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.
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!