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segunda-feira, 2 de janeiro de 2012

BLOG-DISCOVERY

Shane Snow is a New York-based tech jour­nal­ist and co-founder of Contently.com, a mar­ket­place for brand pub­lish­ers and jour­nal­ists.


BLOG-DISCOVERY

In 2010, New York City start­up, Birch­box launched a blog about beau­ty prod­ucts before it had any cus­tomers. The beau­ty sam­ple deliv­ery ser­vice – and its blog – explod­ed in pop­u­lar­i­ty.
Today, to keep up with its read­ers’ appetite for con­tent, Birch­box employs mul­ti­ple edi­tors and pub­lish­es half a dozen posts a day, along with an online mag­a­zine. Accord­ing to compete.com, Birchbox.com traf­fic grew 6,500% in 2011, to over 110,000 month­ly unique vis­i­tors at last count.

But raw traf­fic data doesn’t tell the whole story about the value of a pub­li­ca­tion. Birch­box’s blog dri­ves cus­tomer acqui­si­tion and reten­tion, which means its read­ers are loyal enough to become sub­scribers, fol­low­ers and cus­tomers. At last count, the com­pa­ny had 44,000 Face­book Likes, 14,000 Twit­ter fol­low­ers, and 9,400 Youtube sub­scribers. New blog sub­scribers – peo­ple who had will­ing­ly opted in to Birch­box con­tent – pile on every month. (The com­pa­ny declined to release hard num­bers on total blog sub­scribers).

Iron­i­cal­ly, the hit-based nature of social media means many blog own­ers have dif­fi­cul­ty cul­ti­vat­ing long-term loy­al­ty from their users. It’s easy to get excit­ed when the occa­sion­al “viral” post brings in a spike of traf­fic. But often that traf­fic melts away as quick­ly as it arrived.

Brian Clark, CEO of Copy­Blog­ger Media, says a build­ing a qual­i­ty blog fol­low­ing means “attract­ing the right peo­ple in order to accom­plish your spe­cif­ic goals.” In other words, he says, “you’ve got to put qual­i­ty ahead of quantity.”

So, how do upstart blogs like Birch­box’s build such vora­cious fol­low­ings? Here are six tips to attract­ing read­ers who stick around longer than the click of a Stum­ble­Upon but­ton:

1. Turn Exist­ing Cus­tomers Into Read­ers
Cur­rent cus­tomers can be an excel­lent source of qual­i­ty read­ers for a new pub­li­ca­tion. Often, they already iden­ti­fy with the tar­get demo­graph­ic. And they’re already famil­iar with you.

Whether it’s get­ting a cus­tomer to sub­scribe to a newslet­ter, blog, or Twit­ter feed dur­ing a signup or check­out process, or request­ing they sub­scribe in a follow-up email or call, happy cus­tomers are high­ly like­ly to become read­ers. Turn­ing cus­tomers into read­ers gives you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to reach other poten­tial cus­tomers – your read­ers’ friends – through social media.

Birch­box ben­e­fits from this vir­tu­ous cycle as new read­ers become cus­tomers, new cus­tomers become read­ers, and read­ers share with friends.

2. Skip The Mis­lead­ing Traffic-Boosting Tech­niques
Pageview-racking slideshows and catchy-yet-misleading head­lines are com­mon­place in the blo­gos­phere; many pub­li­ca­tions use them to increase traf­fic (and there­fore adver­tis­ing rev­enue). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, how­ev­er, these tech­niques often don’t result in qual­i­ty read­er­ship growth.

“Head­lines should be descrip­tive and tell read­ers what to expect,” says Chris Spag­n­uo­lo, Founder and Pub­lish­er of guyism.com, an inde­pen­dent men’s lifestyle site with 3.5 mil­lion month­ly unique vis­i­tors.

Slideshows skew page views-per visit stats, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to accu­rate­ly gauge traf­fic stick­i­ness; mis­lead­ing head­lines may put your con­tent in front of new, unsus­pect­ing read­ers, but those read­ers are less like­ly to stay, and may even have neg­a­tive reac­tions to being tricked.

“We’ve always believed that the best way to get good qual­i­ty read­ers is to cre­ate good qual­i­ty content,” says Ben Lerer, Co-Founder of men’s city guide Thril­list. Lerer says Thril­list’s exper­i­ments with slideshows or tricky head­lines never yield­ed valu­able read­er growth.

3. Speak to a Very Spe­cif­ic Audi­ence
Cast­ing a wide net can be good for gen­er­at­ing traf­fic, but with a glut of read­ing options on the web, pas­sion­ate blog fol­low­ers grav­i­tate toward hyper-specific pub­li­ca­tions. That’s one of the rea­sons many niche media sites are grow­ing while main­stream pub­li­ca­tions bleed read­ers.

Thril­list ben­e­fits from tar­get­ing a niche audi­ence, Lerer says, rather than broad cat­e­gories like “New York­ers” or “men.” The pub­li­ca­tion focus­es on 20- and 30-some­thing, nightlife-loving urban males, and it speaks to them as peers. Know­ing its read­ers com­plete­ly allows Thril­list to con­nect with them more effec­tive­ly.

Often this means tar­get­ing a niche in which you – the blog­ger – already belong. “We [are] real­ly writ­ing for ourselves,” Chen explains. “And we never talk down to our readers.”

4. Guest Post and Use Guest Blog­gers
Allow­ing guest blog­gers to post on your blog brings twofold ben­e­fits: more con­tent for your blog, and new read­er expo­sure for your site. Guest blog­gers often point their own fol­low­ers to posts they’ve writ­ten for other pub­li­ca­tions (and you should encour­age them to do so). Ide­al­ly, those read­ers start to rec­og­nize your blog and even­tu­al­ly sub­scribe to you, too.

“Our uniques have increased every month, in large part because we’ve been … using more guest bloggers,” Chen explains.

Like­wise, guest post­ing your own con­tent on rel­e­vant blogs in your niche can help you attract new audi­ences.

“We’ve built a num­ber of valu­able part­ner­ships with brands and other pub­lish­ers who have helped us edu­cate other guys about Thrillist,” Lerer says. “But,” he adds, “we know these guys wouldn’t stick around if the qual­i­ty of what we pro­duced on a daily basis wasn’t top notch.”

5. Encour­age Loy­al­ty Through Con­sis­ten­cy
Giv­ing read­ers some­thing to expect helps them work your blog into their daily or week­ly rou­tine. As your audi­ence grows, you should increase your con­tent fre­quen­cy; how­ev­er, from the begin­ning, pub­lish­ing on a con­sis­tent sched­ule will help build loy­al­ty.

“We try to post between 6-10 times a day … to keep peo­ple com­ing back,” Chen says.

Con­sis­ten­cy also has to do with pre­sent­ing read­ers with a uni­fied voice or con­sis­tent approach­es. Clark says fos­ter­ing a qual­i­ty audi­ence means, “tak­ing an edi­to­r­i­al stand for what you believe in, rather than water­ing things down to avoid offend­ing any­one. This doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean you have to try to be con­tro­ver­sial. In this day and age, sim­ply tak­ing a posi­tion and stand­ing behind it will bring peo­ple who agree, and peo­ple who don’t.”

Clark con­tin­ues, “Don’t be afraid of those who don’t [agree with you]. They gal­va­nize your sup­port­ers who do agree, which turns them into fans instead of luke-warm traffic.”

6. Be Time­ly And Rel­e­vant
Blog to con­nect with what’s cur­rent­ly on your read­ers’ minds. This way, you’ll not be inter­rupt­ing them; instead, you’ll enhance their rou­tines.

“Be rel­e­vant, inter­est­ing, and digestible,” Chen says. “By giv­ing peo­ple sto­ries that are easy to click and share … you’ll instant­ly increase your reach.”

It’s all about social rel­e­vance, Spag­n­uo­lo says. “Think, ‘Will one of my friends from high school think this is worth shar­ing on Face­book?’ If the answer is yes, that’s a good start.”

Shares, fol­low­ers, bounce rates, and con­ver­sions can indi­cate whether a blog’s read­er­ship is engaged or sim­ply tran­sient. Any blog that’s tuned in to its audi­ence can increase the above and grow loyal read­ers.

“To us, a qual­i­ty read­er is some­one who stays or shares,” Lerer says. “If they’re engaged, they’ll be more like­ly to come back. If they’re shar­ing, they’re cre­at­ing value. Either way, those are the two best kinds of readers.”

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