If you’re any thing like me, in the early stages of your blog you would sit and pore over your Google Analytics (or other analytics) stressing over which posts brought in the most traffic or had the most comments, trying to unlock the magic code of building an audience. If you’re a new blogger, you may be in that stage right now. All I can tell you is that we have all, at some point, sat tearing our hair out just wondering, What the heck do people want to read?!
So I decided to make it a little bit easier for you. Since I’ve spent the last few years writing for various blogs and killing myself analyzing statistics, let me share what I’ve discovered.
If you’re really in to building an audience and writing posts that people want to read, then you should be writing these:
Tutorials are, by far, my most popular posts. Honestly, I don’t write enough of them especially when I consider how much traffic they bring to Honey & Pine. I’d like to get to where I’m writing at least 2 per month which I feel is reasonable considering I post, on average, 3x per week.
I’ve written a few, and readers enjoy them because they teach them how to do something.
My biggest pitfall in the beginning was, “But it’s so simple. I don’t need to tell people how to do that, it’s common sense.” Here’s a secret though – nothing is common sense. We all had to learn, even the basics, at some point. I even said to myself, “I don’t need to blog about it, they’ll figure it out.” Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Do you know how “they’ll figure it out.”? They’ll Google. They’ll find other blogs. They’ll find other people who wrote the tutorial I thought was too “common sense.”
Prompt for You: What have you learned how to do this month that you could share with your readers? Brainstorm at least 2 tutorials.
(Bonus! Tutorial posts are a great way to promote affiliate links. People are more likely to buy when you tell them either why they need something or how to use something, just food for thought…)
Opinions on Hot Topic Issues
When is the last time you weighed in on a topic in current events or on something that may strike strong feelings in your audience? I’ve done it a few times and, do you know what happened? My traffic went gangbusters!
I went viral and landed a spot on the news with my post about Why Your Crush on My Husband is Not Ok because I addressed something a lot of people don’t share – how it feels when another woman actively reaches out to your husband.
I also weighed in with an open letter to the people who unfollowed me after I expressed support for the SCOTUS ruling to legalize gay marriage. I had expressed my support on social media and lost followers on my networks as well as subscribers from my newsletter. Oh well. I also received 5x my normal traffic and gained many more followers and subscribers.
Risky? Perhaps. More likely to hand you people that actually connect with you? Definitely.
Prompt for you: What has evoked a strong feeling in you lately? How do you feel about the Presidential Debates? What about a particular candidate? What about various state Governor’s attempting to ban Syrian refugees? Consider current events (at all levels) and weigh in with an opinion.
Isn’t this basically the platform that has made BuzzFeed the giant that it is online? Honestly? Scan their home page and you’ll find a lot of list posts (23 Hilarious Tweets That Are Way Too Real For Girls Who Wear Makeup, anyone?) and they are major traffic boosters!
Why do they work? They are skimmable and people love to scan content. Not to mention the numbers lead the readers eye through a very simple, and very direct, path which makes it easier to absorb the data.
Here’s a basic truth – lists work. They just do. They boost traffic and they are simple to write.
How do I know? I’ve written a lot of them and every single day at least two of them are in my most visited posts (even though they were written months ago). Posts like 3 Things to Change on Your About Page, 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting my Career, or 10 Bible Verses to Comfort You When You’re Trying to Conceive.
Prompt for you: Consider your niche, what can you list? Bible Verses? Quotes on a particular subject? Best (or Worst) Career / Life / Relationship advice? Slang words you wish would die? Top songs by a particular artist or in a particular genre? Home decor trends you are just so over?
(Bonus! Lists with random numbers do better than lists with an even multiple of 5 (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, etc). Shoot for a list of 7, 13, 22, etc. Didn’t you notice BuzzFeed chose 23?)
Do you know what readers really love from you? When you get real and act like a real human being! When you admit to mistakes, admit to things that didn’t work, and share lessons that you’ve learned along the way.
It’s why I loved this post from XO Sarah about 6 things she did to try and build her business that didn’t work at all. She was all, “So, yeah, I tried these things and they failed miserably” and I was all, “Wow, Sarah, thanks for being so transparent and honest about what didn’t work for you. Now I don’t feel like a total loser by admitting those same things aren’t working for me either.”
Life lesson posts are great because they let your readers connect with you on an oh-so-personal level which, let’s face it, we all crave. It also strips away the veil of perfection, proves that you do not actually know everything (and reaffirms that you have the experience to actually be the expert you claim you are), and teaches others (which I believe I mentioned earlier when I discussed tutorials, right?)
Prompt for you: What is the last thing you utterly failed at doing? Why did you fail? What did you learn from it? What did your parents relationship teach you about marriage? What did your former boss teach you about leadership? What did your first boyfriend teach you about compromise? What has your best friend taught you about friendship?
Friends, there is a reason that being a Motivational Speaker is a thing. People love to be encouraged! They love to be motivated. They love to be cheered on, supported, and told “Yo! You! Yeah, you’ve got this!” We thrive on being reassured that we can do something and the best way we get the reassurance is by reading or hearing others tell us it’s true. It’s a huge part of the foundation of my coaching calls. Step 1 – Reassure them that they can do this. (Although, being honest, every call is very much motivation).
I do a lot of motivation through faith (Yeah friend, God is on your side!). It’s why my post about Bible verses for when you’re feeling hopeless is so popular (also, it’s a list).
People want to know that they have value and that other people see it. Give the people what they want!
Prompt for you: What is something that you’ve struggled with lately and how did you overcome it? How can other people overcome a similar obstacle? It may be a medical situation or a financial crisis. Consider a relationship or marital struggle. Perhaps you were dealing with parenting guilt, doubting your faith, or losing confidence in yourself as a blogger?
Let your opinionated typing fingers fly! As long as you’re being honest, share your opinion on your blog. I don’t do a whole lot of reviews (not really my thing, ya know?) but they are a huge draw for a lot of people. I know this because there are entire blogs dedicated completely to reviews and they do very well.
I usually write book roundups at the end of the month where I’ll review the books I’ve recently read and sometimes I’ll talk about products if I really dig it, and, naturally, I share my Stitch Fix review whenever I get a new box. Those posts always hit and if it was more my niche, I’d do more of them.
So, while I don’t recommend that you just completely revamp your blog in an attempt to start forcing in reviews, I would encourage you to write at least one a month.
Prompt for you: – Did you try a new recipe from a favorite blogger or cookbook? Did you read a new book? Watch a new movie? Try a new restaurant? Buy new shoes or a new outfit? Purchase new furniture or a new gadget? Review it! Share both the pros and the cons, then give your final overall thoughts.
Reader Feedback / FAQ’s
When is the last time you did a reader survey (for me, it’s been a while)? How often do you receive comments, tweets, or emails from readers asking you a question or wanting you to weigh in with an opinion?
If your answer is, “Not very often” then let me ask this, “Do you encourage your readers to contact you?” If you don’t, maybe you should. Once you’re getting reader engagement you can take advantage of their content to give you content.
Share a FAQ post where you address common reader questions. Share a Reader Feedback post where you share insight in to some of the conversations you’ve had with your readers or your community. Naturally, you should keep the names and personal info of your readers private. No reason to be that guy/girl who breaks confidence. That’s the #1 way to make sure your readers never contact you again.
Prompt for you: First, look through your most recent comments and see if you notice a trend. Are readers addressing a similar topic (advice, maybe?) or are they all commenting on one particular thing you said? Skim your emails, are people asking for your advice on web design or maybe asking how they get started writing a blog like yours?
Sometimes there are no words and, on those days, it’s totally ok to not write anything. People are highly visual so use that to your advantage and share a photo post. Give your readers a little insight in to your life and share some of your best pics!
Prompt for you: Highlight the best of your Instagram account for the last week, recap a special occasion or fun event through photos, offer a fashion styling post, show off your holiday decorating skills.
What blog post topics draw in your audience? What hits with your readers? Tweet me @ashleyfromhp or drop your comments below.