May 28 2010

How To (Further) Engage Your Readers

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With so many blogs riddling the online landscape, blog owners are always looking for new ways to strengthen their relationship with readers—to engage readers so that they not only appreciate the bloggers’ efforts but come back time and again to read and contribute to the website. Some of these websites engage us so much that we begin to crave the feeling of being on them, and we make them a daily haunt.

This reader engagement is becoming ever more important, because the growing number of blogs could lead to a decline in your own readership, as attention becomes increasingly fragmented among all the exciting new spots. If your readers seem disconnected from your website, they might be lured away for good by a blogger who puts more thought and effort into capturing and holding their attention. If you keep your website engrossing and accessible, you’ll be sure to remain on your readers’ minds, regardless of how many other blogs creep into their RSS reader.

So, the question is, how do we accomplish this? There are many different approaches. Given the diversity and size of the online audience, try a multi-layered approach, rather than going in a single direction. Covering as many bases as possible is always best if you expect to succeed in your blogging venture. Below are a few things you can do to enhance your website’s appeal.

Also consider our previous articles:

Create Engaging Content

People have said it virtually everywhere across the Web: content is king! It is the biggest draw to your website and the widest avenue to connecting with readers. Be sure to deliver content that your readers want. An easy way to get an idea of what readers are looking for is to track traffic through your website’s analytics. This is an easy way to gauge how to develop content when you are still finding a following. This way, your content stays relevant to those who stop by.

stop

In order to engage your audience, you will have to do two things consistently. First, you will have to stay informed about your topic so that you do not lose credibility with readers. If you lose that trust, regaining it is very hard. Secondly, you must always be thoughtful in your presentation of material. If the posts are not thought-provoking and do not spark dialog, but just dryly present your perspective, you are less likely to engage your audience.

These are proven ways to engage your readers and strengthen their relationship to your website. The website may look great, which is what led some readers to you, but the content is its heart, and without it pumping out a strong and steady flow, the blog’s pulse will weaken and fade.

Be Helpful

Chances are, your readers are looking for something specific when they arrive on your website, whether helpful tips, tools, etc. If you can deliver that, then they’re likely to stick around and trust your brand. Readers respond to bloggers who take the time to provide useful posts that benefit them in some way, and they shirk from bloggers whose posts present nothing but inspirational collections, with no commentary other than, “Here, get inspired!” While such blogs can be helpful at times when inspiration is low, without offering a balance of content, a blogger will not engage their audience.

help

Engaging readers won’t happen simply by throwing information at them. Lend a helping hand to those who find their way to you. Give them a strong impression of your website and brand, which will in turn reinforce your relationship. You demonstrate a lot when you take the time to teach others skills you have learned or share resources that would help them grow in their field. Your readers will not soon forget it.

Listen And Adapt

Another proven way to engage readers is to actively cultivate your relationship with them. Take a proactive approach and find out from readers just what they are looking for. The concept is pretty basic and will eliminate a lot of guesswork in figuring out how to engage your audience. Just ask them directly what they would like to see from your website. Beyond that, listen to what they say. Readers are usually very forthcoming when they know they will be listened to, and they enjoy the kind of interaction that gives them a sense that they can influence the direction of the blog.

listen

But if you open up this channel of communication, then you need to be fully prepared to follow through on it and seriously consider and respond to your readers’ ideas and feedback. It is not enough simply to ask for your audience’s input and then let the ball drop. You want to demonstrate that you are reflecting on their suggestions and acting on them. Being able to adapt to user input is essential, otherwise your relationship with readers could work against you.

Make It Personal

One method that several websites have followed to engage readers is to give them a peek at the people behind the scenes. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal, without crossing the line and offering so much information that it starts getting uncomfortable. Essentially, this is a way to share your personal experiences with readers and invite them to get to know more about the person they are engaging with.

Also, through the experiences you share, others will gain valuable insight into your processes, allowing them to incorporate any time- or headache-saving strategies into their own routines. You would miss out on this connection with readers is you did not inject any personality into your blog. Make yourself available, and invite readers to get more out of the experience than they would from other blogs. Readers like being able to put a face to a website. It instills trust.

Show Appreciation

Just as soliciting input demonstrates that you value your audience’s opinion, showing appreciation also has a positive effect. Without an audience, your blog will fall flat, so they are obviously integral to your success. Doing whatever you can to show how much you value their participation is a proven way to strengthen your relationship with readers for the simple fact that you are enabling them to get more out of the website. You are opening up another avenue to your blog, and if other websites fail to do the same, users will spend more time on yours.

appreciation

Freebies, especially exclusive ones, are a fantastic way to show appreciation. Unlike list posts that simply compile freebies from around the Web, rewards that are unique to your blog score big points with readers. Granted, lists of fabulous freebies available elsewhere are also appreciated, just not as much. Arranging contests that give readers exciting opportunities to get their hands on new apps or services related to their field is also a brilliant way to foster your relationship with readers.

The most important thing is never to take your readers for granted, and showing your appreciation is an easy way to ensure that they never feel that they are.

Make The Comment Section User-Friendly

One of your blog’s main draws will naturally be the content, and if you expect readers to get the most out of each post, then they will need to be able to comment and expand on it by discussing the ideas with you and other readers. Thus, the comment section is more than a tool to evaluate content. It allows readers to expand on the ideas in the main content. So, offer a pleasant, non-confrontational space for them to openly share and discuss their ideas. Be sure to keep the conversation friendly and productive.

Of course, anytime you broach the subject of censoring comments, some will voice opposition. But if you moderate comments for the purpose of shielding readers from disrespect arising simply from their desire to share their thoughts, then you know you’re doing it for the right reasons. The last thing you want is for readers to feel that they cannot comfortably start a dialog for fear of being berated by people whose only interest is to troll. So, try to maintain some control over the comment section.

Be Social

Another way to improve your relationship with readers is to be social through the various networks that they populate. Social media offers website operators and users a unique opportunity to connect on different levels and gain insight into each other. Being active not only will reinforce your relationship with established readers but will expand the reach of your blog and bring in new users. Given these dual benefits, working this into your day could be an invaluable addition to your routine.

This is an area of contention in the design community: some do not believe that social media can benefit your blog or readership, while others swear by their usefulness. Having had many conversations on various blogs and a few social networks about this, I’ve found a consensus that social networking can be extremely beneficial to your blog if done in a truly social spirit and conducted in an interactive, give-and-take fashion. Perhaps this isn’t for you, then, but others will certainly reap the rewards of being more social with their readers, the main reward being improved relationships.

Websites That Get It Right

Below are a few blogs that are building relationships with their readers the right way. They focus on the overall user experience of their website, enabling readers to get more out of it than just the regular content.

Tuts+
Envato has an entire network of websites dedicated to helping out the online design community with useful tutorials and articles.

tutsplus

Tutorial 9
Another website that delivers helpful content to the online masses, accompanied by a social presence to further its reach.

tut9

Tripping Words
When it comes to posting engaging content and keeping the conversation going, this website is nearly unrivalled in the blogosphere.

trippingwords

Design Informer
Another great blog whose content is always engaging and whose social media presence always add to the experience.

designinformer

Echo Enduring Blog
Another fantastic blog, with thoughtful content that always sparks discussion and engages readers.

echoenduring

CSS Tricks
When it comes to enriching the community with useful information, this blog is brilliant. It has a knack for making sense of any topic.

csstricks

MyInkBlog
Another socially active, must-see website. The posts pull readers into a discussion, while allowing them to fully digest the content.

myinkblog

Further Resources

We have collected a few posts that provide further insight on approaches you can take with your blog.

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About the Author

Robert Bowen is an emerging author, celebrated podcaster and poet, and most recently the co-founder and imaginative co-contributor of the creative design and blogging duo at the Arbenting and Dead Wings Designs.

Comments and Discussions
  • Jordan Walker, 28 May 2010

    Great advice on way to engage you readers and users.

  • social1, 28 May 2010

    i miss ur social buttons.
    i never forward posts, but the one time
    i want to i cant find any social buttons.
    sad but true…

  • Blog Design Studio, 28 May 2010

    Good point Robert. Noupe has been a great example in itself. I believe that engaging readers is one of the most toughest job although through comments it becomes pretty easy if done in the right way.

    • Rob Bowen, 30 May 2010

      True, it is often one of the toughest tasks to take on. The comment section can be key in accomplishing this.

  • Dany Vilela, 28 May 2010

    What can I say… Thanks for this reminder… I definitly needed it.
    With Twitter, Facebook and all the social networks, it has became so hard to have comments on blog posts. Guess I have to try harder!

    Regards!

    • Rob Bowen, 30 May 2010

      The social networks do present a challenge in that arena. But as G.I. Joe would say, ‘Knowing is half the battle’ ;)

  • Micael Delgado, 28 May 2010

    Great article, it’s a good refference for blogs.

  • Laira, 28 May 2010

    This is an excellent article..Very inspirational.thanks for sharing…

  • esranull, 28 May 2010

    very nice post thanks a lot

  • krike, 28 May 2010

    great tips :D thanks for sharing

  • Daibai, 29 May 2010

    Nice post, i’ll apply this immediately :)

  • Rob Bowen, 30 May 2010

    Thanks for the kind words everyone. I am really glad that the post is useful and that the advice resonates with you. :)

  • Theo, 31 May 2010

    You make some great points in your article ! Thanks !

  • Hilde, 02 June 2010

    A great read Robert! Thank you for sharing :)

  • Guy Towers, 13 June 2010

    The bigger the company, the worst the blog is (although Google almost solely seems to disprove this).

  • calvin frank, 18 January 2011

    Finding this site made all the work I did to find it look like nothing. The reason being that this is such an informative post. I wanted to thank you for this detailed read of the subject. I ate every bit of it and I submitted your site to some of the biggest social networks so others can find your blog.

  • Kamilah Yeargan, 13 March 2011

    Its hard to find good post on this topic. And you really looks you know what you are writing about. I have bookmarked your blog, will be coming back again. Just don’t let the quality of your website fell down.

  • Robert Wilkinson, 08 June 2011

    Hey i just visited your site for the first time and i really liked it, i bookmarked it and will be back :D

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