This is a post by Robert Farrington of Beat the Nine to Five.
Believe it or not, I’ve been blogging since 2009 – almost 4 years. However, last year I hit a plateau. My traffic growth stagnated – I was hovering around 16,000 visitors per month, and my audience wasn’t growing. I needed a change – I needed new readers and a compelling reason for them to stay. So, I embarked a personal journey to find my audience, which resulted in me increasing my year over year audience by 2.5 times.
I primarily blog in personal finance and investing, but these rules and tactics apply to every niche. I simply asked myself the following questions:
- Where else are readers in my niche?
- How can I get them to find my site?
- If I get them to my site, will they stick around or convert?
Working backwards, I knew I needed something different on my site to get readers to stick around. Of course, the first thought that came to mind was Write Epic Shit. Pretty simple, but it was actually harder to do than I thought.
I typically wrote 500-600 word blog posts that in hindsight, were pretty superficial. I didn’t dive deep. I just wrote to post an article Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I made a point to change that. I set a minimum word count at 700 (I’ve since bumped it up to 1,000), and asked myself how or why at every header. If I could answer that question, I included more in the blog post.
I also made more shareable content by linking more to other blogs and resources, and collaborating more with my peers in the personal finance and investing space. I also invested time in reading Headline Hacks by Jon Morrow to write better titles and outline better articles.
With a few months of better content on my site, I set out on finding my audience.
The New Forums: Modern Day Q&A
My first stop to find my audience was to identify potential forums and boards where they could be hanging out. In the personal finance space, there are a few forums, but most of these look down on links to your own website (even in the signature). Plus, many of these forums were extremely established, and I had no credibility with these guys that had been doing it for years.
Three key features set these sites apart from the old forums and boards:
- You Know They Are Your Target Audience
- The Quick Ability to Build Credibility Through Scoring
- The Ability to Link to Your Site in Answers
First, when someone posts a question, you know that is the specific information they are looking for. These people are letting you know they are your target audience! If you can answer their question really well, you can easily convert them into loyal followers.
Second, you gain credibility on these forums by answering questions well. On Yahoo! Answers, the more questions you answer well, the more points you get. The original poster selects the “Best Answer”, which moves your response to the top, and you get awarded even more points.
Finally, in your answer, you can link to your “source”. If you have a relevant article on your own website that highlights the information you provide, this can be a great source. I’d caution on spam answers, since the community is not tolerant to it, but valid sources are always welcome. Furthermore, as you can see below, the link is hyperlinked for easy traffic to your site.
Another great perk of Yahoo! Answers is they are indexed in search. You’ve probably seen them before, typically near the very top of search results. Here is another example below where my answer is also the first result indexed in Google:
Don’t think these sites are limited to my niche. On both of these Q&A sites, there are hundreds of sub-topics, and one will most likely match your niche.
As part of my search to find my audience, I knew I needed to improve my social presence. However, I didn’t really know how to go about it. I’ve had a Facebook Fan Page for my site since almost day 1, but it didn’t really do much for me. I’m on Twitter, but that only gets me traffic when I tweet.
I thought about my lesson from above – finding people who had a genuine interest in my topic. How could I find them on social media and grow my audience?
Beyond my Facebook Fan page, I started looking for groups that had like-minded individuals. Similar to the Q&A sites, I looked to contribute to the conversation and help others.
For my niche, I found popular investing groups like Motley Fool Bloggers and others, which are very active. Then, similar to above, by helping others and building credibility, you build your own brand.
Reddit is another forum-like social media platform I’ve found a lot of success in finding my audience. On Reddit, the key is to find sub-Reddits that target your niche. In my case, the sub-Reddit could be /financialplanning or /securityanalysis, or any of a multitude of topics that align with my blog.
There are sub-Reddits for just about every niche. And if there aren’t, you could always start one as well.
The fun thing about Reddit is all posts from all sub-Reddits have the potential to make it to the front page. Your post is voted up or down by users, which determines how visible your post gets.
This is where great headlines and epic content really make the difference. Chances are, by posting in a targeted sub-Reddit, your initial votes will be similar to your target audience. However, as your article rises on the main site, new readers are going to see your content for the first time. If you have epic content, they’ll be more inclined to continue to vote it up.
LinkedIn is my newest foray into finding my audience. LinkedIn has Groups, which people can join and you can post content to. LinkedIn allows you to post the same article to multiple groups, which can allow you to reach a broad audience.
For my main blog, I joined the Finance Club group with has over 300,000 members – a large potential audience for my content.
However, there are a lot of other large groups in a variety of niches as well. For example, there is a group for Social Media Marketing, which has over 550,000 members. Plus, similar to Reddit, your content gets voted and could end up on the LinkedIn front page.
Finally, many niches have unique platforms that can help build an audience. For blogs that focus on crafts and use lots of pictures, Pinterest can be a great audience builder.
For investing and personal finance, there are a lot of unique sites like StockTwits, which is a combination of Twitter and investing news. Beyond the StockTwits platform, correctly promoting a stock on social media can get your content syndicated on big sites like Yahoo! Finance or NASDAQ.
This is another way you can leverage the power of social media to build an audience.
Cultivating an Audience is Key
My biggest takeaway from having to find my audience is a reminder many experts preach – promotion is 80% of the game. You can write epic shit, but if nobody comes to read it, what good does it do?
Spend the time to search out your audience early. I waited years before I started hunting down where my audience hangs out. Now that I’ve started getting traction, my audience is growing once again.
The same readers that I find via Yahoo! Answers are sharing my content on Facebook, which is sending more referrals to my site. Those people are tweeting or liking, and my audience grows.
Writing Epic Shit is the baseline – finding your audience is the key.
Where did you find your target audience? How have you cultivated them? Let me know in the comments of this quote.