As discussed in Building Blog Relationships: Making a Good First Impression, the first impression a reader may get doesn’t always come from the front page or even any page on your blog. It often comes through search engines, feed lists, and links from other bloggers. By the time they get to your blog, they may have already formed an opinion with what they have found. Now that they have arrived, it’s up to you to live up to that opinion or work harder to earn it.
“Give a man a fish
and you feed him for a day;
teach him to use the Net
and he won’t bother you for weeks.”
I grew up with fisherman. They knew the difference between bait and a lure. The bait was the food on the hook, the bit that made the fish bite. The lure was the tease, the movement of the fly or flashing bit of metal that caught the eye of the fish, drawing them to the bait and hook.
The term “linkbait” is used to cover a wide range of attention-getting methods to make people click through and link to blog content, but I think that these are the lures that catch the eye of potential visitors. The bait is that first impression followed by the reinforced impression that there is more to bite on this blog than just a little fly or worm. It’s about serving a full course meal, one that keeps them coming back for more.
The lures consist of popular, commonly searched for post topics and keywords, well written post titles, and a high concentration of appropriate keywords near the search terms or in the first paragraph of the post. These, and the words of other bloggers recommending your post, are the lures leading potential readers to your blog.
Once they are there, you need to bait and hook them into becoming faithful return readers.
Successful Bait and Hooks Keeps Consistent Traffic
Your blog makes a good first impression if it is easy to read, easy to navigate, and has the content people want. The full course meal sitting on the hook is the content. Around it is the menu, stuffed with everything they want and need. These act as more lures and bait to further hook your readers, developing that desirable relationship that builds a blog audience.
Your blog’s menu consists of information in the sidebar and at the bottom of the post, enticing visitors to stay for a while and feast. The sidebar offers a tasty list of post categories and archives stuffed with keywords, your delectable offerings from your blog’s kitchens.
If you are using your categories as tags, your category list may be long and feature only one or two posts within a category. Look now? Do you have categories with less than five posts? Does that look like a content-rich menu?
Categories can serve up a body of work, a collection of related documents within a specific category. If you have a category for “WordPress” with only one post, does that make you an expert on WordPress? Probably not. However a category with 145 posts on “WordPress” tells the visitor that you might know what you are talking about when you talk about WordPress. A body of work makes you an expert.
Personally, I believe that a category should be created only after if you have 10 or more posts for that category. Twenty of more would be better to create a body of work within that category.
People like to see related posts, too. These are the other entrées they can select from if the main dish isn’t quite to their liking. Related post lists can be generated automatically with WordPress Plugins such as Similar Posts: WordPress Plugin, Semiologic’s Related Posts WordPress Plugin, WP Plugin: Contextual Related Posts, or the popular but no longer supported WASABI Related Posts Plugin, among other Related, Recent, Most Popular Posts and such WordPress Plugins. Or they can be generated manually, as I do on Lorelle on WordPress.
If the reader enjoys what they find on your blog, and finds enough information to support a body of work, indicating you have spent more than a few minutes with the subject, it builds trust. With trust, you start a relationship. Without trust, you will not keep them on your blog. You’ve lost a potential reader and a relationship.
If the entire blog’s content follows through on the first impression that brought them to your blog, giving the visitor a full course meal of related content and the information of specific interest to them, you’ve not just started a relationship, you may be on your way to a friendship.
Bloggers who blog about blogging may ramble on about why you need to write consistent content, but the truth is that people will return to the experts for help. While search engines may bring in new readers to blogs which write about everything under and past the sun, few stick around long enough for a second bite.
Consistent content creates a reputation. People come to the Blog Herald because they know this is the source for news about blogging and blogging tips. Not to learn about how to ride a horse. People come to Lorelle on WordPress because they’ve learned that I consistently write about tips and techniques about WordPress and blogging skills. Rarely does someone end up on a blog by accident. They get there because they are looking for specific content. Search engines now direct readers to very specific content better than ever before, evaluating the entire content of the blog, not just a post. They won’t end up on my blog or even here on the Blog Herald if they are searching for the latest gossip on Britney Spears or Oprah Winfrey. They come here looking for blogging news and resources.
Your steady readers will come and go with time. Once someone has figured out how to make WordPress do what they want, and this blogging thing is old hat, some of my readers will slowly stop checking in and be out looking for new topics to explore. That’s a normal part of the process. It’s human nature. Friends come and go with time and changes. Understanding this, you can focus on building new traffic as well with new and interesting, attention-getting posts, and re-energize your current reading fans.
Which Lures Work to Keep Readers
Over the past five years, I studied what brings in high traffic and what doesn’t. I’ve learned some very valuable lessons. I’ve learned that I still don’t know what motivates people to click.
There are a lot of assumptions people make. Using “Top 10″ and numbers in your post titles brings in traffic. Blogging about current hot topics and events will drive traffic your way. Sure, that will last for a few minutes or days, but will it continue to drive traffic in over a year, two, or four? I talked a little about how your most popular posts get folks in the door, but what really makes a popular post work to keep visitors coming back?
The best lures are timeless articles which continue to fascinate and inform. They are well written and stand the test of time by fulfilling needs today, tomorrow, and a year from now. They answer the questions everyone wants to know. By providing these foundation needs consistently on your blog, you will build a loyal fan base of readers who keep coming back for more, and are eager to tell their friends about you.
What types of articles really bring in the consistent traffic?
On Lorelle on WordPress, I published articles I was sure would attract a huge amount of attention, written with that in mind. They flopped. Conquering Site Validation Errors, Code Snippets – Help, Cheating, and Goodness, Whose Blogging – Celebrity Blogs on the Rise, CSS and Web Page Design List of Resources, and Blogging Tips – Hundreds of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog all fizzled. Sure, they bring in some traffic, but 10 visitors a day per post over the long term isn’t as good as 100 or more daily.
Other posts I wrote that were for “me” and had nothing to do with anyone else, did amazingly well. I wanted this information for my future reference, and they not only keep drawing in consistently high levels of visitors, every once in a while someone finds them as if they are new and submits them to Digg or other social bookmarking services and they spike again, introducing new readers to my blog. HTML, CSS, PHP, and More Cheat Sheets, Buttons, Bows and Badges for Your Blog, and Designing a Rainbow – Web Colors were written for my needs. From the consistent level of traffic over the past two years, they obviously meet the needs of others.
Another article that struck a chord and has been a consistent favorite came out of a passionate rant that ended up as a how-to. I stumbled on a site promoting search engine optimization techniques for a huge amount of money. The site was designed in tables and featured tips five to ten years old. I was so outraged, it inspired Do-It-Yourself Search Engine Optimization, which continues to draw a lot of attention, but my intention was to blast ignorant web hosts and snake-oil-seo salesmen not get new visitors. It’s amazing how a good rant can generate it’s own energy.
Still, none of these articles have numbers in their titles or really attention getting titles at all. They weren’t written with that in mind. In fact, the number one most consistently popular, and highest traffic level article on my blog was not written to attract attention and build readership but on what attracts attention and visitors to your blog.
Horse Sex and What is Dictating Your Blog’s Content? featured an article by Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat called “Horse Sex Story Was Online Hit”, explaining how the newspaper’s annual evaluation of their most popular online stories, the guideposts for writing future news stories, found that an article on a man dying after having sex with a horse (and the follow up articles) was so popular “that the articles on horse sex are the most widely read material this paper has published in its 109-year history.” My essay was on how while such evaluations are indeed helpful to dictate future content, do you really want to build a blog audience of horse sex fans? Is that what your blog is about?
I was complete stunned to see this article move right up the ranks immediately. Since January 2006, it continues to be my most popular article and “horse sex” continues to be in the top ranking for search terms which bring visitors to my blog.
Are people really reading it? Probably not. The other side of the coin is that while this is the most consistently popular article on my blog, is it also the most popular article from which visitors leave. ;-)
The key to hooking readers over time through popular posts and consistent blog content is to give them the information you would want to know about your blogging subject. If you blog about restoring old cars, what is it you wanted to know when you first started? Your audience will want to know the same things. If you are a doctor, vet, lawyer, or any type of specialist, what are the most common questions you get? That’s what your readers are looking for. Blog on those subjects. Create a body of work that keeps them reading and keeps them on your blog longer and coming back for more.
Provide content that matches the rest of your blog’s content and readers will stay. Attracting and maintaining readers is critical to your blog’s overall success. The relationship between your readers and your content is critical to building an audience. If you aren’t keeping them happy and not holding their attention, they will go elsewhere. In time, without the relationship formed with web traffic levels and comment interaction and feedback, your enthusiasm decreases. If this continues, your blog will slowly die because the relationships are dying.
Make your lure better match your bait, and have enough bait to keep them coming back for more. Show them these are good fishing grounds.
I hope this series on blog relationship building helps you explore how important the relationships you form with your audience and your blog are. I’m learning a lot about how the importance of blog relationships as I write these in preparation for the Successful and Outstanding Blogger Conference in Chicago, May 11-12, 2007.
Tomorrow, I will explore one of the most important aspects of building a relationship with your blog readers: listening.
Article Series on Blog Relationships
- Building Blog Relationships: Reaching Out
- Linking Relationships
- Building Relationships With Your Most Popular Posts
- Building Blog Relationships: Making a Good First Impression
- Blog Relationships: Fishing With Lures and Bait
- Blog Relationships: Are You Listening To Your Readers?
- The Relationship Conference: Building Blogs Through Interaction
Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on Lorelle on WordPress.