How to Make Your Blog Readers Into Rabid Fans

by Joel Friedlander on August 22, 2011 · 17 comments

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One of the reasons I like blogs as a foundation for social media book marketing is that they offer many levels of engagement for visitors, from web surfers to dedicated readers. Engagement is the degree to which blog readers feel connected with you, your content and the ideas or solutions you present.

Engagement is what turns casual readers into regular subscribers, and subscribers into raving fans. Have you ever thought about how readers show this engagement?

For instance, think about the different ways people can engage with your blog:

  • They may be sent by a search engine to an informational article in your archives based on the keywords used in the article. This is a great way content continues to draw new visitors to your blog, but this visitor is initially at a very low level of engagement with you.

  • They may come from a link on another site they like, or a link in a guest post. This type of connection is a little more engaged, simply because there was probably a similarity in the content and the link itself that drew them to your site.

  • They may come from a site that directly refers your site as an information source, a reference, or an authority in your field. These visitors might be ready for a higher level of engagement.

  • A closer connection is coming to your site through a direct link you’ve placed in an outpost, like a comment on a LinkedIn discussion or a post on Twitter that draws people to a blog post with an engaging headline of your own. Since these visitors have shown an interest in your material (in the click) before arriving, they are at a higher level of involvement.

  • Those who contribute comments engage with your ideas in a public way, adding to their level of engagement.

  • Repeat visitors to your blog are more engaged than casual or one-time-only visitors, who could make up one third to a half of all visitors. So a person who comes back to your blog is higher on the engagement scale.

  • Subscribers are near the top in engagement. By agreeing to let you send them email and blog posts, subscribers are in fact requesting more engagement with you and giving you permission to address them in a personal space—their inbox.

  • Fans are at the highest level of engagement. They share in your issues and concerns, and advocate for you on their own initiative. Although they may be small in number, they have a disproportionate influence due to their activism.

You simply can’t interact with readers and potential customers in so many ways in any other online medium that I’m aware of.

This look at the levels of engagement also naturally leads to the question, “What am I doing to support these different ways for people to engage with my writing, my books, or my other activities?”

Let’s take a look at some clear and simple action steps you can take to make these levels of engagement a reality for visitors to your blog.

Keyword research and awareness. About half the visitors to my blog come from search engine referrals. One of the big reasons for this is that I’ve been researching and consciously using the keywords associated with my niche in my blog posts for some time. You can do the same with a small effort.

  • Action: Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to research keywords in your niche. Check Brian Clark’s free report on writing copy for ideas on how to include keywords in your blog writing.

Guest posting and article writing. You can’t get referral traffic to your blog without putting content out in other places off your blog. Writing guest articles and submitting articles to article directories are both ways to spread your content—and your keyword links to your site—to attract referral traffic.

  • Action: Contact one blogger in your niche this week about writing a guest article for his or her blog. Do this every week. Get their permission after 60 or 90 days to repost the article at article directories. You will probably have to edit the article for this second use.

Using email to stay connected. Get an account with an email provider and put an opt-in box on your blog. Offer a sample of your work, a regular newsletter, a quote of the week, a free resource like a PDF, or anything else of value in exchange for a subscription.

  • Action: Make sure your RSS, email and newsletter subscriptions are clear, easy to use, and “above the fold” (in the top portion) of your blog. If you’ve been offering one thing for a long time, create something new to revitalize interest in your offer.

What Will All This Reader Engagement Do for You?

I think it’s clear that as an author you have a lot to gain from promoting visitor engagement on your blog.

Here’s my best advice, although it might seem counterintuitive or odd: Don’t blog about your book.

This is the first thing most authors think of when they start blogging, and it’s usually not a great idea. What works really well is when you blog not about your book, but about its subject.

Why does this work? In the case of books, nobody really wants to read what you have to say about the book, or how many chapters it has, or the information in it, because it can come off as making a sales pitch. Your blog’s readers do want to hear your passion for your subject, your insights into new developments in your field, and your opinion of other resources.

It’s this type of writing that will make your blog’s readers interested in the knowledge, information and overall content you share in your book. You’ll lead them to wanting to buy your title and follow your creative process by connecting to them as a person, not just an author pushing for a sale.

Your blog’s ability to provide the online community with many levels of engagement is one of its most powerful characteristics. When you take action to make sure that you’re using that ability as best you can, you maximize your greatest online asset, and you will step up your marketing to a whole new level.

Ed: This article was originally featured on CreateSpace.com in a slightly edited form under the title Action Steps to Take Your Blog to the Next Level of Engagement.
Photo by tenspeedphotography

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    { 15 comments… read them below or add one }

    Tea Silvestre October 17, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Enjoyed reading this post and the list of ways our readers come to us. I love your advice to do guest posts and have just started the process myself. Remarkablogger just published this one which I think is a great follow up to yours: http://remarkablogger.com/2011/10/17/turn-blog-readers-into-loyal-fans/

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Great stuff, Tea, thanks for the link.

    Reply

    Emily Thorne August 25, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Joel,

    Thanks for the guidance. I have the bigger picture, but have been struggling with the underpin of what content to present. This article makes it much clearer and gives me a couple of new ideas.

    Reply

    Stephanie Niko August 24, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Great advice! I’m writing a memoir about growing up quasi-Greek American, meaning to Americans my last name indicates I’m definitely Greek and probably spend all my time reading Homer and eating gyros … but to Greeks and even Greek Americans I don’t look, act, or speak Greek and in fact I’m only half Greek. So the catch is that the obvious posts would be about Greek and Greek American issues, but the memoir is about not always feeling in sync with that culture. If I’m writing about feeling non-Greek is it strange to post on Greek culture? I’ve read that blogs should have at least three posts a week. I don’t want to sound like I’m “whining” about identity issues in every post. I post on Greek food, mythology, etc., as it relates to pop culture and my life. The keyword search that brings most people to my blog is about The Office’s Michael Scott playing a Greek character on the show. How do I engage with readers who are Greek American but don’t feel “Greek enough” to search out a blog on a similar topic??

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 24, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Hi Stephanie,

    Your blog sounds interesting. Your whining quotient is strictly up to you. It sounds like you are already getting the kind of traffic you want, since it’s Greeks and Greek-Americans who would (initially) be interested in your subject. Whether you are writing about feeling in sync or out of sync, the subject (and potential readers) are the same. Don’t worry too much about the Michael Scott connection, the rest of the keywords are much more important to your long-term growth, although any tie-ins you can achieve to Greek-American characters or culture in mass media is obviously going to help you. And whether you post once, twice, three times a week is also up to you. My advice is to be consistent and communicate what you’re doing with your readers. The hard truth is that for most bloggers, the more you post, the more your readership will grow. Good luck!

    Reply

    Stephanie Niko August 24, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Joel, thanks so much for your advice. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to respond!

    http://www.stephanienikolopoulos.com

    Reply

    Stephen Woodfin August 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Joel, so as a writer publishes additional books on topics that may not overlap, do you think the writer should set up separate blogs and focus on a specific topic in each one? For instance, I have a novel that features a protagonist with Alzheimer’s, a topic of deep personal interest to me. I plan to go live with an Alzheimer’s related blog shortly. I have a trilogy coming that has nothing to do with Alzheimer’s. All the books are legal thrillers, so they overlap in genre, but Alzheimer’s is confined to the first book. I have considered using the same blog, but designating specific days for certain topics, for instance “Don’t Forget Wednesdays” might be blog postings every Wednesday about Alzheimer’s, with other topics on other days. I welcome your thoughts.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Stephen it just seems to me that blogs work best when they have only one organizing principle. If it’s a blog about your legal thrillers, then all the books will fit, but articles about Alzheimer’s may not fit as well. If you want to write about Alzheimer’s advocacy, I would suggest splitting it off, since the vast majority of readers on that topic may have no interest in legal thrillers.

    Reply

    Stephen Woodfin August 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks, Joel. That makes perfect sense. I suppose the best way for me to go at it is to devote the Alzheimer’s blog to that one issue, so I can address caregivers, support groups,talk about AD books etc. I can still mention the legal thriller issues in that book on my legal thriller blog without harping day in and day out on that one issue (i.e. Alzheimer’s) in every posting.

    Reply

    Anthony StClair August 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Holy moly, you must’ve been looking over my shoulder this morning while I was reviewing goals and tasks for the week!

    My site’s role as “hub” for my marketing and branding endeavors is big on my mind right now, and this post has a lot of material for helping me along.

    Going back to Mary’s point, some options for fiction could be…

    – snippets from a chapter
    – short stories in a similar vein
    – discuss authors and works similar to yours (playing on the “if they like x and y, they’ll want to read me too”

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Also, keep in mind that there are lots of other ways to draw in readers of fiction, especially if you can identify what it is that readers like about your novels. For instance, you can also blog about the historical era in which your books take place, the philosophical underpinnings of a subject that’s central to your book, or all that great research you did when you were writing the book.

    Reply

    Andrea Parnell August 22, 2011 at 9:52 am

    This is absolutely on target for me. I’ve been wondering what my blog should be about and what will make it more viable. You’ve given me the cues and starting point for building a community of readers. Thanks.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 22, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Adnrea, glad it helped, and good luck with your blog. As long as you write for your readers, you will do fine.

    Reply

    Mary Tod August 22, 2011 at 4:25 am

    The word engagement says it all, doesn’t it. And, as you point out, blogging is the ideal medium for it. Do you think it’s easier for non-fiction writers to focus on a topic that generates and sustains interest than it is for fiction writers? I’m struggling with what to do with my own Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde blog which covers two topics – (1) being an author-entrepreneur aka the business of writing, and (2) historical fiction. Since I write historical fiction, in order to connect with readers I should probably concentrate on topic 2. However, since I’m an aspiring author in an industry that is in an incredible state of flux, I find topic 1 both relevant and intellectually stimulating!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 22, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Mary, I think you share a dilemma with many other writers—we’re interested in a lot of things! However, it’s much easier to grow a blog audience if you stay focused on one topic, especially while you are growing. What separates your two topics—and why you should consider splitting them into 2 different blogs—is readership. The business of writing is of interest almost solely to other writers. The historical fiction subject ought to be written to be of interest to readers (book buyers). Does that make sense?

    Reply

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