By the end of this section, you’ll know how to:
- Use tags to help your new readers find you.
- Use likes, reblogs, and comments to give and get feedback.
- Connect your blog to your other online accounts, like Facebook and Twitter.
- Understand and use your statistics to grow your readership.
Whew! Signup, configuration, customization, publishing, photos, and video, oh my! By now, you have a great looking site chock full of compelling content, so we’re done, right? Nope: having this site is about more than just publishing. On WordPress.com, we want you to share your content with the world, discover others in the community with similar interests, and use the tools available to you to create more and better. If a blog is written on the internet and no one reads it, does it really exist? Okay, yes, it probably does, but wouldn’t it be preferable if someone did read it? That’s what Get Connected is all about.
How do we make that happen? Let’s find out.
Take advantage of tags
If you’re like the many others who signed up for a WordPress.com account, you want to blog — to write, create, and share your thoughts and ideas — because you want to be part of a bigger community. You want to connect with people who care about the same things you do, and you want them to find you — otherwise, you’d just keep a private diary.
Once you get up the nerve to hit Publish for the first time, you might find that publishing a post may be the easy part, while getting others — often strangers — to engage with you is tougher. Sure, there are thousands of people out there who would love to read your review of The Hobbit or get your killer carrot cake recipe, but how do you reach out and find them and make it easy for them to find you? Enter tags.
Tags group related posts together on your site and are simple yet powerful ways to help readers distinguish between your nature poems and your street art photo essays.
For starters, you can enable a Tag Cloud Widget in your sidebar or footer so your readers can quickly find your content based on your most popular tags. The bigger the word, the more posts you’ve published about it:
Tags not only help readers get around your site, they bring people in to your site in the first place. Like we talked about in Get Comfy, you use the Reader to discover the freshest content published by fellow bloggers — topics in which you’re interested, but also new stuff that intrigues you and opens up new areas of exploration. That means the Reader is also the place where others will find you. And if you want to be found, you should tag your posts appropriately. You could try to grow a fan base through evasive action, but you’d be the first.
While tagging is optional, assigning tags to your posts increases the chance that others will see them on the topic pages in the Reader. To help interested folks find you, use tags that directly relate to the subject of your post, and think about what you’d search for if you were looking for the same content. For your nature poetry, tag your post with broad, popular tags that others commonly search for: “poem,” “poetry,” and “nature.” In addition, you can mix it up with a few specific tags, too. If you’ve written a review about one of Zadie Smith’s books, you can tag the post with general tags (“books,” “fiction,” “literature”) as well as more focused tags (“Zadie Smith,” “On Beauty”).
But don’t go overboard! Stay relevant — just because you mentioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the introduction to your nature poem doesn’t mean your post deserves a “Buffy” tag, and die-hard Buffy fans who visit your blog will be disappointed not to find the Buffy-centric content they were looking for. In other words: you don’t want irrelevant content showing up in the Reader stream and neither do we, so choose your tags carefully.
A few tips to make the most out of tags:
- If you include more than 15 tags and categories (total) on a post, it won’t appear on the topic pages — that’s our way of helping ensure relevance.
- If your blog is private, your posts won’t show up in the Reader, so check Settings >> Privacy in your dashboard to confirm your settings.
- If you regularly post material that is offensive, not safe for work, or not suitable for minors, we might flag your site as mature, and mature blogs aren’t included on topic pages. (You can contact support if you think your blog may have been been accidentally flagged.)
- If you’re misusing the tag feature, your blog may not appear in the Reader. Misuse includes tagging your content with misleading or irrelevant tags; and posting affiliate links, marketing material, and unoriginal content.
(If you’d like, you can also learn more about topics.)
Action Time! Practice tagging a post:
- Write a new post. If you need a topic, try responding to one of the prompts over at The Daily Post.
- Think of at least three general tags for your post. (Check the topics page in your Reader to see a cloud of popular tags if you need a boost.)
- Brainstorm one or two specific tags relevant to the post. If you tagged your post with “science,” can you get more specific? “Quantum physics”? “Neuroscience”? Did you focus on someone specific, like “Stephen Hawking” or “Neil DeGrasse Tyson”? If so, add the name in the Tag module, too.
Once you publish the post, go find it in the Reader — search for one of the tags you used and your post should appear in that stream. If you can’t find it, revisit our tips on tagging.
Like and comment on blogs you follow and love — and get feedback in return
In our Get Comfy tour, we talked about how the Reader lets you follow your favorite blogs and stumble upon new sites, all in one place. You can also give fellow bloggers a virtual high-five: when you like something you’ve read, you can “like” it, just like you do on other networks (think Facebook). Think of a like as a thumbs-up to a fellow blogger, to show you enjoyed or appreciated what they’ve put out there. You can like a post directly in the Reader — just click the star next to Like:
You’ll also notice the Reblog icon next to the Like button. Reblogging is a fast way to share posts published by other users on your own blog. If you reblog a post, it will appear on your blog with a link to where the content came from, an excerpt from the post (if it includes text), the first image of the post, and thumbnails of other images within the post. You can reblog at will, but many bloggers appreciate being asked first — we’re a friendly bunch, so don’t be shy.
It’s also nice when a reblog takes things a step further, presenting the original blogger’s thoughts and then adding some of your own. One of the best ways to strengthen the fabric of the blogosphere is adding your own comments. It’s an easy way to engage with fellow bloggers and contribute to an ongoing discussion. When you click Reblog, we’ll give you the option of adding some commentary:
In addition to likes and reblogs, you’ll want to visit the blogs you love, as well as ones you’ve recently discovered, and comment directly on posts. Commenting is an integral part of blogging — and all part of the fun. You leave comments on other blogs not only to respond to what you’ve read, but to build connections with bloggers who post on ideas and topics that you care about and network with people from all corners of the blogosphere.
Leaving comments on other people’s work is also one of the best ways to attract others to your own site, so leaving a comment is both altruistic and self-serving. How many actions can say that?
That being said, some commenters are more effective at this than others — you still have to say something worth reading. Here are some tips being a comment pro:
- Read thoroughly. Before commenting, read the entire post and the other comments before adding yours. First off, reading all the way through (hopefully) keeps you from saying anything off-base. Second, If a conversation is already underway, in some cases it may make more sense to reply directly to someone else’s comment.
- Contribute something of value. Add something meaningful to move the discussion forward. Avoid a general “great post!” or “thanks for writing this!” response. That is, sure, tell them they’re great — and then add something. Of substance. A meaty reply is more likely to attract the blogger of the post — and other commenters — to your own site.
- Keep your comment bite-sized. If you have a lot to say on something you’ve read, leave a brief comment, then add a link to a post on your own blog where you’ve replied to or expanded on the topic at hand — it’s a clever way to engage readers who share your interests. If a comment stretches into multiple paragraphs, you’ve probably got a post on your hands.
- Avoid shameless plugs. Don’t just leave a link to your blog in a comment — it’ll likely be deleted. Your username links back to your site anyway, so there’s no need for a redundant plug. That said, be sure your user details — especially your website address — are current in your personal settings by going to Users >> Personal Settings and scrolling down to Account Details.
- Show yourself off. Upload an eye-catching Gravatar, which is the image that will appear next to your name across WordPress.com blogs and other sites and comment forums. Most people will be more moved to click on your smiling face (or cat photo, or drawing, or. . . ) than on a generic icon. (You can also edit this public profile in your dashboard by going to Users >> My Profile.)
Follow these quick tips, and you’ll begin to connect with people with similar interests and attract new readers to your site. Above all, be patient, be respectful, and be yourself! Whether you are smart, witty, or just plain bizarre — be you. We’re drawn to the blogosphere because we want to read and interact with real people; if we just wanted news, we’d head to CNN.
Connect your site to your other accounts on the web
You’ve got a cool tool called Publicize right in your dashboard, which allows you to automatically share your posts on social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Yahoo! — no more publishing and then individually pasting the link into each site. You can even add a custom message with the post. You can use the valuable minutes you save to get a head start on your next post, or to bake us some cookies (we like oatmeal raisin).
To enable Publicize, go to Settings >> Sharing in your dashboard and click on the Add new connection link next to each service you want to connect:
You can pick and choose; depending on how you use your blog and these services, you might not want to push your posts to every one you belong to.
For more detail, check out the specific setup steps for each available service:
Once you’ve enabled a service, you’ll see a Publicize section next to your visual editor every time you write or edit a post:
Just publish your posts as usual, and you’ll see them appear on the services you activated — usually, within a few seconds. If you want to opt out from any of the Publicize services for a particular post, click Edit, then uncheck any services you need to. You can also include a custom message (for your Facebook post, tweet, LinkedIn update, etc.) in this box.
Action Time! First off, enable Publicize for at least one account.
[hold music playing]
Great, you’ve enabled Publicize! Now publicize one of your posts to Facebook or Twitter, or Yahoo! or LinkedIn, and be sure your update entices your friends and followers enough to make them click! How? Try one of these:
- Tease your readers — pull a quote from your post that encapsulates your discussion, or makes people want to know more.
- Pique their curiosity — reel them in with a question.
Whatever you do, don’t be a ‘bot — you could go the easy route and send a Facebook status update and tweet with simply your post’s title. Add some personality! People respond to real people, not auto-tweets.
Make sense of your statistics
In Get Comfy, we toured your stats page, which is full of interesting data to analyze and learn from; if you’ve already started publishing on your site, you probably visit your stats periodically to see how things are going, where “periodically” means “every 15 minutes.” Let’s revisit some of your stats and explore ways you can use them to refine your blog and draw in even more readers.
Views by country
Take a look at where your visitors come from. Notice a lot of visits from the United Kingdom or Japan? Craft a post that may appeal to them (but only if it makes sense for your site). If you’re a travel blogger and have explored the coast of Cornwall, write about your journey; if you’ve trekked through Japan in the spring, talk about how you followed the cherry blossoms as they bloomed.
Think of other ways to connect with your readers from other parts of the world — you don’t have to assume the role of “expert,” but you can approach a post as if you’re conversing with or reaching out to people in different places.
Top posts & pages
Browse your top posts and pages of the day (and yesterday) by clicking on the links at the top of this module, and click on Summaries to view cumulative summaries by week, month, and more:
See which posts are the most popular, and then consider publishing follow-up posts to these, or even a series of posts on a certain topic. Also take note of which pages are most popular and ensure that they are always current — you don’t want to direct your readers to outdated information!
Check the links in your Referrers section on a regular (if not daily) basis to see where visitors are coming from, and to keep track of any mentions of your posts or blog on other sites. If you notice your blog was listed in a “top 20 food blogs” roundup on a major culinary website, write a quick post to tell your readers or share the news with your social networks. If you see that another blogger has quoted your latest piece in their post on politics, consider publishing a response and linking back to the blog to continue the conversation.
In the Clicks module, take a peek at what your readers click on the most. If they’re clicking through your blogroll, be sure the blogs you’ve listed are all active. If they’re clicking on certain kinds of links — newsy links to the New York Times and the like, or links to YouTube videos or lots of your images — continue to include these types of links into your posts.
Search engine terms
Your Search Engine Terms module is an interesting, revealing, hilarious, even disturbing section — you can see how people have found your blog with search terms and phrases (for example, “cliff jumping in Ibiza,” “graffiti in Berlin,” or “kid-friendly wineries in Northern California”). Take a look at these and think about similar pieces you can publish using the same approach.
Note: over time, you’ll almost definitely see some odd phrases show up — non-sequiturs or things you don’t think you’ve ever written about. (“Honey, did I ever publish a post about how to cook for a Dr. Who-themed cocktail party?”) We all get them. Laugh at them, and move on. If you collect enough oddities, you’ll be able to write the classic “Look at these crazy search terms!” post, a blogger standby.
As with the other modules in your stats page, you can click on Summaries on the top right to see a broader, cumulative view of this data. In particular, make sure you take a peek at the “All Time” view every so often to get a quick summary of the primary search terms that have led people to you since the beginning.
Tags & categories
Here, you can see the most popular topics you’ve written about and which get you the most traffic. (So, hopefully you tag your posts effectively!)
After looking at this list of tags and categories, you can get a sense of what your readers like to read about. Consider activating the Tag Cloud and Category widgets on your sidebar so visitors can access these popular topics quickly.
You’re now armed with the essentials to publish content, add multimedia, and share your stuff with the world. Next step? Publish on the go! A blogger need not be stymied by her proximity to a computer. If you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve got the ability to capture great moments and blog them as they happen: read on for the basics of blogging from your mobile device.
Header image based on “chained“