Bloggers usually measure success by number of readers and search engine optimization (SEO). After all, what’s the point in writing, if people can’t find you in search engines and no one ever reads what you wrote? While the number of readers, shares or comments is not always the best way to gauge success, you must ask yourself, "Is my blog bearing fruit?" Consider taking these simple steps to increase your readership.
Capitalize on your content
You don’t necessarily have to change your message to attract more readers. However, you do need to keep your content fresh. A few minor tweaks may help you draw a larger audience. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Meet a specific need of a specific audience. The more you know about your readers, the more likely your writing will identify with them. Sites such as Quora, Buzzsumo or one of these blog topic generators can help you garner ideas or see what others in your field are writing.
Use the Headline Analyzer to grade your blog titles. This is a great tool that uses extensive research to show you how attractive a particular title is and then goes further, providing solid tips to increase its score. Tweaking titles can play a huge role in increasing social shares, traffic and SEO value. Learn what headline types get the most traction and start tinkering. It’s a lot of fun to play with words and learn what moves people to take action. Just remember, don't use a really enticing headline if your content doesn't deliver what it promises. People hate that.
It’s a good idea to write several title options, choose the best one and then write the content around it. If you wait to give your piece a title, you may need to go back and rewrite the introduction or body content to make a stronger connection to the title’s premise.
Learn about length from the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears — not too long, not too short, just right. A good rule of thumb is to use the fewest words possible to express your thought as clearly as you can. Remember, you can be concise and still have longer pieces. Google likes longer content as long as it keeps the attention of readers. So in lieu of providing a character count for length, we’ll simply say the best practice is to BE AWESOME and Google will reward your content in search results.
Make your content timeless. Connecting your writing to the latest news story can grab interest, but it can also date your post. If you make reference to a current event, consider anchoring it in a more substantial context.
Harness the power of Google Trends and create compelling content that people are seeking. Use these trends as illustrations or as the topic for an entire blog piece.
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Unearth your blog’s referrals and promoters
Use Google Analytics to discover websites that are referring people to your website. Focus more attention on sites that send the most traffic. Reach out to the content creators for these websites and network. You may want to give shout-outs to your biggest promoters on social media and consider sharing their content. In addition, try the following.
Visit websites that are affiliated with your church or denomination and participate in online conversations within those communities. However, be wary. If you come across as spam, you won’t get far. Make your contributions meaningful and relevant. Point them to your blog only if they are looking for a valuable resource that you can provide.
Connect with other bloggers — even those you consider your “competition.” When appropriate, make positive comments about their material and consider adding links to their blogs on your own. Often “playing nice” is reciprocated.
Take advantage of free “advertising” in your local church’s communication. Talk to your pastor or communications director about including your information in the church newsletter, or Sunday bulletin or on your church website or social media page.
Discover your biggest Twitter followers and promoters by using services like SocialBro and FollowerWonk. Find out who they are, when they’re active on Twitter and much more.
Assist in your own discovery
Help readers find you by optimizing search engine results. Internet users use Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines to find information related to various topics. They do this by typing in a word or a phrase. The search engine then pulls up various resources related to those words. Since most users will start at the top, it is better to have your blog listed as one of the first resources in the search results. While search engine optimization can become a complicated process, one way to start is by adding long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are longer phrases that are very specific to the topic about which you are writing. For example, if you are writing an article on the importance of family Bible studies, you will want to include the words “family Bible studies” in your title instead of just “Bible studies.” To help determine what to include, experiment with the words in a search engine.
Type your topic into a search engine and see what autocomplete suggestions appear. Also check out the related search suggestions near the bottom of the page. For even greater detail, type the words into the Google Keyword Planner to find which ones seem to drive the most traffic to sites.
Include those words in a terrific title tag to draw attention to your blog and draw people from search results. Also, make sure to use the words in the page title, description, headers and URL address of your blog. While you don’t want to cram words arbitrarily into your post, you do want to look for strategic ways to include these keywords. Wordpress SEO by Yoast and All in One SEO Pack offer WordPress plugins to help with this process.
Make it mobile (and fast!)
We live in a society where everyone is on the move. To increase your readership, make it easier for readers to access your information. If you use the WordPress blogging system, you can use plugins like WPtouch and Jetpack to help you design your blog to be mobile friendly.
If you are not happy with your church’s Web presence, consider converting your blog or website over to a WordPress-powered site using UMCChurches as your Web host. It is the only place you’ll find official United Methodist-branded, mobile-friendly WordPress templates for your church's website or blog.
If you are already mobile, remember that no one wants to wait for an app to load. If it doesn’t come up quickly, you will lose people. Use Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool to check your blog’s speed score and to find tips on how to get it to load faster.
American novelist and short-story writer John Cheever said, “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss — you can’t do it alone.” Don’t be a lonesome blogger! Work on increasing your readership today.
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— Tricia Brown has been a freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, ghost-writing and editing for individuals as well as for health, education and religious organizations. She enjoys reading, writing and public speaking commitments in which she teaches and encourages other women.