Photography by dlkinney
Yesterday I wrote about loyal readers and how they can be a key factor in your blog or website’s growth.
Today’s post provides 19 answers to the question: how can I help new visitors become loyal readers?
Each point is not necessarily a complete answer in itself, and is best used in tandem with several others.
The stronger the connection you make with a new visitor, the more likely they are to keep your site firmly planted in their memory.
How many of these strategies are you already using? How many more could you build into your approach?
The value of each loyal reader
- dozens to hundreds of visits
- much more likely to link/recommend you
- takes your recommendations more seriously
- more likely to buy your product or service
How can we build loyal readers?
- Welcome new commenters. You could keep a document of users who’ve commented on your blog and add to it as comments appear. When you encounter a name you’re not sure you’ve seen before you can word-search the document for the user and quickly now if they’re a new commenter or not. Take the time to welcome them to the community.
- Answer commenter questions. Sometimes they will seem off-topic or difficult to answer, but it’s worth giving it a shot. Few interactions leave a more lasting impression on a person than being helped by someone else.
- Thank those who thank you. All of us will, at some point, be lucky enough to be on the receiving end of kind words delivered via comments. It’s important to acknowledge these — even if it’s just to say thanks.
- Don’t neglect frequent commenters. Part of building a loyal readership is maintaining those who are already part of that readership base. Continue to engage with regular commenters as much as possible.
- Encourage RSS subscription. Few readers are more loyal than those who get your content instantly delivered to their feed reader. In order to help the process along, I’d suggest advertising your feed in the first screen of your site and beneath each post on its single post page. I’m not sold on those ‘Please subscribe to my feed’ banners that often appear above the first headline as I think they may interrupt the reader’s attempt to engage with the content.
- Check the formatting on your feed. Perhaps this is something everyone does already out of vanity but I do suggest subscribing to your own feed. This will allow you to see when something isn’t working or displaying properly. If it’s a frequent problem, it may cause some of your subscribers to drop your feed.
- Answer every email you get. Sound impossible? What if that answer were only ‘Sorry, I don’t have the time to get back to you at the moment, but I’ll do so as soon as possible.’ Not hard — you could even cut and paste it. The worst thing an emailer can experience is the feeling of being ignored, particularly when it took time to compose the email. Simple acknowledgment can put you ahead of many other bloggers and webmasters in this area.
- Solve problems/answer questions via email. Sometimes a reader will contact me with a tricky question or problem that would take me at least 10 or 15 minutes to answer. My first reaction might be: I don’t have that much time to spend with one person. The second stage of my reaction, however, is to think: what if doing so will help them towards becoming a loyal reader? When you think of it like that, it’s not hard to make the effort.
- Get to know readers personally. Chat to them via your IM of choice, use social media together, or meet up for coffee if you’re in the same area. A personal connection will always prove stronger than an informational one.
- Acknowledge the web presence of those readers who have them. If a reader with a blog or website comments, go and visit it. Leave a comment, or send them an email if you enjoyed the site. Make reference to it in comments. Subscribe to their feed. The reader is acknowledging your web presence and they will surely appreciate it if you engage with theirs.
- Thank/friend those who vote for your articles on social media. This practice, aside from being good karma, is a great way to attract one-time social media fans back to your site. They may have enjoyed your content enough to vote it up, but perhaps took the article for what it was and moved on to the next thing. A kind thank you email or message can remind them that the site is still growing and you have more to offer.
- Give new visitors something to remember you by. Just like you might remember a friend each time you glance at the gift she bought you, giving new readers something to remember you by is a means to keep your site in their memory. Some suggestions: offer a free service (depending on where your skills lie), a free eBook, plugin, digital image, printable cheat sheet, etc. Publicize it towards the top of your site, in plain view.
- Stick to your core topics. Too many topics will mean that, unless the site is mainly about you and your personality, for every person you please you will be boring ten others. If you do need to write on diverse topics it could be wise to assign them to certain days, so uninterested readers can skip them. (See it: Zen Habits).
- Don’t let competitions be replacements for your site’s content. A good competition runs alongside and does not interrupt the normal functioning of your site. If it does, think of all the readers who have not entered and will not win prizes. Your site may be getting inbound links (of dubious clickability, often), but what about all the loyal readers who are no longer getting the same amount of value from your site?
- Publish on certain days, at certain times. If you’re struggling to write five posts a week, for example, cut it down to four, or even three. Consistency and quality is more important than frequency. In fact, post frequency doesn’t matter anymore. A consistent publishing rhythm will stop readers loading up your site only to find nothing new there.
- Make every article remarkable, and cut out filler. Will new readers remember your site if the first article on the page is a ‘thank the sponsors’ message, or a conventional links round-up? Filler posts might seem harmless, but they effectively mean that new visitors who come to your site when such posts are in the spotlight will have few reasons to remember it. What if every post your wrote was remarkable — even if you had to post less?
- Put your loyal readers in the spotlight. If you visibly treat your loyal readers well it helps make the ‘loyal readers’ group a better place to be. Which user has commented on your site, more than any other? Send them a gift today — a DVD, CD, a consultation voucher, or whatever’s appropriate — as long as it says ‘thanks’. Write about it, so other readers know how much you value loyal readers. Assemble a round-up of your favorite comments for the month. If your readers have blogs or websites, link to them.
- Write dirty. Humans form attachments to personalities more strongly than they do information. Put yourself in your writing and people will start to care about you and what you write. After all, there’s a reason you find your best-friend’s cat blog far more fascinating than someone who doesn’t know them would.
- Connect with new commenters via social media. Add them as a friend, send them a message thanking them for stopping by. Even better, vote up one of their best articles. Social media offers us an opportunity to do real, meaningful favors for others by giving them what they most want: traffic.
Pinyo, who blogs about personal finance, asked a useful question via a comment on Grow Your Traffic: Turn New Visitors Into Loyal Readers.
How can we really reach out, thank them (visitors), and get them involved? I have been thinking about doing some type of readers-centric post, but afraid it will be a flop.
Thanking readers is an important habit to get into and it’s a topic I want to explore more thoroughly in future. Though this article offers a few suggestions I thought I would turn it over to you, in order to get some different perspectives and experiences.
How could we say thanks to our readers, in a meaningful way?