I’d like you to stop and think about something for a second.
Try to remember the last time you visited a site that had good, solid content but read like a technical manual. I’m talking factual and helpful, but not terribly compelling.
Maybe you wanted to know how to gap your spark plugs. You searched, you followed links, and you found an on-target blog that told you how to do exactly what you wanted to do. The instructions and site as a whole were dry, but very informative. You read, you took notes, and then you went out and used what you had learned.
What next? Well, assuming you’re not a true car devotee, your problem was solved once you were done gapping those spark plugs. You didn’t really need any more car tips, so you moved on.
Sites that capture our interest
Now instead, think about the last time something on a site really caught your interest — regardless of the topic.
Maybe a blogger wrote an emotional piece about how she never sees her kids due to her job, and determined to find a way to work at home so that she could see them more. Maybe a writer was an insightful oddball, saying all kinds of peculiar things that made you think. Or maybe what you read made you laugh out loud.
Did you return to that site? Well, assuming the subject matter was remotely relevant to you, there’s a good chance you did.
You were curious whether or not the blogger would leave her job. You wondered if you would read more oddball thinkers. You hoped you would find more to laugh about.
You came back because you were intrigued and emotionally engaged.
You came back because the site was interesting.
If you want your blog to have a regular, devoted readership, remember this:
People come because of the information you provide, but will usually only stay if you provide it in a way that interests them.
Here are four things I’ve found that will keep those people coming back.
1. Teach through personal experience
Consider inserting yourself into what might otherwise be a purely factual lesson or set of step-by-step instructions. Simply adding the personal touch can be enough to create a sense of connection between you and the reader.
One person who does this really well is customer service expert Steve Curtain. In my opinion, customer service is just about as uninteresting as it gets, but Steve’s posts are far from dry.
Instead of giving bullet points on why a given company’s customer service is good or bad, he writes about his family’s everyday encounters with various businesses.
Customer service? Interesting? Yes, Steve actually manages to do the impossible.
2. Stray from what’s relevant
The conventional advice is that our readers will abandon us if every word and thought isn’t about our blog’s central topic.
But that’s not always true. A bit of off-topic rambling now and then shows that your site is human, rather than a how-to manual, and will make readers more likely to be intrigued by you and what you do.
Consider marketing blogger Naomi Dunford’s post about getting a wine box stuck on her hand.
Did she abandon her topic in writing that post? No, it actually contains a marketing lesson.
But was she human, going off on tangents about enjoying wine a little too much, among other things? Yep. And was it engaging? In fact, was it easily one of her most popular posts to date? Yes again.
3. Create recurring themes and features
The internet is big. Very big.
Because of this, it’s easy for your blog to feel anonymous to your readers. You write something, they read it; you’re two ships passing in the night.
Anything you can do to create a sense of “inside” versus the faceless internet “outside” will make your site feel more intimate to readers.
A great way to do this is to have regular, recurring events, such as the caption contests on Mattress Police.
On a regular basis, author Diesel will take a pop culture photo, add his face to it, and ask readers to caption it. He then declares a winner . . . but more importantly, tracks winners over time.
People keep coming back to submit a caption in an attempt to get ahead of the next person in the rankings.
4. Borrow other interesting people
I love this tactic.
By myself, I’m one type of interesting. But my new friend Charlie Gilkey is a different kind of interesting.
So in an attempt to create some synergy, we recorded a “jam session” and posted it on our blogs.
Our readers (and listeners) loved it. In fact, we’re working on creating a whole series of joint calls, with a third person occasionally thrown in for added interest.
If you know people in your topic area who are interesting, consider doing mini joint-ventures. You can do calls like Charlie and I did, or you can trade guest posts, create a co-branded product, or run duo Q&A sessions. Some of the other person’s interestingness will rub off on you, and yours on them.
Remember, facts are a commodity. Even solid blogs with solid information will attract only one-off readers if they’re not compelling. People will come, read, learn, solve their immediate need . . . and likely never come again.
If you want those readers to stick, you’re going to need more than facts and lessons. Try infusing your topic with some human interest and you just might find those folks coming back for more.