Are you sinking endless time into your blog, hoping to expand it, only to find yourself scraping for likes and comments?
Are you tossing out deep, powerful insights that honor God and his Word, but watching everyone meander past like browsers at a farmers’ market?
Are you sharing the absolute bottom depths of your heart, knowing full well there are others undergoing the same struggle, yet wondering why they never show up?
It’s not sinful to desire a larger platform through your blog. It can be, if your motives are wrong. But if your passion is elevating God and encouraging others, it’s unlikely that he has a problem with your goals.
But, as we’ve figured out by now (and of course this is what often drives us to blogging), God allows the world’s rules to matter. If you need a job, you have to submit resumes. If you want friends, you have to put in the effort. If you want to hike the Continental Divide Trail, you’ll need to be in shape. God’s favor and faithfulness will rarely bypass these realities. Though he does intervene, it behooves us to put in the hard work, and hard work includes knowing the rules.
If you’re frustrated with your blog’s inchworm growth, here are a few things you can ask yourself:
1. Am I relying too heavily on real-life friends?
I have a few blessed real-life friends who actively follow and interact with my blog. It took me a while to figure out why I wasn’t getting more.
Eventually I realized something that should have been obvious from the start: for the most part, the average cross-section of one’s real-life squad are not blog readers. Or readers of any kind, come to think of it.
When you offer a post to the WordPress community, you’re offering to a crowd that’s all bloggers to begin with. When you offer the same to your church crowd, it’s a very different composition of folks.
Only a certain type of person tends to peruse blogs as a habit. They have to be 1) given to social media habits, 2) possessed of at least some spare time, and 3) appreciative of reading. As you apply each condition, your audience shrinks. And it’s only then that we get to the question of whether your content actually resonates with the real-life chums you happen to know. It might not.
Don’t expect your entire real-life crowd to come flocking to your blog. Lean on the ones who do; encourage them to share on social media and invite the bloggy types they know. But to really grow your platform, you will, at some point, have to rely pretty heavily on pursuing other bloggers. That’s where you’re likely to find some of your biggest and most loyal followers.
2. Am I just posting Bible verses?
“The Bible is all we need,” you think to yourself as you post the 1,945th straight blog article containing one Scripture passage and no other content. “If people are going to pass me over because they think the Scripture I present is boring and insufficient, that’s on them, not me.”
You’re right that Scripture is all we need. But you’re still looking at an empty blog. And that may yet be on you. I know how this sounds on the surface, but as a blogger, you do need more than just reproduction of Scripture.
Keep in mind two things. One, Scripture itself tells us that it requires teaching. The practice of humans expounding the Bible is well-established throughout God’s Word, particularly in Paul’s pastoral letters – 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. If quoting Scripture alone were all that’s required, pastors wouldn’t be needed. (I know a few highly literal minds out there actually feel this way – that none of us should be teaching each other, that our words’ inferiority to Scripture means that our words should not be heard. But that’s a theological debate for another day, and not one in which church history has generally fallen on your side.)
More importantly, though, remember that many of your potential readers are already getting their Bible reading from other places. They attend church; they have personal study and devotional plans; they read together with others. They aren’t coming to you for that. When they seek you out, they’re looking for tertiary sources of spiritual education, blended with witty or evocative writing, soaked in themes they resonate with. That’s what blogging is, and that’s what potential readers are expecting. If all they get from you is the same thing they’re getting in five other channels, they’ll probably just move on.
Make it interesting. Tell a story from your life that illustrates a Scriptural truth. Offer an insight that popped into your head recently. Share something that gets you good and mad. Give them something they won’t get from the Bible sitting right next to their computer. You’re not sinning by doing any of this. You’re doing what pastors and teachers have been doing for generations – leading them back to the Word, just in a creative way.
(Technical note: when you do share Scripture verses – and make sure you do! – don’t make them the first words in your post. The WordPress Reader uses your first words as the teaser for your post, and if all people see is unvarnished Scripture in every teaser of yours, they may pass you up for the unfortunate but understandable reasons I’ve mentioned above.)
3. Am I interacting with my readers?
Funny story. It was New Years’ Eve 2016, and I was looking to push my yearly viewer count over a certain number threshold. In the waning hours, as I played Pandemic with friends (a board game I highly recommend) while staring at the WordPress dashboard on my phone, I threw good taste to the wind and simply started liking every post in my Reader. Immediately I got a huge, unprecedented spurt of likes and site hits. By midnight, I’d blown right past my threshold.
For the next 16 months, having learned my lesson, I kept up a high level of interaction with other bloggers. I liked a lot, I commented a lot, and in an attempt to maintain a certain integrity in all this, I actually read their stuff, too. It did take me an hour or so each day to really get myself out there in the WordPress blogosphere, but it brought a lot of attention back to my own blog.
In the 20 months since, I’ve let all that go, and my numbers have languished. There are certain reasons, and sure it takes some time, but it boils down to me. When you stop reciprocating other bloggers’ attention and participating in the community, your traffic drops until you’re left with only your most loyal followers. While they’re invaluable and treasured (hi guys! I love you!), they alone can’t be the platform you need for expansion.
Blogging is a community. We already feel alone in this world; why bring that here, too? Participate in the community. Explore others’ stuff. Cheer them on and let them know they’re doing great. Prioritize the ones who do swing by your blog.
4. Are my topics relevant?
I’m friends with a handful of published authors, and one once said: “If I see a blog post containing information, I don’t even think about clicking it.”
You might be excited about the doctrinal knowledge you’ve attained and eager to share it with the world. I won’t even call it pride. You just love learning about God and want others to join in your exploration.
Problem is, Karen, your average potential reader, is tottering through the kitchen with four deafening children on her heels, just found out her father has melanoma, and is teetering on bankruptcy from bailing her younger brother out of prison so many times. She just does not care about your formal dissertation on the doctrines of grace right now. She’s crying out to God.
What do you have for her, blogger?
This, I might venture, is where many male bloggers stumble. They have a tendency to dive deep into the apologetics or hermeneutics or discernment categories that come so naturally to them and don’t realize that, frankly, they’re niche categories. You can get a following there, but it’s even harder than ordinary blogging because your target audience is slim pickings at the outset (and already captured by more established bloggers). It takes a ton of pizazz and talent to even get people into such posts, much less expound this stuff in an engaging, relatable way.
You’re much more likely to make headway when your passions intersect with a topic that more people are dealing with this very day. That is not to say you can’t write about your other passions. Most likely, you will want to diversify your content. If you love breaking down the minutiae of the symbologies of baptism and think you’ve got the writing chops to get people intrigued, go right ahead, but Karen will probably respond more readily to your post last week about God’s fierce attention to the cries of his overwhelmed saints. It’s just how people are, and at one point, we have to play by those rules.
I hope this helped someone today. Keep it up. Don’t forget to use intriguing titles – delay a post for a week if you can’t think of one. Don’t post too much, or too seldom. Pray before you write – it makes a huge difference!
I’m glad you tuned in today. If you’ve found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media.