Ready, Aim, Blog!

robinhood

Cyberspace contains roughly 15 million active blogs, read by about 52 million people. If my gazintas are right, the reader-to-blog ratio is 3.466. Does that mean each blog has a mere 3 and a half readers? Not exactly. Some blogs have thousands of followers. Some have none. The “if you blog it they will read” philosophy is a myth.

Why is that?

There are many reasons, but one of the top answers is focus.

Of those 15 million blogs, the approximately 5000 that have a regular audience (yes, that’s less than one percent), have a sharp focus.

Bloggers post about a multitude of topics —

  • Shopping
  • Relationships
  • Parenting
  • Health & Fitness
  • Business

There’s a difference in creating a blog post that shares shopping tips and a rant about getting waylaid at the mall by a group of third-graders on a field trip. Both could fall under the broad scope of “shopping,” but one offers useful information to a target audience. The other might be a mad shopper’s rant.

People are joiners.

They want to belong, feel a part of a group that falls within their comfort zone. It’s that whole birds of a feather thing. But imagine a bird with multiple feathers — peacock, ostrich, blue jay, cardinal. Just a little scary, huh? One key to attracting and retaining readers is having a purpose for your blog — a focus. Make sure your feathers belong to your bird.

People are busy.

They may initially read your blog because they’re your friends, but if there’s no “rhyme nor reason” to the blog, they won’t keep coming back.

People are selfish.

They read blogs with the “what’s in it for me?” attitude. We’ll discuss this more when we get to content development, but as you’re preparing your posts — think of the take-away value you’re offering your readers. Will this be worthwhile to them? If not, they won’t be back. If so, they’ll be regulars and will tweet about your blog.

People like predictability.

This concept is what retailers count on. Whether or not you like McDonald’s hamburgers, you know what you’re going to get when you step up to the counter. And serving consistency has created a worldwide empire for that company. Surprises are fun for birthdays and Christmas presents, but when it comes to choosing how to spend the few extra minutes a reader has with her morning coffee, she wants to know what she’s going to get.

Does that mean you can never veer off topic?

Not necessarily. However, planning to do so is often better than random acts of randomness. I’ve made this mistake in my personal blog. I have varied interests, so I blog about a lot of things — writing, farming, grandkids, politics, travel, parenting — you name it, and I’ve probably blogged about it. Do I have a lot of regular readers? Not really. While, I haven’t tried to build a readership, it would be difficult to do so.

Like I said, people are busy — so when they take the time to read a blog, they want some take-away value. If they’re interested in travel tips, but stop by my blog on the day I’ve posted a political opinion, why should they come back?

On that blog, I will likely continue my random pattern. The purpose of that blog is for me to record things that were important to me at the time, and I enjoy going back and re-reading posts from several years ago. Will I attempt to market that blog to the general public? No. It’s an online journal. That is its purpose.

What if I changed things a bit and kept the general focus on writing tips, say throughout the work week, and let my readers know I’d be using the weekend to post my life’s happenings, could I increase my tribe? Yes, definitely. And that’s a plan I hope to implement in that blog.

Readers who don’t care about what my dog did last night can skip the weekend sessions and visit during the week to learn. Friends and family who might not write can ignore the teaching posts and hang out with me on Saturday afternoons if they want.

Having a plan — a purpose, a focus — is one of the best ways to increase your readership.

So, how do we find our purpose?

Think about the passions we discussed yesterday. If I’m not excited about something, I have to force myself to do it (and that doesn’t always work!). But if it’s something I’m looking forward to doing, it gets done quickly and usually well. Start by making a list of things you love.

  • Have you raised four children to become productive, well-adjusted adults? That’s a major accomplishment in today’s society. Perhaps your topics could focus around parenting.
  • Have you written a half-dozen successful novels? Another great accomplishment. Did you know writing the great American novel is on the bucket list of a large percentage of people polled? You likely have a lot of information worth sharing.
  • Do you have an interesting hobby? Is it hard to find good online content about it? Become the go-to source!

After you consider your passion, think about the need. I touched briefly on that with the question to the hobbyist — is it hard to find good content? If the answer is “yes,” then that’s a great place to point your blog.

Do you find yourself disagreeing with blogs on a subject you’re knowledgeable about? Perhaps the information being presented isn’t accurate or informative. Inform your niche. Be the authority in your area.

Does blogging require a sharp focus?

Only if you want to attract and keep readers. If not, don’t worry about any of this and blog away. But if you do wish to grow your readership (and we’ll get into the benefits of that in future posts), remember these things:

  • Blog with a purpose.
  • Blog with a passion.
  • Blog to fill a need.
  • Blog with authority.

And then, if you blog it, they will read.

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5 comments ↓

#1 Shannon Taylor Vannatter on 09.29.09 at 12:18 pm

Great info Linda. Can’t wait to learn more.

#2 Denise Spooner on 11.11.09 at 12:37 pm

Thanks for these words of wisdom. I will take them to heart and begin to get focused. :-) Thanks so much!

#3 Linda Fulkerson on 11.11.09 at 2:06 pm

@Shannon & Denise —
Thanks so much for stopping by & for your encouraging comments!

#4 Marge on 02.28.10 at 1:56 pm

I can’t wait to read the other links. I need to get my blog set up for my writing and I don’t know how to do it.

#5 Linda Fulkerson on 02.28.10 at 5:22 pm

Hi Marge — Hopefully the things you learn here will help you get it set up! Here’s a link to the entire “How to Start a Blog” series:

http://onbloggingwell.com/resources/how-to-start-a-blog/

— Linda

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