How to blog it and make them come…lessons from a friend

It’s a new year, and designers at Automattic have been pondering a common question that all bloggers face: how can I get more views?

I decided to take a look at this question by examining one of my best friend’s blogs, Southern Ohana, hosted right here on WordPress.com. We’ve been friends since middle school, and even though we live far away from each other these days, we still keep in touch! She started blogging in 2015, and built up an impressive following in a relatively short time, without spending much (if any) money and doing any major promotional campaigns. How did she do it, and what lessons can we take from her experience?

A central theme and continuing story

Kelly started her blog in 2015 — newly married, she and her husband were getting ready to move to Japan, where they’d live for the next couple of years. Her husband is in the Marines, and the early themes of her blog focused on her transition into married life, becoming a military spouse, and the eventual move to Japan.

Having a focused theme accomplishes several things:

  • It gives you a target audience, which is crucial if you wanted to run marketing campaigns. You know who to reach out to, and where to find them so that you can tell them about your site.
  • It creates a sense of community, because others can relate to you, especially if they’re going through (or have gone through) similar experiences. I don’t profess to be an expert in blog marketing, but I can only see good things about having a defined community for your blog to belong to and a core group of regular readers.
  • It encourages readers to come back for more. Kelly had several ongoing narrative themes in her blog, all compelling storylines (a new marriage and her move to Japan) that her readers got to experience with her over time.

Engaging and thoughtful posts

Kelly’s posts genuinely reflect her personality, and her love of writing and photography. She’s not afraid to be vulnerable at times. This makes her more relatable to new and existing readers, and has undoubtedly helped her grow and retain her readership.

Engaging with your readers

I’ve noticed how Kelly creates a sense of community on her blog by regularly responding to her readers’ comments. Furthermore, she’s joined several communities around each of her interests.

Participating in Blogging Challenges

Blogging challenges are a great way to post fresh content on a regular basis and to meet new friends. Kelly and I participated in an Alphabet Challenge in 2015, which involved making a new post each day for each letter of the alphabet. The organizers of some of these challenges list all of the participants in a central location, and encourage people to comment on each other’s blogs. Participating in more than one of these challenges can be a fun way to build up your readership over time.

Utilize Social Media and Word of Mouth

Kelly maintains a Facebook page for her blog, where she can reach additional followers. Word of mouth can go a long way as well; I’ve seen her husband share her blog posts in Facebook updates.

Sponsorships and Collaborations

This is an opportunity that comes along after you’ve established an initial baseline of success. Several companies have contacted Kelly about product reviews and sponsorships, and she’s even gone on at least one sponsored trip. She now has a contact form on her blog where interested businesses can reach out, and has prepared a media kit for this purpose. I can easily see how a sponsorship, review, or collaboration can be a win-win situation for all involved, and it has the potential to drive even more views, especially if a new product turns out to be a hit or is something many people don’t know much about.

Don’t be afraid of change.

Life evolves, and so should your blog. Kelly has adopted a new title and theme this year to better reflect the current season of her life. I don’t have metrics on whether or not this helps to grow views, but to me, it falls under the vein of keeping things fresh and relevant.

Ideas for driving even more traffic

From what I’ve seen so far, Kelly is organically on the right track. What are some additional ways that she can continue to grow her traffic over time? Here are some ideas:

  • Promote her posts on Instagram. Kelly’s got over 5K followers on Instagram. It would be interesting to see if she could drive traffic to specific posts by calling them out in her Instagram feed, with a nice photo and relevant hash tags to go along with them.
  • Experiment with post titles. I personally don’t like “click-bait” headlines, but playing with the titles of posts even slightly could be a good litmus test for driving more views.
  • Giveaways and contests. This is a tried and true method of driving views to your blog.
  • Tutorial series. Kelly is a talented photographer. I’m sure she’d have tips and tricks that would be helpful for beginners. Likewise, she could offer a goldmine of information on moving to and living in Japan. The possibilities are endless!
  • Reader features. She has a community of readers, so what better way to keep them coming than to regularly feature them on her blog? Guest posts, photography critiques, and answering reader questions/post requests are just a few ideas.
  • Venture out into YouTube. I’ve seen some bloggers create companion videos on YouTube for some of their posts. This isn’t for everyone, but for those who are interested, video can add another dimension by letting readers see and hear you, in addition to reading your words.

Perhaps most important of all is that Kelly enjoys blogging and sharing glimpses of her life with her readers. That, more than anything, is what matters the most. In reading through my colleagues’ posts on driving traffic to your blog, Kelly is a great example of someone who has already put some of these tips to practice.

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