19 Strategies to Help Turn New Visitors Into Loyal Readers

chess in the parkPhotography 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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).
  14. 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?
  15. 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.
  16. 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?
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.

Discussion

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?

13 Sure Signs Your Landing Page is a Turn-Off

Lately I’ve been struck by a strange feeling I like to call non-buyer’s regret.

I define the term like this: regret about all the quality products and services a bad landing page has dissuaded me from buying, and a little sadness for the thousands of entrepreneurs whose good ideas have been killed by a landing page that turns visitors off rather than on.

If you’re trying to sell a product or service through your website (or if you’re open to the possibility in future), here’s an opportunity to get inside the mind of your average prospect and learn the thirteen things that make good landing pages go bad.

Sign #1: It can be measured in feet.

(Leave that for mountains and people).

Most written requests that come with a fourteen page preamble are unreasonable requests. If you need 5,000 words to explain why your product is worth buying, that’s an early indicator to potential clients that it probably isn’t.

Here’s another mistake copywriters make: assuming anyone has the time or will to spend an hour and forty minutes reading about your product or service.

I can’t think of any reason why a landing page should exceed more than 1,000 words per product/service you’re selling.

If that’s not enough space to say everything you want, link to a FAQ at the end and stick all the remaining information there.

People love FAQs a lot more than they love most landing pages. The process will also force you to be picky about what you include and what you don’t.

Sign #2: It Has Extra Special Sentences Where Every Word Begins With a Capital Letter.

If You’re Not Enjoying Reading This, You’re Not Alone.

Unless used within a title (note: not a subtitle), this method communicates only one thing: “Hey, you’re reading a sales page and I’m trying really hard to get you to buy something that you may not actually need.”

It’s also painful to read, which probably means most visitors to your landing page will skip it.

Sign #3: The text is centered.

When did copywriters decide that centering large chunks of text would be appealing? Centered body text looks unprofessional, it’s bad readability, and it’s straight out of 1998. (McSweeney’s is the only exception.)

Sign #4: It includes minimal information about the product or service being sold.

Most landing pages repeat the same core message over and over again:

  1. Why people should buy this product/service

That element is important, but without other information, it doesn’t hold water. Here is the trio you should be aiming for:

  1. What the product/service actually is (in detail)
  2. How it can help your target market get what it wants
  3. Why people should buy it

Sign #5: Its headings are in primary colors when the surrounding design is not.

Nothing screams sales page like garish headings in primary colors, especially if those same colors don’t appear anywhere else in your design. I’m also puzzled by the average web copywriter’s fondness for the color red.

“My number one want is to make new visitors feel comfortable and trusting… and I’ve got an idea on how to do that. I’ll make all my headings the color of blood.”

Sign #6: The writer’s rule of thumb is 1 paragraph per 500 words.

Massive blocks of text are intimidating. They’ll also prevent scanners from being able to get an accurate summary of what you’re offering, strongly damaging your chances that they’ll go back and deep read.

Sign #7: It tries too hard.

Thirty-six testimonials, forty-five exclamation marks and fifteen sub-headings later, a face-to-face salesperson delivering the same lines would be panting and red in the face.

If you’ve ever been dissuaded from a purchase by a pushy sales-person, a desperate sales page is the non-human equivalent.

If you’re anything like me, it’s those super-helpful sales people who’re willing to recommend a product cheaper than the one you were thinking of, will alert you to the potential pitfalls of a product and seem most unbiased that will have you shelling out more money than you ever planned on spending.

Is your landing page helpful or pushy?

Sign #8: The font size of your sales page is 2x bigger than the font size used throughout the rest of the site.

A sales page should never look like it’s been enclosed in H2 tags. Big, gaudy, overly formatted and over-emphasized text is only going to make your sales efforts look desperate and cheesy.

Your base text should be the same size as the text you use throughout your website or blog. Starting small also gives you somewhere to go when you want to use occasional sub-headings for emphasis.

Sign #9: It uses “quotation marks” for emphasis.

For most people, quotation marks around words in a sentence usually indicate terms with “questionable meaning”. You really don’t want the following in your copy:

“Honest and Hard Working”

Sign #10: Exclamation marks travel in packs.

Double or triple exclamation marks scream all hype and no substance. Single exclamation marks can be effective when used sparingly, but multiples of two and three will make your landing page look spammy.

Sign #11: It uses unattributed testimonials.

I could claim that Mark from Vancouver has said “Anywired is the best blog ever. Three times as good as Lifehacker and Zen Habits combined, in fact.”

Mark doesn’t have a website, business or a photo, so there’s no way to check if he’s a real person. Without some proof of his existence, visitors may suspect that the testimonial is fake (despite his opinion being so widely held).

I’d suggest that you only include testimonials with links to the blog, website or business website of the owner, with a photo.

If you can’t provide these things, I’d suggest adding more detail about who the person is and why they’re talking about your product.

Sign #12: The copy seems full of hype.

Does your landing page sell your product or just hype it? They are two very different things.

While hype around a product coming from someone without a vested interest can be a very effective persuader (for example, hype from a friend), hype from someone with a vested interest in what they’re hard-selling will make visitors much more wary.

It’s important to communicate the benefits of your product, but avoid hype-laden language.

Sign #13: It looks like every other landing page.

It seems as if one particular style was established for most web landing pages in 1995 and a lot of copywriters are determined to stick to it.

One of the things that has allowed web users to develop ad-blindness is that advertising generally looks the same.

If your sales page looks like every other sales page out there, the first impression it creates won’t be: “Oh, here’s some good information about the product to help me make a decision”.

Instead, it says: “I’m going to try to sell you something now — so get ready.” The effect will make it more difficult for your landing page to persuade, even if your product is truly worth buying.