Three tips to increase engagement with your blog

As a veteran blogger and a veteran reader of blogs, I want to share some key things I’ve learned about how to encourage readers to keep coming back.

Your readers have only so much attention to give. Your blog is part of a wide stream of information swishing past everyone you hope will read your writing. They, too, quickly decide what to read and what to pass by.

Here are three things you can do now to help readers not pass your posts by.

Write descriptive titles and strong opening paragraphs. This lets everyone know why your post is awesome, and gives them a good reason to keep reading.

I used to write clever or obscure titles and then ramble in early paragraphs. I thought I was a witty raconteur but in reality readers didn’t track with me. When I started writing simple, declarative titles and got to the point in my first or second paragraph, pageviews and comments began to grow.

Doing this well takes practice. I don’t always succeed! But I keep working at it. You can too. For good examples by other bloggers, check out this post and this post.

Share complete posts, not just excerpts, in your feed. I buck conventional wisdom with this recommendation.

Before I explain, here’s some background. Readers can find out if you’ve published in several ways. They can always just come to your blog. Or they can follow you on social media if you share new posts there. Or they can subscribe to your blog and get an email every time you publish.

They can also follow you in a feed reader like Feedly or Bloglovin’ or NewsBlur. These services work by picking up your blog’s feed, a technical name for the way your blog alerts these services of new posts.

WordPress, and I assume most other blogging platforms, give you an option to share only the first paragraph or so of your posts in your feed. The idea is that this entices readers to click through to your blog to read the rest.

If your excerpt doesn’t strongly communicate why your post is interesting, most readers won’t click through. (Unless you’re a celebrity and people hang off your every word.)

If you get good at writing compelling titles and opening paragraphs (or custom excerpts, a WordPress feature; more here), you should improve your clickthrough rate.

But so many people read on their phones now. If they subscribe via email or feed reader, the phone opens your posts instantly. But if you make them click through they have to wait a few seconds for the post to load in the phone’s browser. I think this is a strong deterrent. I know it deters me. I think it’s better to not throw up this barrier.

To turn off excerpts in WordPress, click My Sites in the upper-left corner of your blog and choose Settings. Click the Writing tab and scroll down to Feed Settings. Click the slider next to “Limit feed to excerpt only” until the white dot moves to the left and the control turns gray. Click the Save Settings button.

Enable, and reply to, comments. Comments are the last key to engagement with your blog. Once they’ve read your post, let them respond.

Yes, readers still have to click through. But just as most of us are faster to speak than to listen, a reader’s desire to have a say is likely to hurtle them right over that barrier.

Several blogs I follow don’t allow comments. It’s super frustrating when they write a good post and I want to offer a perspective or praise! I assume they disable comments because so many comment sections are cesspools, full of pointless arguments and nasty insults.

Yours doesn’t have to be this way. You get to decide the the tone of your comment section. Just delete anything that crosses your line. You don’t even have to warn an erring commenter if you don’t want to.

My blog generates little controversy. But trolls, jerks, and people having bad days do show up from time to time and say unkind things. When it’s a regular commenter, I ask them to tone it down. Otherwise, I just delete the comment and move on. If you do the same, you’ll shape a pleasant comment community — one that your readers will be glad to join.

Respond to at least some of the comments you get. Readers will see that you’re willing to engage, and it will encourage them to come back.

To enable comments on your WordPress blog, click My Sites and choose Settings. Click the Discussion tab. In the Default Article Settings area, click the slider next to “Allow people to post comments on new articles” until the white dot moves to the left and the control turns gray.

Do you have any other thoughts about how to increase engagement with your blog? If so, share in the comments!

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18 responses to “Three tips to increase engagement with your blog”

  1. J P Avatar

    Like you, I used to love clever titles but have tried to shift to more descriptive ones. They are not as fun to write, but they seem to work better.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes on both counts. I still prefer clever titles. But the results speak for themselves.

  2. traveller858 Avatar

    Good advice, as usual, from you Jim.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you!

  3. JoHawkTheWriter Avatar

    Oh, I detest the excerpt and I bet I am at a .01% clickthrough rate. I have even noticed, once I find it is an except that I won’t even read and leave the site. Defeating the stickiness everyone is hoping for.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, I wonder how many people post excerpts only and are missing out on readers.

      1. JoHawkTheWriter Avatar

        More than me I imagine. And since I know they post excerpts, I tend to skip over them in the feeds

  4. Dan James Avatar

    Good tips Jim. I still tend to go for wordy clever titles, like Smiths songs circa 1985… i think I just don’t want to be yet another of those blogs that churns out “5 Tips” or “The 3 Biggest Mistakes” tyke posts. I must mix it up though and try some more “Ronseal” titles – they do what they say on the tin.

    And yes that excerpt thing is annoying. Some blogs I’ve followed seem to have that in and then if they publish a post with just a picture, all I get in my email notification is the title then an advert! Great for the advertiser, useless for me! The image seems to be excluded, and of course there’s no text to show anyway. An major fail when trying to encourage people to follow you!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There are posts that would be lost without a Ronseal title, and other posts where you can mix it up a bit. This post, for example, begged for a straightforward title.

      I follow a couple blogs that post only images, and all I see in my feed reader is the post title. I wonder if the bloggers have any idea.

      1. Dan James Avatar

        Yeh we should probably do the decent thing and tell them…

  5. M.B. Henry Avatar

    Very good tips! :) I must say I was very surprised at how little trolling I’ve come across on my blog – people seem very supportive of one another on WordPress and that’s been very encouraging!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Given your subject matter that’s not surprising. Post just once about something political and the nuts come out of the woodwork.

      1. M.B. Henry Avatar

        Oooooh I’m quite sure you are right haha.

  6. Michael Avatar

    I assume most people force you to click through because they wouldn’t get the ad revenue if you’re reading through Feedly, etc.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s right. But if the excerpt isn’t interesting they won’t click through at all. Lose lose.

  7. Reinhold Graf Avatar

    Well, wait a minute … oh no … and I was wondering if the internet is still there :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Noch da!

      1. Reinhold Graf Avatar

        … ja klar.

        My remark was, that I always thought the internet was gone. But no, I made a lot of mistakes on my tiny blog :)

        Life long learning ;)

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