5 Tips on Defining and Building Your Blog's Audience

Jan 122011
 

When you first start a blog, you just want to get your thoughts out into the world. Eventually you wonder: Who should read this, and why?

It’s time to find out more about your readers and commenters. Or be strategic: Whom do you want as your audience, and can you attract those readers?

Once you know who they are and what they like, targeted readers can be a source of inspiration for future posts, help you shape your posts, and help you build a bigger audience (by RTing your posts on Twitter, for example). Here are five tips on how to assess and build your readership:

1. Analyze your readers by using demographic criteria relevant to your blog posts. The more you know about your audience, the more you can write to them directly. Puzzle out such demographic details as:

  • Percentage of male to female. If you know that most of your readers are mothers, for example, it could shape a percentage of your topics
  • Age. This could affect the cultural references and language you use in your posts
  • Where they live. Geography helps you determine whether to write seasonally, locally, or about topics that people in other countries don’t know about

2. Your readers’ personality, values and interests are sometimes more valuable in social media than demographics. Assess, through comments and the popularity of individual posts, how your readers feel about food and what’s important to them, such as:

  • How often do they cook?
  • What kind of recipes do they like best?
  • Do they go out to restaurants?
  • Are they interested in the latest food fads?

3. Analyze your readers based on what or whom they read, and get to know your circle. Do they have favorite websites or bloggers that are in the same niche as you? If so, get to know those sites and bloggers, and comment. Use analytics software such as Google Analytics to see where your referring traffic comes from, or search on similar themes to yours to see what else interests your potential readers.

4. Decide whether the audience you want is the audience you have. Ask yourself some hard questions, such as

  • What do you offer and who needs it?
  • What do readers want from you?
  • Are you reaching the readers who matter most?

5. Write up a profile of your target reader. This might be a real person, or someone you want to read your blog in the future. How much specific info can you come up with? Details might include:

  • Which magazines they read
  • Which cooking shows they watch
  • How many times a week they cook
  • What kinds of food celebrities interests them
  • Whether they buy cookbooks.

These tips will help you connect with your current audience and build an bigger audience for the future. If you have more tips based on what has worked for you, I’d love to read them.

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  28 Responses to “5 Tips on Defining and Building Your Blog's Audience”

  1. It’s interesting that you should post this right now. I’m in the process of determining who I’m talking to when I write my posts. Is it people who already think and cook like I do, or is it people who might like to but don’t know how? And how do I reach the second group if I’m not already? Thanks for posting – this gives me a lot to chew on!

    • Hi Niki, I hope you can figure it out! Sometimes it’s a mix of guesswork, detective work, and whom you’d like.

  2. Like Niki, this post comes at the perfect time. I’m also in the process of redefining my focus to build the reader base I’m trying to target. For too long, I think I was trying to be all things to all people. In reality, by similar exercises, I’m learning that my target audience is pretty niche.

    The next logical step seems to be to create a set of descriptors (maybe three words or so) that characterize the “soul” of my blog. This will be my compass for all future content. Pretty simple, but not always easy to define.

    Thanks again for an insightful post!

    • A lot of people start with a general blog and then make it more targeted. It seems to be part of the process.

      What a great idea, to have descriptors! I like the idea of a compass. It’s so easy to get off track on a blog.

  3. These are great tips, Dianne. How do you puzzle out demographics, though? Google analytics? Or another way? I do see that you mention GA in point 3, and I have to admit that I am guilty of under utilizing that tool. I know there is useful info there and need to spend more time learning out how to interpret it.

    I have been thinking more and more about points 2 and 4 over the last month. Like Elizabeth mentioned above, I went through a period where I was trying to be too many things to too many people, and kind of lost my personal focus. An example: during the month of December, it seemed that every blog was all about cookies. I figured that must be what readers are looking for so I jumped on the bandwagon, too. Then I thought about and decided that going with that trend wasn’t helping me stand out in the least. I am a healthy recipe blog. People don’t come to my blog for cookie recipes. An occasional dessert recipe with a healthy angle is fine, and probably appreciated by my readers, but there are many, many other blogs where people can go for gorgeous, over the top dessert recipes. I am not shooting to be that type of blog. So I stopped trying to fit in with that trend and went back to doing posts that were more typical “me”. And those posts were really popular…some of my most popular ones ever, in fact. My traffic started to inch up at the end of December and has stayed up this month, which makes me feel that I am on the right track in terms of finding my niche :)

    I find point 3 so interesting. It’s something I am really working on. It really does take a while to identify your circle, though! And as for #5…that’s a great idea…will put it on my ever-growing to-do list :)

    • I suppose you could try to evaluate your readers through your comments. It’s easy if they’re bloggers or have web pages, because you can look them up, but otherwise maybe there are hints in their comments?

      Hey, what about healthy cookies? There are a surfeit of those that actually taste good. But yes, I now what you mean, and you are right to question what you are doing. Very nice ending to the story!

  4. Another great post, Dianne! I remember many an English teacher in school telling me that knowing your audience is critical, and I find it still very much the case when it comes to blogging as well.
    Another way to learn about your audience is to just ask them. For example, I knew that I have both some gluten free and some glutenicious readers, but was curious in what proportion – and it’s not something google analytics will tell me. So I made a post asking about it and ran a poll for a few months – not the most scientific method, but I got some great feedback and found out that I have a pretty solid contingent of glutenicious along with gluten free readers – knowing this fact definitely has an influence on the content I chose to publish on my site.

    • Great to read this, Jenn. How obvious — to actually ask people. Good for you for doing so, and customizing your content as a result.

  5. Thanks for the post Dianne. I struggle with this quite a bit, and despite the level of coding knowledge I have learned, Google Analytics baffles me. If you or someone you know would be willing to answer a few questions for me, I’d sure appreciate it. Thanks again. I always look forward your helpful ideas and humor. – Gary

  6. Figuring out my readership may have made a big difference to me financially- I realized my readers were largely bartenders (it’s a cocktail blog) so I pursued trade magazine advertising rather than consumer ads and things are looking up!

    • How clever. You know exactly where to find your demographic (besides on your blog, of course).

  7. More great words of wisdom, for a relatively new blogger like me just fantastic to get all these great tips from you. Thx M

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  9. You’ve done it again, Dianne. You’ve hit the nail right in the head.

    I’ve noticed a dip in quantity (and quality, thank you for your previous post!) of comments, traffic, habitual radership, etc.
    Oddly enough my recipes–which are always a bonus at the end of a story–got much more attention and kudos when the stories were personal. People out there truly ARE interested in who we are first and foremost. They’re seeking connection, friendships, interaction, not just the topic at hand.
    When I first started blogging, I asked myself, “Who’s interested in my narcissistic ramblings?” I was astonished to see how many were.

    Like in cooking, it’s not all about method and ingredients.
    There’s got to be some heart involved.

    I have to start putting more of me in my posts again. Who woulda thunk…

    • Yep, otherwise, they can just look up a recipe. And I suppose some people will come to your site because they were looking for “chocolate banana bread,” but they’ll stay for the stories.

      • Eleonora, it’s so great to read that personal content proved to be really appreciated by your readers. I’m just starting to write and I was always in doubt whether I should put myself into the text. At the same time writing personal posts is something I really enjoy. This is probably the most important reason why I actually started a blog.

        Thanks so much Dianne! My blog is very new and I just started to think about my readers. I felt quite lost before reading your post. Now I got a lot of ideas on what I could do next.

  10. Great post Dianne!

    One way I’m figuring out the direction of my posts is using Facebook. It’s not my total sum readership, but seeing folks click the Like button tells me quite a bit.

    It’s just one facet of the analysis process, but it helps.

    • I suppose it’s a good indication, but how can you tell why they like it? That would be my dilemma.

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  12. I definitely have been thinking about this too. It’s strange though, to go about finding your audience unless they have blogs too, and probably most of the audience I wish to gain does not. we often target other bloggers through our actions (commenting, twitter, etc) but how do you reach those who aren’t much part of the community already?

  13. Thank you so much Dianne for this post. Reading (devouring) your book and now following your posts are helping me a great deal. And I see I am not the only one struggling with this huge question. Some comfort in that, but I too need to find my answers. I am soul-searching to understand my value to readers, current (not many yet!) and future (hopefully lots). I am going to use your list to try and flesh out the answers, as hard as it may be. It’s critical to being successful. I may have to fly up and take one of your classes.

    • You are welcome, Sally. I hope I’ve given you some new tools to try out to figure out your value to readers.

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