One of the primary goals of almost every blogger is to gain subscribers, and as a result to grow the readership of the blog. Building a large following of subscribers can be harder than it may seem at first, and it requires focus and a plan to get there.
There are plenty of different factors that play into the decision of visitors to subscribe or not to subscribe, and we’ll look at many of them in this post.
1. Credibility of the Author and Blog Owner
In most cases the author will be the blog owner, but multi-author blogs are becoming more common every day. Credibility is a huge factor in blogging, one that is often overlooked by new bloggers. It takes time to build credibility, but once it is there your subscriber count will grow exponentially faster.
In some cases you may be able to display your credibility to new visitors just by the quality of information that you are providing, or you may have an author bio at the end of the post or a detailed About page to do the job. The best form of credibility will come via recommendations from other bloggers who are trusted by visitors.
2. Quality of the Particular Blog Post Being Read
Quality is an undeniable factor when it comes to attracting new subscribers; however, you never know which post your new visitors will wind up seeing. The quality of your blog overall may be very high, but if the only post a visitor ever sees is low quality, they’re unlikely to subscribe. Whenever you post, make a conscious effort to think about how it will impact new visitors in their decision to subscribe. If this is the only post they see, they’ll assume that all of your posts will be at a similar level of quality.
3. Anticipation of Future Content
One of the best ways to build subscribers is to use their anticipation to make them feel like they’ll be missing out on something special if they don’t subscribe. Series of posts can be used effectively in this way, or you could also just mention a post that’s coming up in the near future. On a few occasions at my primary blog I’ve developed a post that I expected to do very well with social media, and at the end I’ve included a brief statement about a related post that will be published the following week along with a subscription link. These experimentations worked pretty well, and it’s probably something I should do more of.
4. Ease of Subscription
One of the most basic rules for gaining subscribers is that you should make it as simple and easy as possible. The harder you make people work to subscribe, the fewer will go through with it. This includes the location of your subscription links (make them easy to see/find) and the different options that you offer. In some niches you may have a high percentage of visitors that want to subscribe by email, and in other niches it will be almost all RSS subscribers. Still, it’s a good idea to give both options.
5. The Source of the Visit
Your subscription rates will be impacted by how the visitors arrived at your blog. Did they come through search engines? Through social media? From another blogger that recommended you with a link? Not all visitors are created equal. Getting 20,000 visitors from Digg may give you a healthy boost in subscribers, but 2,000 visitors from a popular and highly-respected blog could easily produce more new subscribers.
People like to read from bloggers that they can associate with or relate to. We like being around others who are likeminded, and when it comes to blogs, we prefer to read from others who have something in common with us. For this reason, the personality and identity (or lack thereof) of the blogger can make a huge difference.
Can visitors tell very quickly what your blog is all about? If so, it will be more appealing to those who are interested in the topics at hand, and if not, visitors who would otherwise be interested may leave confused about the purpose or direction of the blog. Especially in niches that are smaller or more specifically defined, being focused will result in a better ability to attract subscribers.
Most blog readers will be impressed and interested when they see an active community around the blog. If others like it and are getting involved, there must be something worth your time. A blog post with 25 in-depth comments will give a better impression than a post with no comments. Some visitors will want to be a part of whatever it is that is going on at your blog, and they’ll subscribe so they can stay involved.
Although quality of content is more important, design definitely has an impact as well. Avoid using the most common free themes, which can make your blog blend in with thousands of others. Give your blog an attractive, distinct and branded look and you’ll have an easier time with building subscribers.
If visitors can get similar or identical content at any number of blogs, they’re unlikely to subscribe. Make them feel like yours is unique and your content can’t be found anywhere else and you’re headed towards success. Unique blogs stand out more on the first visit and they say to the visitor, “subscribe to me or you’ll miss something special.”
11. Of Interest
I would be remiss not to mention the fact that the subject of the blog must be of interest to the visitor in order to draw a subscription. I’ve come across some beautifully-designed blogs with first-rate content that I have never subscribed to, obviously because the subject of the content simply is not of interest to me. While you can’t really control the interests of your visitors, you can market your blog in ways and places that will result in more targeted visitors.
12. Buzz/Coolness Factor
The final point I’m going to mention is one that impacts bloggers based on trends and popularity. A particular blog or a blogging subject may be getting a lot of attention or may be really hot at the moment. This typically will not last forever, but you could get some long-term benefits out of a short-term boost in popularity. A good example of the buzz and coolness factor is Stuff White People Like, which burst onto the seen and quickly landed the blogger a book deal after creating a ton of buzz.
What Impacts Your Subscription Decisions?
As a blog reader/visitor, what causes you to decide to subscribe or not to subscribe?