Maybe you’ve checked out your traffic stats, and seen that people definitely DO visit. But your subscriber count remains puny.
Don’t worry — you can fix this.
In my experience growing my own blog into a multi-six-figure earner — and in reviewing hundreds of startup blogs — I’ve discovered there are seven elements that need to be in place when new readers land on your blog, if you want them to subscribe.
You’ve got about 15 seconds tops to show these to them, so they quickly understand that you write about something they’re interested in. Otherwise, they leave.
Often, some of these important elements are missing, or conflict with each other and create confusion.
Here are the key ingredients you need, and how to blend them all work together to create a pleasing first-time experience that gets new readers to subscribe:
A memorable address
The very first thing new readers learn about your blog is its Web address, or URL. Make it memorable, so that if they want to come back, they can remember how to find you. If your blog name is too long or weirdly spelled, you may lose people.
Your URL might be just your name. It might be something a bit opaque, where I don’t immediately grasp your drift. If so, the other elements on your site will need to do a bit more work to hook readers.
If your URL isn’t the same as the name of your blog, again, it means we have to do a bit more thinking to figure out what’s going on on your blog. If this is you, consider buying the URL of your blog name, if you can. It’ll help. Speaking of which:
What’s in a name
After landing on your blog, the first thing readers should see is the name of your blog, in the header. If it’s not the same as your URL, readers start trying to puzzle this out.
What is this, what the URL says, or what the name says?
Between the two, readers will be looking for clarity. Is this a fitness blog? A mommy blog? A travel blog? A blog with tips on how to play the ocarina?
If newbies look at the URL and blog name and haven’t deduced what your blog topic is, they’ll then give a quick glance to the next elements:
Tag, you’re it
Just below your headline should be a tagline. This is a short phrase or sentence that gives the reader more information about what happens on your blog, and who you write for.
You’ll note I said short — as in 4-9 words. Not three sentences long…that’s too much to wade through in a tagline. Think of big-company slogans, and you get the drift on length. Think “Just do it” or “melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” That latter slogan has eight words. See what I mean?
Often, taglines are either missing entirely from new blogs, or the tagline doesn’t provide any new information.
An example is a new travel blog I recently saw named “I Lost My Heart in Japan,” where the tagline was “A blog about Japan and all the things I fell in love with.”
See the problem? The tagline says the same thing as the blog name, really. And at 13 words, it takes too long to get through.
Instead, add new information in the tagline. Copyblogger does a nice job of this. You might think from the name, that it’s about copywriting and blogging. The tagline shows you they have a more specific focus these days:
The other important goal this tagline achieves is to tell you who should read the blog. People who want to master content marketing. Bingo!
There’s one more key element that helps new arrivals get oriented:
Behind that blog headline and tagline should be some sort of graphical image that visually conveys the gist of your blog topic. Too many startup blogs have a blank header.
Surveys show that people absorb visual information faster than they do text, so your graphic can go a long way to draw new readers in, quickly communicate your topic, and make your blog seem welcoming and appealing. Look at how the kitchen utensils help you quickly get what The Hungry Mama is all about:
Once readers have scanned these four elements, if they’ve figured out this blog might be for them, they’re probably scrolling down your blog, seeking for more info.
What will they find next? Usually, your most recent blog post. It better rock.
Read all about it
On a first visit, new readers will scan the headline of your top post. If they like what they see, they may read that post, or scan more headlines and read another.
If that headline doesn’t hook them…it’s time to go. Most blog headlines are non-informational, and leave readers baffled. They have no key words that tell us who the intended audience is, or what we’ll learn.
The goal of your blog posts is to get readers to subscribe. Your headline needs to suck us in, and the post needs to be fresh and fascinating. Think about what compelling content you could offer that would make readers think, “Dang! I don’t want to miss any of this.”
If you’re successful in writing your blog headlines and taglines, your new reader is looking for a way to sign up. Do you have one?
A magnetic box
Your blog needs a big, attractive, obvious way for readers to give you their email and subscribe. There are an amazing number of blogs where you can’t figure out how to do it.
Inside that box needs to be an irresistible free offer, that new subscribers get immediately upon signing up. That’s the final piece of the puzzle that turns casual visitors into subscribers you hang onto — and can sell stuff to.
Freebie for Subscribers
A box that just says “Subscribe by email and get free updates” is simply not offering enough these days. A free product for subscribers has become standard.
It doesn’t have to be anything fabulous. My first free product was a 5-page, co-written handout from an Webinar I did.
Take 5 of your best blog posts and package them into a report on a topic. Presto! Free product.
Next, create an enticing-looking cover graphic of that freebie — and put it in the box. The finished product should look something like this:
Now, it’s no mystery what you get when you subscribe, you can see it’s free to do so, and there’s a tantalizing gift coming the minute you do. Who can resist?
Why big blogs make bad examples
I know what you’re thinking — “I read X hugely popular blog that breaks these rules.”
Yes, they can. Because they already have 100,000 subscribers. If you don’t, you’re going to have to make it easy for newbies to quickly ‘get’ what you blog about.
The rules for building a blog are different than the rules for running a blog that’s already a brand name. Mashable doesn’t have to have a tagline, for instance, and Copyblogger can live without a header graphic.
But you can’t.
Get these elements working in harmony on your blog, and you’ll see a big jump in interest and subscribers — I promise. Once you’re a megastar, you can change or eliminate them as you please.
Carol Tice writes the Make a Living Writing blog. Her new e-book is Small Blog, Big Income.