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.
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:
– 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.