Secrets To Getting People To Read and Follow Your Blog – Interview with Mark Shead

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Getting more traffic to your website can be a challenge.  Sure, there are some shortcuts, secrets if you will, to getting more traffic, but traffic for traffic’s sake won’t do you any good.  Your goal should be to build a loyal following.  To lead a tribe, as Seth Godin would say.

Someone who has managed to successfully build a loyal online following is Mark Shead from Productivity501.com.  Mark regularly writes about productivity and the experiences he’s encountered during his entrepreneurial journey.

Mark agreed to share a few of his secrets with us:

Q.  I’m new to the web and would like to use a blog to help promote my business. What should I do? (any mistakes that you’ve made that I shouldn’t repeat?)

A.  One of the most important things you can do is use your website to create a link between the reader and yourself.  You want to provide value in a way that will make your name be the one that pops into their minds when they have a problem that you or your company can solve.

Don’t think of your website as a online brochure. Think of it as an on-going networking meeting where you can interact with people and try to help solve their problems.

Think about how your business can scale using web traffic. Instead of just focusing on how much you need to make per hour, think in terms of things you can do where you can leverage the size of your audience to provide greater value with less cost. Let’s say that you’d need to charge $500 to help someone one-on-one for a full day.  Is there a way you could help 100 people simultaneously and only need to charge $50 per person?  You want to use your blog to give you an audience and then use technology to take every hour you invest and make it worth more by multiplying it to more people.

As I mentioned, I haven’t done much to try to create business from Productivity501. Part of this is because I really don’t want to do consulting 40 hours a week and most of the time I’m busy as it is.  If I ever want to really start selling to my Productivity501 readers, I’d create a way to get leads and then put them through a sales funnel, working hard to automate as much of the back-end work as possible.

For example, let’s say I wanted to start doing a lot more software engineering work. I’d probably write a book or create a presentation about having custom software created that looked at some of the common pitfalls to avoid, etc. Then I’d talk about it on Productivity501.  To get the product, you’d have to fill out a form that would dump into a CRM system.

I might even charge a small fee for the content. For example, I’d give the printed book away for free, but ask people to pay $4.00 to cover shipping. The fee wouldn’t be so much to gather money as it would be to qualify prospects. If they aren’t willing to spend $4 to learn how to avoid common pitfalls in having custom software developed, then they probably aren’t going to spend $10,000 for a small software project.

Q. What are your best techniques for getting traffic to your blog?

1. Interview people. It is a great way to say, “Hey, look at my blog” without saying, “Hey, look at my blog.”  Interviewing can help establish a relationship with others. I’ve had good luck asking 20 people the same question and then compiling their answers with my comments between them. Most of the people I’ve met online have come out of these types of interviews.

2. Be (at least slightly) controversial. My article “Never Hire an MBA” has gotten a lot more traffic than if it was titled something like “Things to Consider When Hiring an MBA.” Your voice needs to be different to get noticed.  I wouldn’t suggest just going and picking a fight for no reason, but most deep thinkers have at least some ideas that aren’t mainstream. Those are the types of things that make people stop and think.

3. Compile valuable information. The first big hit I had on my blog was a list of podcasts from college lectures.  I found all the classes I could on the web and presented them in a simple list so people could subscribe to them. This was valuable because it pulled together the data from many different universities into a single list. One nice thing about large lists is that people tend to bookmark them for later. This doesn’t happen with a short 300-word post that gets read once and then forgotten.

4. Offer solutions to things that annoy large groups of people. For example, in “Parking Strategies” I discussed the different ways to approach selecting a parking place.  The post got a lot of traffic because it offers solutions to an annoyance that most people have encountered. “How to Memorize” does well because most people find memorization very difficult and it offers a method to make certain types of memory problems easy.

5. Reuse posts. I have posts that are over five years old.  Chances are no one is going to see them, so I will republish them.  Sometimes I’ve had a post that was a flop the first time, but it does incredibly well when I republish it a few years later. I’ll usually try to revamp an article a bit before republishing it by rewriting sections that can be improved, adding pictures or maybe putting in some diagrams. (If you want to republish, take care in choosing your permalink setup. You want the URL to always stay the same.)

6. Create definitive posts. My article about getting a Harvard Extension School master’s degree is one of the most in-depth discussions of the subject you’ll find on the web.  On my personal site, I wrote another review looking at the degree from a software engineering perspective. It is also one of the more in-depth articles on the web about the ALM in IT program. Another example is the piece I wrote about digital signatures and encryption. Posts like that take a very long time to write, but they offer value much greater than what you’ll get with a 500-word blog post. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write any shorter posts, but don’t neglect longer form posts that can become the definitive article about your topic.

Q.  How did you get over 14,000 people to sign up to “follow your blog”?

I’m coming up on six years with Productivity501 now and most of the growth has been just a few at a time.  Back when I was more worried about growing my RSS subscriber numbers, I would add a header to pages that were getting a lot of traffic suggesting that people subscribe. I’ve also run some contests where you have to be subscribed to the RSS feed or my email list to win. iPod Shuffles are generally good things to giveaway. They aren’t too expensive, Apple usually offers free shipping and you can have them engraved with your site name.

Note from Wayne: Thanks for the idea Mark!  I’m trying the iPod giveaway. 

But really there isn’t any secret. It is just a lot of writing and getting in front of a large number of people. Productivity501 has just under 800 posts and is coming up on 500,000 words. For every post that does well and attracts people to follow the blog there are many that flop.  If you want to learn how to blog and attract readers, you need to write and post a lot of content. You can read books, other blogs, interviews, etc. but you are a unique person and what works for you may not work for anyone else.

Oh and I’m not sure how well I trust FeedBurner’s numbers. My count ranges from 14,000 to 21,000 depending on the day. I’m sure my actual daily readers via RSS are much lower than either of those numbers.


As you can see, Mark’s ideas have been battle tested and continue to provide results.  I’ve already started implementing his suggestions on this blog (hence this interview), and I hope you’ll do the same on your website.

If you like this post, you’d probably enjoy Mark’s blog Productivity501.com.

 
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4 thoughts on “Secrets To Getting People To Read and Follow Your Blog – Interview with Mark Shead”

  1. I want to to thank you for this fantastic read!!
    I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it. I have you book marked to
    check out new stuff you post…

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CRUSH IT ON FACEBOOK
Likes, Shares, & Comments WON'T Put Money In Your Bank Account.

In Our Free Course:

Crush It On Facebook In 30-Days Or Less

You'll Discover:

A Simple Facebook Strategy We Used To Take a Client From Losing $10k Each Month To Making Thousands...In Only 86 Days.

The 3-Step Formula We Used To Increase Another Client's Sales By Over $9,000 per Month (and they're spending less than $400 per month on Facebook Ads)

We'll Also Share Our "24-Hour Audience Identifier Campaign"

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