This is a guest post by Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard
In the following post you’re going to get a crash course in boosting reader engagement on your blog through commenting, social shares, list building and more – these tips are actionable and will get you results if you use them correctly.
As bloggers one of the most important things to us (asides from traffic) is reader engagement – because without it our blogs would look empty, we’d struggle to get social shares and most likely struggle to build a mailing list.
Positive reader engagement is an important sign of having an active community and it is something that is a lot easier to build up than some people think.
In the blogging community we have a big advantage here because we operate in a web savvy niche/industry.
There are a large number of brands that continuously struggle to build engagement despite turning over millions in profit each year and having a huge customer base.
So we have the advantage – in this article you’re going to find both tactics, tools and examples that will help boost the reader engagement on your blog.
Tactics to Boost Reader Engagement
Write great content
I’m sure a lot of people are sick of hearing this “write great content” thing and have had a good chuckle at the hilarious Matt Cutts memes but it’s true.
If you write short, uninformative and un-engaging content then chances are this isn’t going to help you.
If you write long, detailed, informative and engaging content then this is going to help you.
That’s why, apart from my weekly roundups, I try to make sure every article is over 1,000 words as a bare minimum – ideally I prefer anything I write to be over 2,500 words.
This is why the average time on site for Blogging Wizard is currently 5 minutes 30 seconds and I have some posts that are over 12 minutes.
Remember, this type of thing looks great to Google as the time users spend on our sites is incorporated into their algorithm.
Build a mailing list
When someone trusts you enough to give you their email address – that is huge.
Especially considering the amount of spam flying around these days and in the majority of cases (aside from those doing competitor research or gathering intelligence) they seriously value what you have to say and want more content from you.
There are a lot of different benefits to building a mailing list but the main one here is that you will be able to promote new articles to your existing subscribers who already value what you have to say.
Providing your content is up to scratch then your subscribers will be engaged and the chances of subsequent social shares, comments and even some blog mentions is extremely high.
When you start your list you need to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up, so add an opt-in form to your sidebar, add it below your posts and add a popover.
You can also take this a step further by creating a newsletter page and then ask people to sign up and of course include the link.
Did you like this article?
And add a popover, sidebar widget, maybe something under the post – actually invite people to sign up within articles.
“Did you like this? Sign up to my newsletter to get more awesome tips.”
By the way – if you really do like this then go ahead and sign up .
Respond to comments
This is more important than some people think although within the blogging community we usually do quite a good job at this.
When we take the time to comment on a blog, it’s nice to have a response even if it is brief – it lets us know that the blogger whose article we’re reading is really their and values their readers.
I understand that some people are extremely time poor (and so am I) but it’s important to respond even if it’s a short reply.
If you have the time, take it to the next level and make the conversion go further – use your response to ask questions and request feedback.
And if you’re guest posting don’t forget to respond to comments their too because this will have an impact on your reputation – if you don’t respond to comments then some bloggers won’t let you post again. The job isn’t done just because the post has been published.
Ask people to comment
Whether it is asking on Twitter, Facebook, in an email, at the end of a post or somewhere within a post – you need to do this.
Take any opportunity that you can to encourage discussion on your site because this a powerful way of increasing your perceived authority within your niche.
When you go to a site and see over 200 comments on a post, what do you think?
Something positive, right?!
One of the ways you can build your authority is by harnessing the power of social proof and this is one of the biggest contributing signals.
If social proof is something that’s new to you then I’ll explain – it’s a psychological phenomenon where people make assumptions based on the actions of others.
Others signals that contribute to social proof include – RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, Social shares on each post etc.
You don’t have to specifically ask someone to comment, but simply asking a question can be very powerful.
Comment on other blogs in your niche
This is surprisingly one of the ways that I discover new upcoming blogs or bloggers that have been around for a while that I haven’t come across before.
I personally subscribe to a lot of different blogs within my niche (I suggest you do the same) – I read these blogs regularly but one week in particular I read through something like 20 posts on different blogs and on each of those posts I saw a really detailed and well thought-out comment from Ryan Biddulph sitting right next to his Gravatar image – by doing that he was immediately on my radar.
Blog commenting generally isn’t that great for traffic but at this scale with such detailed comments that add extra value to the blog articles that you’re reading then it makes a big impact.
The benefits here are great because you can get new followers, new blog or email subscribers and traffic out of this but there is also a branding element to this – more people will be aware of you and still value what you have to say that may not follow you straight away.
It all adds up to more authority for you.
The other benefits of this are that by commenting regularly you’re also getting on the radar of the blogger whose post you’re commenting on and a lot of times when you post a really well thought out comment that adds value you’ll find the blogger checking out your own blog and sometimes end up with additional comments, social shares and subscribers.
Remember, I’m not talking about going around spamming or giving 2 word comments – if you talk a load of crap then you’ll only hurt your reputation within the niche/industry.
Link out to people
I am constantly surprised by how so many people just can’t see the value in linking out to people and seem to think that it is somehow going to hurt them.
Well, it’s not – and if you link out to the right people it’s only going to benefit you.
How can it benefit you?
When you link out to people, it gets you on their radar and can lead to more social shares, mentions/links on authoritative blogs in your niche, comments, new subscribers and more traffic.
Why would anyone say no to all this?
Be proactive – don’t wait for someone to find the post where you linked to them; tell them about it.
Whether this means emailing them or telling them on Twitter – make sure you let them know.
This is the exact reason why I got two links from Jason Acidre (Kaiserthesage.com).
Sure, not every site that you link to is going to do this but when someone doesn’t link to you they may share your post, subscribe to your list or something else.
Keep your eyes open for trending news, I’d recommend you subscribe to all of the other blogs within your niche in a feed reader so you can see what’s going on and then jump on it.
When I say jump on it, I don’t mean write a short snappy article just to get some coverage – I mean write a really detailed article and then promote it heavily because at these times you have a big opportunity because most people try to get the news out as quick as possible – take 30 minutes, maybe even an hour longer and add some more value.
For example when news broke that Google Reader was shutting down there was a huge influx of searches for Google Reader alternatives where people were frantically searching trying to find a decent alternative.
When you jump on trending topics you’ll also notice that you get more visits from returning visitors – there’s not much that would convert better than a headline about a topic that is trending within your niche, especially when that topic actually has an impact on people’s lives (even if it’s a minor one such as how people consume information).
Don’t scare people off, everyone says “build yourself up to be an authority” and while that is important, don’t forget that there are lots of “authorities” within virtually all niches so make yourself approachable. If you don’t then some people won’t engage with you for fear of being shot down or not valued.
Be the face of your brand/blog
If you’re running a commercial business rather than a personal blog then this is very difficult to do or may just not work at all.
However, if you are running a personal blog then this works great because people connect best with people, when you stop making things personable you put barriers up and increase friction between you and your target audience.
Let people know who you are, let them know that you are real because real people connect with real people and by doing this people will remember you.
Essentially it boils down to building YOU as a brand.
Start off by using the same profile picture across all of your accounts – make yourself easily recognisable.
You could even go so far as to put a big picture of yourself in the header of your blog, something that works very well for Ana Hoffman from Traffic Generation Cafe because I don’t just remember the blog, I remember the blogger too.
When you want to build reader engagement, don’t just immediately think that everyone is just going to engage with you as soon as you put up a post – it won’t happen.
You need to start off by helping other people out in your niche, even if it’s voting up articles on Inbound & BizSugar, linking out, sharing articles on Twitter or dropping a really great comment.
It’s givers gain because in the long run that’s what will happen and sure, not all bloggers or website owners are going to be receptive to this or reciprocate – you can’t win them all but you can give it a damn good go and get most of them!
Connect with influencers and you will build traffic and authority through good will.
You’ll also build some great relationships that will benefit you for a very long time to come.
Be sociable and build your following
Go out on to the web and connect with like-minded individuals in communities, forums, Twitter and other websites – engage with people and get people talking and it will open doors and lead to forming strong relationships that will only help you in the future.
Don’t just use communities or websites as somewhere to drop your links in without any thought or plan.
The majority of people turn off to this type of thing and it will just end up hurting you.
If you even consider dropping a link in a community, then at least use it as an opportunity to get people talking.
While so many people do this in the wrong way, guest blogging can be an extremely effective tactic for building your authority within your niche, getting more traffic to your blog and building relationships with other bloggers.
Make sure that every guest post you write is your best work because if it isn’t then you’ll either end up with bloggers declining your articles or building yourself a bad reputation.
Having a high quality guest post published on a relevant blog will always help you but in order to get the best results you need arrange as many posts to be published within a short period of time.
Within the majority of niches, people don’t just read one website exclusively, they read a variety of different websites and subscribe to them in a feed reader.
Just stop and think about this for a moment – if you were subscribed to a bunch of websites about SEO for example and then looked in your feed reader one day and found that the majority of posts across a bunch of different websites were actually written by one person and they were all incredibly useful and well thought out – posts that really gave a lot of actionable information.
How would this affect your view of this blogger/writer?
It’d be positive and you’d check out their blog right?!
There’s a magic percentage here which is just over 50% – if someone reads, for example 20 posts on different blogs in a week and your guest posts end up accounting for more than 10 of them then the perception of the reader will be that you are – EVERYWHERE!
This works in a similar way to how we perceive music in a film, a lot of films have quite a few parts that don’t have any music at all, but when you look at it on the whole it ends up that the majority of the film has music and we perceive it to having music throughout.
The reason I mention this is because Kristi Hines did this a few years back and it was the reason why I first checked Kristi’s blog (Kikolani.com).
Be open about your success
If you’ve done something really great then tell people about it if it will go towards proving why people should listen to you.
There’s no need to go silly with it and make up a success story – don’t rent a Porsche for a day or borrow a friends Ferrari just so you can have some cheese video filmed where you’re sitting on the bonnet.
Let people know and use your success in the right way but don’t make out that you’re something you’re not.
This was a huge pet peeve of mine with the music industry (that’s where my love of marketing started).
Every 16 year old kid that got hold of a laptop, a pair of headphones and downloaded some free software would go round making out they’re a big shot producer and every rapper on MySpace referred to themselves as CEOs and wanted to be called money while showing off pictures of themselves in rented suits and wads of cash that they had to get a bank loan for.
Inventing your success out of a hat will just hurt your reputation and people can immediately see through it.
Let people know about your success, be honest about it and don’t hide it because it’s a powerful way of proving to people why they should listen to you.
Your success will also translate into great headlines – just take a look at a few headlines that Neil Patel from QuickSprout.com has used –
Talk to people
It’s far too easy to just become a blogging shut in and there are people that have built reader engagement that way but by just going out and talking to other bloggers, going to events and networking you can do wonders for you.
If you can’t do events then use anything you can – online communities, social media, email, Skype etc.
Once you let people know that you’re out there then it will make a big difference and if the people you’re talking to is an influencer within your niche then that’s just icing on the cake .
Tools to Boost Reader Engagement
Comment Luv is a WordPress plugin that allows you to reward commenters by giving them an extra link to a recently published post on their blog.
When you step up and grab a copy of the premium version – that’s when the real magic happens.
You get additional Comment Luv features such as social enticements, dofollow control and click stats.
What makes the premium version even better is that you get other plugins bundled in too; GASP anti-spam, TwitterLink, KeywordName (works on the same principle as KeywordLuv) and ReplyMe.
While all of these features will help you boost reader engagement in some way, the one thing that can help you the most is the ReplyMe features.
These features include – emailing your comment responses to the commenter, emailing commenter with a thank you for commenting message and also redirecting a commenter after their first comment giving you the option to direct them to a landing page where you can encourage them to join your mailing list.
I still can’t get over how powerful Triberr is, and in the experience I’ve had with it so far I can see why it’s been dubbed the “reach multiplier”.
When you sign up just join a Tribe and you’ll see articles by other bloggers in your tribal feed, then just tick the approve button to share them with your followers (you can change the settings to schedule these shares so you don’t end up sending out too many).
The way the Triberr system works is on the law of reciprocation so it’s important that you share other peoples content and that they share yours (this makes for a great community too).
So far I’ve found some really great articles on Triberr and it’s had a huge impact to my blogs reach, its encouraged commenters and boosted my traffic.
Triberr is free to use, although there are premium options which allow you to get more out of the service.
There is also a WordPress plugin that feeds content directly into Triberr, allows you to add your author bio and the Triberr commenting system to your blog with integrated social sharing buttons.
If you already have a solution for displaying author bios on your blog then don’t worry, you can easily turn this off.
Examples of bloggers who are great at building reader engagement
There are a huge number of impressive bloggers that do some truly amazing things with reader engagement so I’ve put together a list of some that you should check out, bookmark and subscribe to.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means (and in no particular order):
- Ileane Smith – http://basicblogtips.com
- Ana Hoffman – http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com
- Neil Patel - http://www.quicksprout.com
- Shane Melaugh – http://imimpact.com
- Kristi Hines – http://kikolani.com
- Hesham Zebida – http://www.famousbloggers.net
- Jason Acidre – http://kaiserthesage.com
- Devesh Sharma – http://www.wpkube.com & http://blokube.com
- Donna Merrill Tribe – http://donnamerrilltribe.com
- Dino Dogan – http://diyblogger.net
- Sherryl Perry – http://keepupwiththeweb.com
- Adrienne Smith – http://www.adriennesmith.net
- Lisa Buben – http://inspiretothrive.com
- Michelle Shaeffer – http://michelleshaeffer.com
I would love for you to implement all of these tactics and tools so you can start building reader engagement right now but if there is one word that you take away from this post and always remember, whatever you do in your blogging (and even every day) life …
Remember to always…
So, in the continued styling’s Captain Picard …
Now here’s what I’d love to know – in terms of building reader engagement, what is working well for you right now? what’s not working for you?