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I have written for years on my site about cycle touring, adventure, and gear reviews, but I'm aware that I may have put off my audience by starting off writing about these things, then losing my focus and writing about other stuff.

My blog has some traffic, under 1000 unique hits per month. I really would like to find out if there is actually a readership there and if it is possible I can improve my writing to better serve the readership. At the moment it seems a bit futile as no one ever comments, whereas in the past people would.

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  • This is a good question, and one many (most?) bloggers struggle with. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Jun 9 '16 at 20:31
  • Of course in some ways it is a labour of love and a way to have creative freedom, but I check Google analytics and try to improve based on what is popular. But it is a bit disheartening with little feedback. – Andrew Welch Jun 9 '16 at 20:48
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There are a few related issues here, which are tightly intertwined:

  • How big is my readership? A small readership usually mean comments are few and limited. There's nobody talking, and there's nobody to talk to.
  • What's the character of my readership? "Fans of the blog writer", "professional experts in the field", and "buyers looking for product reviews" are three vastly different audiences, even if their numbers are the same. Their commenting and conversation patterns will also be very different - fans will be prone to squeeing and asking the author's opinion on unrelated topics; subject-matter experts will analyse and argue; review-seekers will get their review and never look at the comment section, nor will they have anything to add to it.
  • What is my readership's motivation to comment on any particular post? Do they feel like they're helping someone? Setting someone straight? Engaging in a conversation? Making a new friend? If your blog post is nice and maybe informative but doesn't bake in some incentive to respond to it, you can get plenty of readers who just don't comment at all.

As I say, these issues are intertwined. Engagement in the comments can increase your readership; re-focusing on a particular target audience can change the nature and attractiveness of the comment section; bringing in new readers by better marketing can change who's talking in the comments and about what; and so on.

But the point is that these are the three levers you can try to use to get more conversation: * Enlarge your readership (by investing more in social media; by writing a standout piece that brings eyeballs to the rest of your work; etc.) * Know your target audience, so you don't stray off-target; modify your target if you're not happy with what you've currently got. * Be deliberate about what kind of conversation you'd like to see on each individual post, and write the post with that in mind: to encourage the particular conversation you'd like there.


Of these, I'm going to expand a bit on the third point, because it's the one that really involves writing. How do you encourage a particular conversation?

Mostly, you need to be familiar with the different typical types of conversations, and write with that in mind. Types of conversation include:

  • Argument: People arguing with your post, or with each other. (Encourage this by taking clear stances, by writing about loaded topics that people care strongly about, and if you're so inclined - by being somewhat inflammatory.)
  • Community: Your post is a touchpoint for a community, who congregate around your posts but branch off into all kinds of topics. (Encourage this by being warm and personal in your writing and in particular in the comment section, by treating your blog as a community.)
  • Assistance: You provide a question, or a question with a solution. The comments are for the rest of the internet to chime in with their solution, which will help people with the question or problem. (Encourage this by structuring your posts around specific questions, problems, or needs. Explicitly ask readers to chime in with their answers.)
  • Conversation: Your blog post provides a theory or a starting point for a wider conversation, where people share their opinions and insights. (Encourage this by writing about clear topics, discussing difficulties and complications, and perhaps avoiding strident, total conclusions. Also, participate in the comments to shape the kind of discussion you'd like to see.)
  • Open Floor: Your post is a question you want to put to the readership; the whole point of the post is for people to give interesting answers in the comments. (When doing this, be straight and to the point about this being a request from your readership; otherwise it edges into "Assistance," where you have your own thoughts but readers can share theirs as well.)

I'm sure there are other types I've missed, but this should be enough to give you some types, so you can figure what specific types you'd like to see on your specific posts. Once you've defined that, figuring out how to encourage that specific type of conversation is usually fairly straightforward.

Hope this helps; all the best!

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What you're hinting at is cringe ...Marketing...

And marketing is something that writers are traditionally crappy at - thus the need for agents and publishers.

You might try reading up on self publishing because a lot of the ideas that self publishers use will translate pretty directly into readers on your blog. One great self publishing podcast that talks a lot about this side of the business is The Rocking Self Publishing Podcast.

Ideas that can help include contests, giveaways, guest blogging, and doing other slightly more devious things like massaging Google's search responses to raise your blog higher up on the list of hits.

A lot of the problem is that there's a world of bloggers out there and there's no good way for people to find you unless you're putting yourself in their face somehow... and that takes marketing.

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Write more frequently. I realise that for hobby and product review blogs it may not be possible to keep up the rate of posting commonplace with celebrity news blogs, or mummyblogs, or political blogs, or other blogs for which the world provides a daily stream of writing prompts. Nonetheless if you want your blog to host conversation you need to make it a "go-to" place. If I type the letters "st" into the search box at the top of my screen the autocomplete supplies stackexchange.com. Ideally you want that.

It's possible that you put off your cycling audience by writing about other stuff, but I observe many bloggers do successfully mix one main theme with extra material about other interests. Discussion of solo outdoor sports is clearly your blog's "unique selling point". Readers are probably more likely to seek out your thoughts on tents than on whether you should work for free. Nonetheless posts like the latter can contribute to the success of a blog by making readers feel they know the author. (Incidentally, when thinking about how to get more readers for your blog, be aware that the vast majority of bloggers do effectively work for free. That does not mean they get no reward, as you already know. There are non-material rewards. But as you also already know, ad revenue is peanuts.) Returning to the point, you might like to think about what would be your desired ratio of "main theme" posts to "general interest" posts and stick loosely to that for a while and see how the clicks go. You might end up changing your main theme.

But more importantly, do what DoWhileNot said.

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