Quality beats quantity.
That’s been my view on life for a long time, and it’s the approach I adopted when I decided to create a new blog called Engaged Marriage about 7 months ago. The mission of my site is to help younger married and engaged couples get more out of their relationships and their family life.
Today, that mission is being achieved not only through my own blog posts, but through an active, engaged and loyal community of readers. As you will see, my readership stats aren’t particularly impressive, but the impact of the site has been meaningful enough to prompt questions from much larger and longer-established bloggers.
The question I get asked most often is: How have you built such a great community at Engaged Marriage?
First a Word on Quantity
Although my focus is always centered on quality content and building cool relationships, I’ve had some decent success in the numbers game for a blog that’s only 7 months old. Most recently, I even met a big goal of mine by having a guest post featured on Problogger.
As of today, my site has around 625 RSS subscribers. While this isn’t a huge number, I think it’s pretty strong given my largely “non-techie” audience. They aren’t necessarily plugged into the online community, and most aren’t familiar with Google Reader. I’ll be launching a newsletter very soon, which I suspect will give a boost to my subscriber count.
As you can see below, this number has grown steadily over time with a lot more momentum the last few months. In fact, I only had 215 subscribers on Christmas Day.
As far as traffic goes, I’m currently averaging around 13,000 pageviews per month, and I have an average of 210 visitors per day. Again, I’m proud of the traffic and it’s growing all the time. However, it’s certainly not something to brag about.
My Audience is “Engaged”
What makes my site fairly unique is the level of engagement I receive from my readers. This is tough to quantify, but I think a good measure is the quality and number of comments that my posts receive. Again, keep in mind that most readers aren’t bloggers, so there are not a lot of “fluff” comments aimed solely at generating referral traffic to other sites.
As of today, the 111 posts on my site have received a total of 1,962 comments.
That’s an average of 18 comments per post, which is quite good. However, these numbers don’t reflect the fact that most of the site’s early posts received very few comments since not many people were reading them. Recently, it is not uncommon for many posts to receive 30-40 comments. I had one post (introducing a contest) with over 170 comments.
Again, I don’t think the number of comments is all that compelling. However, if you take a few minutes to read through some of the entries, I think you’ll agree that my readers are adding valuable, thoughtful content that means something to them.
On a related note, I have to say that the readers of Engaged Marriage are particularly loyal. In just a few months, the Engaged Marriage Facebook page has 350 fans and our Twitter followers exceed 4,100 folks. And again, these community members are active in social media and enthusiastic about sharing the content.
5 Blog Post Tricks I used for Building a Community Around a Blog
Now that you know the story behind my site and my readership, I wanted to share a few tips about how you can build loyalty and interaction with your own blog. Where appropriate, I’ve include a sample post to show you what I mean. These happen to be mostly financial-related posts (a hot topic), but I get big reaction in other areas too…particularly Sex and Parenting!
1. Be Genuine
I write about having awesome relationships, so it would be easy to give out advice as if I know it all. However, I don’t know it all, and I share many of the same struggles as my readers. You will see that I am upfront about this in the welcome area at the top of the sidebar as well as in my About Page.
My readers often tell me that I seem “real” and they can relate very well to my posts. I also think it’s helpful to include pictures of yourself if your blog is written in the first person. This builds a real connection with the audience.
2. Tell Stories
When I’ve surveyed my readers about their preferences (you should do this for your blog, too), I always receive feedback that they’d like to hear more personal stories. I have recently put an emphasis on this, and the results have been fantastic. I wrote a post about How We Paid Off $54,500 in Debt, and it has 59 comments and climbing. Readers find inspiration in real stories, and it builds your brand unlike anything else.
3. Invite Controversy
I am not advocating doing anything inflammatory or taking personal attacks. While those tactics can get you some attention, they will not build a healthy audience in the long-term. However, it is helpful to write about a topic that invokes passion because you will get A LOT of input with reader reactions.
I recently wrote a post called “Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts?” and the reaction was incredible. Not only has it received 68 awesome comments, but it is getting attention for my site. I was actually just interviewed for a book related to money and marriage because of this article, and I’ll be getting a plug for Engaged Marriage in the book!
4. Take a Stand
I have also found it valuable to express my opinions when I feel strongly about a topic. Again, this will invoke a reaction both for and against your stance, but if you steer a healthy dialogue, everyone can learn from each other. I made it clear that I am against the idea of Prenuptial Agreements, and the resulting discussion in the comments was amazing.
5. Be Accessible
Finally, I’ll leave you with what I consider to be the key to my site’s success. I make myself available to my readers, and I think many would consider me a trusted “cyber-friend.” I respond to every comment (I even responded to the insane number of comments on my Problogger post), and I help promote my online friends.
I know this won’t be sustainable to the same degree for the long-term as the numbers continue to grow, but I think it’s vitally important for building an engaged culture around your site. Besides that, I like it. It is the personal emails that I receive from readers who have been touched by my writing that makes it all worthwhile. Oh, that and the fact that the site is starting to generate some money.
What Tips Do You Have to Share?
I hope you found this post useful. Like I do on many of my posts, I’d like to open things up in the comments to hear from you. What tips for building a community would you add to this list?
Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage as source of marriage advice for young couples who want to have a happy family life. Please sign up for free updates to become part of a thriving community that is working together to improve everything from their spirituality to their sex lives.