Just a few days after someone begins blogging seriously, he or she starts hungering after subscribers and comments. We want readership, we want lots of people visiting our site, reading our posts, subscribing to our feed, and regularly leaving comments. This, my friend Clyde says, is the "payoff" of blogging.
Although I try to write for a higher purpose outside of trying to get more readers and comments, I must admit that the interactivity of blogging is what makes it fun. To this end, I offer ten tips for increasing your readership:
Be patient. My friend Ben Minson is just starting out with his Gryphon Mountain blog. He currently has 4 subscribers, but he's been writing excellent posts for the past 2 weeks, and he's starting to get noticed. My wife has a witty, fun-to-read blog (whataboutmomblog.com), but only has 51 subscribers. To people who get discouraged at a lack of subscribers, I say be patient. It takes time to accrue readership. I have 471 472 posts on my blog.
Use Twitter and Twitter Tools. Twitter is the most surprisingly useful tool I've seen. I'm starting to check it almost as much as Google Reader. When I publish a new post, through the Twitter Tools plugin, that post is automatically published as a tweet on Twitter. Lots of cool people (e.g., Robert Scoble, Darren Rowse, Chris Pirillo) will follow you on Twitter if you start following them. Check out the Twitterati here. But really, you want to follow people like yourself. Through your tweets, they'll pay closer attention to you and your posts.
Search-engine-optimize your posts. My site stats show about 65%+ traffic from Google. Google finds you by matching keywords that searchers use with keywords for your site (obviously). Pack your titles with search engine keywords. And use the WordPress SEO plugin to differentiate the title your readers see from the title Google sees. For example, this post's Google title is more generic: Increase Subscribers to Your Blog -- Tips for Increasing the Number of Readers. Boring, I know. But it's the kind of string people search for. I want to be found.
Link abundantly in your posts. People check you out when you link to them. We're always curious to know the contexts in which we're being mentioned. The pingback brings people to your site, and if you look interesting, they subscribe. You'll notice I've linked to everyone I mentioned in this post. Linking to people is like tapping them on the shoulder to get their attention.
Make intriguing titles. I find myself reading posts with interesting titles (for example, Dear WordPress, A Response to Your Letter). Even when the post is outside my category of interest, I'll click a clever title out of curiosity. Copyblogger also has excellent advice about titles. I think learning to create intriguing titles is an important art in drawing readers in. (Holly Harkness reminded me of this lately.) Don't worry so much about keywords and use the WordPress SEO plugin I mentioned in #3.
Catch the attention of people with influence. If you catch the right people's attention, they can mention you on their site and boost your readership far more than you can alone. One of my earlier posts caught the attention of Joshua Porter (Bokardo), and overnight my readership grew by 80+ new subscribers. Some of the people I interview for podcasts (e.g., Anne Rockley) mention the podcast to their large readership base as well.
Use the Feedburner chiclet to watch your readership. I don't watch site stats as much as readership stats. I'm convinced that good posts will naturally attract new readers. If my readership shrinks, I know my writing stinks. If it grows, it's because the posts must somehow be worthwhile. People naturally link to interesting posts, which grows your readership. Without Feedburner, I don't see how you can measure readership at all. (By the way, the numbers always artificially dip on the weekends. I am still inching toward my 1,000 mark.)
Leave comments on other blogs. I always check out the blogs of those who comment on my posts. And I try to leave comments on posts I enjoy reading, if only to let the person know that I read it. Commenting on as many blogs as possible is a tedious strategy for gaining readers, but when you're new, you need make yourself visible. No doubt you read blogs already, so add a comment. Other commenters are also attracted by an interesting comment you leave, which leads more people back to your site.
Write useful content. A vague assertion, I know. But if your information isn't useful, practical, or somehow noteworthy and interesting, no one will subscribe. Part of the appeal of sites like Lifehacker and The Blog Herald is that they provide useful information.
Bonus Tip: If you want quick exposure, write a guest post for my blog. Simply contact me and send me either your post or an idea for one.
I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.