I thought your readers might like this.” If it’s good, you’ll get a link. If not, what have you lost but a few minutes time?

3. Find your target audience on social media

All kinds of people enjoy using social bookmarking services like Digg and StumbleUpon, including your target audience. Vote up articles that would be of interest to your readers and you’ll start to make a name for yourself in that niche. You’ll also open up opportunities to connect with people who vote for the same articles that you do.

Though my site has been on the Digg front page twice, StumbleUpon (SU) is still my biggest referrer. Rather than bringing traffic in big spikes, SU traffic is a constant flow. Best of all, unlike Digg, you don’t need a big existing audience to get the ball rolling. Just one single vote can send you hundreds of visitors.

It’s my strong recommendation that any blogger looking to lift their site out of a rut join StumbleUpon, vote up targeted articles and add friends. Even very casual use can start to build up a network of social media influencers. Social media connections are invaluable for any blogger striving for growth.

4. Find your target audience on forums

This was another core element of the strategy I used to build my own blog. I joined a forum dedicated to my target audience — bloggers — and added my blog’s URL to my signature. I tried to make my posts thoughtful and knowledgeable, and to be active as often as I could.

As a result, I built up my initial audience almost exclusively from forum users. Despite sending me dozens of hits a day (a lot for a new blog!) the forum helped make me more knowledgeable in my niche. I would strongly recommend joining a targeted forum to anyone looking to find new readers.

Optimize your blog for new readers

The first question a new visitor will probably have is “What’s this blog about?” It’s a question a surprising number of blogs don’t adequately answer. Make sure you have an easy to find About page explaining what your blog is and what it has to offer. You can add details about yourself afterwards, as it’s not of primary interest to someone who’s yet to figure out if they want to explore your blog or not.

I’d also suggest that any blog struggling to find new readers should avoid advertising until it becomes more established.

One thing to understand is that advertising is a trade-off. While it presents some wonderful opportunities, they don’t come without a cost. They’re a constant reminder to visitors that, ultimately, you’re not just in it for them. You want to get something out of it too. Secondly, ads are rarely visually appealing. In the beginning, you’re unlikely to earn enough money to make this trade-off worth it.

I recommend that you hold off (or remove) advertising until the profits make the trade-off worth it. This is a strategy I’ve adopted for my own blog and something I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about. It really does help make your blog remarkable.

TIP: showcase your most popular posts in a prominent location on the sidebar. If they were very popular with your existing readership, they’re likely to impress your new readers, too.

I use this strategy myself and still receive a fresh in-flow of links to my most popular posts, even those that were published some time ago. Wowing new visitors with value is a great way to draw them into your blog (increasing the chances that they won’t forget you once they leave).

A one-month growth challenge

Sometimes general advice isn’t enough — we want a concrete plan to follow. For those of you who echo that, here are some goals you can set yourself this month. They will help you find new readers and have the potential to breathe new life back into your blog.

To be completed by one month from now:

  • Write three guest-posts for a blog in your niche.
  • Leave 50 comments on other blogs.
  • Join a forum in your niche and actively participate.
  • Start a social media account and engage with other users.
  • Aim to get one link from a popular blog.
  • Create a long list of resources for your target audience in blog post form. These posts are link-magnets!

Feel free to use the comments on this post as a place to talk about your struggles to find new readers, or to update us on your progress with the challenge. I’ll be checking the comments regularly and am happy to answer any questions you have.