I have been asked the question by a few people, especially at BlogHer, but in real life too (where I sometimes talk to people, but not often), “I have a blog, but I feel like nobody reads it. How did you get people to read your blog?” They look at me all agog, because there’s clearly no reason people should be reading MY blog and not THEIRS. Right? Right?
So I’m going to attempt to answer this mystical, magical question. Please bear in mind: I have no idea how to be a mega-blogger, how to make a zillion dollars from your posts (or really any dollars), how to be ultra-famous and snag a book deal, or how to get a viral post going. What I mean by all of this is how to get somewhere between a few hundred to a few thousand pageviews. I have no idea how to do more than that, OK? OK.
1. Have a blog
You may be saying, “Shalini, durr, of course you have to have a blog for people to read it!” but a lot of the people who ask me this question do not have a blog. It’s partly because they’re perfectionists and want everything to be just right before they start: the header they will like forever, the domain name that’s both clever and SEO friendly, and of course, witty, thrilling content. They’re waiting to do all of this, making a master list and…it will never happen if you wait for it all.
Get a free blog on WordPress or Blogger or Typepad or wherever. Post some things. This is the most important thing people who ask me are not doing. It is a well-known fact that if you are not in possession of a blog, it is very difficult to get people to read it.
2. Write posts several times a week.
If you want people to read your blog, say, more than once, it’s a good idea to keep it updated. If you can do this daily, great. If not, aim for a few times a week. This way, not only will the same people who liked your other posts come back and read, but they might say, “Hey, check out Blogger Y, she’s great and always has updated content!” OK, probably not in that wishy-washy lame way, but you know, they’d recommend you because you weren’t just a one-off, ahem.
Now, again, this is if one of your blogging goals is to get more people to read your blog. If you’re just doing it for fun and don’t care if even your mom doesn’t read it (fyi, my mom doesn’t read mine, even though she is in possession of both this URL and my business card), then post whenever you want.
3. Write posts people want to read.
Oh! I’m getting deep here! Obviously not all of my content is what I consider thrilling and shareable and fabulous. But I also don’t constantly ramble about my bunions or the very specific, unique problem my children are having. I try to write things that have a wider appeal. I don’t always succeed, and I don’t always want to succeed, but I try. This is one reason people love food writing. Everyone likes food! Everyone can relate to eating and cooking and going out to restaurants, right? That’s another reason people like mommy blogs. Many women are mommies, it turns out! They can relate to tantrummy two-year-olds! But if you’re talking about how your tantrummy two-year-old is a genius Suzuki violin player and also an excellent reader who enjoys her kale salads, you’re not going to get a lot of, err, widespread appeal.
4. Write what you want to write.
Hey! Shalini! You just told me to write what people want to read, and now you’re telling me the opposite. What the what?
See, you have to write both, a happy intersection of what you like to write and what other people like to read. I could write all about celebrity love lives, and while many, many people would want to read that, I don’t want to write that. The truth is that I just discovered who Selena Gomez was and it turns out that I don’t actually care who she dates. I could have a much more popular blog if I wrote about her and what she was wearing and who she was kissing, I’m sure. But I don’t want to write that. I would hate to do that.
But I do love books, and it turns out a lot of other people like books too, so I write about those. I also have kids, and it turns out other people have those, too. I like to write about those things, and other people like to read about them, so I write that stuff. I write less about, say, urban farming, because not only can fewer people relate to that, but I don’t really want to read urban farm blogs all the livelong day. I tried that, and it turns out I’m not a fan of it. So I don’t write it.
5. Join social media.
Get a facebook account, a twitter account, pinterest, whatever. One, all, whichever you like, and then follow people and talk to them online. This is a little bit scary at first, but you’ll get the hang of it, and it turns out that people in social media like being talked to by people who like them! And then they know who you are, and they might check out your blog. Go figure!
Now, I would probably be a better, more successful blogger if I could, say, garner some self-interest in pinterest and post more to facebook, but I just don’t want to. I haven’t checked into my pinterest account in months, and while I post to facebook daily, my true social media love is twitter. I love telling jokes, and writing in 140 characters is fun. Plus, there are many awesome men and women I get to chat with there–it’s more two-sided than any of the other media that way–so that’s what I stick to.
You don’t have to do it all, but of course you can. But overall: join the social media you’re most comfortable with.
6. Don’t use social media for self-promotion.
This is tricky. See, you’re in social media partly so people will read your blog, but you can’t use it just to say, “Go read my blog!” because then no one will read your blog. That makes sense, right? No?
See, people want to like you and trust you. If all you ever use your accounts for is to point out all of your awesome things, people will not like you or trust you. It would be a bit like being friends with a car salesman who only ever talked about his impressive sales records, which cars he thinks you would like, and how he could totally give you a discount if you’d just come in and look at his cars already, geez.
But if you’re friends with a car salesman who almost never talks about cars, but just occasionally mentions that he sells cars for a living, you know where he is and what to do when you need a car. So when you say, “Hey, George (that’s his name), I’m interested in a 1995 teal two-door Saturn. Do you think you could help me out?” you’ll go to him first. Because you know he’s not going to manipulate you. You know he’s not just your friend so you buy cars from him. You trust him. See?
That’s an awful analogy, because I’ve never known a friendly car salesman, but you get what I’m saying. If you’re just on facebook/twitter/pinterest to get people to read your blog, stop. Then walk to the bathroom. Look at yourself in the mirror. Repeat, “I am a good person. I am not a sleazeball.” Then go back to the social media and be your friendly, nice self. If, then, you post a link (no more than once or twice a day, of course), people might read it. If they don’t? Don’t hate them. Continue being friendly. You might find you like yourself a little better, and you like those friends you’ve made even though they don’t read your blog.
7. Read other blogs you like and comment on them.
Leaving comments on other people’s blogs is a way of not only expressing your girly fandom for the blogger and her writing, but also of leaving your little calling card, saying, “Oh, and hey, I also have a blog.” But don’t leave links (that will get thrown into spammy comments anyhow), and don’t repeatedly tell the blogger how awesome you are. That would be like going to someone’s home and then only talking about yourself. Make conversation. Don’t be a douche. You know how to do this.
Notice the italics up there? Don’t just read all of the blogs ever in the world and comment. I mean, yes, it will get you traffic. Bloggers will see your calling card and come visit you and also comment. But if you don’t like their writing, or it just isn’t your thing, why are you reading their blogs? Do you really think you’d have anything in common? Do you think they’d be reading your blog on a regular basis? It’s best to express your girly fandom when it’s honest fandom, not when it’s a manipulation.
8. Above all, try not to think about how many or how few people read your blog.
Ha! Look at that; I give you all these tips to get people to read your blog, and then I tell you to not look at how many people read your blog. The truth is you (meaning I) could get a tad bit obsessed with numbers otherwise, and you (meaning I) would have to go and disable your (my) stat counter and your (my) Google Analytics account so you (I) wouldn’t know.
Now, you’re asking, if I really don’t know how many people visit my blog, then why am I giving this advice? No one is reading this! It’s an empty shell on the beach, totally devoid of life! Well, that could be. I’m not really sure how many people read my blog. This could all be useless, terrible advice. Take it or leave it. I just know that if you’re a blogger above all for the pageviews, you’re likely to do almost anything for them, including starting internet fights, manipulating social media, writing things you don’t love, and trying to sell terrible cars to unsuspecting “friends.” Oh, you know what I mean.
For me, I do this because I love to write, and because I love to connect with people online. I once had hopes of being Big Famous Blogger, but the truth is that while I love blogs and blogging, I get burned out sometimes. Books are my first reading love, and sometimes I ignore my Google Reader for months and don’t comment on any blogs and post almost nothing to facebook. If I were a Big Famous Blogger, I’d have to try harder, at least a little harder, and I don’t want to. I like things as they are. I want to be a writer of books, and I want to be a blogger on the side. So I am. I’m good with this.
Now go, write your blog posts, and comment on my blog. I have a great 1995 teal two-door Saturn waiting for you when you’re ready for it.