There’s no better way to build your reader base than to keep the ones you already have.
Once readers have reached your blog, they’re much more likely to read related or upcoming posts. It’s important to focus on two kinds of reader retention: short term and long term. You want to make it easy for your readers to navigate to other posts right away, and to return to your blog later.
Use these strategies to make your readers stick around and come back for more.
“Check This Out!”
Short-term reader retention is all about letting your readers know there are other exciting things for them to read right now. In its most basic form, you’re telling your readers to check out your other posts. But don’t just tell your readers to keep reading. Make it easy and intuitive for them to keep reading. Here’s how:
Link to Older Posts
One of the easiest and most intuitive ways to direct your reader to other posts you’ve written is by including links in the body of your post. If you’re referring to something you’ve recently written about, highlight the text and link to the post.
Check out this post on Smitten Kitchen. Not only does the author link to a previous recipe in the first paragraph, but she also links to yesterday’s and tomorrow’s posts above. Near the bottom, she links to posts she did on the same day one year ago, two years ago… all the way up to seven years ago!
All in all, she links to ten other recipes and gives her readers every opportunity to keep exploring her archives. While you don’t need to link so exhaustively to older posts (especially if your archive isn’t so extensive), strive to include one or two links to older pieces in every new post you publish.
Use a Related Posts Plugin
Related posts plugins are easy to install and they’ll automatically generate a list of links to posts on associated topics. Most are customizable, so you can tell it what sorts of recommendations to make and how to display the list with your post.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) and JetPack are the best known. Find the best option for your blog.
Make Use of Your Sidebar
The sidebar of your blog is a great place to get your readers to keep reading. Use plugins or your blog platform features to post links to other posts on the right or left side. Some blogs list their most popular posts. Others list the best posts or the most commented.
The CJ Pony Parts blog uses a few different strategies to maximize reader retention. They list the most popular posts in their sidebar, and encourage readers to sign up for their newsletter. These strategies give your readers every opportunity to stay engaged with your blog.
“Come Back Soon!”
Long-term reader retention is all about getting your readers to come back to your blog in the future. You’ve got them in the door, and they’ve had a look around. Now you want to encourage them to come back to read your next post and the one after that.
Turn Readers Into Subscribers
Your subscriber list should be one of the most valuable components of your content marketing plan. Write a newsletter and encourage your readers to sign up. Getting notifications of new content will keep your readers coming back.
Let your readers know when and how they can subscribe. Give exclusive content or contest entries to readers who sign up. Encourage readers to refer their friends. However, don’t pester people and always be transparent about what people are signing up for. If you build a good, honest subscriber list, your readers will always know when and how to access your new content.
Writing a series is a great way to keep your readers coming back. Announce on your blog that this is the first post in a series and your readers will naturally want to hear more. The same interest that brought them to your initial post, or made them curious when you announced the series, will keep them engaged until the end.
In 10 Steps to Writing a Successful Series, Darren Rose details how you should announce your series, write an introductory post, and schedule it for one post per day. Give your readers a series of posts to look forward to and they’ll watch for the next installments.
Turn Readers into Followers
Social media is a powerful tool for reader retention. Encourage your readers to follow you on Twitter or Tumblr. Give them an easy way to subscribe to your YouTube channel or connect with you on Facebook. Whether it’s Flickr or Instagram, social media tools will allow you to tell your readers when you have new posts and help you build and expand your brand.
Tools like Twitter and Facebook make blog integration easy. Use their widgets and plugins to easily post tweets or a Flickr photostream to your sidebar. Social media integration will help grow your followers. Active social media will keep your readers informed and make them more likely to return.
Short and Long-Term Retention
Retention is a key component of any blog’s success. By thinking about both short and long-term retention strategies, you can make your readers spend more time on your site and come back more often. Keeping the eyeballs you have is one way to keep your reader base healthy and growing.