I’m going to let you eavesdrop on a virtual conversation I’m having with a friend. She recently contacted me with this question:
“When I blog about serious stuff, my readership is small. When I blog about random junk, especially humorous random junk, I get readers. Why? Should I blog about serious stuff then? And by serious stuff I mean niche info which for me is education related. I think my niche wants to be entertained. So do I stop with the expert posts and give them what they want?”
I thought that was a really good question, and something most bloggers, including me, deal with. It’s one of the reasons why I recently started what I call my Friday Blogging Experiment.
But there is no easy answer. So let’s back up a bit and I’ll let you listen in as I craft a response for her, and hopefully you can use the information for your own situation.
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First, I think you need to define why you are blogging. What are your goals? We also need to understand that in most cases, traffic in and of itself (i.e. readership) is not the end goal. It is important, but only in so far as it helps you meet your real goals. For this particular individual, I would guess there are two main goals:
1. To show that she is knowledgeable and an expert in her chosen field; an authority on her subject matter.
2. Sell her goods and services, which include her workshops and speaking engagements, as well as tangible products.
These goals are very similar to the goals I have for this blog here. But the fact remains, I write some posts that I think are great and filled with all sorts of great information, and I get low traffic, low comments, low sharing. And then I do something like the Weekend Music Game, which has nothing to do with my business, and I get high traffic and a lot of comments. I feel my friend’s frustration.
Looking at my friend’s goals, I then have to ask: what type of content will help her meet those goals? In order to be taken seriously and considered an expert in her field, she needs the “meaty” content that displays her knowledge and opinions on her chosen niche. That’s why people are there in the first place. I think that intuitively she understands that THIS is really what her audience wants. They want to be informed and educated. Without that, her target audience wouldn’t even come to her site. That is the first draw.
So then why do these other more random posts do better? I think one reason is that many of them are “list” posts. You know, “5 Ways to do this” or “4 Tips on doing that”. As much as I hated to admit it, I discovered early on that lists posts do really well and are great at bringing in new readers. People see the title in their Twitter feed or Facebook newsfeed, and they are often compelled to click through.
I think there is actually room for both types of posts, so here are my suggestions:
- Continue mixing it up - Make the more serious posts the anchor of the blog. It builds a nice database of information that search engines love. They will bring her traffic on a consistent basis and help her build her readership.
- Throw in the occasional humorous post of “random junk” – These posts can actually add to the “homey” feel of your entire blog. I love when people can be random, as it shows that they aren’t one dimensional, and have a sense of humor. My friend does a great job of telling stories and letting her personality shine through.
- Combine the two – As she writes her serious posts, she should let her voice and personality shine through. Tell stories and be funny. The two can work together well if done right. Perhaps find a way to convert some of her more serious posts into list posts and title them accordingly. This won’t work for all of them, but it might help. That’s why I titled this particular post “5 Tips for Defining and Refining Your Blog Content Strategy”. The original title was “Defining and Refining Your Blog Stategy” but I figured making it a list would probably get me more click throughs and reads. A subtle difference, with the same content, yet it works.
- Build a community – Work hard to get comments (a call to action) and engage those who comment. Perhaps switch to a plug in like Livefyre, understanding that success won’t happen over night, but it will help you build a regular community as you and your readers engage with one another.
- Choose your titles carefully – In many cases, the title is what either grabs us or makes us yawn. I have no proof of this in my friend’s case, but I’m betting that her more serious posts have more serious, academic sounding titles, while the “fun” posts have, well, “fun” titles. The kind that make you want to click through. This doesn’t mean you should trick people with the titles, but perhaps lighten them up a bit and make them more compelling so more people will click through.
The only other thing I would add to this for my friend is that it’s important to be consistent in your blogging. I think that’s the thing that was most helpful in growing my readership here, both in building a nice base of regular readers, as well as drawing in new readers. This doesn’t mean you have to blog every day, but choose how often you’ll post and stick with that schedule.
Mixing up our content can serve us all well as we seek to drive traffic to our websites, sell our products and services, and build our reputations as trusted sources of information. Anchor your blog with your meat and potato posts, but throw in some lighter fare from time to time to mix it up.
And there are plenty of other tips I could give on how to get your blog out there once you have your content in line, but that’s a post for another day.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a formula or plan that dictates the types of posts you write for your blog?