25 February 2009

Blogging Tips : Converting First Time Visitors to Loyal Readers

This week we’re looking at a variety of tips for helping medium sized and somewhat established blogs to grow to the next level. Yesterday we looked at building upon your strengths and successes - today I want to look at the topic of turning first time readers into loyal ones.

This issue is particularly relevant for blogs who’ve achieved a certain level of authority in search engines and who get a steady flow of traffic as a result of this ranking (although it is relevant to blogs getting traffic from any source).

It is always an exciting thing to get this first search engine traffic to a blog.
A Case Study

I recently felt this excitement on Twitter Tips blog TwiTip which after a few months of life has seen some steady growth when it comes to traffic from search engines.


While this graph is encouraging as the owner of a relatively new blog the reality is that getting the search engine traffic is only half of the job - the REAL challenge is converting these 1000 or so daily visitors into repeat visitors. Unfortunately unless you do this second step the majority of your search engine visitors will simply never return to your blog.

This is a task that I’m setting myself for the next month and it means a shift of gears from what I’ve been focussing upon in the first few months of the life of this blog. Up until now I’ve been focusing upon building a core readership (we’ve hit around 5000 visitors a day and 5500 RSS subscribers) and building the content archives up (we’ve hit 170 posts published).

Now that the blog has achieved in those areas and the search traffic is coming in it is time to shift gears a little. I’ll continue to work on both of those tasks - but now it is time to work on ’stickiness’ (or capturing first time visitors) a little more.

I’ve previously written a fairly extensive post on how to make a blog sticky (with 21 tips that I recommend you read) so I won’t regurgitate all of that information here…..But I did want to mention three things that I’m planning to do on TwiTip to make it more sticky:

1. Redesign

The theme that I’ve been using to this point (Thesis) has been fantastic. In fact the way it is set up is probably one of the reasons search traffic has grown relatively quickly for the blog - however in the coming month I plan to give the blog an overhaul (I’ve already engaged a designer). The main reason for this is that I’ve largely used Thesis in its default mode and want to enhance it to make it more sticky.

The redesign will include a custom logo (branding), a distinct look (differentiating it from other blog), more prominent subscription options (designed to grab attention and connect with new readers), a variety of tools to integrate it more with Twitter (increase reader interaction and connection with its primary audience - twitter users) etc.

2. Highlighting of Best Posts

One of the challenges of blogs once they have more than 100 or so posts in their archives is that it gets difficult for readers to find the ‘best’ and most ‘helpful’ content for their needs. One of the techniques that I have on my agenda for TwiTip is to develop a number of ’sneeze pages’ that will be linked to prominently that will target new readers specifically. One such page will be a page for beginner twitter users - highlighting some starting points for them as twitter users (and linking to a number of posts for beginners). These sneeze pages are fantastic at converting first time readers into loyal readers.

3. New Subscription Methods

To this point I’ve only really offered RSS as a way to subscribe to Twitip. I will definitely include in the new design an option to subscribe via email - and I’m also considering a weekly email newsletter.

As mentioned above - there are a lot of other ways to make a blog sticky and convert readers. These three methods might be relevant for your blog - but so might some of the others covered in my how to make a blog sticky post.

What have you done to convert first time visitors to your blog?

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