Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blogger Advice: Gaining Followers

*Warning: Monster advice post ahead! If it was epic poetry, it would probably rival Beowulf.

Also, I’m on vacation right now, so I may not be quick to comment back.

Who wants more followers?

I do!

Sometimes, I feel like actively trying to gain followers is a blogger’s dirty little secret, carefully hidden. Perhaps the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy works for some blogs and they magically gain thousands of followers, but that’s not the case for most people, including me. In reality, gaining followers requires a lot of time and hard work. Since I’ve gained a pretty respectable amount of followers in the past year (Come on…just 21 till 1000!), I thought I would offer a little advice for those of you who are interested.

Why try to gain followers?

Those who dismiss the idea of actively working to increase a blog’s readership have valid reasons. Blogging is about the community and about quality reviews/discussion of books. If your blog only does things that are geared towards garnering followers like host giveaways or meme posts rather than substantive content, your readership will suffer. I don’t think having lots of followers is worth it if you aren’t saying anything of value.

On the other hand, do you need lots of followers? Of course not. You can have a fabulous blog with well-written, thoughtful reviews and only a small number of devoted fans. Your blog will be just as worthy as the bigger guys.

I’m trying (rightly or wrongly) to be one of the big guys – to have quality content and lots of followers. Partly because being larger garners more attention from authors and publishers, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like review copies. But mostly because it enables me to be a bigger part of the blogging community. I love that my reviews now regularly get 10+ comments. I love that a lot of bloggers know me and I know them. I feel like part of something. And feeling like you belong is just about the best feeling in the world.

Here are a few ideas I think will help to increase the number of followers for your blog:

1) Blog Hops: I participate in Parajunkee and Crazy for Books’ Hops every week. This is where I’ve found most of my followers (along with In My Mailbox). On weekends when I don’t have much to do (which is most of the time), I allocate several hours to commenting on almost all of the people in the hops. This is a great way to say hi to old friends and to find tons of new blogs. I don’t just copy and paste a generic comment on each blog – I read every single post and try to create a unique response. It’s a lot of work, but I appreciate people who take the time to thoughtfully respond to my hop posts and I assume other bloggers do as well. I have a system down where I can do all this pretty efficiently. I can’t recommend enough the value of the Blog Hops for exposing your blog to the wider community.

2) Memes: This is a huge category. There are so many memes out there that you could do multiple ones every day and your blog could consist of nothing but. Memes are one of the best ways to get your blog out there. I recommend picking a few that you like, but not so many that they dominate your blog. Try to visit as many other blogs participating in the same meme as you can and comment on their posts. Also, don’t just do a meme because everyone else does or because you think it’s necessary to gain followers. I recently dropped Waiting on Wednesday from my blog. It had become a chore that I only did, because it was “expected” of book bloggers. On the other hand, I love In My Mailbox and the Hops and look forward to reading people’s posts all week.

3) Comments: Another big one. The more you comment, the more people will return your visit. And I mean a substantive comment. Not just “Hi, my blog is…” or “Great review.” Something that shows you read the post. Honestly, commenting is something I still need to work on. I try to return comments and to comment on a variety of blogs, but I still don’t get to nearly enough. That’s due to both lack of time and laziness. Another note, some people really dislike it when bloggers leave a link to their blog in a comment – it’s viewed as spam. The blog hops and meme posts are an exception to this. I actually would prefer that you leave a link to your blog in a comment – as long as you aren’t only advertising your blog. It’s a lot easier for me to get to your blog quickly that way.

4) Content: If you want devoted followers, the content has to be there. Memes are fine, but the majority of your blog should be devoted to reviews and discussion posts. The reviews should be thorough and well-written. As you can tell from this post, I have a tendency to be overly wordy. My reviews might be too long sometimes, but I try give a lot of information to my readers.

5) Unique Voice: I’m plus/minus about this. Having a unique blogging approach can either really attract people or really turn them off. I think blogs that are extremely well-written or are extremely funny without being insulting are special and highly attractive. But I don’t think that’s necessary to have a large readership. In fact, some of the biggest blogs have (in my opinion) very ordinary writing styles. The only must-haves for me are correct grammar and spelling (for the most post) and reviews that are thorough enough to tell me whether I should read the book.

6) Consistency: This is somewhat subjective, but you should have enough posts that people remember you. I post 5-6 times per week. I think 3 would suffice. You can do whatever works for you of course, but to have a major blog, I think you should have at least 3 posts per week. If you’re busy, you can schedule posts. I’m actually on vacation right now, but I have posts scheduled all week.

7) Blog Design Make sure your blog is legible! Use a standard font. A light background and dark text is easier to read than the opposite. I don’t think a professionally designed blog is necessary, but it helps. My blog got more attention and was more memorable when I had it re-designed. On another note, please put the GFC Follower widget at the top of your page – right or left side. Don’t make me have to work to follow you. Also, please, please no music! I love reading people’s playlists, but I don’t want to be forced to listen to them or flip through the entire blog to turn off the sound on the widget. I’d prefer that people didn’t put up book widgets with sound either (I’m so glad the Crescendo widget is finally gone). Just a pet-peeve of mine.

8) Blog Name: This isn’t a big deal, but it’s something to think of. I’m a moderator at the Book Blogger Directory. I’ve entered dozens of blog names onto the list. There are so many blogs that start with “Books” or “Read(ing)” for pretty obvious reasons. Nothing wrong with that, but they do start to bleed together after awhile. I even found two blog using the same name. My blog name is nothing special (and it does contain the word “read”), but it has the advantage of starting with an “A,” putting it at the top of an alphabetical list. I’d recommend a blog name that stands out, although nothing so weird that it sounds ridiculous.

9) Giveaways: Everyone loves free stuff. As fun as giveaways are, I would not rely on them to increase my follower count. I’ve never gotten more than a handful of new followers from a giveaway. Perhaps it would be different if I gave away really high-demand books though. I would do giveaways if you want to do them, but don’t rely on them as your ticket toward blog growth.

10) Author Interviews/Tours: These are loads of fun. They’re a great way to get your name out there and have people visit your blog who normally wouldn’t. That being said, I’ve never gained more than a few followers from an author feature. Like giveaways, it’s worth doing, but not for the purpose of gaining followers.

11) Reciprocity: I follow you, you follow me. Some people carefully select the blogs they follow. I follow pretty much everyone. Then I choose more carefully with of those blogs I regularly read. No right or wrong – just a personal choice.

12) Time: This one is fairly obvious. You’re not going to become a large blog overnight. Most publishers and tours won’t take you seriously until 6 months, regardless of follower count. There are very few blogs that can hit 1000+ followers in less than a year. It happens, but I can only think of one offhand. I’ll probably be right around the 12 month mark when I hit 1000.

13) Work: Gaining followers is a lot of work. I spent a lot of time – hours and hours – every week commenting and networking. Plus writing reviews and blog posts. It takes up the majority of my free time, actually. Unless you’re really well-organized or lucky, it’s going to take many hours of labor to become a larger blog. It’s worth it to me and I have the time, but a lot of people just don’t have a huge amount of time to dedicate to blogging.

14) Have Fun!: Ultimately, you should blog your way. Definitely try to have a large readership if you want to, but don’t make it the be all-end all. No one makes much money from book blogging, so you should focus on the fun aspect rather than the marketing aspect. If the effort to gain followers has you changing your blog in ways you don’t like or spending too much time blogging, then don’t do it. If there’s something on your blog that you love that isn’t very popular, keep doing it. For example, my Manga Mondays has much lower traffic and comments than other posts, but I love doing it and will take a few less readers on Mondays. Also, I definitely spend a huge amount of time blogging, but I have a great time. When that changes, the blog will either disappear or change.

What are your thoughts? What have you done to increase your blog’s readership? Is it important to you?


  1. Excellent article! And for the record, I consider you as one of the "big" bloggers :)

  2. Really really good post! I totally agree about the blog hop comments, I too spend hours and hours visiting blogs on the weekends (it drives my bf nuts, actually.) I do try to leave unique comments too, and I do dislike it when someone has obviously c&p'd their comment.
    Most of the things you mentioned are things I do, but it's nice to see I'm doing everything right! I hope my blog can be as successful as yours and some of the other fantastic blogs out there.

  3. I think IMM and Giveaways are the two main things that help me gain more followers. I need to try more blog hops! I also consider you a "big" blogger! :D

    Myranda @ My{Reads}da

  4. I spoke to my mum before starting my blog. She was so excited about it, and I’m proud to say she checks it regularly. But besides being a great follower (although she doesn’t have an account, and verbally comments on what I’ve posted) she did give me some great advice, and you mentioned it to: “Do it because you enjoy it. Even if you only have 1 follower, keep doing whatever makes you happy”. I’m glad to say that I’ve amounted a few followers (11) since starting my blog 2 months ago, but I know I appreciate those that regularly comment, and I make the effort to reply back. Like most people, I have a fairly busy life, but I make the time to network (even if it’s only 1hr a day and it’s 1am in the morning). Scheduling has been helpful too, although BlogSpot could do with a better comment/reply system ;).

    If you enjoy book blogging, and want to be big, then go for it!! Thanks for sharing Alison, and I hope you reach 1000 soon!! :D

    Alisa @ the Novel Nook

  5. Great advice! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Andrea @ Reading Lark

  6. Great advice! I think I'm going to start doing more blog hops!

  7. Great post! I'd have to agree on a lot of it. Sadly what I've noticed with my blog and other blogs is that book reviews honestly do not bring in followers. My reviews only ever get one or two comments, but my meme posts like top ten tuesday get an average of 10 comments. They also bring in followers.
    I've held 3 giveaways now. The first two only brought in a handful of new followers, but right now I'm doing a giveway hop and it's brought in over 60 followers just this week. If someone is trying to boost their follower numbers, that is a great place to start.

    I think that gaining too many followers right after starting to blog is a little odd. It took me months and months to start to gain a bigger amount of followers. I view this as a good thing. It gave me time to figure out what I was doing, get my blog more set up, and to feel more comfortable with what I was posting.

  8. Love this. Personally I have done a few FF and yes I have got a few more followers from it but to be honest what is the point in having lots of followers when very rarely any come back.

    3 - Comments this is a big one for me. I will always comment back and then go and visit the persons blog and if someone takes the time to come back to me I always check their blog out and have taken to regularly following a few.


  9. Hi Alison
    This is a really great article with some useful tips. My blog is only 3 months old, so I am constantly looking for ways to improve it.
    The one thing I have most trouble with is finding time to write a lot of comments and responses. I have: a day job, my writing, editing work, study for an editing course and planning a wedding as well as every day stuff.If I had more time free I'd love to comment more on people's posts.

  10. I participate in most of the memes and try and comment on blog posts that interest me each day. That way, I get to read some awesome stuff, meet new bloggers, see what they get in their mailbox and in the process I seem to be gaining followers! ^^

  11. I'm guilty of having giveaways, but I'm not really into the memes just because I usually forget and/or I never get anything new. Commenting gets exhausting after a while, especially if you don't have anything to say or it gets wiped out when your trying to say something important. if I see captcha and I can't read the letters after a few tries, i just give up. I love blog hops as well, but I find myself overwhelmed by it all.

  12. l really like this post and plan to mention it on my blog.
    Definitely worthwhile to read!!
    I agree, memes are fun but l don't really like it when one is done everyday on a blog. I have features but l wouldn't call them meme, just features.. that's the difference l think. Features take more work than most memes. WoW is a quick small post which l love taking part in but it doesn't take long to do.

    I agree about commenting, if your commenting on other blogs they will visit you back. When l was working a lot l didn't get to comment much at all and really seen the different on my blog!

    I strongly agree about the followers box + music, you said it all!

  13. Fantastic post Alison! I know I always get excited when I see my follower count go up, it just makes me happy that someone likes the blog enough to want updates as to when I post. For me, commenting has been the big one. Taking the time to visit other blogs and get to know them has brought me a very loyal group of readers and I love that. I know certain people are going to comment everyday and, just like you said, it makes me feel like I'm a part of something:) Love it!

  14. Thank you for this post, Alison! You definitely are one of the "big" blogs to me, but you're also one of the most approachable of the big bloggers.

    Time is such a big thing for me. You're right, it's a LOT of work to gain readers. When I first started I had a lot of time, but lately things have been getting busier in my life and it's been hard just keeping up with my own blog and replying to those comments. I have noticed a drop in new followers as a result. I'm trying to focus my limited time on the followers that I do have now. I don't want to neglect them because they're what makes blogging so much fun.

    Hope you're having a good vacation!

    And because you said it's helpful to you: Small Review :)

  15. Great post. I love your design, it's so pretty and unique.

    I mostly post reviews, with Friday hops and special features on the weekends. I suually have at least one full week of posts (minus the hops) scheduled. I actually have all my reviews scheduled for the month, mostly because I have been reading a lot lately, and don't want to post more than once a day.

    I hate music on websites. That is probably my biggest turn-off for blogs.

    I read every blog I subscribe to, and find it hard to come up with meaningful comments on most posts. So I definitely read most posts without commenting.

  16. Thanks Alison for taking the time to compile all of these excellent tips! I agree, it is nice to see your numbers of followers growing - in a way it is reaffirming and gratifying.

    It is always nice to see the numbers grow after a FF or blog hop but I usually get more excited when someone who has not participated in a hop follows me - that way I usually know they are following me because they like what I have to say as opposed to following me to get a follow back.

  17. This is my thing. I started my blog in March and I was obsessed about gaining followers but now my number of followers doesnt mean anything if they are just being my follower so I will go and be theirs. Like the girl who became my follower and when I went to her page she read absolutly nothing that I read. Im sorry, but if I dont read the stuff you do, Im not going to become your follower. I read my followers stuff and comment. If you have 200 followers and when you post something every other day and get not one comment, whats the point? How do you get commenters? Like I said, Im new to this and I only have 61 followers but ask me who actually comments? The most comments I get are on the hop cause they want a comment and a follow back. How do I know if people actually like what I put and are even reading it?

  18. Great ideas! Really helpful for me since I just started a blog today.

    Check out/follow my blog, which has YA book reviews in 100 words or less: http://ya100words.blogspot.com/

  19. All good advice! I struggle sometimes with whether I want to try and grow my readership, and for now it's simply that I don't have the time. This summer, when school is out, I may get back to the hops and being a better commenter (I suuuuuck at this and need to improve!). I admire how during the hops I would see your comments everywhere. It's really welcoming, especially to new bloggers, and it made me smile, so thanks.

  20. Thanks for the great post. I love that you are honest. I feel like it is taboo for a blogger to say that he/she cares about stats or followers.

    I'm in month 5 of blogging and I will honestly say that I never ever knew it would be so much work, but I really enjoyed it. I try to get around to as many blogs as I can but I know what it feels like when no one posts on your reviews.

  21. Most excellent post Alison and way more interesting that trying to decipher Beowulf. You touched on many points that I completely agree with. I'll never understand blogs that make commenting more difficult than necessary or have a design that is hard to read.

    I've pretty much stopping doing hops and memes because while I believe they are valuable in getting started, I found that I just didn't have the time to fulfill their purposes and I didn't want to be that person that just throws in their link without visiting in return.

    I agree about commenting. I really like to take the time to read posts and make my comments as relevant as possible. Of course is this a rather big task, or anyone, but I feel that it is worth it because you then tend to get feedback that is more authentic.

  22. Brilliant advice! I try to comment on posts and take part in memes but school is getting a lot busier at the moment and I just don't have the time to do as much as I would like to. When I'm busier I try to respond to comments on my blog to interact with people but in the holidays I visit other blogs more, which I sometimes get new followers from :)

  23. I agree with all of the above. When I first started out I wondered how I would gain any followers. In over a year I've gained over a 500. Some sure have become followers because I made it mandatory for a giveaway. I've since debated on that issue. Some giveaways I say you don't have to be others I do. It just depends on how I feel. I would love to have tons more followers, but I would rather have more comments. Blogging is a lot of work and I put in a lot of effort. But there are so many blogs out there. When I first started, I wanted to follow them all! But that's just not logical. So I comment on the ones I faithfully follow and here and there on the ones I enjoy looking at (if that makes sense). If I don't comment right away I try to within the week.

  24. Hi Alison, I found your blog through West at Mars. I started blogging around Sept. 2010. This is after a few attempts at blogging. So I have a few blogs out there that have passed on to blog oblivion.

    This is a really good "how to" and I appreciate your honesty. My blogger vocab just increased, since I never knew what a meme was.
    Thanks and I really love your graphics.

  25. This is a great post! I think everyone has their own little tricks that work for them, or they are comfortable with. While I love having new followers, I rarely follow others' blogs initially. I think part of it is I feel obligated to read every post of every blog I follow, and that gets to be a little overwhelming for me. But once someone does follow me, I make sure I add them to my reader so I can keep updated on their posts as well

  26. Thanks so much for the well written advice! I love checking out other people's blogs and I always make sure yours is the first stop. I like how you always have something new or interesting to read!

  27. Fabulous post Alison! :)

    I'm still pretty new to book blogging, but I'm still trying to have my blog be something for me. Followers are great, but I'm only posting what I feel like posting, you know? Like, I only do the Waiting on Wednesday when I have a book I'm super excited about (otherwise it isn't fun.

    I agree about sound. I will close a blog out if it has music or those widgets with noise. They're just annoying. If someone wants that stuff up, that's their choice, but I won't read their blog.

    All of the advice you posted is basically who I choose to follow. If a blog is hard to read and has crazy colors, I don't follow it. Basic grammar and punctuation are a must, too.

    I don't do really lengthy reviews, because that's not my style. Once in a while I will have tons to say, but I usually try to keep it short and sweet. I hope my reviews are good content still!

    I do list my blog at the end of comments, but I do it as a signature. That way it's super easy for people to find my blog without having to click all the google friend stuff. I don't do an annoying advertisement though. I just want the ease of use there for those who might want to visit me too. I don't know how many bloggers that comment or follow me and I can't find out where their blog is because they don't have it listed correctly.

    Meaningful comments rock. I try to make my comments as meaningful as possible! Sometimes there isn't a whole lot to say other than "great book choice", but I try. Generic commenters that come by just to get you to follow their blog are annoying. I've only had a couple, thank goodness.

    I haven't done a giveaway yet, but I really want to! I think they are super fun! I don't think I'll make people follow me in order to win though. I don't know. I want followers, but I really want followers that want to follow me because they like my blog, not because of the contest.

    Good grief, I talked too much. I could keep going too! LOL.

    Anyways, super fantastic advice. :)

    Jennifer of Little Shelf

  28. Well, I took one of your advice tips and joined in on a blog hop. For a new blogger, the idea of gaining followers is both exciting and scary, I think. If you're not sure you're good enough, the idea of more people being a witness to your not-good blog is terrifying! But I know I gotta ignore those gremlins.

    Thanks for the great advice and again for being my first follower!

  29. Alison, this was excellent info! Thank you so much for sharing. We just started out a week and half ago and we'll take all the info we can get.


  30. Thanks for the advice. It's going to be really helpful. One thing I'm still unsure of is what a blog tour is exactly and how a blogger gets to participate in one.
    Have a great weekend.

  31. This is something that I struggle with. I've had my blog since 2006 and I have very few followers. I haven't done much to attract them, both intentionally and unintentionally.
    Personally I get irritated with blogs in my reader that are all mailbox-monday/teaser-tuesday and I never read those posts.
    I used to do booking-through-thursday because I liked the idea and the reading-related questions, but I got bored with it after a while and it didn't help me much readership-wise (probably because I tend to be more of a reader and less of a commenter and so never actually told people when I added them to my reader).
    I occasionally go through these why-am-I-posting-if-no-one-is-reading phases and fortunately almost every single time I'm in one I end up getting an unexpected meaty comment on a post so I haven't given up yet (though I have gone through dry spells).
    In any case, I'm finally getting to the point where I feel willing to actively try to grow my readership. I started doing follow-friday and have been visiting blogs and commenting and adding to me reader and I have added a few new followers. It's a process though and I know I can't expect to have 1000 followers overnight.

  32. Thanks so much for the article advice. I'm really new to serious blogging, and the blog subject I chose to follow is something that's a really large part of me, and I think that that's really scary to do -- to put a really important part of you on the internet to be scrutinized so harshly. Blogs that I did before were done purposefully to gain followers, who were people I already knew, and it worked horribly -- I kept posting things for the sake of being funny or deep or.. whatever, and it was so inconsistent. But this time I chose to do a totally anonymous blog hoping that my shyness doesn't leak through. In any case, thanks for the wonderful advice, and I'll be back to see your blog again!

  33. VERY good advice! I'm going to use this on my Friday Five. I've been doing most of it, but there was much gained from having read this. I'm in the process, and my hard work has given me way more followers than I expected at this point. Thanks for this!!

  34. Fantastic post, I was just looking at your followers before and thinking "I wonder how she got so many", then I found this! Thanks so much for the advice, it's great.

  35. I think you have this advice thing down to a pat, i have been searching for a good two hours and you have just given me exactly what i;m looking for!
    It's great to know that you actually did have to put in the hard work to achieve your success, and i definitely think you suceeded, majorly. Sometimes it gets a bit depressing when you see all these blogs with thousands of followers and you only have a handful.
    This will help a lot with my blogging, so a most heartfelt thank you very much!

  36. Great post! I'm not one of the "follow me, I'll follow you back" kind of bloggers, but I try to be consistent, actively participate in some memes and hops (by actively, I mean not just posting my link and leaving, but visiting others on the hop/meme as well). I do some giveaways where I offer following as an additional entry option, but unless it's a followers-only giveaway, I never make it a requirement. I also try to limit my posts - I've unsubscribed from blogs with too many posts in a day - it just clogs up my reader - if you're a deal blog, could ya just put all of the deals in one post, pretty please? Anyway, love this! Lots of great advice and info, especially for those new to the blogging scene.

  37. Neat post. When you are saying 3-6 times a week for frequency of posts, are you including memes?
    Or do you post 3 times a week with non-meme posts?

  38. Great tips! The commenting tip is the best one that really works! I just can't stand it when you can obviously tell that someone just read the comments section instead of really reading your post.

    ...that kinds sucks...

  39. I know this was posted ages ago, but I was browsing your (awesome) blog when I came accross it. The thing lacking in my blog is followers; and I comment on blogs reguarly, post frequently and take part in memes - I was running out of ideas to gain more readers! Your tips really helped, thank you! Fantastic post :-)

  40. Wow...I know I'm alittle late on commenting seeing as this post was posted forever ago but oh well. This is awesome advice. I've been browsing other blogs and alot of what you've said is true. I just made a blog last night, and I love this site so far. Your tips are really helpful. Thanks. =]

  41. VERY good advice! I'm going to use this on my Friday Five. I've been doing most of it, but there was much gained from having read this.
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  43. This is awesome advice, and a great, well thought out article. Thanks. Am looking forward to taking some of it inboard.

  44. Hi Alison,
    Thank you so much for this post. It was so helpful. I just started my blog this month and I appreciate any help and advice I can get. It was a lot harder to set up then I thought it would be and just trying to get everything I want added and in the right place is very time consuming. But I actually love it so far!! My hubs just looks at me like I am crazy! lol. I just started to do memes this week. (I am going to do -cover love, teaser tuesday (2nd time for that one),Feature Follow Friday, and WoW. I will see how it goes. It is so funny because I started the blog because I am addicted to reading but with starting up my blog it has been hard to read as much as I used too. I guess I just have to find the right balance.
    Thanks again!!
    Mariann at Belle's Book Bag.

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