blog-readership

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Blog Readership

Learn How to Optimize Your Content and Grow Your Subscribers

Owning a business blog is like being a member of a gym — you've got everything you need at your fingertips, but without hard work and self-discipline, you can't be successful. Well, consider this guide your personal trainer.

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Whether you’re trying to increase your daily or monthly blog visits, turn random visitors into dedicated blog subscribers, or promote your blog in new ways, this guide will help. Below, we'll review some strategies and actionable steps for you to follow to grow your blog readership, blog subscribers, and — best of all — paying customers.

Each published blog post is a new opportunity for someone to find your business’s website and learn about who you are and what you offer. By investing in content creation that answers questions for your target customer, you’re establishing a trusting relationship that in turn helps them feel comfortable investing in you as a business partner or solution provider.

But, before you can jump in and start raking in customers, you need to put in work to grow your blog readership. Here's the framework we suggest for getting more readers on your blog.

Download Now: 6 Free Blog Post Templates

Below, we’ll expand on these five steps as independent strategies. Here's what you can expect as you read through this guide:

  • You’ll do extensive research on who is reading your blog, what they care about, and what types of content resonates with them.
  • You'll put some serious manpower behind creating your blog content and patiently optimizing each post so that more people see them.
  • You’ll establish a conversion path to get your blog readers to build trust with you and keep reading your blog content — and potentially become a customer.
  • You'll walk away more disciplined about creating a schedule for yourself and your blog —and sticking to it.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.

How to Determine Your Blog Audience

So, who's reading your blog? The answer to this question is quite literally the foundation of your strategy to grow your blog readership.

Your blog audience is comprised of reader personas. (These are closely related to your buyer personas, which represent who's buying your product or service.)

Reader personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal readers, who you want to ultimately turn into your ideal customers. Creating reader personas helps you visualize and better understand your readers. They also simplify the content creation process and allow you to tailor your blog posts to their specific needs, wants, behaviors, and questions.

Basically, if you know who's reading your content, you know what to write about.

The strongest reader personas are developed using market research and insights you gather from your actual reader base. Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or as many as 20. If you’re just getting started, we recommend focusing on a couple of your main personas first and saving your niche personas later.

It’s also important to think about your negative or “exclusionary” reader personas. These represent who you don’t want as a reader or customer. Perhaps these negative personas are too advanced for your product or service, too expensive to acquire as customers, or only engage with your content for research or knowledge. If you take the time to create negative personas, you’ll be able to segment out the “bad apples” from the rest of your contacts, which can help you achieve a much healthier database.

Reader personas are created through research, surveys, and interviews with your real audience, which includes a mix of prospects, current customers, and those outside of your contact database who would be your ideal readers or customers.

Developing Your Reader Personas

Here are some practical methods for gathering the information you need to develop your reader personas.

  • Interview your current reader and ask why they read your content and what they like and dislike about it. Request specific blog posts that they enjoyed. Pay attention to any vocabulary, puns, and references they use. If interviewing them in person, note their outfits, style, accessories, and overall personality.
  • Peruse your contact database to uncover trends in how leads or customers tend to find and consume your content.
  • Use form fields to capture persona information. For example, you could ask about industry, company size, or location information to further establish how your different personas vary.
  • Ask your sales team what leads they're interacting with most. What types of sales cycles do they work with? What trends do they see in the leads that convert to customers?
  • Chat with your own team about your ideal reader persona. Part of the persona development process is asking yourself and your team who you think you serve best. This process also forces you to compare your ideas with the market research you collect. Here are some questions to consider.
Who are they?
  • How old are they? 
  • Where do they work and for how long?
  • How large is their team? 
  • Why do they do what they do?
What do they do?
  • What motivates them? 
  • What is their ultimate career goal?
  • What are their aspirations? 
  • Why have they changed jobs in the past?
 
What do they want?
  • What are their hopes and dreams? 
  • What content are they attracted to or read now? 
  • What do they think about all day long?
How do they spend their time?
  • What do they read? 
  • What do they share? 
  • How do they learn about new stuff? 
  • What do they love and hate about their day?

An important note about reader (and buyer) personas: They should be treated as living, breathing entities — literally. (Ha.)

Over time, it's highly likely that your reader personas will change what they read, where they work, how they educate themselves, and more. Conduct market research on a regular basis and revisit your reader personas often to keep them up-to-date.

Generate Your Reader Persona Profiles

How to Create Content That Gets Blog Readers

Your reader personas influence every part of the blog — its form, style, substance, and topics. If you want to get organic traffic to and from your blog, you need to write about topics your audience is actually searching for.

Here’s what that looks like:

1) Your reader personas search for specific terms or phrases

2) You write posts based on keywords they’re searching

3) Bam. They find your content and click on it, and you get organic traffic to your blog — and ultimately, to your website.

Let's expand on this process.

1. Create a Persona-Driven List of Keywords and Content Ideas

Choose a few specific short and long-tail keywords or topics that interest your reader personas and build a keyword list. Ideally, these would represent what your personas search for when they're online.

What makes for a good keyword? Well, for example, “Instagram” is not a good keyword — it’s too general and too widely searched for. It also doesn't represent any search intent. Your keywords should be much more specific and target a smaller group of people searching for something in particular.

“Instagram hashtags” would be a more niche topic. Within that specific topic, you could have long-tail keywords such as “Instagram hashtag tracking” or “branded hashtags on Instagram.” These search terms could also inspire new blog posts, such as:

  • 10 Sports Teams Who Are Rocking Hashtags on Instagram (keyword: "branded hashtags on Instagram")
  • Top Ten List of Hashtag Tracking Tools for Instagram (keyword: "Instagram hashtag tracking")
  • 15 Nonprofits Who Are Using Instagram Hashtags For Social Good (keyword: "branded hashtags on Instagram")
  • How to Measure the Amplification of Your Hashtags on Instagram (keyword: "Instagram hashtag tracking")

When you find a topic your buyer personas love, start digging deeper and writing more blog posts about it. Tools like Ahrefs and AnswerthePublic can help you discover what people are searching for online and how your keyword phrase is being used.

2. Identify the Types of Content Your Reader Personas Prefer

Creating reader personas helps you determine what kind of content your audience wants to read and consume. As you experiment with different forms of content on your blog, pay attention to what your audience prefers. By measuring post views, shares, comments, and time on page, you'll likely notice your reader personas prefer a certain type of content — and it's this content that you should focus on and master.

Maybe your audience loves listicles (which are the most popular type of blog content for business blogs), or perhaps they’re more interested in highly-visual posts. Here are content types for you to experiment with and test with your audience:

Regardless of what type of content you choose to create, always keep these questions in mind: What are your reader personas actually searching for?, What is the intent behind their searches?, What problems are they trying to solve?, and Which type of blog post makes them click, read, or comment?

Remember, your reader personas should ultimately decide what types of blog posts you produce. You may have a preference for one type over another, but, unfortunately, you are not your own target audience. Your readers should make that decision for you.

3. Develop a Personality That’s Appealing to Your Personas

Every successful brand has its own unique personality. Although immeasurable, personality is one of the most important aspects of a brand. Why? Because people gravitate towards brands they can relate to.

In life, we tend to make friends with people who are like us, and this is no different with business blogging. Blog readers and subscribers are more inclined to consume content from a brand personality that resonates with their own personality, lifestyle, and interests.

It’s not enough to know what type of content your audience wants — you also need to figure out how it should be written or created. This could apply to your tone of voice (whether respond to a professional or casual tone) or to your image choices (cat memes vs. professional stock photos).

An excellent example of a successfully developed style and personality is Red Bull. Red Bull's brand personality caters to an audience who is active, excited, extreme, and eager to show off their experiences, and its brand reflects a style of content suited to this audience. Their popular blog shows people doing a lot of active, exciting things such as biking, skiing, skateboarding, or other extreme sports. All their content is high energy and intense, which matches their product — energy drinks — perfectly.

4. Use a Blog Editorial Calendar to Stay Consistent

How often you schedule and post blog content will be different from your social media and email cadences. How do you determine your blog post schedule?

First, look at the type of content you're creating — and how long it takes to create it. This will determine how often you post on your blog. Generally speaking, the more time and resources you put into your blog posts, the less frequently you’ll publish content.

You also need to keep your reader personas in mind. What time of day are they online and likely accessing your blog? How frequently? When will they be most likely to see your posts?

Once you’ve determined the frequency of your blog posts based on your post type and your audience, you need to start routinely scheduling it. You can do this by using a blog editorial calendar. This may seem like extra work, but it can actually minimize your blogging efforts in the long run. Planning your publishing schedule ahead of time is the best way to ensure consistency and efficiency across your team.

The most important thing to keep in mind is this: the frequency of your blog posts doesn't matter as much as the consistency. Whether you post once a day or once a week, stick to that schedule to grow your blog readership.

Free Blog Editorial Calendars

How to Optimize Posts to Increase Blog Traffic

Consistently producing blog content that appeals to your reader personas isn't enough to grow your blog readership. You also have to optimize each blog post to increase new blog traffic. What does an optimized blog post look like? In this section, we talk about important blog optimization techniques that will help your content be discovered by new readers and subscribers.

Let's review how to optimize each component of a blog post.

Optimizing Your Blog Post Structure

  • Customize the URL. The blog post URL is one of the first things that search engines crawl, so you should customize each URL to include the main keywords from the post and be reader-friendly. Check out an optimized URL example from the HubSpot blog: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-optimize-urls-for-search. You’ll notice that the end of the URL is essentially the title of the post with hyphens in between. This approach is both easy to read and helps your content rank faster — because it's easy for both search engines and humans to read and understand. Note that function words like "and” or "the” can be removed for the sake of brevity and/or readability.
  • Craft an engaging title. A well-written blog post title attracts both humans and search engines. Craft title headlines that spark curiosity and naturally contain words and phrases that your audience is searching for online. (Tip: Blog titles with six to 13 words attract the most and most consistent amount of traffic.) More importantly, ensure the rest of your article delivers on the headline; never publish headlines that are strictly clickbait. Social networks like Facebook actively devalue content that gets high click-through rates but low on-site reading time or low social media discussion.
  • Include section headers. Almost 50% of people skim blog posts. Make your blog content more "skimmable" by breaking up sections with large, bolded headers. Section headers also help organize long-form pieces and create a sense of structure for your readers.
  • Offer a table of contents. Sometimes, a reader might click on your blog post with the intention of only reading one or two sections. Providing a hyperlinked table of contents can make it easier for readers to understand what you've written about and navigate through your content.
  • Prioritize responsive design. You never know what device your readers are using. Every element of your website should be responsive, or readable on mobile devices — especially your blog. Almost 50% of users say that using a business site that's not optimized for mobile tells them that that business simply doesn't care. Uh oh. If you want to grow your blog readership, make sure the mobile version of your blog is in tip-top shape.

Optimizing Your Blog Post Content

  • Sprinkle in keywords. Remember the keywords we discussed in the previous section? They play an important role in your blog content, too. To help your content rank on search engines, naturally include your target keywords along with other relevant, commonly-used terms throughout your posts. Avoid stuffing your content with keywords, though, as that can affect the reader experience.
  • Avoid jargon-y language. No one — not even subject matter experts — wants to dig through industry jargon to get to the core of your blog content. Use simple, conversational language to explain things and create an accessible, inclusive reading experience. You want your readers to feel like they're chatting with you over a cup of coffee, not receiving a lecture.
  • Format with shorter paragraphs. Formatting your posts with shorter paragraphs contributes to the "scannability" of your articles. It’s much easier for your readers to scan small chunks of content (vs. long paragraphs).
  • Include internal links. Blog posts are often the very first interaction people have with your company — but you don’t want it to be the last. To encourage readers to explore your blog and website further, include a reasonable number of relevant internal links throughout your post. These links are helpful to your readers and help boost your SEO. (Tip: Make sure hyperlinks open in a new tab so that readers can still access the original blog post.)

Optimizing Your Blog Post Imagery

  • Always have proper citations. Use images as supporting examples throughout your entire post to increase comprehension and scannability. But that doesn't mean you can pull random images from Google or other sites. Regardless of where you source your images, always ensure you have the rights to use them. Also, be sure to properly cite each source. When you buy or use free stock imagery, it’s license-free. Check out sites like a Creative Commons or Pexels for free stock imagery.
  • Input image alt-text. Today, Google delivers just as many image-based results as it does text-based. If you want your content to be a contender for image-based results, you must include alt-text for your images. Alt-text is the written copy that shows up in place of your image if it fails to load. It also tells Google and other search engines what your image is about, allowing engines to crawl your content and display it when readers search for relevant information.

Optimizing Your Blog Post Engagement

  • Offer share buttons. Make it easy for your blog readers and subscribers to share your content by offering social share buttons alongside your content. Ensure that when readers click the buttons, the title of and link to your post automatically populates. For additional social amplification, use ClickToTweet throughout your posts.
  • Enable comments. Enabling comments can be intimidating, but even if you don't have comments enabled, readers are going to make remarks about your content. Often times, this feedback is incredibly helpful for future content. Why not enable people to have that conversation alongside your blog content? This also provides a way for you to engage with your readers, too.
  • Use smart CTAs. Smart CTAs show tailored content to users in different lifecycle stages or lists in your database. Personalized and relevant content makes readers more likely to engage and convert. If you show the right people the right messages at the right time, those readers are much more likely to come back due to a pleasant and helpful experience.

Increase Traffic with Historical Optimization

How to Get Subscribers

Growing your blog reader base is exciting, but it's not enough. Blog subscribers are the key to a successful business blog.

A reader and casual visitor becomes a blog subscriber by intentionally providing their email address. This action is important as it tells you that readers find value in your content and want to proactively receive new blog content and updates.

Your number of blog subscribers is arguably more important than your blog readers. Blog subscribers are the key to more blog traffic, and blog subscribers are also considered "warm" leads — they're aware of your content, they've provided personal information, and they're returning readers. As thrilling as it is to grow your blog readership, blog subscribers are the ultimate goal.

The gap between blog readers and blog subscribers can be a wide one, though. New visitors likely need some convincing to return time and time again and to ultimately subscribe. Just as with any effective call-to-action (CTA), you need to clearly demonstrate the value in subscribing to your blog. Explain what visitors will get when subscribing.

Check out HubSpot's blog subscription CTA:

blog-subscribers-readership-hubspot-blog

Our readers have a clear understanding of what they'll receive as a subscriber. You’ll need to prove this value whenever you ask for someone’s email address, too.

Now, let's talk about the many ways you can capture those emails and get blog subscribers.

Provide Opt-In Forms Everywhere

  • On your main blog page. HubSpot offers the main subscribe form on our blog homepage, blog.hubspot.com. This subdomain is the hub for all of our different blogs, and readers can easily subscribe to any or all blogs right from the page.
  • On the sidebar and bottom of each blog post. Some readers may decide to subscribe as they read a post. Display a clear CTA with a simple, one-field email opt-in form near the top of your blog — above the fold (so your readers don't have to search and scroll through the content).
  • On your homepage. Do you have your blog listed in your website navigation? Do you have a footer with places to follow your company on social media? Your homepage gets plenty of traffic; don't forget to put a subscribe opt-in form there, too. Consider placing one in the footer near your company’s contact information. These are common places to look for subscription options, and they don't get in the way of your homepage sections that might be used for product-related news or information.
  • On your "About" page. Include a link to subscribe to your blog on other high-trafficked pages of your website such as your ‘About Us’ page and News. These pages likely attract a lot of new visitors looking to learn more about your business, so use the opportunity to funnel them into your blog.
  • As a pop-up or slide-in. Even though they may seem annoying, pop-up forms work. If you’re looking for a pop-up option that’s not so much in-your-face, try adding a slide-in subscribe form that pops up after a reader has already gone through a certain percentage of the content or spent a specific amount of time on the page.

Create Landing Pages

  • Dedicated subscribe pages. In addition to the subscribe forms on your website, create a dedicated landing page to which you can direct people coming from other websites. This way, rather than saying, “Visit myblog.com, then look for the subscribe option at the top right," you can say, “Visit myblog.com/subscribe to subscribe!” You can also use the extra real estate on this page to better demonstrate your blog’s value, as we did with HubSpot’s blog subscription landing page.
  • Optimized confirmation pages. Do subscribers need to confirm their email address when they opt-in or subscribe? (This is known as a double opt-in.) If so, use your confirmation page and confirmation emails to ensure your subscribers follow through with the double opt-ins. Add a bit of urgency to your copy so subscribers will want to double opt-in while it’s fresh in their minds.

Drive traffic with CTAs

A great way to convince people to subscribe to your blog is while they’re actually reading the content. Within your blog posts, drop text-based or image-based CTAs that lead to your dedicated blog subscription page. Subtle CTAs are useful for nudging people in the right direction without being too pushy.

Share on Social Media and Email

Consider using other channels to promote your blog subscriptions. Encourage your social media followers and email subscribers to subscribe to your blog — these folks are great candidates as they've already demonstrated an interest in your brand and content. These channels are great ways to amplify your blog and gain unexpected subscribers.

Add a ‘Subscribe’ Option on Other Forms

Here's a hidden tip: Add an additional checkbox field to your landing page forms so people can subscribe to your blog with just one click. This one small trick actually helped HubSpot increase our blog subscribers by 128% in just 3 months’ time.

Check out this download form for our Complete Collection of Content Creation Templates:

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opt-innn

See how we provide an option to subscribe our Marketing blog alongside the original form fields? This saves readers time and energy by allowing them to subscribe with a single click — and it captures their information when they're already submitting it anyway. (Note that we offered a subscription to our Marketing blog, not our Sales blog or Service blog, as the original landing page is most relevant to marketing.)

If your blogging software is integrated with the rest of your marketing software, this trick is very easy to implement. At the simplest level, you need to have control over the fields on your landing page forms as well as the ability to export a list of people who opt into your blog through these forms so you can add them to your blog subscriber list.

Test, Test, Test

As you’re implementing all these blog subscription efforts, make sure you’re constantly testing to see which messaging works best for your reader personas. Read more about how to conduct A/B testing here.

How to Promote Your Blog

Let's pause and review what we've talked about so far. You've established your business blog reader personas and determined the topics and keywords that resonate with them. You've started to craft some blog content, optimized that content, and used that content to turn your readers into loyal subscribers.

What's left? Well, no business blog succeeds without blog and content promotion. To ultimately grow your blog readership and blog subscribers, you must promote your blog to new readers.

In this section, we'll cover some tried and true ways to promote your blog, drive new traffic, and continue growing your blog readership.

Publicize Your Blog Everywhere

  • On your homepage. Place a link to your blog in your site navigation to capture new visitors who are looking to explore your content.
  • In your email signature. Whether you're emailing one person or your whole email list, be sure to mention and link to your blog in your email signature. This is a subtle but impactful way to share your blog information with new readers.
  • In your social media profiles. Users likely visit your social media profiles to learn more about your business and brand. Mention your blog in your bios to drive new traffic to your content.

Leverage Other Channels

  • Share on social media. Share every published blog post to your social media channels, ideally Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Also, be sure to use proper markup in your blog content so that when you share the link, it populates with the title and URL back to your blog.
  • Post on forums. Reddit and Quora are ideal sites for contributing content and expertise. Simply log in and start answering questions and comments that are relevant to your expertise and blog with high-value content. Be sure to link to your website and blog so visitors can click-through to your original site and read more.
  • Include in emails. Do you send any other types of emails to users or customers, like product updates or purchase receipts? Mention your blog in these emails and include a link to read more and subscribe. These folks are already subscribed to one email list; they may be interested in learning more from your blog.

Build Valuable Relationships

  • By guest blogging. In addition to your own blog, create content for well-known blogs. By doing this, you can get your content and expertise in front of new audiences. Not only will this lead new readers to your blog but it can also help your SEO by linking back to your blog and website.
  • With influencers. Influencer marketing isn't just reserved for social media; it works well for blogging, too. Find influencers who are in your industry and who ideally fall into your audience. Ask them to share your content with their followers in exchange for a mention in your content. Tools like BuzzStream can help.
  • With experts and industry leaders. Feature experts in your articles through quotes, interviews, or backlinks, and reach out to those experts with a link to your post. People love sharing content they're featured in, and this can result in hundreds of shares and thousands of new visitors.

Comprehensive Guide to Content Promotion

Go Forth and Blog!

To recap, keep these mind as you’re growing and scaling your blog readership:

  1. Do lots of research into who your reader personas are. Apply this information to your blog topics, keywords, and content types.
  2. Carefully optimize each post to get maximum views and engagement. Keep in mind that the niche topics you choose to write about will also help you rank for specific long-tail keywords over time.
  3. Once you’re happy with your reader personas and editorial calendar, start converting those casual readers into hungry subscribers.
  4. As you publish new content, always be working to promote your blog to new readers and fresh eyes.

Blogging is an incredibly effective way to drive new traffic to your site, collect new leads, and ultimately convert your visitors. When the going gets tough, remember that your blog — through authentic, consistent content — can help build trust with consumers looking to invest in a solution or service provider. Your blog can make the difference between a business they buy from once and the brand they come back to time and time again.

Created by

  • allie-decker-hubspot-blog

    Allie Decker

    Content Strategy @ HubSpot

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