Want More Readers? First, Get Link Happy

One of my duties here at WordPress.com is to help bloggers with their editorial questions, and perhaps the most frequent question I receive is “how do I get more readers?”

There are easy and not-so-easy ways to grow your readership (and if you’d like my feedback targeted to your WordPress.com blog, please let me know by leaving a comment, I’ll write you back privately and won’t publish the comment). Perhaps simplest of all? Learning to hyperlink wisely and frequently.

All those links online illustrated

Internet usage "splat map." From Flickr user jurvetson.

If you dislike the idea of adding links to your posts, I’ll be straight with you: You gotta get over it. Links are what make the internet the internet (that whole net part? Yeah, that’s links we’re talking about!). And keep in mind that linking is a long-term strategy. The results will take a while to pay off, so you have to be patient and consistent.

Some key things to ask yourself:

Do you:

– have a blogroll that links to your favorite blogs and sites? (See “Blogs I like” on the Biodork blog.)

– link to your primary sources in your blog posts? (Notice how this blog’s author links to the original New York Times blog post?)

– link to non-primary sources that help the reader learn more information? (If you write about economic principles, do you provide links to glossary definitions for your more novice readers? If you write about your college fraternity, do you link to them? Check out how the Down Under, Out West author gives you deeper links in this post.)

– link to entertain? (For example, link to a funny random photo to surprise your reader. See how WordPress blog Pleated Jeans does it so well.)

– link to your new blog post in your Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts?

– check your stats page to see which links your readers like most, and learn from that experience?

If you’re doing all these things on most of your blog posts, then you’re doing a pretty good job of linking often and intuitively. The links should seem natural, meant to help deepen the reader’s experience with your content — not distract from it.

Why It Helps

As for why linking helps grow your readership, when you link to outside sources, two primary things happen:

1. The people you link to will notice the incoming links, and, sometimes start linking back to your site, sending new readers your way. People like to feel special, and linking to them is one way to do this online.

2. Search engines use links to find and rank new content (among other ways), so you’re basically giving search engines a big helping hand by using links. In turn, you’ll start getting ranked higher in their results pages. Having a lot of links coming to your site and also going out of your site (known as inbound and outbound links) are a critical way to impress search engines.

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28 Responses to Want More Readers? First, Get Link Happy

  1. Joy, this is a great, useful post. I’ve struggled with this issue, because my blogs are all so different. With the two .com ones – 1 is for business, and 1 is for writing every day (which I really care more about.) Do you have any suggestions for links that readers and writers typically enjoy? I can find tons of links for the business blog and need to stop being lazy about that.

    Is your name really Joy Victory? Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself from asking. 🙂 It’s great.

  2. Thanks for the info. New to WordPress and everything helps!

  3. Jim says:

    I feel chuffed that I do all but one of these, and that the one I don’t do, I will enjoy adding to my repertoire! Thanks!

  4. krs says:

    i try to link other blogs but it seems they often don’t link me back. i wonder what about my blog looks bad or not suitable for linking?

    • Joy Victory says:

      You might want to be persistent, leaving comments more than once. And as long as you’re linking out to blogs, you’re doing something right.

      When it comes to your blog, though, I’d say one issue might be lack of focus. It’s hard to know what your blog is about if you’re just simply scanning it (I’m putting myself in the mind of another blogger, and what they might think when they glance at your site because you’ve linked to them).

      Your bio page is pretty lacking in info, for example, and the posts seem a little disconnected topic-wise. BUT! There’s nothing wrong with blogging simply because you enjoy it, and doing what you want, and having a fun personal blog. There’s limited traffic potential, but that shouldn’t always be the end goal, right?

      Let me know your thoughts.

  5. Slamdunk says:

    Good insights. I stumbled upon Pleated Jeans’ work and agree that he uses photos very well and is hilarious.

  6. Wow! I never thought my little blog would be used as an example of good practice. Thanks!

  7. Joy Victory says:

    Hi everyone! If you submitted a comment for editorial feedback for your blog, I just wanted to let you know that I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I tried to email all of you to let you know I’m headed offline for the Memorial Day holiday this weekend, so there will be a delay. 🙂

  8. interesting and i like!

  9. biodork says:

    Thanks for the mention, Joy! It took me a couple of days to figure out where the extra hits on my blog were coming from, lol. I love linking to other blogs in my blog roll, and by splitting them into “blogs I like” and “blogs I’m trying out”, I can keep the daily updated blogs separate from those that I like to check up on every other day or weekly. I don’t do many subscriptions, so my blog roll is a nice list to help me remember to go read blogs that have previously caught my eye. Plus it increases my traffic…when the blog’s author sees that someone linked to their blog from my page, they might come visit me, even if they don’t immediately link any of my material back for their readers.

  10. spicedrop says:

    Hi- I’m brand new to the whole world of blogging- I welcome your suggestions! I started this blogging about a week ago just as a way to develop my writing skills- I’m not sure that I have an audience, much less where I would find them. Please feel free to check out my writing and give me any and all suggestions.

    thanks

    spicedrop

    • Joy Victory says:

      Hi there — When a blog is as new as yours, it’s hard to give a lot of feedback, just because there isn’t a whole lot to comment on yet. Why don’t you email me again in about three months and I’ll look your site over? For now, I’d say do the following

      1. Blog often, and try to keep it to one topic/theme
      2. Use links
      3. Write intriguing headlines and include visuals in your post

      • New Moja says:

        I find it hard to stick to one theme. I just like writing about anything in the news that I have a strong opinion on. I also like writing about my hobbies and my on-going studies. I’m using my blog as a way to improve my writing skills and hope to take a journalism course in the future. Thanks for all the useful info. I’ve now started adding links all my posts.

  11. pduan says:

    Great article Joy. I find building traffic to be one of the interesting, yet challenging, aspects when writing a blog. You’ve got so many levers to pull so it’s always exciting to see what works and doesn’t. From my limited experience with blogs (started my first one in April), I’ve heard that if you continuously create quality content, traffic will inevitably follow.

    What’s your opinion on places like Technorati and Blog Catalog? I’ve registered with those places but have not seen any substantial, consistent traffic.

    • Joy Victory says:

      Yeah, I never found those to be substantial traffic drivers, though every bit helps, I suppose. I think using keywords wisely is useful, too — so search engines know what your content is about and rank you under keywords. Meaning, write, clear, targeted headlines and not vague, empty headlines.

      Networking is also important — getting out there and virtually meeting people and leaving your blog’s name behind almost like leaving a business card. This also creates links back to your site, which is helpful.

      I’ll try to address more of these topics in future posts. It’s an endless topic. 🙂

  12. Momma Goose says:

    Hi Joy,

    Thanks for this very helpful post.

    I have a question regarding linking to, or–rather–searching for other bloggers. After I write a post, I insert my links. If I don’t have a good link in mind, I google the topic and link to my favorite result. However, this usually means that I link to non-blog sites. I’d love to provide other bloggers more love, but I don’t know a good, fast way to search for pertinent blogs.

    (Maybe I should just start typing the word “blog” after my search term?)

    Incidentally, I would love any thoughts regarding what I can do to increase blog traffic (especially return readers), though I am hesitant to ask for your time. Please don’t feel pressured, but should you find yourself on my blog, I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

    (And–yes!–I will add a blogroll ASAP!)

    Best,
    Momma Goose

    • Joy Victory says:

      Have you tried Google Blog Search? You also can search specifically on WordPress — when you’re logged in go to the homepage and you’ll see the search bar on the upper-right hand corner. It will give you the most relevant links, or you can click to see the most recent links.

      And I’ll definitely try to send you some helpful feedback in the near future. 😀

  13. Momma Goose says:

    Thanks, Joy–I actually wasn’t aware of either of those search tools. I’ll check them out now!

    ~M. Goose 🙂

  14. souldiaries says:

    Joy
    Thank you so much for all your informative posts. I sometimes feel like a dancer with two left feet as I navigate my way in cyberworld and blog life. I am going to try and play with hyperlink and see what happens. I would really appreciate it if you could pop past blog’s home at souldiaries and any suggestions that you think would help would be SO welcomed.
    Thanks,
    Viv

  15. Good Morning!
    I greatly enjoy your tutorials.
    I would definitely appreciate some feedback on my wordpress blog.
    Best,
    Meesh

  16. Thank you for this post. I, too, have trouble with readership because my interests and posts are varied, although all center around ‘the life and work of an artist,’ if it were to be categorized under one subject. I will try adding a blog roll and linking more than I already do.

    I have one other question: a non-profit has asked for my help with their current wordpress.org site. They have 0 tech experience and want something easier to manage. Would you recommend that they switch to wordpress.com and skip the downloading and hosting of the .org? Is there any easy way to transfer between the two, or would they have to build it new on .com? This might be off the beaten track a little, but I just thought I’d ask your opinion–
    Thanks!Laura

    • Joy Victory says:

      Laura, I’m not an expert on WordPress.org. But yes, they might find it easier to use WordPress.com and you can export the entire blog there. They might also want the domain mapping/registration upgrade, which allows them to customize their URL.

      Here is a snippet from our Support documentation on importing from .org:

      http://en.support.wordpress.com/moving-a-blog/#moving-from-wordpress-org

      If you are moving from a self-hosted blog using the WordPress.org software, you can move your blog to our WordPress.com service with the following steps:

      1) Register a WordPress.com account and blog at http://wordpress.com/signup

      2) In the old blog, go to Tools -> Export and download the XML file to your computer.

      3) In the new blog (on WordPress.com), go to Tools -> Import and upload the XML file you downloaded in step 2.

  17. Thank you Joy, that is very helpful! I’m so glad to have this resource to assist with all things wordpress.

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  19. Dear Joy,
    I am a brand new blogger and just wanted to say I’ve found these posts – and the comments – enormously helpful in getting me started. What a service! Thanks so much.

  20. kaberlinerin says:

    I’d love your advice regarding my blog “positively inspired revolution”. I learned to tag two nights ago and that’s made a huge difference. I’m working on adding more links to my blog as well. Any advice you have to offer would be very greatly appreciated, and thanks for a very helpful posting!

  21. Karl says:

    I have always battled with the issue of to open the link on a new page or not? As a blogger, I don’t want to lose my readers part way through a post to someone else’s content. But, then again, as a reader, I know some people don’t like new windows popping up. It’s easier for tabbed browsing but with those stuck in separate windows, they might get confused when their back button no longer works….
    What is the best practice for linking to further content?

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