Written by Brian Cray on February 9th, 2009
Gaining readership for your blog is no different than a company selling its product. Like your blog, a product's success is determined by its adoption (purchases, subscriptions, etc). Your blog's success is determined by its readership. Your blog is your product.
And with so many blogs, you've got a ton of competitors. Thus, you have to think of your blog as a product in a saturated market. You will not get readership unless you promote, which brings me to detrimental assumption #1.
Content is king
Wrong! Content is important, yes. But don't make me pull out the proverbial "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, did it really fall?" Even search engine marketers will tell you that a search engine listing by itself means next to jack shit (because you won't be #1 immediately). Point is, you may have content that would make Steve Jobs keel over in astonishment, or a blog that has the monetization potential of Mashable, but if no one knows your blog exists it's not very successful. Thus, promotion is king. You should be spending just as much time promoting as writing (if not more).
If I add my site to my favorite social bookmarking site like Delicious, people will come
Wrong! Your potential readership base is all over the place (rhyme unintended, but awesome). If you just bookmark to Delicious.com, you potentially reach a cross-section of readers that both want to read what you have to say and are Delicious power users. Thus, you've reached about .5% of your potential readership. This is your new approach to promoting your blog: EVERYWHERE. Every social bookmarking site, every search engine, forum, etc with decent market share. Then monitor your referrers in your analytics and see which sites are really generating traffic to your blog. Only then will you be able to effectively focus your promotion efforts.
People will remember to come back or will subscribe if they like what they see
Wrong! People browsing the Internet have the attention span of goldfish. The second they leave your blog, no matter how thought-provoking, they forget your name, your blog URL, and even your blog name no matter how big your logo. Don't expect readers to do anything you don't suggest. Suggest social bookmarking with a beautiful set of icons. Suggest subscribing with a small closing sentence like "For more of my totally badass insights, subscribe to my RSS feed." Never underestimate the power of suggestion I always say!
So how do you get started with these recommendations
Suggest next courses of action for the reader at the bottom of every entry. Options should should include social media bookmarking links to suggest social media bookmarking activity, a line suggesting readers to subscribe before they bounce off your site never to return, and a list of related posts for them to read next (if you have more than 25 posts). If you use WordPress, try the Sociable plugin for a great social bookmarking footer (I use it), and the Wasabi Related Posts plugin or Popularity Contest plugin to suggest more posts to read.
You can't improve what you don't measure. Measure everything you can. Use Web analytics—such as Google Analytics—to monitor where your readers are coming from (source metrics), whether they are reading more articles based on your suggestions (content metrics), and who they are (visitor metrics). Source metrics help you focus your promotions, content metrics help you tweak your content, and visitor metrics help you evaluate your success. Are you getting more readers now? By the way, use FeedBurner to monitor your subscribers and know when you gain 'em and loose 'em. If you use WordPress, use the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin to turn your WordPress feed into a Feedburner feed.