The third part in this series is on a pretty important topic: amassing some readers for your blog, now that you’ve got it all set up and you’ve started putting content on it. It would be a shame if no one was around to read your brilliance, so let’s get started on building your merry band of fans!
Content is king
If you’ve ever spent time with people who work in media, blogging, publishing, and so on, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Content is king” – because it’s true. If your writing sucks, is boring, is littered with errors, or just doesn’t contain anything worthwhile or unique, you won’t do nearly as well as you potentially could, even if your blog is hella fancy-looking and your social media game is strong.
The best kind of content for gaining readers is anything shareable. What kinds of blog posts make you want to show them to your friends, link to them on your Facebook or Twitter, and tell people about them in conversation? That’s the kind of blog post you should be writing if you want to build your audience.
I find that how-to posts do very well, because people are apt to share them and a lot of stray Googlers stumble onto them. Product reviews are also good because they get a lot of search engine traffic. Lists (top 10, top 5, ways to do something, new things to try, questions to ask, etc.) also do well because they’re easy and fast reads. (Not everything you write has to be dumbed-down and brief, obviously, but it can be a good initial draw sometimes.)
One of the big ways I built my audience initially was by running giveaways. They attract a lot of attention because a) everyone wants to win free stuff and b) you can use a service like Rafflecopter to make sharing/re-posting mandatory for contest entrants, so that your post (and therefore your blog as a whole) will get shared around a lot.
You can ask a sex toy company or retailer if they’d like to provide you with a product for a giveaway. I’ve often found that companies can be very generous in this way if they think it’s going to boost their web presence (a lube company hooked me up with a big box of products for my first giveaway!). If you can’t find anyone to offer a product, you could always buy/provide one yourself – the publicity may be worth it to you. (If it’s not, no worries; just build up your readership in other ways, and you can revisit giveaways later, when your bigger audience will make companies more likely to offer you products.)
Whatever you offer in a giveaway, make sure it’s a product that’s actually relevant to your blog. A sex blogger could do a giveaway of Modcloth skirts or an iPad mini or whatever, but she’ll tend to gain and retain more followers if she gives away some kind of sex-related product, because the contest will attract people who like the kind of content she’s producing.
Everyone’s on social media these days, so it should come as no surprise that online networking is a big way for you to build your readership. I know that I am a hell of a lot more likely to check out someone’s blog if they’re regularly sending me thoughtful or funny replies to my tweets, or if they have interesting things to say in my comments section.
When I first got my blog, I followed a ton of other sex bloggers and various other folks in the sex industry, and I spent a lot of time responding to them, joking around with them, asking them questions, and so on. It got me noticed by some of the big players in that space, and some of them started retweeting me and even linking to my posts. This widened my audience considerably.
However, there’s a caveat, which is: don’t be a spammy asshole. If you’re going to interact with people, do it from a place of genuine interest. If your entire intention is to get yourself noticed and advertise your blog, that will come across in the things you write, and trust me, it feels gross to be accosted by someone like that online. (If you don’t find other sex bloggers interesting enough that you can interact with them like a normal, pleasant human, you might not be a good fit for sex blogging.)
Treat your readers well
This is one of my fundamental philosophies in everything I do online, and I think it has served me very well. People will feel better about reading your blog, and having you in their online social spheres, if you treat them well. Simple, but so easily forgotten.
I don’t mean that you have to suck up to everyone in your Twitter mentions, and I don’t mean that you have to be sweet to the assholes who send you abusive or rude messages. Here’s what I do mean: if someone leaves you a thoughtful comment, leave them an equally thoughtful reply. When you get an email from a reader, a sex toy company, a potential advertiser, or anyone else, respond with warm respect and common decency. If readers ever help you come up with ideas (which mine do, often, because I like using Twitter to find sources or resources), thank them – publicly.
Just generally: be a good person, and give credit where credit is due. You owe a lot to your readers; don’t forget that!
For the first year or so of my blog’s existence, the majority of my readers (and thus the majority of my income!) came from my interactions on Reddit. While being very careful not to spam or annoy people, I would occasionally leave a link to one of my blog posts in relevant discussion threads. For example, if someone on /r/sex wanted a sex toy recommendation, I might link them to my toybox page, or to a specific toy review. Or if someone on /r/askwomen wanted tips on dealing with a vaginal infection, I might link them to my post on that. You get the picture. (If you do this, please check the rules of the particular subreddit first – some of them have rules against “self-promotion,” affiliate links, etc.)
It’s useful if you can offer something on your blog that no one else is offering, or that no one else is offering in quite the way you do. If you’re thinking of writing a blog post on a particular subject and you know other bloggers have covered it, ask yourself: what will make my post shareable over other people’s take on the same topic? It might be a different perspective, a different method, whatever – just some kind of unique take. Always keep that in mind.
Good post titles are imperative. If you’re bored by the title of a post, you’re unlikely to click through and read the rest. So make your titles damn good.
A fun way to expand your reach is to write about topics that cover your niche area (sex) as well as another niche area. Some of my most popular posts do this: I interested makeup fans with my blowjob-friendly lipsticks post, for example, and I crossed into the self-love/self-help space with my post on receiving desire when you feel undesirable.
Be a good citizen of the internet. That means sharing other people’s stuff, writing about other people, linking to them, supporting them, interacting with them. Blog readership is not a pie whose pieces you have to guard jealously for yourself; supporting your community of bloggers is good internet karma, increases the likelihood that they will help you in return, and just feels good to do.
Bloggers: how did you build your audience?