One question I get asked a lot is ‘How did you grow your readership?’ People want to know what tricks I used to achieve the quite busy blog I have now. Here’s what I did:
1. Content really IS king
You really can’t get around this. Compelling, interesting content is the key to growing your blog. Not everyone WANTS a big blog, and that’s okay, but if you DO want your readership to grow. If you are building something. You need to get serious about the posts you are creating and make sure there’s something valuable there for your readers. It’s the most important thing.
2. Participating is as important as broadcasting
It’s not enough to be trumpeting awesome stuff. You have to be part of the gang. Standing on your soapbox and pompously broadcasting your own stuff is not going to get you very far. You need to be an active part of the blogging/creative community. You need to champion the work of others, comment on other blogs, take an interest in the lives of the people who are reading you and be sincere when you’re chatting to other bloggers (not strategic!)
3. Organic SEO via useful niche content
I never worked very hard on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). At least I thought I didn’t. I just thought about the stuff I was looking for on the internet, the skills I wanted to know more about and the questions I wanted answered. I used those things as clues for my own blog content. I wished I could learn to crochet granny squares by watching very slow motion silent videos… so I created them myself once I had learned to crochet. I filed them all under a post called ‘How to crochet a granny square’ and it’s the busiest post on my blog. This was good way to approach SEO because it made sense for my blog. I wasn’t writing about The 26 Best Tips For Cleaning Your House (which would be out of place on my blog) I was writing about things that fitted on my blog (and happened to be often searched for!)
Note: On JustB we had great success with posts about quinoa, freekeh, houseboats and container homes – all niche topics that people really are having trouble finding information on. Interesting, no?!
4. List posts
I’ve discussed this elsewhere and I’ll say it again. List posts are useful and will help you gain traffic (if that is what you are after) and grow you readership (if that’s what you are seeking to do.) Over a year or so I made lists posts on all manner of handmade tutorials – 25 ways to make a book by hand, 10 lovely tea cosies to make…. that kind of thing. By the time November rolled around, I was able to collate all of those posts into ONE GIANT list of over 300 craft tutorials for a handmade Christmas (which also got a heap of attention!) List posts are great because they do the work for your readers and also because your readers really do care about the the content you curate.
5. Turning my blog outwards – community projects
Once I realised people were reading my blog, I felt a bit awkward and show-offy. I siphoned some of this attention off into other useful projects, trying to funnel those eyes into things that were more important than my blog. Softies For Mirabel is one such project. It’s in its seventh year now and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of. Sending your readers off to somewhere more important (charity sites, arts projects, issues) is a great way to use your blog for good and to show your readers that you’re not just a pain in the bum narcissist… that you actually care about more than your own little patch of the internet.
Note: Softies for Mirabel is a unique and interesting campaign that was written about in Frankie and The Age, simply because it was noticeable and GREAT!
6. Real life events and interaction
I am wary of people who only interact online. I think it can be very isolating and it’s a bit of a fake world, in many ways. That’s why I always make sure to get involved in real life events too. It was the reason I started stitching nights in my old shop many years ago… and the reason why I started Brown Owls (with Kirsty!) too. It’s a great idea to get out in the world, experience real life things and make real life friends. Bring that to your blog. It sounds weird to even say this, right, but some people forget the importance of connecting eyeball to eyeball (instead of monitor to monitor!) Don’t underestimate your own ability to gather readers just by being out in the world, sharing good stuff and being YOU!
Note: Brown Owls got a lot of attention from the media because it was a non-commercial, fun, skill sharing craft club. It was never our aim, but it was interesting so it received unexpected press.
This is related to the above. Writing your blog, from the heart, as you, in your own voice is super important. If your blog reads just the same as someone else’s. If your blog reads like a character. If your blog is patchy and swings in and out of you… you’re going to have trouble keeping readers. Work hard to put some of YOUR heart in every post and readers will know you… and come to love YOU!
8. Doing new stuff and coming up with good ideas
If you want reader or media attention you need to do good stuff and come up with bright ideas. If you surprise and delight people with cleverness, attention follows pretty organically, in my experience.
Note: The Age awarded me one of Melbourne’s Top 100 Influential People a few years ago, simply because I was forging a unique path in my own way. You can do that too!
9. Trend spotting
Magazines look to bloggers for inspiration. It’s a fact. If you are covering interesting fresh things that no other local blogger is covering, you will probably find yourself added to their reading list… and possibly mentioned in their magazine. It’s good to promote the publications you want to be part of. That’s just how it works. Create interesting trend-spotting posts and connect often with your fave mags via social media for best results!
Note: Frankie wrote an article about my shop and Brown Owls PLUS asked me to write their craft pages after being secret readers of my blog!
SO it’s pretty simple really (and yet not!)
1. Work hard and consistently
2. Create useful, fresh, unique content
3. Live in the REAL world too, not just online
4. Evolve bright ideas that people can’t resist
5. Participate in the wider community in lots of ways