When users visit your site, you want them to do more than just read your blog post and bounce away. You want them to stick around, pull up a chair, explore the site a bit, read a few posts, have some tea. You want them to get into discussions with each other and with you. You want them to feel invested in your blog. You want them to trust you. To do this, you need to engage them, hook them, reel them in.
While it might not seem like a regular schedule is directly tied to engagement, the goal here is to provide quantity. Quality, obviously, is necessary with any post you publish, no matter what your posting schedule. If you can maintain the quality, daily blog posts are invaluable for engagement. The reason is simple math; more posts = more chances for users to find something that hooks them = more chances to engage them. You don’t have to post daily; you can post two or three times each week and ramp up as you have the audience to support it. The volume is up to you, but the goal is the same.
This means two things; optimize your headlines for your readers, and optimize them for the search engines.
To optimize your headlines for your readers, make sure they’re catchy, short and give the average user a good idea of the content of the post. If you fit the atmosphere, study the recent trends in linkbaiting and put them to use.
To optimize your headlines for the search engines, include your keyword once. Avoid making your headline so generic that it doesn’t appear in the search results at all. Remember, your headline is what a user sees first thing, so you need to optimize for both.
If you’re posting daily, you have a lot of work cut out for you. Coming up with five or seven blog titles every week can be a lot of work. There are a number of ways you can come up with more, but one of the best for engagement is monitoring the trends in your industry. Watch the news and the big blogs, pick up on what subjects they’re actively pursuing and get in on the bandwagon. When you’re talking about a popular subject, you have more room for user interaction, which means more user engagement. The caveat to this is that you should avoid taking the losing side in every battle. Playing devil’s advocate occasionally can help stir up comments, but placing yourself firmly in the role of contrarian can make it an unpopular choice to side with your blog.
Who is it easier to talk to; a high level professional who guards their time jealously and vets their meetings with a secretary, or the thought leader who is always eager to discuss their industry, even with relative newcomers? The language you use in your blog posts determines how you come across to your readers. Your goal, through casual language, is to come across as knowledgeable and willing to converse. The harder you appear to approach – even if the practical action is just leaving a comment – the less you’ll find users leaving comments and engaging in discussions.
Social media is just that; it’s social. To use social media at all is to engage your users on some basic level. No one is going to follow your page if they aren’t engaged. Maintaining active profiles, linking them from your website, cross promoting through their various channels and conversing with your users is all a means to further engagement. Of course, entire blogs can be – and often are – dedicated to the subject of using social media for business benefit. Take advantage of the diverse and readily available resources to optimize your profiles, automate your posting schedule and maximize your engagement potential.
Blog networks are easy to join; you just need to apply and add their badge to your site. Membership benefits include awareness from other blogs in the network and a presence in the network RSS feed. This is a simple way to increase your awareness, particularly for a new blog. When you’re looking for a network to join, you need to be aware of a few things. First, don’t join more than one at a time; the profusion of badges becomes clutter and it starts to look like spam. Second, try to make sure the network you pick is as closely related to your niche as possible. It means the people who subscribe are much more likely to be interested in your blog.
Do you know how users read your blog? For the most part, they don’t. They skim in an F-shaped pattern. They read the headline, they skim the left-hand side of paragraph openings and they look for subheadings, bolded phrases, links and images to set their gaze aside. Very rarely do they actually sit and read an entire post. You need to structure your posts to facilitate this style of reading, by including copious subheadings and bolding key points. The easier it is to skim your article for value, the more likely you are to receive further engagement and outside linking.
Multimedia is not for everyone, but if you can manage it, it can drastically increase your engagement. In this case, multimedia means videos and podcasts. If you can start up a regular weekly video series on YouTube, you’re already set up above the competition. If you create a weekly podcast based on your blog, your interested readers can listen to your informative discussions whenever they want. As a bonus, with a successful podcast, you can start selling episodes through iTunes.
Even if a user is hooked enough on your blog to leave a comment, it means nothing if you don’t respond. If they say “nice article,” leave them a thanks. If they ask a question, do your best to answer. If they have a criticism or correction, incorporate it in some way. This holds true if you’re posting on Facebook or on your blog itself; engagement is about discussion. It’s a two way street. Make your users feel welcome.
Contests are excellent for a number of reasons, including boosting your social metrics and filling out a newsletter mailing list. They’re also a great way to get to know your audience by asking them to submit pictures, stories, captions or anything else.
The first step to a successful blog is creating a successful formula. Establish a baseline for engagement metrics – comments, shares, likes and such – for a given post, then work to create a blog post formula that is guaranteed to reach those metrics with your audience.
Then – and this is important – don’t stick to the formula. Use it for your bread and butter posts, but vary it up once or twice a week with experimental posts. Some will work, some won’t, and they’ll all serve as a learning experience.
Building your own audience is hard, so take the time to poach the audiences of other bloggers. Well, poach implies that you’re stealing them, when you’re really just vying for their attention. Read other blogs and, when relevant, comment on them with your own content. Mention other blogs and link to them, and notify the blogger that you’ve one so. Work to develop partnerships that will include links back and forth, to share audiences.