A comment today on one of my older posts here on IFB started me thinking a lot about reader engagement; what is it, how we measure it, and why it's important. Essentially, the blogger was frustrated that instead of visiting his blog to respond to a blog post he sent out via feedburner, one of his readers responded with a direct email back to him. Consequently, he asked if he should stop sending full blog posts via email and instead just send a link to his blog.
This honestly troubled me a bit because one – the fact that a reader is engaged enough to send a response IN ANY WAY is great, and two – why would you want to create an obstacle to reader engagement?
(Essentially what he would be doing if he stopped sending full posts and just sent a link) – He would just be trading one form of engagement for another.
Reader engagement is more than just validation that you're on the right track, it's a great way to determine if your readers are doing what you want them to: buying products, clicking links, etc.
I know we (and I) talk a lot about how to get more comments, and using that as a barometer for engagement but there are quite a few different ways in which readers can interact with your blog:
By visiting your blog, readers are engaging with it. Sometimes this is overlooked though, in favor of a more “obvious” form of engagement like comments or social media likes. Don't overlook it! Every page view is an opportunity.
Buying via Affiliate Links
If you monetize via affiliate links, this is a great way to measure whether or not you're doing it right. Ultimately you want your readers to buy via your links, and if they are, that means you're providing them with resources they're looking for. If not, maybe you haven't found the right mix of product/boutique yet. (this also goes for clicking on your ads)
This is the one we all strive for, and comments are nice, and an important validation of your content (sometimes), but they're not the most important measure of engagement.
I think sometimes we get caught up in how having more comments on your blog LOOKS to the outside eye instead of how meaningful they really are.
Some of your readers may prefer to engage with your blog via email. And that's okay. I've spoken before about how important it is to go where your readers are, and if you're sending blog posts via an RSS service or the like, then it may be easier for some of your readers to leave a reply that way instead of clicking through to your blog.
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ – there are so many OTHER ways for your readers to consume and respond to your content now than ever before. If your demographic tends to be younger, then they'll probably prefer to engage via social media likes/shares/whatever. If you're also active on social media, this is a great medium to have conversations with your readers and/or provide them with exclusive content.
Reading your newsletters
Open and click rate for your newsletters is an important way to measure how much your readers enjoy your content. I find that my email newsletters are one of the very top drivers of traffic to my blogs, but I do also get email responses to them periodically. Readers are very protective of their email addresses, so if they've given it to you, that's an important indication that you're doing something right in itself!
The type of engagement you'll get on your blog depends on your niche, your readers, and the kind of content you offer. If you're an outfit blogger primarily, you probably won't get a lot of comments on most of your posts. In this case, if you're active on Instagram, you might get a lot more engagement there, since it's a more visual medium. If your posts tend to be more personal or lifestyle based, you will probably get more comments, or have more conversations on Facebook. If you're a shopping blogger, you'll want to pay particular attention to how your affiliate links perform, which is an indication that your readers are engaging with you by shopping via your links.
Also, your engagement can depend on whether most of your readers are bloggers or not.
We tend to live by a “code” and will leave comments on blog posts to show our engagement with a fellow blogger, but non-blogger readers may not.
They may like your post on Facebook, or send you a quick email to show their support. Don't get frustrated or upset when readers don't engage with your blog the way YOU want them to – be thankful for their engagement wherever the choose to do it; the important thing is that your content and your message is resonating with someone.
[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]