If you fail to know who your readers are and how to tailor your blog posts to meet their needs and interests you risk losing followers and having your blog fall by the wayside. However, if you are committed to creating a blog that engages your readers and attracts reader comments you will need to gain some insight into who your readers are and what they seek from your blog.
In order for your blog to be successful you must be adept at choosing a target market and addressing the content of your blog toward their needs. Think of the issue in terms of a bull’s eye: how likely are you to hit it with a blindfold? The same concept applies to developing a blog following: unless you know where to aim, you will miss the mark and either never build a following or lose the readers you currently have.
Start by asking the following questions: Who is the target market for your blog? How can you tailor the content so that it is relevant and interesting to this market? Both are essential questions to consider as you set up your blog and plan each post. Every entry you post to your blog is an exercise in target marketing: you are providing good content at the same time you are promoting your blog to current and future followers.
Part One of this article will explore how you can define your blog reader so you can effectively tailor your content to them. Part Two discusses how you may use metrics to chart your Return on Investment (ROI).
Part One: Who are you writing the blog for?
Choose a niche and target market and concentrate your efforts toward this market: A well-known marketing tip is that you cannot be all things to all people. For example, if your niche is pets and your target market is city dwellers, then your blog posts will discuss issues of city living with a pet. We tend to write for frequent travelers, so it would make sense for us to write a Southwest credit card review, but if your audience are mostly looking to share recipes, it would make more sense to target their specific needs such as groceries or dining out.
Tailor the content toward this target market: Once you have identified your niche and target market, the next step is to develop content that will be directly relevant to their interests. If you are writing about city pet owners you probably do not need to include content regarding invisible fences since these tend to be purchased by pet owners with homes in the suburbs. You might want to write about local dog parks, local Vets, pet food, pet sitters or perhaps shelters to adopt a pet. If you change the focus of your blog or expand its range of content, you risk losing followers who followed your blog because of the niche it catered for. However, when your audience believes that their interests are being addressed and that they consistently receive valuable information they will remain loyal followers.
Make sure a market exists: While a blog should address a subject you are passionate about so that you inject energy and enthusiasm into your posts, the content should also center on a subject that your readers are passionate about as well. While this is pretty much a given within the pet niche, it might not be such an easy sell if your passion is geophysics. Before starting a blog, perform some research to determine if there is a market for the content you wish to write about. Refer to such blog aggregators as Technorati or Digg and search by subject.
When you locate related blogs, review the content of the posts and reader comments. What seems to be the main areas of interest to the readers? How can you tap into these interests while also making your blog unique to this market? What added value can you provide? What “gaps” exist that are not catered for? This is the key to successful marketing and ultimately, a successful blog: identifying a viable niche within your market (as evidenced by strong following in related blogs) and creating a way to make your blog one-of-a-kind experience for readers. Going back to our example, even within the saturated pet niche, there remains plenty of opportunity to offer a unique blog. A great way to identify a niche is to combine two areas of your life. For example, are you a baby boomer with a pet? Start a blog for baby boomer pet owners living in the city! Are you a small business coach with a focus on marketing and branding? Start a blog for small business owners with a focus on both areas.
The possibilities are nearly endless but you must know your readership before you can create content that will generate a following. In effect, your blog starts with the reader not with the content!
For additional guidelines on how to write usable blog posts, please read our content-related articles:
- 10 Guidelines for Writing Usable and SEO Friendly Content
- Content Density – Importance for Usability and SEO
- Will the Internet Make Grammar Obsolete?
Part Two: Measure Your Influence
Professionals who are blogging to make an income or to sell their products need to effectively measure their Return On Investment, or ROI. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to effectively gauge your readers and determine who is actually viewing your posts. Use these tools to compile a list of your “buzz-worthiness”:
- Analytics: With analytic tools such as Google Analytics you will be able to track page views, visitors, repeats as well as referrals from search engines
- Blog search: A blog search allows you to determine which sites are linking directly to yours and the total number of blogs that are doing so. Some useful services are Bloglines and Technorati.
- Email: If you send out a regular email, you can use metrics available through bulk email software packages such as MailChimp, ConstantContact or VerticalResponse to gather important data, such as messages you sent per mailing and messages actually delivered to inboxes. A valuable metric in email marketing is the number of hard and soft bounces. A hard bounce refers to an email that is permanently undeliverable such as an email sent to an invalid email address or to an address that has been deleted. A soft bounce is an email that is only temporarily undeliverable as is the case when the recipient’s mailbox is full. Also important is the number of users who unsubscribe from your list, the number of messages opened by recipient and the number of click-throughs. The latter refers to the number of times a recipient clicks on a link embedded in your email.
Evaluating the data: Set a regular day, say every Monday, to review each of the above mentioned resources to determine the readership metrics for your business blog. You might want to think about inserting this information into a spreadsheet so that you may track all metrics on one document. Items to focus on include the number and quality of the blogs linking to your blog posts, page views, the ratio between new visitors and repeat visitors and the referrals. In the case of e-mails, the number of opens, click-throughs as well as number of forwards are essential metrics that should be constantly monitored. Ideally, you should combine all the data on your spreadsheet to prepare a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) report that will help you to chart sales, revenues, and other business performance goals.
Over time you will be able to determine, from the metrics described above, the success of your blog. And the beauty of it all is that you will be measuring this success using metrics which directly relate to whether or not you are providing content that enables your readers achieve their goals for visiting your blog. After all, this is what usability is all about.