Thursday, January 12, 2012

3 Ways to Attract New Blog Readers

3 Ways to Attract
New Blog Readers
through Hosting

Part 3 of the series
How to Attract Readers to Your Blog

What You Will Learn

You spent days (or weeks! Months!) setting up your blog, perfecting your design, and writing quality content…but you have no readers! Before you can even begin to worry about developing a following, you first need to let the world know your blog exists. But how do you get your name out there?

I've been asked by a number of people how I network my blog to attract readers. To answer that question, I’ve written a series of Blogging Tips and Tricks posts. In each post in the series I will outline a few methods for attracting new readers to your blog. I am NOT an expert and these tips are based on my own observations and experiences.

Previous posts in the series:

Let's Do This!

Method 1: Host a Giveaway

One of the fastest ways to get people to look at your blog is to offer them a chance to get something for free. Giveaways are great for exposure.

You have a couple of choices when you do this. You can:
  • Make following a requirement
  • Not make following a requirement
  • Require/give extra entries for spreading the word

Obviously having following as a requirement will make your follower numbers skyrocket. All I have to do is follow you with no intention of ever reading your blog and I could win something? Score! Lots of people will follow you (though probably not me. I feel like I'm lying if I do that).

The downside? Many of these people are not "true" followers in the sense that they'll keep coming back.

Personally, I'm a statistics junky, so I don't like muddying my follower stats with these types of followers (they're also the most likely to un-follow you, which always makes me sad).

Also, not everyone who reads your blog is going to be a blogger, so making following a requirement may alienate your most devoted readers! I started reading blogs long before I had an account with Blogger and I'm not the type of person to subscribe through email, but that didn't make me any less of a follower.

Because of all of this, I will never ask you to follow my blog in order to enter a giveaway. BUT, my follower numbers are also a lot lower as a result.

So there are pros and cons. This is a personal choice and only you can determine what is right for you and your blog.

Giving extra entries is a great way to help spread the word about your blog. Basically, you're getting the people who enter your giveaway to do a little leg work for you and, as a result, your blog will be exposed to lots of untapped readers.

The only reason I don't normally do this is because I'm too lazy to add up extra entries (it was CRAZY the one time I did this, though I did have "unconventional" extra entries). But, there again, my blog's exposure is probably taking a hit.

I hear Rafflecopter is great if you want to use extra entries (I will probably never use Rafflecopter because I don't like it. But that's a whole 'nother conversation).

Making extra entries a requirement may turn some people off, too (not everyone uses Twitter and Facebook! Like, um, me...).

How to spread the word about your giveaway:
  • Join a giveaway hop
  • Sign up your giveaways with Candace's Saturday Situation
  • Send invitations through Goodreads (but not too many, please!)
  • Announce it on your blog sidebars 
  • Announce it on the bottom of your blog posts (for those who read your blog in a feed reader)
  • Announce it on Facebook/Twitter
  • Make a button for people to grab
  • Require/offer extra entries for spreading the word
  • I'm sure there are other ways, what do you suggest?

Method 2: Host an Event

Hosting an event is a great way to expose yourself to new readers. Just look at Busting the Newbie Blues for an example! I also recently co-hosted the Historical Fantasy Jubilee.

I saw an increase in followers as a result of both events, but even more importantly those events have been great networking opportunities. Almost every blog that signed up for Busting the Newbie Blues last year are blogs I still read now, and I've found many more to add to my feed reader this year.

What did I do to spread the word about Busting the Newbie Blues?
  • I emailed bloggers who I thought might be interested and asked if they would join
  • I made a button for people to add to their blogs
  • My event includes interaction where bloggers make a post on their own blogs

What did we do to spread the word about the Historical Fantasy Jubilee?
  • Ruby and I sent out email invitations to select bloggers and encouraged them to invite their friends
  • Ruby and I made event and game buttons for people to add to their blogs
  • Ruby tweeted links to our event
  • Some of our giveaways offered extra entries for tweeting
  • We added our giveaways to linkups like Candace's Saturday Situation (and others)
  • The authors who participated in the event spread the word through their own social networks

What you should keep in mind:
  • Hosting an event takes A LOT of time and effort, so plan your time accordingly
  • The more involved you are, the more involved others will be

Method 3: Host a Challenge

Hosting a challenge is not something I have done yet, but I imagine it would be a good way to attract readers to your blog. Not only that, but it is a great way to get readers to keep coming back to your blog.

Why it brings in readers:
  • They're first introduced to your blog when they sign up
  • They keep coming back to your blog to report their progress
  • They'll talk about your challenge on their own blogs

What you can do to spread the word:
  • Make a button (challenge participants love buttons!)
  • Send out an invitation on Goodreads
  • Advertise your challenge on your own blog (so people passing through will stay)
  • Use Facebook or Twitter
  • Send email invitations to people you think might be interested (but don't be spammy!)

What you should keep in mind:
  • Hosting a challenge takes a lot of time and effort
  • The more involved you are, the more involved others will be
  • Make the rules clear
  • Don't change the rules partway through! 
  • Be on top of things--if you have a linky list each month, make sure you put it up at the beginning of every month
  • From the beginning, clearly state what participants need to do when they finish the challenge
  • Check out The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge or Stalking the Bookshelves and I Eat Words' YA Series Challenge for examples of well-run challenges

What do you think are good things to host?
Have you hosted any of these?
Do you have any advice about what to do or not do when acting as a host?

Click here to make a request for a future Tips & Tricks post.
The form is anonymous, so please don't feel shy at all! 

I'm certainly not an expert, but I'll try my hardest to explain what I do know and research what I don't know. Please keep in mind this feature will only appear once a month, so it may take some time for me to get to your question--but I promise you I will!

Click here to read previous Tips & Tricks Posts


  1. Hosting an event is an excellent way to generate interest in your blog. I definitely recommend finding an awesome partner in crime, though!

    Those buttons were all you!

  2. I second that recommendation :) As for the buttons, don't forget your creative eye! ;)

  3. Great advice as usual, Small!
    I was so happy for Busting the Newbie Blues because that's how I got to know you and your blog and now you're one of my favorite bloggy-people!

    And I agree with you about rafflecopter, I don't like it either.

    Anyway, I love how you broke these advices into sections. Oddly enough, I don't like hosting giveaway, but Events and Challenges are fun, even if they are a lot of work.

    1. Thanks! Aw, I am really amazed every time I think of how many of my closest blogging friends were brought to my attention through Busting the Newbie Blues.

      You don't like Rafflecopter either?! Oh whew, I thought I was the only one. Everyone's always using it now (I feel sort of like I'm still wearing last year's fashions every time I put up a google docs giveaway form).

  4. True. I found you through Busting the Newbie Blues another blog did and then i followed you forever.

    Can't say challenges bring as many followers as the the other two. At least from what i saw last year at my blog.

    Giveaways on the other hand are like a festival full of people XD

    Haven't been part of an Event yet, but i hope a day too. Mostly cause it's fun, not the followers.

    Rafflecopter is great for the extra entries. It adds them on its own. I will never use it either though. Can't say i'm a fan of it.

    Making extra entries a requirement may turn some people off, too (not everyone uses Twitter and Facebook! Like, um, me...)

    That turns off even me who i have accounts everywhere. I'm too bored to login all the time XD If i have to write 5 passwords and usernames for a single giveaway, i just don't enter.

    1. Aw, I think it was through Alex's blog? I love hearing all of our BtNB connection stories :)

      Oh, I've never hosted a challenge. I just know that I usually follow the challenge hosts. That way I know when they post an update or something important for the challenge.

      You don't like Rafflecopter either?! I'm so not alone anymore! :) Great point about having to sign in. I've been getting so pressed for time lately that I haven't even been entering giveaways that require a comment. I didn't realize you had to sign in for those extra entries, but it makes sense.

  5. I'm not a rafflecopter fan either. I usually don't enter rafflecopter giveaway. Although I definitely understand why people use the, because I hate having to count up all the extra entries.

    I like giving people the option to follow my blog as an extra entry. I wouldn't require a follow. Although I don't actually get a lot of followers from giveaways. Some, but not that many. Of course I've never participated in a giveaway hop. Most of my followers come from the Follow Friday or IMM.

    1. Wow, another person who doesn't like Rafflecopter! I don't know why I ever thought I was in the minority :P Though, I agree, I can see why people use it for the extra entries.

  6. All of these are true, for sure! I wanted to host a challenge this year, but couldn't decide what type of challenge. Maybe next year.

    I'm so sad that the YA Series Challenge doesn't seem to be happening this year! It was one of my faves and it depresses me every time I check and there's no mention of it in 2012. :'(

    1. I would LOVE if you hosted a challenge. Oh oh, but aren't you co-hosting the All Male Review challenge again? Please, please with a cherry on top host it again :) I want more excuses to use that adorable button.

      I'm sad too :( I kept obsessively checking it when I was setting up my challenges. (Even though I TOTALLY failed it last year).

  7. Hosting a challenge or event is a great idea. I tried the giveaway thing (when I was still very new) and it didn't really work out all that well for me. I used rafflecopter and didn't mind it all that much, but I have heard not many people are a fan.

    @Yiota, I agree about making extra entries a requirement being a turn off for a lot of people. I think it's best to keep them optional.

    1. I think the giveaway part can be great, if you can get the word out there. There are a few great link ups, like Candace's that I mentioned above and UK Book Giveaways (you can list there if your giveaway is international). I've also noticed if I'm participating in a meme link up and I write something like "Small Review (+ giveaway)" more people stop by :P

    2. Aha! Great idea about the (+ giveaway) on meme link ups! I am currently hosting a giveaway (Two Signed and Hanklerfished copies of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, in case anyone is interested), and because my blog is so new, I'm having a hard time getting the word out there. But this post is really helping, and that hint for meme link ups will help as well! Thanks!

  8. The good thing about Rafflecopter is that it adds up the entries for you. I'm still not a fan of it though.

    Making following a requirement in giveaways really does make a difference in your follower count and while I don't think it's indicative of how much traffic your blog receives, it seems to matter to publishers :(

    1. I feel like I should start an "I don't like Rafflecopter" club now :P

      I think publishers are starting to get in on the follower game. Lately I've seen them more concerned with pageviews instead of followers. But I know many still do want to see high follower numbers, which seems very unfair and frustratingly inaccurate :(

  9. Small, you know I'm too lazy to do any of this networking stuff! :ppp

    1. Hehe, I'll try to think up a Tips & Tricks for the lazy :P Hm....

  10. I've never used Rafflecopter for giveaways, not a fan here. I find participating in giveaway hops hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer to be huge. You get lots of visitors, entries, and followers. I never make following a requirement, but I usually include it as an extra entry option.

    Hosting an event and challenges have both been successful for me. I did a Self-Published month last year, and made some great contacts with authors who had previously approached me for reviews. They also helped promote the event, which brings in more people.

    I am hosting 2 challenges this year, and have seen decent increases in followers since the sign ups opened last year. Personally, I always follow blogs that host challenges or memes that I participate in. That way you don't miss a post.

    1. Yay another person who doesn't like Rafflecopter! Oh yes, those giveaway hops are big. I've seen a blog's follower count jump by over 100 after just one of those hops!

      Congrats on your event! I really like the reciprocal benefit you get with authors where they're promoting you and you're promoting them. It's nice.

      Good luck with your challenges! I'm with you, I like following the blogs that are hosting the challenges I'm participating in so I don't miss out on anything.

  11. This seems like really sound advice.

    I don't have any feelings one way or the other on Rafflecopter, but hosting a giveaway seems like it would be so complicated and stressful. I wish there was a way to track which ones you enter, though. I almost never return to a blog just because I enetered one of their giveaways and I usually don't get many of the "extra" entries because I refuse to use Facebook. Or follow a blog that looks uninteresting to me.

    I love challenges and events, though. If they are as interesting to host as they are to participate, sign me up!

    1. Hosting a giveaway isn't difficult at all, especially if you keep it really simple. I'd be happy to help you if you'd like :)

      I wish you could track which giveaways you've entered too. I think Rafflecopter actually does do that for you. I always feel so embarrassed if I enter a giveaway...and then reenter it a few days later because I forgot I already entered. I'm afraid the blogger will think I'm trying to cheat, when really I just have an awful memory :P

  12. Many valid points here! I agree about the followers, but I have come across many many many roadblocks because I am a new book blogger and my numbers are too low to be considered for any of the bigger events that I would like to join.
    I think that as long as you are enjoying what you are blogging about and like where it's going, then you're doing the right thing ;)
    Thanks for sharing this post! TGIF!

    1. Hi Margie! For some strange reason, Blogger keeps thinking your comments are spam and so it dumps your comments into the spam folder. I have no idea why, I'm sorry! I will manually OK your comments, so please don't worry if they don't show up right away--they will! :)

      Aw, I'm sorry to hear that you've been blocked from joining events. It can be discouraging as a new blogger, especially when a bunch of other bloggers you follow are participating in those events (like when it seems like EVERYONE BUT YOU gets the latest ARC in their mailbox). But in time, this will pass :)

      I agree, blogging should always be fun!

  13. Well, I'm on the otherside of the Rafflecopter fan line. I love it. It makes giveaways so easy for me and tracking everything, especially extra entries. I'm sorry if someone doesn't like using it on my giveaway, but a lot of the giveaways I do are for authors and I've usually already reviewed their book, done a guest post or interview and am now hosting a giveaway, so the simpler for me, the better. I don't like messing with Google Docs. It's smarter than me.

    I did require following me a time or two on I'm a Reader Not a Writer hosted giveaways and my numbers skyrocketed. So I stopped. But people still follow me even when I put in bold letters that following me will not affect their chances of winning in any way. I just require an email address so I can contact them.

    I've never had individual giveaways work out too well for me. I've sent GoodReads event reminders. Didn't get much response. But I do appreciate the email reminders I get through Good Reads, because I'm not always up on my Google Reading. I'm usually just trying to keep up with my email subscriptions.

    And yep, I met Small through Bustin the Newbie Blues last year! I've learned a lot through her. Still learning!


    1. I can totally see being a fan of Rafflecopter. Most of my problems with it come from coding and script compatibility. I do like how it tells you when the giveaway is over and whether or not you've already entered.

      I hear you! I try to make it very clear that following me has nothing to do with increasing odds in my giveaways, but inevitably my numbers will climb a little when I do a giveaway. Grrr.

      I don't respond to most of the goodreads giveaway invitations, but I DO click over to most of the blogs. So I guess it doesn't seem like I'm using those invitations to the host, but they are helpful to me.

      I remember when you signed up for BtNB last year! You were so persistent with trying to make the linky list work when it was throwing a fit. I remember being so honored that this super impressively big blogger was paying so much attention to me :)

  14. This is a great series. I have a random question, and I'm sorry if you've already answered it elsewhere - but how did you get the reply thingy in comments? It looks like you're still using the standard blogger form?
    Thanks for sharing your smarts as always.

    1. Nevermind, I just checked on my blog and realised I have it too. Whoops.

  15. For giveaways, instead of making following a requirement, I often require enterers (is that what you call them?) to comment on a specific post or "any other post after this date". I might get less followers and there may not be as many entries, but I the entries I do get ensure some extra omments and exposure to more posts on the blog than just the giveaway, and sometimes that's all it takes to get a new regular reader (:

    Ana @ BookSpark

  16. Love your tips! Thank you so much =)


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