Getting readers to your site and keeping them

posted at 06:50:20
By Flipping Heck!
Posted In

There's an excellent post by Jennifer Slegg (of JenSense fame) at Search Engine Land about Optimising your blog for search engines.

I've written about this subject before (and I was quite proud that it was linked to from a couple of high profile sites - yeay me!) and accessibility in general is close to my heart.

Conincidentally, Tony Hung, guest poster at Problogger has a brilliant post on marketing your blog (yet another subject I've written about which was nicely linked to!)

Both of these articles are looking at getting your blog into the search engines and then getting people onto your blog, however I think they miss the point that it's all too easy to get people to visit you - it's getting them to stick around and re-visit the site that's the problem!

One of the points that both Jen and Tony raise together is the use of RSS:

Jen says:

Decide On Full Or Partial Feeds
Do you offer full feeds or partial feeds? This is a personal preference, and is often dependent on what market space you are blogging in. One option is to offer two feeds, one being an ad-supported full feed, with an RSS ad included, and the other being an ad-free snippet copy of the feed, where readers won't see ads but will have to actually view your blog in order to read your full entry. But this will often come down to personal preference, and the preferences of your readers.

Tony Says:

Publish full feeds: A controversial topic. Publishing full feeds puts you at the mercy for content scrapers who will scrape your RSS feeds and repost your content, create traffic, and reap adsense bucks. On the other hand, some data suggests that it can also increase your traffic, and a few pundits swear by it. Feed subscriptions are critical; get your feeds burned through Feedburner so you can track how many are subscribing. People who subscribe to feeds rarely unsubscribe, and every single feed subscriber is a potential source of traffic to your blog.

Now, this is a really interesting point.

If you publish full text feeds no-one has to come to your website, they can see the content directly in their email package/feed reader/web browser and never have to visit you again.

If you publish partial feeds, people are almost "forced" to visit your website.

So, what's the best option?

I have to say I prefer full feeds. I hate having to click a link to read the rest of the article and then find out it's only a couple of sentences more that I had already seen. Actually, truth be told I've started culling such feeds from my list.

Darren Rowse (again at Problogger) experimented a little with full and partial feeds and found the following:

I know when ProBlogger moved from partial to full feeds that I noticed similar trends [a jump in RSS subscriber numbers and an increase in earnings from his feed ads] - however I also noticed a decrease in actual site visits (more people reading the full content in feeds) and a slight decrease in comments being left on the blog (same reason).

It stands to reason if people are viewing the full feed there'd be less site visits.... or does it?

You may have noticed that (because I'm vain cheeky tongue) I tend to cross link a lot to previous posts I have written. Actually, it's not a vanity point - shouting "Look at me! Look What I did!" - it gets people into my site that maybe normally wouldn't bother.

Take the four links I placed above:

If it weren't for the cross linking, these three articles would be languishing in the dusty archives of the site, never to see the light of day again!

Not only will interested readers click on the links, visit the site and hopefully have a further wander round, so will the search engines which increases your visibility in search results to new readers and subscribers.

A couple of important points to remember when cross linking is only link to relevant articles. There's no point in my linking to the Sprout Game post in an article about RSS is there?... Er... Whoops cheeky tongue

Also, make sure that you use the brilliant "title" tag attribute in your links, you can use these to add descriptive text to your links and convey extra meaning to your visitors. For example, the text I used for my "Make your blog search engine friendly" post "written about this subject before" doesn't tell anyone about the content of that link at all, for all you know it could have been the Sprout Game post (whoops, I did it again cheeky tongue), hover over the link though and you'll see the more descriptive text of "Make your blog search engine friendly" you, as the visitor, can then decided whether it's worth your while to click through (which of course it is!).

As far as I know, most blogging platforms allow you to specify title text when creating links, but if yours doesn't or you're "Old Skool" like me, you can edit the HTML code manually. Here and example:

<a href="" title="Flipping Heck I'm bored - lets play sprouts!">I wonder what this link is about</a>
Which displays as wonder what this link is about

Whatever you do, make it as simple as possible for the reader to decide whether to visit your blog or not. Personally I don't care what medium someone accesses my site through, as long as they enjoy the content that's good enough for me!


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