A loyal reader recently asked this question in the comments section of my website and, though I normally don’t write blog entries on the process of writing, I had a few suggestions to share with my readers who are also writers. (Thank you, Laura, for connecting those dots for me.)
How do you build an audience for your website? Lots of writers and web gurus are addressing this question more expertly and more thoroughly than me, but I can tell you what I did and what I’ve learned along the way.
The first step is to identify who would be interested in your blog. I wanted to find Twilight readers because I thought they would enjoy these stories. So I went to two or three Twilight forums and posted notes there. That brought a few people, then it was mostly word of mouth from there. In my case, people were actively searching Google for “Midnight Sun” (as I had done with no success) and after my WordPress blog had been up for a few months, Google started showing my site in response to those queries.
That was a special case, though. For someone who wanted to write a cooking blog, as an example, I’d suggest that person go out and become active (read and leave comments) on blogs similar to the one she wanted to create. Once your blog is ready to be read, then you can begin to mention it where it is appropriate in your comments. Make the link active, so people can click on it and get there in one step. (It’s a good idea to ask permission of the blog owner first, but if you’re a regular visitor, usually they won’t mind. They might even write a blog post recommending yours if it relates to theirs.) Then reciprocate. Put links to blogs you like in your posts or in the side margins of your website. When people see you’ve been referring others to them, they often will visit you. If they like what they see, they might refer their readers over to you. It’s all about community.
The most important thing, though, is to make your blog content something people want to read. Good content brings readers. Poorly written or presented content turns them off and usually you only get one chance to draw someone in. So make sure your site is ready before you solicit people to visit. Then, don’t be afraid to ask people to visit and if they like your site to recommend it to others. Also, if you find other bloggers with similar content to yours, you can ask if they would like to cross-post some of your blog entries or at least to mention your blog on their site.
If you’re writing a traditional blog, it helps to ask a question in the titles and/or at the end of each post to encourage folks to engage with your site. (I don’t do this because mine is a fiction rather than a nonfiction site.) Lastly, use tags to identify the major content covered in each post. This is how Google will start to find you and show your blog in search results. For example, if you write a blog on recipes for chicken (a silly example, but you get the idea), tag it with the words Chicken, Recipes, and Cordon Bleu (for that recipe). People who search on those terms will be directed to your website.
Building an audience takes time and you won’t see much at first, but keep focusing on providing interesting content and by the time people start visiting in larger numbers, you’ll have lots of good stuff to keep them coming back. Write regularly and be patient. Oh yes, and take time to reply when people make comments on your site because they’re giving you a gift of their time and their thoughts.
Here’s a website I subscribe to that provides endless helpful advice about how to be a writer/blogger. Kristin Lamb is great.
I wish all you reader/writers the best of luck!