The Reader
Photo by scaamanho

I’ve been blogging for a pretty long time now (give or take, 2 years) and in that time I’ve managed to see, experience and experiment a lot of things in the social media field, particularly in blogging. Because social media is such a volatile industry, in which new promising services pop out at a regular basis and disappear almost just as suddenly as they appeared, it’s very hard to predict what the next big thing will be, that will help you get your blog exposed or significantly increase your readership. However, I’ve found that one thing almost always stays the same and that’s the readers, the visitors. They’re the constant in almost any successful blog equation.

They’re the ones that can make your blog very popular and successful, by regularly reading your posts, posting comments, clicking ads etc. Basically we, as bloggers, wouldn’t manage to achieve anything without them. What I’m gonna try to do, in this post, is to dwell a bit in the average blog reader’s psychology. What I want to do is to make a write up of what makes them ‘tick,’ how, when and where they read your blog, thus by understanding what goes around their heads when surfing your blog, you can take the necessary steps to improve it.

I’ve done some research in the past few weeks and found that although people surfing blogs on the internet come from different ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds, they almost all behave the same way when reading blogs.

  • Readers want what they’re looking for. This point may seem a bit confusing, but it’s very true. Readers, especially first timers, will visit a blog looking for something in particular (most of the time via search engines) whether it’s an article about fishing or a funny video post or whatever and if they won’t find what they’re looking for fast, they’ll exit the blog and browse through something else until they find whatever they’re looking for. To successfully satisfy your reader’s needs: Your content should point out your visitor’s problems –> Your content should provide your visitors with a solution to that problem –> Your content should highlight how you can help solve this problem
  • Readers expect only the best. The information they’re surfing for on your blog doesn’t just have to be relevant, but also valuable. So if your blog post’s subject and relevancy were the ones that guided the respective visitor to your blog, it’s up to your content to compel him to read the whole thing and eventually subscribe.
  • Readers love freebies. Give them something for free, no matter how small and you’ll get their attention and most importantly, their subscription. The higher the value of the freebie, the greater the attention span your blog will get.
  • Readers love excellent blog designs. A blog design will always catch someone’s attention, it’s natural when we see something beautiful to stay along more for the ride and check out the rest of the show. It’s important to understand that your blog’s design is a incredible tool for exposing and marketing your content. Just think of your blog as a book and its design as the book’s cover, when browsing through a library a book cover may inspire you to read a few paragraphs and eventually buy it. Just as well if you see a really ugly book cover, you will be infinitely less compelled to pick it up, getting back to our initial variable that means that if your blog’s design is terrible, with awkward coloring, fonts etc, then you can expect fewer people to actually read what you’ve written.Many argue blog design isn’t really important nowadays, because of the ever expanding use of RSS readers. I beg to differ. Not only a good blog design will compel visitors to read your blog and in term subscribe to the blog’s feed, but it also is a great way to better “sell” your blog by:
    • Putting more focus (on content, on your RSS subscription form, on your top posts etc.)
    • Enhancing reader experience
    • Communicating your message
    • Simply looking good
  • Readers like to be entertained. Learn to master the art of humor, humorous writing to be more exact. Make them laugh with a few subtle jokes or whatever and you’ll have them in your pocket.

Types Of Readers And Differentiation

As most of you might already know, generalization only works to a certain extent, so the most smart thing to do is to try to satisfy each types of readers as best as you can, without exaggerating of course. Basically there are two major types of readers: new visitors and returning visitors.

LOAB Data
First timers vs returning visitors for LOAB

As it can be seen in the diagram from above, the number of “new visitors” is a lot larger then the number of “returning visitors,” which is quite normal. The data is taken from actual Lost Art Of Blogging stats and by analyzing my other blog’s reader demographics I’ve found the number to be generally true for most blogs, except for those that don’t use social media at all, as a means of traffic. Knowing this, you can now model your blog’s content and design, so that to better satisfy your reader’s needs. Naturally, due to their sheer numbers, you first concern would be to optimize your blog for new visitors, so that you eventually manage to convert them into loyal readers, however ignoring your returning visitors would be a big and grave mistake. The repeating visitors are the most valuable visitors you could possibly get and ask for; they’re the ones that actively participate in your blog’s development by checking regularly for updates, commenting on your posts, subscribing, generating content (if you run a collective/reader generated blog), clicking your ads and by referring their friends to your blog. Let’s have a look on how we can satisfy both types of readers, by blending various content and design elements.

The First Timers

Woman Reading
Photo by rsplatpc

As I’ve already written above, new visitors make most of your traffic, so a significant part of your attention should be directed towards them. New visitors can actually be ramified into even more categories like:

  • Search engine readers. Because they’ve used a particular, focused keyword or string of keywords to find your blog, the search engine readers are laser sharp targeted. Due to this they convert the most easily into loyal readers, making them the most valuable kind of traffic one can hope for.
  • Social media readers. They usually come in mass numbers, following a spike of traffic. This usually happens when you hit the digg front page or get popular on stumbleupon. The problem with social media traffic, however, is that they’re particularly picky and have a low attention span, so you have just a few seconds to convince them to stick around before they exit. In addition to that they convert badly, from all possible points of view. A lot of people actually find social media traffic to be more or less worthless. Again I disagree, the subject is a bit too vast to extrapolate, so I’d advise reading Skellie’s post about digg.You can read all about how to write social media friendly blog posts in a previous article of mine.
  • Other referred readers. These are the readers that end up on your blog from following a link on another blog or that get referred by friends via e-mail, instant messaging or any other form of communication. They’re a bit a mixture between the previous two forms of new readers.

Always for you as a blogger, your ultimate goal when leveraging new readers, has to be converting them into loyal readers. Here’s just a few ideas you could use.

  1. Inform new comers about your blog. Ever entered a website of which you had absolutely no idea what’s it all about? While your blog’s title, content and illustrations may provide visitors with the necessary information to understand what your blog’s area of expertise is, a dedicated space in which information about your blog can be found is recommended. In a nutshell be sure to create an about page, in which you’ll underline all the essential info concerning your blog, like its theme, purpose and why people should read it.
  2. Create a newbies corner. If you’re running a blog in a highly targeted niche, like for instance bonsais, it would be a great idea to make a new blog post or preferably a separate page, in which you’ll explain to people in layman’s terms what are bonsais, why they’re important etc.
  3. Write a FAQ. Make a list of the most frequent questions and answer them. This will spare a lot of time, otherwise lost on repetitive e-mails, but will also help a new comer instantly get his questions answered, the most common ones at least.
  4. Make a blog archive. A blog archive is always useful, not just for readers, but for bloggers as well. Readers, particularly new ones, can always browse through your content much easier with the help of an archives of page. All you need to make one is a plugin. I like to use Justin Blanton’s live archives or the extended live archive plugin.
  5. Highlight your most popular posts. Don’t hold your good cards back. Put your best work upfront and make it as visible as possible. By reading your best work, instead of your usual day-to-day posts, more new comers will get convinced to subscribe. Use Alex King’s Popularity Contest WP plugin for best results.

The Loyal Followers

Statue of Liberty
Photo by firoze shakir photographerno1

As I’ve already noted above, returning visitors are truly important and should never get neglected, otherwise you might risk losing them.

  1. Post frequently. The main reason for which most of your readers subscribed to your post is undoubtedly your content. However some readers might get irritated when they return to your blog everyday and find that it hasn’t been update for weeks. An inevitable unsubscription occurs at this stage. Post good content at regular intervals (at least once a week) and you’ll have no problem keeping your readers.
  2. Write about yourself. As your readers will get more and more familiarized with your writing and blog, they’ll want to know more about the author or authors behind it. Best place to start is as always at our good old about page. Tell your readers what’s your name, where you live (don’t disclose your complete address of course), what are your studies, what are your achievements, what do you like to do in your spare time and so on.
  3. Connect with your readers. Reply to readers comments and e-mails, by either answering their questions, informing them of something interesting or just by thanking them. This way a bond between blogger and reader is being made, that provides the foundation for a flourishing community.
  4. Make it easier to follow updates. Chances are that loyal readers will repetitively check your blog for updates, so why not make it easier for them. Put up a recent posts widget in your sidebar, put your new post’s url on twitter, send out weekly newsletters and so on.
  5. Reward your followers. You, as the blogger, are handing out constant valuable content for free and your readers provide page views, comments and ad clicks. It’s a win-win situation, but why not have the edge up against your readers and give a little more back. Give an eBook for free (eventually only for your RSS subscribers), run a high profile contest, link to you reader’s blog or just about anything that involves giving a little piece of you away.
  6. Organize community projects. This is a great, not only for keeping your current readers happy and occupied, but for also expanding it. Make a weekly community feature in which you respond to reader questions, make polls, assign “homeworks.” The idea is to strengthen the bond between you and your readers, but also between fellow readers as well, so that solid a community may be formed. You have to wait a little bit, before starting any similar projects, until you’ve reached a respectable respectable readership, otherwise you rick to end up doing group projects with only 3-4 fellows. As a side note I’ll soon start some community features here on Lost Art Of Blogging; I’m open for theme ideas.

Becoming One With The Reader

Book
Photo by New Orleans Lady

To truly understand what goes through a visitor’s mind when accessing your blog, you first have to put away any trace of subjectivity and put yourself in his place. I do this a lot. I just browse my blog and then look at the design and think to myself “this doesn’t look like quite good from this perspective, I’ll change it” or at the actual content. I quickly read a post and then ask myself “is this helpful in any way? what would’ve I learned if I saw this for the first time?” A problem with this technique, however, is that you’re too accustomed with your own blog. Meaning everything concerning your blog has become natural for you, because you, as its owner, know its every “nut and bolt.” Thus its hard to look at it with a open mind.

What I do from time to time is ask a friend to ask one of his friends (all my friends already know my blog) to visit LOAB and then tell me a honest non-biased opinion about the blog. I’ve managed to acquire a great deal of solid, useful advise this way. What you have to keep in mind though is that the person you’ve asked to read and analyze your blog has to have at least the most basic amount of knowledge about the blog’s niche. It’s important because this way, you’ll get more a detailed and constructive critique.

[digg-reddit-me]How do you attend to your “guests”? Have you ever tried getting into the reader’s skin? If you enjoyed this post, then please consider stumbling or bookmarking it at del.icio.us. As always you can subscribe for free to LOAB’s full RSS feed or by e-mail.

If you enjoyed this post, then you might consider subscribing to our feed via RSS or e-mail. Find out more about subscribing here. Thanks for visiting!

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