In the world of professional blogging, your audience is everything. Without them your site is nothing but a hobby blog, and in many cases figuring out who your audience is will be one of the hardest things you can do.
But equally as hard as determining who your audience is, is figuring out why they are a part of your audience to begin with. This is where most bloggers get into trouble because your audience probably does not come to you for the reasons you think, and it is causing you to prioritize all the wrong things.
When it comes down to it, there are really only three kind of audiences your blog can have, and each have their own nuances that a blogger should keep in mind while trying to grow their site.
The Personality Driven Audience
In The Personality Driven Blog your audience is made up of people who care what you have to say. It doesn’t really matter what you say (including if it is accurate or reliable), as your readers value your voice and experiences over anything else.
Bloggers of this type often have high social media engagement, receive the bulk of their traffic from the social networks, and have the ability to move a wide range of products through affiliate marketing and brand ambassadorships on just a small number of readers.
The blogger’s opinion, after all, is what people return time and time again to hear.
Unfortunately, there are two downsides to this style of blog:
- Becoming a personality driven blog is extremely difficult and increasingly rare.
- Everyone seems to think their blog falls into this category.
The problem here is that people misunderstand what their audience actually cares about. Just getting page views does not mean you have an engaged audience that is visiting because of what you have to say. Odds are good they are visiting because you have content that is helping them out, and the fact that you wrote it has little to no influence on their visit.
If this is you, then you likely fall under the category of The Authority Driven Blog, and may need to take a different approach to blogging altogether.
Example: Our local blog for the city of Pittsburgh, PA, Discover the Burgh, falls into this category. We’ve only been open for one year, have 50,000 fans on social media, and receive nearly all of our traffic from the social networks. Our readers trust us not because we throw out recommendations, but rather because they know we are on a personal quest to do it all- so when we say something is good, we mean it (and our audience responds accordingly).
The Authority Driven Audience
In The Authority Driven Blog your audience is made up of those who seek out a solution to a problem they are having, and you happen to have an answer for them. What you say matters quite a bit, and the reader really doesn’t care who it is coming from as long as it appears to be a credible source.
Bloggers of this type have high referrals from search engines and often struggle with engagement on social networks (especially when it comes to generating clicks to their site). Blogs of this type do best when monetizing existing posts for affiliate sales, and should spend a good percentage of their time on SEO to continue growing their sites- both through optimizing old content and researching ideas for new posts.
You may not make an affiliate sale just because you recommended a product, but if you help enough people over a long enough period of time (and are optimized to convert), you will get that sale. This is why this style of blogging is a numbers game more than anything else. The more readers who see you, the more readers you help; the more readers you help, the higher your sales will be.
The trap here is that most think they fall into The Personality Driven Blog and continue pouring time, effort, and even money into outlets that will provide no return. The sooner you realize that no one cares what you say because of who you are, and that they care only about what is being said, the sooner you’ll get on a plan for keyword research and optimization that helps contribute growth to your site.
Example: This blog, Living the Dream, falls into this category. As much as I would hope we would be personalities people would love, the reality is we receive most of our traffic from Google and Pinterest- the least personal networks of them all. Our bounce rate is high, our subscription rate is low, but we are starting to make pretty good income from affiliate sales on the readers we do capture purely because we have the numbers.
No Audience At All
Finally, we come to the third type of audience bloggers could see, and is the type that the vast majority of bloggers have to deal with: The No Audience Blog.
This one is pretty self-explanatory as there are tens of millions of blogs out there, and the vast majority of them have no traffic what-so-ever.
These are mainly run by hobby bloggers who are keeping a record of their activities for friends and family to read. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, of course, but the distinction is large enough to point out as this is where most blogs fall into play.
It does not take a lot of effort to get out of this category and onto what we would call the professional blogging circuit (i.e. running a site in the hopes of getting 3rd party readers and making an income), and this is what we all start out as before we grow our sites over time.
The only reason we include this type of blog in out this post is to highlight a simple point to new bloggers: your growth is likely going to come when you move into one of the two styles listed above. Be aware of which you fall into once you start to grow, keeping in mind that odds are good you may start in one category and end up in the other later on.
Example: What do our previous blogs of The Travel Atlas, Eat Your Passport, Trust a Traveler, International Food Project, and many more all have in common? Oh, right, they never picked up an audience so we shut them down. We could have worked harder on these, but we failed to see the benefit in the long run and gave up while we were ahead.
Why Knowing Your Audience is So Important
So, why does all this matter?
The key to succeeding in blogging is having an understanding of your audience inside and out. You have to know what they like, what they don’t like, and what they are looking for before they even realize it. But going further, you also have to know how your blog is currently reaching your audience and leverage what works.
Far too many bloggers waste time and energy pursuing goals that do not sync up well with their sites, and this is a huge problem for those seeking growth. Sometimes it is just as important to stop, take stock of your current situation, and realize you are wasting time on things that simply do not work (much as we did with our nearly full stop on using Facebook for Living the Dream- it just didn’t work and we were sick of wasting time on it for such little return. We’re now going full steam ahead on Pinterest and Google because they do work for us. and that is worth the effort.).
If your primary traffic source is social media, and you have zero placements in search engines, it may not make sense to spend countless hours getting your site indexed and ranked- granted, we would argue this is good practice for everyone even if it is an uphill battle. If your primary traffic source is Google and nothing you try on social media works, maybe it is time to stop making the effort on those networks and focus purely on SEO.
Sure, with enough time, effort, and likely money you could revive any of these networks and make them work for you. But if your audience is already sending you clear signals on how they are reached the best, and what they like, why not save yourself the hassle and keep on improving what already works?
One Final Note
To end this post, I want to publish a disclaimer that is fairly popular for all of the above networks mentioned, be it Google, Facebook, or any in between. It is a phrase known as working on “rented space.” This means that the networks can change the rules around on their own at any given time and owe you nothing.
So while it is great to pursue what works for your blog, ultimately everyone should be concerned with getting your audience to sources that you can own well into the future- namely a newsletter.
This helps secure your ability to reach your audience in the long run, and is a good side goal for bloggers of any audience type. You may not know what to do with it now, but at some point in the future you might, and you’ll be happy you built the list when the time comes! We highly encourage everyone to keep this in mind when coming up with ways to engage your audience into the future.
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