How to Get People to Read Your Blog: Secrets From the Brafton Blog
After boosting our monthly blog readership from 25k to 200k in just 3 years, our Director of Marketing shares tips on how to get people to read your blog and keep growing.
So, you’ve cooked up a batch of great blog post ideas you hope will deliver value to your audience and boost your business… Now there’s the matter of how to get people to read your blog. Attracting readers to your content isn’t always easy or immediate, but there are some steps you can take to set your blog up for success.
Take it from the team that grew our blog traffic 700% in 3 years
In this post, we’re sharing the secret ingredients that go into getting people to read our blog—straight from Brafton’s own Director of Marketing, Lauren Fox.
Since Lauren arrived at Brafton in 2010, she contributed to a variety of teams before joining marketing in 2017.
The Brafton blog had been around for a while, “But it was doing very little for us on an organic traffic scale because we weren’t writing for search,” Lauren recalls.
As content marketing as a field evolved over the years, so did our blog content strategy.
“In 2018, we started getting really serious about creating the most comprehensive content for every topic we were writing about. We changed our keyword research process, and that’s when it really started to take off.”
In just a 3-year period, the team’s updated strategy boosted our blog traffic from 25,000 to 200,000 readers per month—that’s a 700% increase in readers! Now that we’ve hit this milestone, we’re sharing a list of tips and takeaways that have worked well for us to help you home in on how to get people to read your blog and see this kind of growth, too.
How to get people to read your blog: 3 essential strategies
First, here’s a snapshot of the top strategies we follow to get people to read the Brafton blog. A lot of it comes down to 3 key activities, happening in tandem.
As Lauren explains, “It’s primarily about publishing content consistency—not going too long between publishing new pieces of content.”
“But we’re not just publishing content to publish it,” she adds. “We’re placing a huge focus on the topics we select and what they can do for us if we rank on the first page. It’s a combination of continuing to create new content and making really good topic selections.”
Additionally, Lauren explains that it’s not only about churning out new blog content: “We’re also going into past articles and making sure they’re performing as well as they can be. If they’re not, we’re figuring out how to fix them and reoptimizing in a way to drive more traffic, get that content back on Page 1 and stay competitive. Things change; new content and competitors come on to the first page all the time, so we have to continue to adjust.”
Let’s dig into each of these activities in more detail and provide some additional context around how to turn existing content, new topic ideas and a steady content calendar into a successful blog.
In the following sections, you’ll find recommendations for:Identifying and reaching your audience. Coming up with quality blog topic ideas. Speaking to a B2B or B2C audience. Creating optimized content. Keeping readers engaged. Promoting your blog. Tracking and growing your organic traffic.
Defining and understanding your audience
Before you can determine how to get people to read your blog, it’s essential to define your target audience. As Lauren puts it, our approach here was “not necessarily how we could find our reader, but more about how we defined our audience.”
Here are some ways to do that:
Use Google Analytics to understand audience demographics
You can mine data from Google Analytics to understand your active readers and their demographics, like age, desktop or mobile usage, gender identity and other factors.
We examined this data alongside what we know about our prospective clients and the decision makers at those companies. As it turned out, Lauren notes that our readers and ultimate decision makers are not necessarily the same people. This is a key distinction and an important factor when considering what to write about and how to write it.
This type of audience analysis is worth doing every year, so you can stay on top of who you’re actually speaking to and how they fit into the bigger picture.
Determine where audience members go to find content like yours
An important part of defining your blog audience is identifying where members spend their time and where they look for blog posts like yours. If your ideal reader digs around on LinkedIn for thought leadership content, or skims Pinterest for ideas and advice in your niche, you’ll want to have a presence there and optimize your content for those channels.
In our case, “A large portion of our audience is searching on Google,” according to Lauren. “When they’re searching for a topic or looking for help with a specific challenge, we want to be there on the first page to help them.”
Develop audience personas to inform content creation efforts
As Lauren explains, our marketing team extrapolated details from our demographic data and applied a layer of analysis on top of that: “For the blog, we’re writing for people who are more likely to influence decision makers.”
Our most valuable readers tend to fall into the 24-to-35 age group, which drives 40% of all macro conversions on our website.
As Brafton’s CMO, Jeff Baker, explains in a blog all about buyer personas, “Our buyer may be a 49-year-old CMO, but that person isn’t reading our blog or converting on our site. Our true champion is the mid-level director-type who brings Brafton to our buyer.”
This helps guide our approach to the keywords and topics we choose, from how we present our findings and recommendations to how we promote our blog.
Choosing your blog topics wisely
Scrawling blog topic ideas on a napkin and writing articles about whatever strikes your fancy won’t necessarily win you loyal readers. Turning blog post ideas into powerful content that drives qualified leads your way calls for a systematic approach.
These steps can take you and your blog in the right direction:
Ask around to find out what people want to read about
If you’re just getting started and blogging is a new part of your content marketing strategy, you won’t have enough data to know what potential readers are likely to engage with. Luckily, you have other resources to help guide your topic selection process.
As Lauren advises, “When you’re starting a blog from scratch, go to your customer base and ask them what types of questions they have for you. Go to your sales reps and see what type of questions prospects are asking. This can be a really good way to build a list of topics you can write about.”
Tap competitor sites for blog topic ideas
Why reinvent the wheel when there are oodles of blog topics out there already? By examining what keywords other blogs are ranking for, you can find opportunities to boost your blog’s performance.
“If I notice a new competitor, I’ll check out the organic keywords they’re ranking for to look for missed opportunities and keywords we aren’t targeting,” Lauren explains. “I’ve found the most success from pulling competitor keywords—especially our ‘reach competitors’ who are at a level we would like to be at in terms of traffic.”
She notes that these blogs and brands may not be direct business competitors, but they’re competitors in search because they’re ranking for a lot of similar keywords.
Follow a keyword research process that supports business goals
The Brafton team has spent the last decade perfecting our keyword research process. (You can read all about it in our comprehensive keyword research guide and try it out on your own blog!) A lot of the strategies we shared in that guide were put to the test—and proven successful—through Lauren’s work on the Brafton blog.
Here’s what Lauren recommends: “If you’re doing keyword research for blogs for the first time, go through your whole website, consider every product and service you offer, and put as many variations of those key phrases into a giant list.”
Once you have a master list of relevant keywords that you could write about, “Plug those into keyword research tools like SEMRush, add the data to your list, then whittle it down and find which topics work best for blog content.”
But keep in mind that choosing blog topics isn’t always a one-size-fits-all strategy. “Everyone’s needs are different, and it comes down to what goals you’re trying to achieve.” Lauren adds. “For our blog, we’re trying to achieve massive amounts of traffic so that’s why we’ve developed this process.”
Evaluate blog topic ideas using a keyword selection checklist
Once Lauren has that master list of potential keywords to target with new blog posts, she’ll whittle down the list using a checklist that answers questions around whether a given keyword will get us relevant traffic and whether we can realistically rank on the first page.
Here’s a 7-step checklist you can follow to determine if it’s a keyword worth blogging about:Is this keyword relevant to our core business offerings? Are the Page 1 search results for this keyword relevant to our core business offerings? Do most of the Page 1 search results have informational intent (i.e., are readers looking for information and finding it in the results)? Are we already ranking at all, or on Page 1, for this keyword according to Google Search Console? If yes, should we reoptimize the existing piece for this keyword? If no, proceed with the rest of the checklist. Can we realistically rank on Page 1 for this keyword, based on Moz data? What would our ranking be on Page 1? How much traffic can we grab from this rank position, according to Ahrefs? Is this good enough? If yes, then let’s write a blog based around this keyword!
Start writing—but don’t stop the keyword research
When choosing your keywords, you should be focusing on those that fall in the sweet spot: not too difficult or competitive, with just enough search volume to drive traffic to your site. Produce blog articles centered on those target keywords, but remember to analyze the results as you go.
“The more you write, you’ll eventually get people coming to the blog and you’ll get better at understanding what works and what doesn’t,” Lauren says. “I follow this keyword research process about once per quarter and spread out that batch of blog topics over the next few months.”
Publishing blog content consistently
Once you start getting people to read your blog, it’s important to keep producing a consistent stream of quality content. Follow these tips to get the most out of your content writing efforts:
Craft compelling headlines
One of the best ways to attract readers is to package your content in the perfect headline.
“Of course we want our blog to show up on Page 1,” Lauren says, “but we also want people to click through. So we’re not only looking at where it’s going to rank, but also placing an emphasis on the headline.”
So, what does a good headline look like? “It’s always best to create a headline that is pretty direct—not super clickbaity or spammy but to-the-point.”
Consider creating listicles
Lists work especially well in headlines. “Many of our top performing blogs are lists,” Lauren explains. “Readers like information that is organized, and you know exactly what you’re going to get with a list article. If it says ‘8 trends to watch for in 2021,’ you know you’re getting that when you click through. The clearer it is, the more people will click.”
This doesn’t just get eyeballs on your content; it can also drive your blog post to perform better in search: “With the way Google’s RankBrain algorithm works, if people are clicking through to a piece of content, staying on the page to engage with it and not going back, that improves its ongoing performance.”
Write your blog posts for a human audience
Whether you’re an independent blogger or a writer for a B2B or B2C business blog, remember that you’re writing for real people, not just search crawlers.
While your blogging tone and style might be different for, say, a pet owner and a senior executive, “They’re still human; there are still people reading the content,” Lauren notes, adding that considering them as different may not be a beneficial approach.
After all, that dog lover and business leader could very well be the same person, searching for different types of content to solve different problems.
Reoptimize existing content
One of our top 3 tips above was about reoptimizing existing blog posts to drive more traffic and get the most out of your efforts.
As Lauren says, “It’s about not being complacent with the content you have published. We did invest in it, and don’t want to throw that time and money away.”
Instead, continue monitoring the performance of older and existing blog posts. Your keyword research process should uncover what keywords those posts are already ranking for, and help you spot opportunities to refresh and reoptimize content that’s already matured.
In 2020, 75% of the blog posts we published were brand new and 25% were reoptimized posts. Try this 3-to-1 ratio and see where it takes you.
Promoting your blog
Promotion is a major part of how to get people to read your blog. After all, you have to let existing audience members know if you come out with a new resource or an article that answers their most pressing question!
Here are some ideas for making your content easy to find and easy to share, too:
Focus your energies on wherever your audience is
If you want to get your blog noticed, a more-is-more approach won’t necessarily drive meaningful results and get readers onto your page.
“You don’t have to promote your blog in every single space,” Lauren advises. “If you know where your audience members get their content, it’s worth promoting there. Don’t spend too much time with boosted posts on Instagram if your readers aren’t there.”
For our blog, that means most of our efforts go into showing up on Page 1—and roughly half (45.45%) of all our blogs rank on Page 1 for their target keyword.
But for your blog, the approach might be different. Finding out where your readers are going for great content and delivering it through those channels is key.
Circulate blog content through a newsletter
An email newsletter is a great way to get your latest content delivered to audience members’ inboxes.
At Brafton, we send out a newsletter once per week. “This is often enough, but not too often,” Lauren says. “The purpose is to share a roundup of the latest content we’ve posted. Most of our newsletter subscribers aren’t going to immediately turn into customers, but this helps us stay top of mind and provide our audience with as much helpful content as possible.”
It’s also easy for people who are already subscribed to your newsletter to forward emails to contacts who might be interested, bringing new blog readers your way by word of mouth.
Try advertising your newsletter
This may not be a strategy you’ve considered before, but why not run a few paid ads for your newsletter?
If you’re looking to increase your number of subscribers, as a best practice, Lauren recommends figuring out how much it would cost to drive people to your subscribe page through an ad. This is an easy way to spread the word far and wide, and the ad spend might be worth it in terms of getting you more blog readers, faster.
Repurpose blog content for social media
Posting blog content to your social media accounts serves two purposes: It’s a great way to populate your content calendar and keep followers engaged, but can also drive traffic to your site.
We’ll share a new blog post across all of our social media channels, and each social media channel has a link to encourage followers to subscribe to our newsletter.
Explore cross-platform collaborations
Although we’ve been primarily talking about search engine optimization as a way to attract readers, don’t forget about other channels and platforms as ways to get the word out about your blog.
Tap your network and don’t be afraid to reach out to other content creators for guest blogging and other opportunities. For instance, consider speaking on an established podcast or writing a guest post for another blog in your niche.
Once you have a handle on how to get people to read your blog, the next step is to closely monitor blog traffic and adapt your approach accordingly. Here’s what we’ve found works best—and it’s not as complicated as you might think:
Align KPIs with key business goals
For the Brafton blog, Lauren explains that “our success is measured by the organic traffic we drive and the Page 1 keywords that we own.” The goal of our blog has been to double our traffic every year. Also, we set goals around Page 1 keyword ownership to ensure we’re showing up to the right readers in all the right places.
A third KPI we track is newsletter subscriptions: “We want a ton of people to come to the blog and also say, ‘yes, I want more of this. Let me subscribe!””
However, Lauren says it’s worth noting that we don’t expect blog visitors to fill out our Contact Us form. After all, we’re targeting keywords with informational intent for our blog—not purchasing intent—so that wouldn’t be a realistic goal.
Be wary of vanity metrics
It’s all too easy to get bogged down in vanity metrics that seem informative but that don’t really tell you what you need to know, like time on page, pages per visit and others. These don’t help us project anything—and they probably won’t help you, either.
As Lauren puts it, “If we want these people to spend twice as much time on page, what is that actually going to do for us?”
Bounce rate is another potentially opaque metric she doesn’t find particularly useful: “People often want to reduce bounce rate. However, the whole purpose of a blog is to answer a question. It’s not to get people to explore additional pages or fill out a form. That’s why blog articles typically have a high bounce rate. But that’s totally fine, because that’s what blogs are meant to do.”
Follow metrics that can help you forecast overall business success
So, if those vanity metrics won’t get you very far, then where do more meaningful KPIs help you go? Here’s an example:You know your blog gets X number of visitors per year. You know Y% of those visitors turn into newsletter subscribers. And you know Z% of those subscribers convert to customers.
If you aim for a certain number of visitors per year, you can quickly work out the math to see how many conversions you can expect. As Lauren explains, we’ve found that this type of thinking ties our blog performance to actual commercial value and can help us scale your efforts.
Wait 90 days for new content to mature
If you’re starting a blog from scratch—or even adding new content to an existing blog—you can’t really expect to see results for at least 3 months. We’ve found that it takes about 90 days for content to mature and settle into its ranking position. Only at that point can you start seeing success from all of your hard work.
Need help getting all eyes on your blog?
Getting your articles in front of a broader audience isn’t easy—and you don’t have to go at it alone. Whether you’re looking for help solidifying your SEO content writing strategy or optimizing your blog writing process, reach out to the Brafton team and we’ll be happy to help.