Trying to draw more traffic to your WordPress blog, Christian? For those trying to build a larger audience (say, to snag a potential publisher), here are five things I’ve found helpful.
1. Go to them
So you start a blog. What then? Drop it in front of Facebook friends and sit back, counting on them to bring you newcomers? That might not work. Your friends are loyal, but not necessarily doctrinally compatible, voracious readers, or oozing spare time out the ears. To widen your base, you’ll need to find new “regulars” who are. And you aren’t going to find them by waiting for them to stumble upon a blog they don’t know exists. You’ll have to go to them.
You know that colorful square a fellow blogger leaves when they like your post? That’s not just an attaboy; it’s also their calling card, a link back to their blog (assuming they’ve set up their Gravatar profile correctly). It’s their way of saying “I’m a blogger, too; come check out ma ‘wares!”
This is what you should be doing. Find some post that matches your values or spirit, note who else liked it, and start clicking on squares. Follow other blogs you appreciate; leave likes and meaningful comments. If a post really knocks it out of the park, reblog it. My hit count more than doubled once I started doing this stuff.
If you think about it, this is quite Biblical. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Isn’t it just like God to make your success dependent on what you give away?
2. Be sincere and judicious
Now I must hasten to add: don’t jump into your Reader and start spamming likes without reading posts. Your fellow bloggers know when you do that; their like count increases, but their hit count doesn’t. That’s regarded as poor taste, unless their post is just an image you can peruse from the Reader anyway.
Another reason to finish an article before reacting to it: to ensure you don’t end up endorsing a piece of theology you disagree with. That happened to me a few weeks ago; I had to undo the reblog. Your likes reflect on you, and they also serve as votes of approval to the poster. If you aren’t liking honestly, how will they know whether they actually wrote something good?
Leave edifying, non-perfunctory comments. Compliment a metaphor or turn of phrase that you found apt. Specify why the post resonated with you. And while we’re on this track…
3. Be willing to criticize and be criticized
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17). But it won’t happen if we have thin skin. Be willing to say why you disagree with someone’s theology, and be willing to graciously entertain those who disagree with you. Doctrine and truth matter. The world is watching. Like, literally – it’s the internet.
That said…don’t be a jerk.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
We must be honest, but your long-simmering annoyance over all things Joel Osteen (and no, I’m not a fan) is not a license to emotionally lambast every slightly misled blogger you just learned existed. If you can’t correct without being abrasive or petty…well, I’m not sure how much credibility a teacher of the Word has when violating one part of Scripture to uphold another, but I can’t imagine much. Win people over with the graciousness of your words.
4. Write concise
Bloggers are a special type: “readers on the go”. Your blog is one of many they’re exploring. Their time is precious to them, and it should be to you. If you want to retain and serve your readers, pursue the art of writing concisely. Under 1,000 words is a good post length (this post hits that mark exactly).
Once you’ve finished a post, put it down for a day, run around with a frisbee, have a mineral water, then come back and trim the fat. Insert more efficient words. Erase sentences that could instead be folded into a careful word choice elsewhere. Avoid huge paragraphs; those tell the reader at first sight, “this will take more time than you have”. There’s good reason that shorter paragraphs and emboldenings are good blogging etiquette.
Minimize unnecessary clicks between readers and your content. Surveys, subscription requests, even home pages that make readers dig for your actual posts – not good. Many visitors will take the route of least resistance and move on.
Insert the “Read More” tag a few paragraphs into each post. That way, readers see more post titles with less scrolling, get enough of a taste for each to decide whether they want to dig further, and give you more hits (another way of voting for quality) if they do. Everyone wins.
If you’re the type to post or reblog numerous times in one day, consider how much space you’re occupying in others’ Readers. Quieter blogs are easily drowned out. Try “daily roundup” type posts instead.
5. Guard your heart
WordPress is a maelstrom of opinion and stories. One moment you read a fluff piece about chasing your heart’s desires, and your heart swells with Biblically debatable hope; the next you read an aching lament over disappointment and toil, and your heart goes “My worst fears will come true. Why would I be any different?” That’s saying nothing of the barbs thrown around by other bloggers or just plain old, random, undisguised doubt.
It’s a roller coaster.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23).
This verse isn’t just for dodging bad dates. Satan will try to spin what you read. Ask God to guard your heart and mind (and writing!). Other bloggers’ stories are not yours. You needn’t embrace that cruel rebuke. You needn’t fire back, either. You are loved; you are God’s; you are headed directly and inescapably for his country beyond this life.
Assuming, of course, you have Jesus Christ as your Savior.