The following is a guest post from Robert Wall at Untitled Minimalism.
Congratulations! You’ve got a blog, and you’ve got content. You’re probably at least halfways decent at writing, and even if you’re not, writing a bunch of blog posts will solve that in a hurry. Now you just need readers.
But wait just a second here. Let’s say you get some people clicking through to your blog. You don’t just want one-timers; ideally you’d like loyal followers. Followers aren’t super-difficult to get, but there’s one thing you absolutely need…..
You need a way for followers to actually follow you.
I know this sounds silly, but I’ve been on dozens of blogs that I had an interest in following. Of these, a large handful had no clear, obvious, easy way for me to do that. From a marketing perspective, they wanted my attention, I wanted to give them my attention, but I was prevented from doing so by bad setup on their part. This is broken, and the user isn’t the one that can fix it.
Don’t let this happen to you! Here are six easy things you can do to help turn readers into followers:
Offer RSS Feeds
For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, RSS feeds are sort of like a “super bookmark” for blog readers. A couple button clicks, and the visitor doesn’t have to keep checking your blog to see if you have a new post – every new post automatically shows up in their RSS reader, which they can check at their convenience. RSS is one of two fantastic ways to maximize your readership, and it’s built into most every blogging platform out there. Use them!
Offer E-Mail Subscriptions
The second way to notify visitors of new posts automatically is via e-mail. They click a button, type in their e-mail address, and presto — your blog sends them new posts automatically as soon as they’re published. Slick, huh?
I know, it’s tempting to say “but I offer RSS, do I really need e-mail?” YES! My blog had been up and running for a couple of months before a user finally contacted me and asked me how to subscribe via e-mail. Once I added the option, I had half a dozen subscriptions within a day – it was obviously something my readers wanted, and I don’t want to think about how many potential subscribers I lost due to not having it. For a good perspective on e-mail vs. RSS, check out Subscribing to Blogs by Email Instead of RSS Simplifies Your Life on Gip’s blog.
Make your RSS & E-Mail Links Easy To Find
Time is valuable. If I land on your blog via a link, I’ll probably at least skim the first article, but I’m not likely to spend an hour at that point digging through your archives. If I find your blog interesting, make it easy for me to find the RSS feed link so that I can quickly add your blog to my RSS reader. “Easy”, in this case, means “near the top of the page, possibly with a graphic to distinguish it from other links.” That way I’ll get your feed (usually with the last ten or so posts), and I can browse it at my convenience.
Remember how I said RSS was built into most every blogging platform? Well e-mail subscriptions aren’t. And some web browsers make RSS feeds more difficult than necessary to subscribe to. Enter FeedBurner! Go to FeedBurner, create an account (or use your existing Google account), and put in your blog’s RSS feed address. FeedBurner will give you links that your visitors can use to subscribe via RSS or e-mail — just incorporate those into your blog’s theme.
Oh, and if you’re a WordPress user, installing the FeedSmith plugin will catch any RSS feed links you may have missed and direct them over to your FeedBurner account.
Test In Multiple Browsers
Don’t just test with Internet Explorer (or Safari, for Mac users). Get a copy of Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. Test your blog layout, RSS subscription option, and e-mail subscription option in all three. There’s no sense losing subscribers because Google Chrome can’t process your RSS feed for some reason.
Test At A Reasonable Screen Resolution
I’ve seen blogs that are designed at fixed-widths that are larger than my screen. 1024×768 is still a common screen resolution out there on the Internet – if your monitor is set higher than that, the sides of your blog may get clipped or require side-scrolling. And if the part that gets clipped is the part that contains the super-sweet CSS DHTML minimal sidebar that has the RSS subscribe link….yeah, I think you get my point. Set your screen resolution down to 1024×768 for a minute, hit “refresh” in your three browsers, and make sure everything looks good.
If you’re like me, you sometimes spend hours writing a given post. You spend substantial time debating word choice, sentence structure, and paragraph layout. Why post that beautiful masterpiece on a blog that’s only half-functional?
The above six things are simple to check; checking them and fixing them (assuming you don’t have to dismantle a WordPress theme or something crazy) can usually be accomplished in under an hour.
Take some time this next week and make sure everything is working properly – you’ll be glad you did!
Questions? Comments? Let me know below!
The above is a guest post from Robert Wall. Robert Wall is the guy behind Untitled Minimalism, a blog dedicated to more conscious living through the application of the principles of minimalism, simplicity and frugality.