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August 03, 2006

Grow Your Blog’s Readership By Targeting Readers

Posted in: Blog Promotion

Who is your Primary Blog’s Target reader?

I was speaking with a blogger a couple of weeks ago via IM and he asked me the eternal question that we all seem to ask:

‘How do I find more readers for my blog?’

It’s a question I get asked a fair bit and one that I can easily reel off 10 to 20 strategies for. However on this occasion I decided to answer the question with another question and fired this one back to the blogger:

‘What type of readers do you want?’

The reason I asked the question is that after three and a half years of blogging I’m starting to realize that the eternal quest for ‘readers’ is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Don’t get me wrong - I love finding readers for my blogs, it’s fun to check the stats and see a blog has a growing readership - however if you’re blogging for money or blogging on a business blog of some kind, it is a much more fruitful exercise if you think about the type of readers you’re after and then work at going after them - rather than just going after ‘just any reader’.

Here’s a process that’s been forming in my mind on this topic that might be useful for bloggers looking to build a more targeted readership:

1. Define Your Target Reader

What type of reader do you want? You might want to answer this question in great detail by defining them in terms of age, gender, location etc - or you might be a little more general than that and target different interests or life situations of readers. For example on my Digital Photography School Blog I’ve defined my target reader as ‘digital camera owners who don’t go out of Auto Mode on their cameras’. I am targeting beginner to intermediate digicam users. This is a fairly wide target but is more narrow than some other digital photography sites who seem to be going after beginners through to Pros all on the one site.


2. Identify Where and How they Gather

In this stage you’re beginning to do some research on the type of reader that you’re after. There’s no easy way to do this except to surf the web (and sometime look offline) for the type of reader that you’re after. It makes sense really - if you want to meet someone you need to find out where they hang out. So once again - on my digital photography School Blog I’ve spent the last few months surfing through a wide variety of websites, forums and blogs looking for gathering points for my type of reader. I’ve found a few sites that I’d not seen before and have basically been lurking there - observing what they do. When you’re in this phase try to identify not only the places that your potential reader gathers but also do some analysis of:

  • What language they speak (is it technical or informal, is there jargon or lingo used)?
  • What they respond well and badly to (ie what types of content seems to whip them into a frenzy and what do they react against)?
  • What is cool to these people (are they impressed by great design or are they more interested in the latest gossip or people who write with real expertise)?
  • How do they interact (do they like leaving comments and discussion the topic or are they less interActive)?
  • What is missing (in the established gathering points for your potential readers - is there anything that is not being covered, is there something they are asking for that they are not getting)?

3. Join their Established Gathering Points

Perhaps one of the most effective ways of learning about your potential readers is to join in in their established gathering points. Don’t just set up a blog and hope that they’ll come visit it - but genuinely become a part of the communities that already exist online for your topic. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • For starters - it’s great research - You’ll not truly understand a niche until you’re participating in it. Doing so on the sites that already have the type of readers you want will give you real insight into what they respond to.
  • Secondly you’ll find potential partners - Interact in a niche long enough and you’ll begin to identify others who have similar interests to you, that think like you think and who might be worth being in relationship with as you build your own blog up. They might not join you formally as a partner but they’ll be a good sounding board and will help spread the word for you.
  • Thirdly you’ll get to know other site owners - Some people take a much more competitive approach than I do in starting up blogs on topics where others already are established. They tend to take a a search and destroy approach and to steal readers from other sites - building their own blog by seeing the demise in another. My own approach is different. In most niches there is more than enough room for a number of quality sites or blogs. Instead of tearing down your competitors - get to know them, help them make their sites better and find ways to work with them. Out of this you’ll find there are flow on effects that will improve your own ventures. Rather than having to steal readers or find ways to convince them to swap to your blog - the owners of your ‘competitors’ will often send them to you.

Please Note - I’m not talking about joining in others communities to steal their readers. That’s not really my style and I think there are some good reasons for not doing this.

4. Identify Peripheral Gathering Points

Another way to wider your readership with targeted readers is to find other sites that are not directly related to your topic that will have this type of person. For example some of the largest influxes of quality traffic that I’ve had recently to my Digital Photography School have not been from other digital photography sites but blogs that have related topics (for example technical blogs, gadget blogs, social bookmarking sites, news papers etc).

The readers that they’ve sent were perhaps not quite as targeted as those that another digital photography site might send - but in some ways they were better as they were less likely to be proficient digital camera users (remember I’m going for the beginner market). The other cool thing about these sites is that they will probably be more open to promoting your blog because it’s not a direct threat to them.

When finding these secondary sites it’s worth noting what type of things they link to. For example I recently wrote a post on how to use camera phones on my digital photography blog. While it wasn’t strictly on my topic (digital cameras) it was an effective piece as it was linked to widely from within the cellphone blogosphere (a related niche) as well as more general technology sites and it drew in many new inbound links and readers (the type of readers who are also likely to have a digital camera).

5. Provide Useful Content and Deliver it in Appropriate ways

Out of answering the above questions and research you’ll be in a much better space to launch your own blog.

  • You’ll know the type of reader you’re after
  • You’ll be writing posts that they’ll be likely to respond to
  • You’ll have relationships with some potential readers who you can do some testing with and who might help spread the word for you
  • You’ll know some other related sites - how they operate, where they’re falling short of reader expectations and who their owners are
  • You’ll have relationships with other site owners (both those who are directly on your topic and others on the edges of it) who will hopefully promote your blog.

None of this guarantees you traffic - but it puts you in a much better position than being a blogger that is aimlessly building a blog and hoping for any type of traffic you can get.

update: Just after publishing this I spotted a good post over at Rachel’s blog on a related topic - Small is Ok.


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