Other than my best friend Mr Google, blogs and forums are my main source for finding information on the latest breaking news, new technologies in my industry and for problem solving issues my clients have raised with me. So I read a lot of blogs, and for these obvious reasons, they are very important to me.
Yet I only have a handful of really good and engaging blogs I am subscribed to. Call me fussy and difficult to please, but I put this down to the fact that a large number of blogs I stumble across are extremely boring. Yes, ‘fall-asleep’ boring and uninspiring; and I don’t necessarily put that down to the content that they offer. I’m the first one to acknowledge that I am in a technical industry where the content is rather scientific and factual in nature, but I sense that often content owners are just not making a noticeable effort to engage me, keep me entertained or reward me for my effort or time visiting their blogs.
I might be in the minority here, but for me it is also important that bloggers communicate something about the person behind the written words, especially since strategic bloggers are trying to convert me to a happy future customer. I want to see some personality and experience at least a semblance of human interaction; in short, I want to feel some love!
The subject has been written about extensively, but since so many people still make these mistakes, here are my two cents on how to satisfy blog readers like me who want to be engaged, entertained and appreciated while you inconspicuously convert them into future customers.
Give your audience engaging content they want to talk about
This goes without saying, but content is king. Period. Your blog will not be read in full or at all if the content you share is not of use to your target audience. Write about topics that matter to them; something that is current or a continued industry topic for discussion. Make sure your sources are reliable and accurate, but dare to give your own opinions and demonstrate your thought leadership in your industry. As in real life this will stimulate a dialog, open doors and most certainly result in building relationships where you never thought they existed.
Other than giving your own opinion, ask for your users’ opinion. Do this by asking them to comment on your blog, of course in an engaging style. Don’t make is sound like an obligation, but phrase it as a method for you to understand and hear their point of view. To illustrate with Yoast’s(1) example:
Is your comment link “No comments »”? Or is it “No Comments yet, your thoughts are welcome »”?
I’m much more inclined to comment in reply to the latter.
Use your blog to start building a relationship with your audience
If people take time out of their busy schedules to comment on your blog, thank them. Don’t be an extremist and thank them for every comment they make, but certainly thank them for the first comment they offer. I’m a big fan of WordPress and there are plugins that handle this beautifully. An example is the Redirect plugin which directs first time commentators to a page of your choice where you can post a custom thank you message and invite them to further engage with your content. (Try commenting on this blog to see how this works in practice, and feel free to give me your feedback on our implementation of it.)
As on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, follow your visitors if they comment on your blogs. There is a movement called ‘You comment I follow’ which goes as far as recommending removing ‘no-follow’ links from your blogs, but in my view this might be encouraging spam activity on your blog. As with so many things in life you have to find a balance with this, following perhaps only visitors which you might consider for future engagement. Specialising in the health, fitness and wellness sectors I tend to follow blogs from professionals in these industry sectors, disregarding the comments from dodgy merchants who are looking for backlinks to their websites where they are selling imported pharmaceuticals.
Bottom line: there is only a small minority of users that actually comment on your blogs. Make sure you spend time taking care of them.
Put a face on it
Be proud. Don’t hide from your reader base. Show your name, a photo/gravatar and a blurb about yourself. Again, WordPress does this beautifully, allowing WordPress content administrators to add a screen alias and short bio which blog visitors can view normally by default. Some people see this as risky for their reputations, but as long as industry specific or regulatory requirements do not prohibit you from doing so, I can’t see the harm in this. As a consumer I want to know who I am dealing with at all times, and I will certainly not consider doing business with a blogger if I am not able to get basic information on them.
Keep them coming!
Find ways of making your readers come back for more. A simple technique you can use to achieve this is by using WordPress’ Subscribe to comments plugin which allows people to subscribe to a comment thread just like they would in a forum. They will then receive an e-mail on each new comment, enticing them to continue to partake in the conversation.
Joost Van Der Valk (2014). WordPress SEO. Available: https://yoast.com/articles/wordpress-seo. Last accessed 21 October 2014.