Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How to Make Your Blog Readers Into Rabid Fans

by Joel Friedlander

One of the reasons I like blogs as a foundation for social media book marketing is that they offer many levels of engagement for visitors, from web surfers to dedicated readers. Engagement is the degree to which blog readers feel connected with you, your content and the ideas or solutions you present.

Engagement is what turns casual readers into regular subscribers, and subscribers into raving fans. Have you ever thought about how readers show this engagement?

For instance, think about the different ways people can engage with your blog:

 They may be sent by a search engine to an informational article in your archives based on the keywords used in the article. This is a great way content continues to draw new visitors to your blog, but this visitor is initially at a very low level of engagement with you.

 They may come from a link on another site they like, or a link in a guest post. This type of connection is a little more engaged, simply because there was probably a similarity in the content and the link itself that drew them to your site.

 They may come from a site that directly refers your site as an information source, a reference, or an authority in your field. These visitors might be ready for a higher level of engagement.

 A closer connection is coming to your site through a direct link you’ve placed in an outpost, like a comment on a LinkedIn discussion or a post on Twitter that draws people to a blog post with an engaging headline of your own. Since these visitors have shown an interest in your material (in the click) before arriving, they are at a higher level of involvement.

 Those who contribute comments engage with your ideas in a public way, adding to their level of engagement.

 Repeat visitors to your blog are more engaged than casual or one-time-only visitors, who could make up one third to a half of all visitors. So a person who comes back to your blog is higher on the engagement scale.

 Subscribers are near the top in engagement. By agreeing to let you send them email and blog posts, subscribers are in fact requesting more engagement with you and giving you permission to address them in a personal space—their inbox.

 Fans are at the highest level of engagement. They share in your issues and concerns, and advocate for you on their own initiative. Although they may be small in number, they have a disproportionate influence due to their activism.

You simply can’t interact with readers and potential customers in so many ways in any other online medium that I’m aware of.

This look at the levels of engagement also naturally leads to the question, “What am I doing to support these different ways for people to engage with my writing, my books, or my other activities?”

Let’s take a look at some clear and simple action steps you can take to make these levels of engagement a reality for visitors to your blog.

Keyword research and awareness. About half the visitors to my blog come from search engine referrals. One of the big reasons for this is that I’ve been researching and consciously using the keywords associated with my niche in my blog posts for some time. You can do the same with a small effort.

Action: Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to research keywords in your niche. Check Brian Clark’s free report on writing copy for ideas on how to include keywords in your blog writing.

Guest posting and article writing. You can’t get referral traffic to your blog without putting content out in other places off your blog. Writing guest articles and submitting articles to article directories are both ways to spread your content—and your keyword links to your site—to attract referral traffic.

Action: Contact one blogger in your niche this week about writing a guest article for his or her blog. Do this every week. Get their permission after 60 or 90 days to repost the article at article directories. You will probably have to edit the article for this second use.

Using email to stay connected. Get an account with an email provider and put an opt-in box on your blog. Offer a sample of your work, a regular newsletter, a quote of the week, a free resource like a PDF, or anything else of value in exchange for a subscription.

Action: Make sure your RSS, email and newsletter subscriptions are clear, easy to use, and “above the fold” (in the top portion) of your blog. If you’ve been offering one thing for a long time, create something new to revitalize interest in your offer.

What Will All This Reader Engagement Do for You?

I think it’s clear that as an author you have a lot to gain from promoting visitor engagement on your blog.

Here’s my best advice, although it might seem counterintuitive or odd: Don’t blog about your book.

This is the first thing most authors think of when they start blogging, and it’s usually not a great idea. What works really well is when you blog not about your book, but about its subject.

Why does this work? In the case of books, nobody really wants to read what you have to say about the book, or how many chapters it has, or the information in it, because it can come off as making a sales pitch. Your blog’s readers do want to hear your passion for your subject, your insights into new developments in your field, and your opinion of other resources.

It’s this type of writing that will make your blog’s readers interested in the knowledge, information and overall content you share in your book. You’ll lead them to wanting to buy your title and follow your creative process by connecting to them as a person, not just an author pushing for a sale.

Your blog’s ability to provide the online community with many levels of engagement is one of its most powerful characteristics. When you take action to make sure that you’re using that ability as best you can, you maximize your greatest online asset, and you will step up your marketing to a whole new level.
Joel Friedlander is a self-published author and book designer who blogs about book design, self-publishing and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com. He's also the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, where he helps publishers and authors who decide to publish get to market on time and on budget with books that are both properly constructed and beautiful to read.

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