By: Marilyn L. Davis
Right Readers: Reading, Returning, and Responding
“If the wrong reader comes across the words, they will remain just words. But for the right readers, your vision blooms off the page and is absorbed into their minds like smoke, where it will re-form, whole and alive, fully adapted to its new environment.” ― Mary Gaitskill
One of the ways we know if our writing is read is to review our statistics. Now, I darn near flunked out of that course, so just the word conjures up visions of data, strings of numbers, analysis, and most things I leave to my grandchildren – they like that stuff. Me, I just want simple. Two hundred people came from Facebook, four hundred came from Google, and one soul, bless their hearts, came all the way from Linkedin.
But views don’t tell the whole story. Even those statistics aren’t a precise account of whether you’ve reached your right readers. For a better analysis of that, we have to be mindful of the comments.
Comments are a significant gauge of whether we’re reaching our right reader.
If the statistics were accurate, I got 100,000 views in eight months, writing at another site. But don’t worry, I’m not saying I have the formula, or that I’m selling books on “how to attract the right reader” for only 99 cents if you act now. No, I want you to continue reading and possibly use some of this information to help you attract your right reader.
Writing for Today’s Readers
Writing is solitary, but publishing our posts puts that writing out there for public scrutiny, and readers today are more discerning than when I first found the internet – the information highway of old.
I think most of us were just so excited to find any information about a topic we liked, that we didn’t care about typos, poor grammar, or bad syntax. We didn’t understand SEO or overused keywords. Heck, we didn’t even know about some of that in 1994 when I created my first website!
Readers are still traveling it today, but writers have to create the most interesting, informative, and value-added post they can on any given day.
There are close to 2 million articles published daily, just on WordPress. And if the other writers have excellent content, promote on social media, and use SEO strategies, their content will be discovered. If they are doing a better job, maybe we can learn from them.
Help the Readers Find You
We can’t just write our blog, and then hope the right reader stumbles upon our content.
That’s like sitting on the side of the road, knowing what you have to say has value, and waiting to be discovered, or thinking that the writing is worthwhile, or that someone will recognize its value, eventually. More than likely, that post won’t be found.
We have to help our readers find us. We have to write our blog, then:
- Tweet it
- Create a Facebook page about the blog or topics
- Write an article, post it on LinkedIn
- Find images that enhance the post, geared towards Instgram.
It helps if you think of these as large road signs that point readers to your post, rather like, “Exit here for the content”. Just make sure that readers are getting great content when you point them to your site.
Get Their Attention Quickly
Today, readers have the benefit of quality posts, and will leave quicker than you can say, “Wait, it gets good towards the end of the piece”.
If we don’t capture our readers from the first sentence, keep them interested through the content, and give them a reason to make it to the conclusion, we will lose them, and if we lose them, they probably won’t return.
So, if your reader makes it to the end, and then likes, shares, or comments, you have a responsibility to interact with them. They did their job – they read the post, but commenting is not required, and graciously acknowledging their efforts is only fair.
Readers are Editors, Too
It’s also about taking our reader’s comments into account. Sure, we’d all like to get glowing, kind words in each comment, but that’s not realistic. Therefore, we need to be just as attentive when we read a critique.
Scott Biddulph and I have known each other for over twenty-five years, but as editor-in-chief at Two Drops of Ink, he didn’t mince any words with me. He practically forbid me to use a semicolon until I’d study the exact uses for one. And if you think about it, aren’t our readers a type of editor, too?
They can spot a typo, bad syntax, poor grammar, and redundant writing, and if we’re guilty of it, then we should appreciate them taking the time to call us out on it. When they do, the appropriate response is “Thank you for pointing that out.”
They also want to be visually stimulated when they read. It’s an integral part of the online reading experience. Using interesting images means that you’ll need to spend time finding relevant, but not always literal, representations of what you’re discussing in your post.
Granted, this post is about reading and writing, but must it always be the computer keyboard, coffee cup, and phone? Not if you’re taking the time to add visual value to the post.
Collaborate for Better Results
Do you have a friend that’s a photographer? Approach them about link sharing and promote their photos. You can also start taking photos or use several programs designed to make info graphs that will add visual interest as well as being informative.
There are also free sites that allow for commercial use. I’ve used Pixabay for over six years and never fail to find an image that goes beyond boring, literal, or predictable. .
Why Do Readers Return?
Readers return because they get something from the post or site. If there’s nothing in it for them, why should they continue to view you? I think it’s nice to ask our readers to come back, or if they are a writer, to submit a guest post. It’s about making it worth their time and effort to read, and in some cases, become a contributing writer.
In recovery support meetings we often tell people to “Keep Coming Back” in the hopes that they will hear something that changes their lives from active addiction to recovery. However, if there aren’t consistent times for meetings, people willing to chair that meeting, and others to offer guidance and support, there’s no point in asking anyone to come back.
As writers, we want our readers to return. But if they’re returning to a site that hasn’t updated their posts in weeks, doesn't update links, and fails to respond to comments - why should a reader be loyal when the writer isn’t… Click To Tweet
We need to let them know our posting times, or ask them to follow so they get an automatic update each time we post. If we tell our readers to expect new posts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, that makes us accountable to the commitment, too.
Nothing disappoints a reader more than looking forward to a new post, and instead, they get nothing. It’s rather like a TV series; we’ll wait six months if we’re engaged in the story line, but if there are delays, the stars quit, or something happens, we’ll find our entertainment elsewhere.
Our readers are more sophisticated today, in the sense that they don’t have to settle for second rate, cut and paste, rehash, and poor quality posts. They expect and deserve good visuals and value added posts. Yes, they are returning to read you, because they like your style or stories, but are you also expanding their knowledge with more than your opinions or input?
Increase the Reader’s Knowledge
Whether it’s an inbound link to a post that is on topic on your site, or an outbound link that broadens their knowledge, we have to provide links that add greater meaning to the post. We should also review these links, and make sure they are still active when we update a post. Look at the metrics and see if the influence of the page is still relevant. When a site has high domain authority, it contributes to the overall value of your piece regardless of how old the post is. However, if you originally linked to a post you’ve taken down, or a site that is no longer live, your post can be negatively impacted with a bad inbound or outbound link.
Links only work if they are compatible with the intent of your post.
For instance, I might find a funny source, such as Agent 54 , and insert a link back to his post, but humor might not be the overall theme of my post, so a link to him wouldn’t serve a purpose. It might confuse my readers, or diminish the intent of the post.
My examples in the previous paragraph also serve a purpose. It’s rather like “show them, don’t tell them”. I’m sure many of you caught the illustration, but just to be sure, I’ll tell you why it’s a good reference:
- Promoting another writer
- Providing a link for the reader
- Adding value to the post
- Nurturing relationships
Each of those four reasons creates interconnection with people or links, which generates exposure for all. However, online relationships also need nurturing. So I can reach out to Agent 54, and let him know I gave him a mention. I can tag him in a social media share, or I can DM on Facebook, and ask that he comment.
If you guest post, check back and comment.
I recently published a post on my other site, From Addict 2 Advocate, and asked the writer to come and respond. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. If the information had not had merit, I would have pulled the post.
Another time, a reader left an insightful comment. I liked their phrasing and reached out to them and asked them to contribute. They did and then vanished. The post got multiple comments, and I contacted the writer and asked them to respond. Nothing.
Finally, after two weeks, I got a response. The writer claimed that they didn’t know how to respond besides saying, “Thank you for the kind words”, so they said nothing. Perhaps I’m just old-fashioned, but a sincere appreciation of a reader’s efforts is not too much to ask.
When you guest post, most sites have submission guidelines and will usually ask that you not only contribute a piece, but that you interact with the readers; this bears repeating – if the reader took the time to comment, be gracious enough to respond.
We’ve made the effort here at Two Drops of Ink to form a community, and communities interact. If we give readers a reason to return and interact, they will because:
- The article is useful and helps them.
- Readers know where the writer stands on the topic; we aren’t scared to be opinionated.
- We research our topics and provide value-added content.
- The visuals are interesting, relevant, and entertaining.
- We write authentically – we are consistent, dependable, and engaging.
Improving on any of those four reasons will help you attract the right readers.
Calling All Readers and Writers
Our community has room for you, as a reader or as a contributing writer.
As a reader, we appreciate your interest in our site. We hope that we’ve provided you with information that you can use to improve your writing. We want you to have entertaining moments and enjoyable experiences here, so we offer poems, humorous post and compelling memoirs as well.
As a writer, we will give you exposure at an award-winning site. We will promote your books, whether they are traditionally published or self-published. We’ll keep you informed of what is happening with literary agents.
All we ask in return is that you help us keep the relationship viable with comments, critiques, and sharing.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing