Bring your reader back for more
Published: April 20, 2010
If you write a regular column or blog, you’ve already faced a challenge we all confront. How do you get the reader to return on a regular basis?
Kay B. Day
Numbers can be frustrating. My own traffic can draw 600 unique visitors one day and 10,000 the next, resulting in no less than double that for page views. A portion of those visitors return and a small number will actually subscribe. Because I’ve been frustrated myself, I’ve tried a few things that seem to make that visitor feel welcome enough or intrigued enough to come back again.
Hard-to-find information is a big draw. If you have expertise or experience in a specific subject, you have a leg up. Perhaps one of the most successful websites in this regard is ProBlogger. The site is a top resource on the Web about blogging. Founder Darren Rowse is an example of someone who created a product of value and builds on that value. If you read there once, it’s hard to refrain from returning.
Developing a topic is another means of retrieving readers. Many subjects can be broadened by a series of posts or columns. I do that at a news column I write for a client. For instance, I’ve followed one young man, a musical prodigy, reporting on milestones in his career. As his fan base grows, so do the page views on the articles I write about him.
Community is important to any blogger and this is perhaps the hardest nut to crack. It’s important to try to get people talking to one another rather than just to me. One successful topic I developed related to the novelist Ayn Rand after I saw a billboard on I-95. The billboard had only 4 words: “Who is John Galt?” Intrigued, I tracked down the owner by a combination of messages and phone calls and I interviewed him. The conversations related to those posts continue even though the stories were posted months ago. That sort of story just keeps on giving. I constantly focus on doing the same with other topics.
If you’re writing a column like the one you’re reading, a teaser for the next column is always useful. If a reader likes what she’s found, there’s a better chance she’ll return if she knows what’s coming next.
For bloggers there’s no better tool than running letters to the editor, whether they’re positive or critical. People like to read man-off-the-street opinions and if a letter is suitable in terms of construct and content, I always publish it, but only after asking the sender’s permission.
For one freelance client, slideshows are a good draw. I try to include as many people and places in the photographs as possible. This broadens the reach based on the six degrees of separation approach. You not only get the subject in the photo, you get their friends, moms and siblings.
Be sure when possible to link to your previous columns or other work when it’s relevant to the current column.
Above all, develop your voice. Regardless of the rather bland elusive algorithms search engines use to refer visitors, a unique voice is essential for any good writer. That can be a challenge because the Web as a medium has its own requirements—we can’t go too long and we can’t be tedious. I’ve learned to consider the reader as I edit everything I write for the Web.
Bringing the reader back is a quest we all undertake. But to make your column or blog successful, it’s a requisite. Once you have ample content up, get to know your reader by studying your statistics. And once you do that, offer those readers more of what they came for in the first place. If they find content of value, they will definitely come back for more.
Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for
The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International,
The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To learn more about Kay Day, see www.kayday.com. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.