By Robert Bowen
With so many blogs riddling the online landscape, blog owners are always looking for new ways to strengthen their relationship with readers—to engage readers so that they not only appreciate the bloggers’ efforts but come back time and again to read and contribute to the website. Some of these websites engage us so much that we begin to crave the feeling of being on them, and we make them a daily haunt.
This reader engagement is becoming ever more important, because the growing number of blogs could lead to a decline in your own readership, as attention becomes increasingly fragmented among all the exciting new spots. If your readers seem disconnected from your website, they might be lured away for good by a blogger who puts more thought and effort into capturing and holding their attention. If you keep your website engrossing and accessible, you’ll be sure to remain on your readers’ minds, regardless of how many other blogs creep into their RSS reader.
So, the question is, how do we accomplish this? There are many different approaches. Given the diversity and size of the online audience, try a multi-layered approach, rather than going in a single direction. Covering as many bases as possible is always best if you expect to succeed in your blogging venture. Below are a few things you can do to enhance your website’s appeal.
Also consider our previous articles:
- 10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Blogging
Check out this useful post that sheds light on some of the harsh realities of blogging for a corporation.
- The Death of the Boring Blog Post?
Here is another awesome post from the Smashing vaults about creating blog content that resonates with style.
Create Engaging Content
People have said it virtually everywhere across the Web: content is king! It is the biggest draw to your website and the widest avenue to connecting with readers. Be sure to deliver content that your readers want. An easy way to get an idea of what readers are looking for is to track traffic through your website’s analytics. This is an easy way to gauge how to develop content when you are still finding a following. This way, your content stays relevant to those who stop by.
In order to engage your audience, you will have to do two things consistently. First, you will have to stay informed about your topic so that you do not lose credibility with readers. If you lose that trust, regaining it is very hard. Secondly, you must always be thoughtful in your presentation of material. If the posts are not thought-provoking and do not spark dialog, but just dryly present your perspective, you are less likely to engage your audience.
These are proven ways to engage your readers and strengthen their relationship to your website. The website may look great, which is what led some readers to you, but the content is its heart, and without it pumping out a strong and steady flow, the blog’s pulse will weaken and fade.
Chances are, your readers are looking for something specific when they arrive on your website, whether helpful tips, tools, etc. If you can deliver that, then they’re likely to stick around and trust your brand. Readers respond to bloggers who take the time to provide useful posts that benefit them in some way, and they shirk from bloggers whose posts present nothing but inspirational collections, with no commentary other than, “Here, get inspired!” While such blogs can be helpful at times when inspiration is low, without offering a balance of content, a blogger will not engage their audience.
Engaging readers won’t happen simply by throwing information at them. Lend a helping hand to those who find their way to you. Give them a strong impression of your website and brand, which will in turn reinforce your relationship. You demonstrate a lot when you take the time to teach others skills you have learned or share resources that would help them grow in their field. Your readers will not soon forget it.
Listen And Adapt
Another proven way to engage readers is to actively cultivate your relationship with them. Take a proactive approach and find out from readers just what they are looking for. The concept is pretty basic and will eliminate a lot of guesswork in figuring out how to engage your audience. Just ask them directly what they would like to see from your website. Beyond that, listen to what they say. Readers are usually very forthcoming when they know they will be listened to, and they enjoy the kind of interaction that gives them a sense that they can influence the direction of the blog.
But if you open up this channel of communication, then you need to be fully prepared to follow through on it and seriously consider and respond to your readers’ ideas and feedback. It is not enough simply to ask for your audience’s input and then let the ball drop. You want to demonstrate that you are reflecting on their suggestions and acting on them. Being able to adapt to user input is essential, otherwise your relationship with readers could work against you.
Make It Personal
One method that several websites have followed to engage readers is to give them a peek at the people behind the scenes. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal, without crossing the line and offering so much information that it starts getting uncomfortable. Essentially, this is a way to share your personal experiences with readers and invite them to get to know more about the person they are engaging with.
Also, through the experiences you share, others will gain valuable insight into your processes, allowing them to incorporate any time- or headache-saving strategies into their own routines. You would miss out on this connection with readers is you did not inject any personality into your blog. Make yourself available, and invite readers to get more out of the experience than they would from other blogs. Readers like being able to put a face to a website. It instills trust.
Just as soliciting input demonstrates that you value your audience’s opinion, showing appreciation also has a positive effect. Without an audience, your blog will fall flat, so they are obviously integral to your success. Doing whatever you can to show how much you value their participation is a proven way to strengthen your relationship with readers for the simple fact that you are enabling them to get more out of the website. You are opening up another avenue to your blog, and if other websites fail to do the same, users will spend more time on yours.
Freebies, especially exclusive ones, are a fantastic way to show appreciation. Unlike list posts that simply compile freebies from around the Web, rewards that are unique to your blog score big points with readers. Granted, lists of fabulous freebies available elsewhere are also appreciated, just not as much. Arranging contests that give readers exciting opportunities to get their hands on new apps or services related to their field is also a brilliant way to foster your relationship with readers.
The most important thing is never to take your readers for granted, and showing your appreciation is an easy way to ensure that they never feel that they are.
Make The Comment Section User-Friendly
One of your blog’s main draws will naturally be the content, and if you expect readers to get the most out of each post, then they will need to be able to comment and expand on it by discussing the ideas with you and other readers. Thus, the comment section is more than a tool to evaluate content. It allows readers to expand on the ideas in the main content. So, offer a pleasant, non-confrontational space for them to openly share and discuss their ideas. Be sure to keep the conversation friendly and productive.
Of course, anytime you broach the subject of censoring comments, some will voice opposition. But if you moderate comments for the purpose of shielding readers from disrespect arising simply from their desire to share their thoughts, then you know you’re doing it for the right reasons. The last thing you want is for readers to feel that they cannot comfortably start a dialog for fear of being berated by people whose only interest is to troll. So, try to maintain some control over the comment section.
Another way to improve your relationship with readers is to be social through the various networks that they populate. Social media offers website operators and users a unique opportunity to connect on different levels and gain insight into each other. Being active not only will reinforce your relationship with established readers but will expand the reach of your blog and bring in new users. Given these dual benefits, working this into your day could be an invaluable addition to your routine.
This is an area of contention in the design community: some do not believe that social media can benefit your blog or readership, while others swear by their usefulness. Having had many conversations on various blogs and a few social networks about this, I’ve found a consensus that social networking can be extremely beneficial to your blog if done in a truly social spirit and conducted in an interactive, give-and-take fashion. Perhaps this isn’t for you, then, but others will certainly reap the rewards of being more social with their readers, the main reward being improved relationships.
Websites That Get It Right
Below are a few blogs that are building relationships with their readers the right way. They focus on the overall user experience of their website, enabling readers to get more out of it than just the regular content.
Envato has an entire network of websites dedicated to helping out the online design community with useful tutorials and articles.
Another website that delivers helpful content to the online masses, accompanied by a social presence to further its reach.
When it comes to posting engaging content and keeping the conversation going, this website is nearly unrivalled in the blogosphere.
Another great blog whose content is always engaging and whose social media presence always add to the experience.
Echo Enduring Blog
Another fantastic blog, with thoughtful content that always sparks discussion and engages readers.
When it comes to enriching the community with useful information, this blog is brilliant. It has a knack for making sense of any topic.
Another socially active, must-see website. The posts pull readers into a discussion, while allowing them to fully digest the content.
We have collected a few posts that provide further insight on approaches you can take with your blog.
- 7 Ways to Engage Readers of a Business Blog
ProBlogger has a great post about engaging readers of a business blog, covering seven methods for success.
- Engaging Readers to Comment on Blogs and Social Networks
Spider Writers has an awesome post about using engaging content to get readers to comment on your website or through social media.
- How to Engage Readers and Build Amazing Community Around Your Blog
Blog Design Studio has another fabulous read on building a community of readers around your blog.
- Five Ways to Better Engage Readers on Your Blog
Freelance Folder has also tackled this topic and brought some great advice to the conversation.
- How to Write Engaging Blogs People Want to Read
Web Pro News has a useful article offering ways to write more engaging content for your blog.
- A 60-Second Guide to Engaging Your Readers
Confident Writing also shares some wonderful advice on creating content that engages readers.