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May 29, 2014

Boost Engagement to Grow Your Audience

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Engagement” isn’t just an online buzzword. Have you ever noticed that you tend to spend more time on sites where people are actively contributing? You know the type: Blogs that foster great conversations in the comments section; social media groups where people seek out other people’s opinions; sites that take frequent surveys of their readers.

Engagement is valuable for two main reasons:

  • It makes people feel important.
  • It shows that you have something of worth to offer the online world, something other people will seek out.

Those are qualities that can make your site more attractive for others to link to. It also helps establish you as an expert in your field; when people come to you for advice and information, your credibility soars. Hence, the more engaged your audience, the more people will find their way to your site.

Here are ways you can give your engagement a kick:

1. Run a Survey

People love it when you ask their opinion. Surveys give them a chance to sound off on whatever the key topic of the day is, whether it’s something as mundane as what color background you should use on your blog or something as high-profile as changing the name or focus of your blog.

Surveys will pump up your traffic because people like to be a part of the blogging process and they want their voices to be heard. But surveys aren’t just for the benefit of readers.

Your site can use surveys to receive valuable input on what you’re doing well and what needs improvement. Consider these surveys the equivalent of a hand-written note from a teacher. If 45 percent of respondents say you spend too much time delving into topic XYZ, then perhaps you need to consider pulling back.

Here are some sites you can use to make surveys:

2. Blog Comments

Some people call the questions bloggers add at the end of their latest post “comment bait.” I call it smart. You’re essentially getting free market research.

When you ask your readers a question, you’re delving into their thoughts and feelings on a particular subject, and their answers can help you not only develop future, more engaging blog topics but also get a discussion going in the comments section that will increase overall engagement.

You don’t have to respond to every single comment on your blog, but you should address many of them. This shows that, one, you’re a real person, and two, you consider your readers’ opinions. People feel appreciated when you take the time to address them directly, and that will keep them coming back to your site. They’ll also be more likely to recommend it to others, because they found the experience satisfying.

Try to make the questions at the end of your blog specific, so that you get more valuable feedback. Go beyond general queries like, “Do you agree or disagree?” Instead, ask something more probing, such as:

  • Have you discussed [this topic] at your office? What is the general consensus?
  • How do you think [this topic] should be addressed by our industry? Would you like to see a task force formed?
  • How many people have you discussed [this topic] with recently? On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very passionate, how do you feel about it?

3. Post Internal Links

One key to engagement is keeping people on your site for extended periods of time. A great way to do this is to include internal links in every post. At the very least, you should be linking to other content on your site by targeting relevant keywords.

But you should also find apps that will automatically add internal links to the bottom of the post related to topics you’ve covered. Many blogs do this to great effect, and it’s a good way to ensure that people who want to find more information on a topic are finding it from your site rather than navigating to a search engine to investigate.

4. Use Social Media

Of course, no engagement strategy is complete without social media. Here are a few favorite ideas for increasing engagement on your site by using social networks:

  • LinkedIn groups: Establish a LinkedIn group specially designed to foster conversations about topics covered on your site. Encourage people to use the site as a resource for their discussions.
  • Twitter appeals: Ask people to weigh in with their opinion on a certain topic or post. You can do this by targeting certain industry influencers or simply sending out a general tweet.
  • Pinterest contests: This site is still most useful to businesses for crafting contests, and using your site as part of the contest will get people engaging with your content.
  • Facebook captioning: Studies have shown that Facebook engagement soars when you include a photo. Ask people to caption a photo and link back to your site for more information on the subject.

5. Gather Feedback

This may be the most important tool in driving engagement. You can learn from the things that people do and do not like about your site to increase your audience. There are two key facets to this approach: First, you need to pay attention to trends within the site itself. And second, you need to give them a chance to express themselves.

Trends on your site might include a sudden decrease or increase in blog comments; a huge surge in traffic to a particular page; or a decline in the number of social media followers. Become a detective and figure out what these patterns mean. Maybe you are posting too many things on Facebook and people are sick of it. Maybe you covered a topic that is suddenly hot on the Internet and you should be doing a follow up.

By interpreting the meaning of these clues, you can figure out what people want and serve it up to them.

But you can also go directly to the source. Ask site visitors, social media followers and email subscribers what they do and do not like about your site and address it. It sounds simple, but often the simplest solutions are the most effective.

A Rise in Engagement

When you put effort into increasing your engagement, by using these tips, you’ll find that your audience grows in turn. It won’t happen overnight, but the effort is well worth it.


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Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like New Horizons Car Wash succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.

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