So you have a blog and you have a few readers, but how interested are your readers in what you write? Are they inspired by it? Does it help them to solve problems in their work or personal lives? Do they tell family, friends or colleagues about it? And do they visit your blog because they were interested in a particular post and got hooked?
If your answer to these questions is ‘I don’t know’, you have work to do. There are millions of blogs out there, so if you’re serious about getting yours noticed, you need to invest time and energy in refining the type of content you post on it. But how do you create something that really connects with your audience? It starts with understanding what exactly that audience is.
Understanding your audience
The first thing you need to do to in order to create a successful blog is to understand your audience. That doesn’t just mean the people already reading your blog – it means the people you’d like to be reading your blog too.
A brand name selling diaper bags will be successful if it produces blog posts that appeal to new parents. A company selling bike helmets will be successful if it produces blog posts that connect with cyclists. Drawing in readers means nothing unless they are part of – or at least related to – your market. This applies every bit as much to blogs where you are looking to get a message across or share information as it does to those looking to sell a product or service.
How can you find out about your audience? Tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights provide valuable information on who is already reading your blog, which you can use to help you refine the keywords you include in your posts and identify subjects likely to most appeal to your target audience Adjust what you publish accordingly, and see what changes; this way you can continue to make adjustment that will bring your actual audience closer to your ideal audience.
Look at what other blogs are doing to attract people in your target market too, but don’t just copy it; your blog will need to have a voice of its own if it’s going to succeed.
Make it personal
The informality of blogs is a large part of their appeal. People don’t want an anonymous corporate voice or articles written in the third person when they visit your blog – they want you. This doesn’t mean the personality of your blog has to be identical to yours though; you can still be professional, and you can tailor the language you use to suit your target audience.
Remember that people respond best to someone they feel thinks in the same way that they do. Be warm and friendly, and take an interest in the responses you get – show your readers you care about them.
Far too many people start blogging about popular subjects in the same way everyone else does. Doing this won’t give people a reason to visit your blog, as they’ll probably already have seen the same tone and ideas elsewhere. If you’re going to cover a popular subject, find a unique angle from which to approach it, one that nobody else has used.
What makes a blog valuable to people? This will vary a bit depending on your target audience. Some of it’s about ideas. Some of it’s about information. Can you inspire people? Can you help them see something in a new way, without being too challenging regarding their priorities and values? Can you teach them a new skill?
If you are selling kitchen furniture, for instance, you might find recipes that can be made and enjoyed using furniture like yours will be popular with your target audience because they find them fun, useful and relevant.
Create the right tone
Different audiences look for different things in what they read. Most people like humor, and it can help to create that all-important sense of a personal bond, but the type of humor you use for a blog aimed at high school athletes would obviously be quite different from what you’d use to connect with 50-something lawyers. Depending on the context, you may need to adopt a more serious or sympathetic tone, while blog posts offering advice need to sound authoritative without being overbearing.
Get people talking
While by this point you will have worked to make your target audience feel comfortable with you and your blog, you can’t agree with everyone all the time, and sometimes disagreement is just what you need to get people talking.
The trick is to work out just how far you can go in being provocative without upsetting people. If you’re stating your preference for a particular color scheme, you shouldn’t need to worry too much, but if you’re broaching ethical, moral or political issues, you should tread carefully.
When people comment on your blog, try to respond in a way that will draw them into a discussion, and reference other commenters to get them talking to each other.
Keep asking questions
Every comment and piece of feedback you get can help with profiling your audience, as well as improving your blog. Use polls and surveys to persuade people to share their views, and create posts that raising questions rather than provide answers, inviting readers to share their thoughts.
Throughout this process, keep track of the number of views, comments and shares you get in order to see what type of posts engage readers most effectively. The more content you post and analyze, the more you can learn.
Building a successful blog takes time, and you shouldn’t expect things to happen overnight, but well-tailored content will give you a great chance of growing your audience. If you’re already taking the time to produce content, it’s worth making the extra effort to ensure that what you’re producing connects with your target audience. While it will take a little more energy, you’ll get a lot more out of your blog as a result.