Popularity is something we all strive for but in the blogging world it seems like it is something only few attain. How can you make more people like your website? How can you make it appealing to the greatest number of potential readers? Is there more you can do with it than simply provide good content? How do you get people to see your site and find out how great it is? For those just starting out, here are a few tried and true suggestions for making your own personal site a success.
Know your audience
The first thing you should do is to find out who your readers are. Who is your target market? Then write for them. You can’t write for everyone, so don’t even bother. While fostering true debate and the free exchange of ideas is terrific, you’ll want to get a feel for who your core demographic is and what they care about. Are they liberal or more conservative? Urban or rural? Country or rock-and-roll? You get the general idea.
Pick a focus, and stick with it
Unfortunately, you can’t be an expert on everything. And if you attempt to write about every idea or issue that pops into your head at any given moment, your site will come off as schizophrenic and lack direction. Choose one area of interest that you’re truly passionate about and explore it in-depth. If you do not love your topic and the content you put up then why would readers? Make sure your passion shows through in your writing and you are sure to have a lot of readers hanging on your every word. Passion is a great way to connect with readers and really give them something of quality to read.
It’s all about networking
An important aspect of the social web is that’s it’s, well, social. Interacting with not only your readers but also other sites and webmasters is a great way to get feedback. Backlinking is a crucial component of driving unique views on your site, so comment on other well known and highly trafficked sites and leave a link in your comment back to your own site. Part of your daily marketing could be to comment on 5 new sites a day. The comments you write should not be comment SPAM. Read the full post, go through the comments, and then write at-least 3-5 sentences adding the discussion.
Respond to your readers
Make your readers feel like they’re participating in a discussion rather than just reading a post. Many bloggers ignore or turn off comments because of spam. However that is a bad way to run a site that wants to connect with readers. Instead make sure you have a spam filter set up and respond to your comments with insightful writing. Make your readers feels special. You can also offer prizes and give away to entice readers to comment and share your content with friends.
Function over form
Aesthetics are important, and you’ll find yourself judging other people and other websites based on appeareance alone. While you try not to be superficial, it’s simply a part of human nature and you can’t really help it. Your site doesn’t have to look like a million bucks right off the bat, so focus on great content over shiny graphics and layout. You’ll have plenty of time to fiddle with your site’s look later.
Move on to design afterwards
After you get quality content you should start focusing in on visual appeal. How your site looks is often the first indication to readers of the quality of your content. If your site looks hokey, old, too bright, too busy or just messed up then it reflects the care you put into your work. No one will hang around a badly designed page. Instead invest your time making your design visually appealing and it will definitely help your traffic.
Choose your plugins carefully
It’s easy to lose focus on what your site is actually about and supposed to be doing if there’s too much visual information and tools clogging the page. When you work with a CMS like WordPress or Drupal, it’s easy to keep slapping on plugins for everything from a Feed Manager to a World Clock and everything in between. Just go with the essentials and keep it simple.
Be consistent with your output
In other words, publish regularly and often. Don’t skimp on quality, because it matters. Just know that if you want to create a following, you need people to know that there will be new content on your site on a consistent and regular basis, so pace yourself. People love it when a blogger is on top of things. If you update once a week, three times a week or every day, they will get used to it. Keep your site updated as much as you can and keep to a schedule.
Develop your own style
There are many sites out there and you need to make yours stand out from the crowd. Develop your own unique style and voice, and write creative and interesting articles and you’ll get more readers and followers than you know what to do with.
Guest post are the single best way to get people to your site without having to spend money on advertising. They allow you to reach new audiences, get new readers, and help rank for specific keywords. Spending time writing a quality guest post will permit you get quality back links to your site which will help you get more traffic in the long run from search engines.
When looking for places to guest post try and get out of your niche. Use your experience from what you write about on your site and relate it to another topic. You will reach a much larger audience.
Don’t worry so much about SEO
Know how you are going to monetize
Monetizing your content is important and you have every right to make a few bucks off of it. Just keep the ads to a minimum and don’t push the popups and what not in the faces of your readership. If you are planning on making money from your site, know early on how you are going to do it. You don’t necessary need to start the monetization plan right away but just have it in mind so you can position yourself for when you are ready.
Adding videos and infographics is a great way to interest readers and keep them coming back. It can be a video you made or one you imported from YouTube or the like. Making a video of your own is easy. There are many free video makers online and nearly every laptop that is sold these days comes with a web cam and microphone. If you are talented you can create your own infographics using Photoshop or a similar program. If art and design is not your thing then simply link or post an infographic that you find interesting. Adding elements like those to your content makes it more interesting for your readers also.
After you get the content up to par then you need to work on the flow. Can your readers easily get from one post to another? Do you have links that take readers deeper and deeper into your archives, encouraging them to stay longer? Is it easy to scroll through your page? If you have multi part posts is it easy to find each part? Can readers look up specific topics or keywords? By making it easy for readers to use your site and allowing them to naturally flow form one section into another you will keep your readers longer and also increase your traffic to older posts.
Keep to the topic
I hate reading a site that jumps all over the place. Is your site about kids? Pets? Cars? Technology? What is your content about? If I can’t figure out your niche in a few seconds then I am likely to move on. A niche topic is an important part of your project. Keeping your posts consistently about your niche is a big part of keeping readers. If you want to branch out into other topics then create a new project. Otherwise stick to what you are good at and keep readers focused.
Everyone loves a how to post. From “how to house break your dog” to “how to build a solar powered laptop” people love to learn how to do new things. If you have a good experience in something or have a hobby that you like to share information about then a guide is a great way to interest readers and create content that will last. You can also offer images to go along with the guide so that they can follow along easily. Cooking sites are pretty much formed around this idea.
Another way to keep readers interested is to use humor. Everyone loves to laugh. If you can make your posts funny in some way then you will keep readers coming back for more. Tell stories, tell jokes, and share funny images. Use sarcasm and poke fun at established rules. Make light of hard to deal with things and make sure that you make people laugh.
Last but not least, be human. A site is first and foremost a diary of sorts. The human element is so important. By sharing stories about your life and making connections in this way you make readers feel like you are a real person and not a machine just cranking out content. Forming connections with your readers is a great way to help them to want to continue reading and coming back.
These are just some of the ways that you can make your site better for your readers. They are your target market. Do not forget that you are writing your content for real people just like you. Make sure your site looks great, reads easily, and is something that readers will want to come back to again and again. Good luck!