How to Build an Audience for Your Blog (without the bullshit)

You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging after I wrote Waiting for Superman and why your blog seems like a big, stinking failure, right? Don’t get me wrong: I was tempted to. Just kidding. This was all part of the plan. Now let’s learn about how to build more traction for your blog or YouTube channel.

It’s like when philosophy teachers force you to study existentialism to make you more appreciative of life. Or something. You have to face the void to become a better blogger. I had to confront you with harsh reality and call you a slacker to get you to listen to me. Right?

Right.

Let’s talk about where you’re at now.

Who should read this guide

Maybe you’ve been at this long enough to get over that initial hump of absolutely no audience to speak of. If you haven’t, this guide isn’t for you. You’re not in the right mindset to hear this advice. I recommend you continue to run in millions of different directions as quickly as you can for the next year (give or take), try new things, make lots of mistakes, and get frustrated and pissed off.

Likewise, if you’re in a state of disillusioned resignation, this won’t work for you, either. You’ve either given up the pursuit, postponed active, hungry work until an undetermined later date, or are completely satisfied with your current audience. This advice isn’t for you, either.

Anger. Despair. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Those are the emotions you need to experience for this guide to resonate with you.

But most importantly you need hunger. You have to want it – the audience, the fortune, the fame, the attention.

If you’re not willing to admit that you want attention, you’re not going to get any use from reading this, because you’re not going to put it into action.

Go away now.

But first subscribe and share it with someone who wants to hear it. I still want attention.

(I do still love you. But seriously. Just, go away now. You’re going to waste your time. Go find a cat video to watch for the next five minutes.)

So here we are

Just the two of us. Perfect. Let’s set the scene.

Here we are: a blog with no audience unless you count the tumbleweeds. You’ve made it past the initial hump of gaining your first few (hundred?) subscribers. Then you made the brilliant choice to take a break (meaning certain death). Or maybe 90% of your blogger friends have given up the ghost (…figuratively) and quit the internet. Maybe you just changed direction so many times over the course of your creative journey that you’ve lost all the interest you’d initially built.

So now you upload a video and get 20 views (including the 6 that the view counter picks up while you’re adding your cards, transcripts, and other extras). Or you hit the publish button three times a week, but never crack 10 visitors (2 of which come from some weird search term that has nothing to do with your niche).

You feel me?

And sure, you could probably quadruple your audience in a heartbeat if you would just be more active on all those Facebook groups you joined during your most recent wave of ambition, but fuck that is a lot of work.

Isn’t it?

And it’s great. Blogging and YouTube groups are great.

Until they’re not

Some of you will learn a lot from blogging groups. Others actually learn to do stuff and feel like Cady Heron studying with Aaron Samuels.

Joining blogging support groups and reading blogging advice and blogging tips from fellow members is kind of like Cady Heron studying with Aaron Samuels. Painful. Wrong. So wrong.

Wrong. So wrong.

But the biggest thing you learn from them is how completely useless they are for building a legitimate audience.

You can build great, long-lasting relationships with your fellow creators, collaborate with them, guest post for them, and gain lots of great new viewers from that. But first you both have to have an audience. And chances are 80% of the people you’re interacting with on those groups have no audience to speak of.

Save these for later unless you have a specific question you can’t find on Google (or want a second, or third, or 100th opinion on). Do not live or die by blogging groups.

Why commenting on blogs won’t help build your audience

The internet has millions of blog posts about blogging that talk about commenting on blogs. Likewise, small YouTubers are encouraged to build up a presence in the community by commenting on other peoples’ videos.

Some people completely miss the mark by leaving comments like, “Nice,” or “Great,” or something super self-promotional – or worse, completely irrelevant.

But the genuine comments – the kind that I leave on all my friends’ videos and blog posts – miss the mark, too. Because when you spend too much time on commenting on other peoples’ videos and posts, you’re forgetting something: actually finding new viewers.

Can comments help? Sure. Leaving a nice, thoughtful, genuine comment that starts up a conversation is a great way to get noticed. People who understand how the internet works may even notice that you’ve got your own internet presence, check out your stuff, love it, and become a fan.

Awesome, right?

And they’re also great for opening up a relationship with someone who makes content similar to yours. Collaboration is excellent.

But the amount of traffic you’ll get from this is negligible and takes forever to roll in – if it ever does. Do not live or die by your commenting.

Social media won’t help you grow your audience, either, by the way

The thing about social media sites is that they’re crowded, ethereal, and a royal pain in the ass if you’re broke. Facebook has been pay-to-play for years and your organic reach will be nil if you don’t shell out for advertising.*

Instagram has become fairly similar since it released its new algorithmic feed in the spring. The lifespan of an average tweet is about 17 minutes. Big YouTubers are claiming that videos aren’t showing up in subscription boxes and the notification system seems to be broken. Even email has a 20% open rate on average.

* Unless you convince your new fans to not only Like your page, but also scroll back and Like every single post you’ve put online for the last month and choose to see every post in the following options. 

Like it or not, your followers don’t mean shit when it comes to views. Getting a follower doesn’t mean a guaranteed view on most of your content. It means that some of your stuff will show up in their feed occasionally and if it’s relevant to their interests and has a clickable image and title, they’ll consider watching it if they have time in that moment.

Do not live or die by your followers.

Since organic reach on Facebook and most other social networking sites has effectively become nil, don't count on social media to help you build an audience for your blog.

Want the same organic reach as a Facebook page with 100,000 fans? Grab a megaphone and stand in the middle of a church. On Tuesday morning.

Don’t question your quality (yet)

I got a comment when I posted Waiting for Superman by the lovely Chloe of A Cold Cup of Chloe. She offered:

I can relate to so much of this. Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to simply have a business that sells actual products rather then just trying to promote my words. I try and understand how people can grow their social media so quickly and most of the time I’m met with “use the right hashtags, have high quality images and be consistent”

I can hash tag till the cows come home but it doesn’t mean that my content will be noticed.

I often wonder if the reason my numbers aren’t shooting through the roof is because I’m actually a crappy writer. If that is the case, then I would hope someone somewhere along the line would just tell me. Otherwise I know I’m doing something wrong, I’m still yet to find the Golden Ticket.

I know people try and say “oh don’t focus on the money side, just be passionate and blah blah blah” but let’s be real. We would all love to earn a full time wage doing a craft that we love.

Chloe’s problem is that she thinks quality makes a lick of difference when it comes to growing an audience. It doesn’t.

Quality doesn’t mean shit. Quantity doesn’t mean shit, either. We’re working in an industry built on illusion, advertising, and make-believe. As I said in Waiting for Superman: the internet is your medium. You have to be good at the internet – not writing, not video, not photography. The internet.

I had this same moment a few months ago when I hit my one-year anniversary on YouTube. For more than a week, I questioned every piece of content I’d created and determined that I sucked as a creator. That was wrong. I don’t suck. Maybe some of my stuff sucks. A lot of it was certainly aimless and misguided. But it didn’t suck. I don’t suck.

I’m just invisible. We’re all invisible.

Huge bloggers have this problem too

Remember how big YouTubers are complaining about their videos never hitting subscription boxes? Maybe that’s true in some instances. YouTube continues to insist that it’s not. But the bottom line is that people with huge channels and huge followings aren’t getting the view counts to reflect that.

I’m subscribed to several channels in the 50,000 subscriber range. They get about 5,000 views per video. Another I know of has about 20,000 subscribers and gets fewer than 1,000 views on most of her videos.

And bloggers feel this, too. I’ve seen blogs that boast 100,000 email subscribers, but their posts rarely get more than 10 comments. I have a friend with 5,000 Twitter followers that tweets 20 times per day and gets 3 favs between them.

And don’t even get me started on Instagram.

Bottom line: we’re all frankly screwed. The work doesn’t end. Yes, you can eventually get to the point where you have so many loyal fans that you get 70 retweets within a minute and a half every single time you post. But that won’t happen for all of us, it’s a long time coming, and you must keep in mind that those 70 retweets don’t necessarily translate into millions of views (and dollars rolling in).

Nope. The fight doesn’t end. You just see your efforts going that much further when you make them.

How to Build an Audience for Your Blog or YouTube Channel (without the bullshit) / TheNoker.com / Social media is useless. Blog commenting is useless. Writing quality content is useless. Your followers are useless. Your email subscribers are useless. Your blog design is irrelevant. This is the actual, hardcore guide to growing your blog FOR REAL.

And that brings us to the bottom line. There’s one rule – one step – that will make you successful on the internet:

Fill the stadium every single time

If you want the eyeballs, you have to put butts in seats. You cannot rely on your fellow bloggers to do it for you. And you cannot expect your subscriber base to do it for you. You certainly can’t expect Facebook to do it for you. So help me god if you expect me to do it for you.

You have to do it. Every single time you make something, if you want somebody else to see it, you have to put it in front of them. You have to sit down, think about the people who want – nay, need – this particular piece of content in their lives and then push it in front of them. In a friendly and conversational and non-spammy tone. On their terms. And not on someone else’s content.

Yes, you should use hashtags on your tweets. But you should also take the time to find somebody who just asked the question that your content answers.

Yes, you should share it on your Facebook fan page. You should also share it on five Facebook groups full of people who talk about whatever you just made a video about.

Yes, you should comment on blogs. But you should comment on relevant posts using the search terms you want to target and put your own post in the URL box and somehow comment in a way that makes you seem like a friendly, conversational, non-competitive expert on whatever you’re talking about.

Yes, you should comment on videos. But consider commenting on recent comments that other people have left on the videos of creators who have abandoned their channels.

And that’s not enough.

Expand your presence online

These are baby steps. Most of this stuff will get you two or three views, max, spread out over time. In the meantime, expand your audience. Think bigger.

  • Write guest posts and make collaborative videos with other bloggers and YouTubers who are super-relevant to your own content.
  • Reach out to journalists and offer an expert opinion about your topic when they need information.
  • Submit your posts to directories and news sites that cover your topic.
  • Send super-sweet emails to fellow bloggers asking them to share your post if it would help their audience. (Don’t do this cold, by the way. Actually be nice to them first. Please.)

Bottom line: don’t just find an audience for your blog. Do not just find an audience for your channel. Build an audience for every single piece of content you release. Do this every single day, continuously, for the next several months, and I promise you that you will start to see results from it.

I know that I have, at least. And it’s only continuing to build as I start to acquire new readers and viewers who don’t necessarily have an audience of their own (also known as a competing interest), but rather genuinely enjoy what I have to offer because I’ve answered a question or provided entertainment on a level that they appreciate.

That’s what the experts mean when they say that blogging is 20% about creating and 80% about promotion. It’s valid advice. But remember that you’re not promoting your blog, your channel, or your social media presence. You’re promoting the awesome thing you just created.

Don’t find new fans for your blog or your YouTube channel. Find one fan for your latest post. Then another. And a few more. Tweet it at somebody who just made a reference to whatever you just spent 2,000 words talking about.

Fill the stadium.

That’s what’s going to carry me, my blog, and my channel forward.

Try it. You’ll like it.

So what are you going to do today to fill your stadium? How are you going to claw for some eyballs get some views on your newest blog post? Comment down below to let me know.

(And subscribe.)

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12 comments on “How to Build an Audience for Your Blog (without the bullshit)”

  1. Chloe Reply

    Seriously, your content blows my mind. I want to share this with every blogger I know.
    I’ve really been thinking about the stadium analogy. I have joined multitude of blogging groups and I ritualistically sign up to everything, comment, share blah blah blah. And sure- my numbers are up, the comments are higher and everything is slowly building.
    But you are completely right the engagement isn’t…and I hate to use this word…organic.

    Let’s go back to the stadium analogy. These blogging groups- well they aren’t putting me as the main act. They are making me the piece of paper that gets handed out when people leave a concert to say “Hey maybe come and see this band next week”.
    We need to make our acts the main stage, or hey even the supporting act. I had never thought about any of this until I read your blog. I knew there was a next stage or step. I knew that I needed to redirect my energy into something other then liking random Instagram posts because I signed up to a god damn thread.

    The notifications from these threads are insane.

    My favourite part of this blog is sharing your posts as an answer to people’s questions. Sure, I can share a recipe on my blog. But what type of recipe is it? Who would actually WANT this recipe? What audience would benefit from it? Who would be looking for my recipe as an answer to their question?
    Can you believe I had never thought of this?

    What have I been doing?!

    P.S thank-you so much for tagging my blog, this means a lot to me. You have made my weekend.

    • Michael Noker Reply

      Duuude, I’ve been at this for more than a year (and I made an effort at blogging way back when, too – like when I was 18ish and then just forgot it was a fun thing to do for a decade). I’ve been beating my head against the wall for moooonths trying to figure this out before it finally clicked into place, like, a month or so ago.

      Which is why I’m really glad I got to not only have the epiphany and write about it, but also see it click for someone else. Like I’m so beyond thankful that you’re reading this and getting value from it. You’ve made my weekend, as well, for that.

  2. Susan Reply

    Perfect follow up. I’ll say it again, it’s just very refreshing to read someone call BS on all of the ‘blogging advice’ that’s out there. I’ve only been at it for 8 months, and even I can see it. And like you said, it’s not that groups, commenting, social media, etc. are bad or worthless. It’s just that they are not going to skyrocket my little blog to stardom. When I read most of the advice that’s out there, I notice that it seems they’ve all abandoned the niche they started in to teach blogging for a living. Kind of fishy.

    This is exactly what I’ve been needing to read. You are an answer to prayer this week. Thank you. “Fill the stadium” now resides on a sticky note on my desk.

    p.s. I expected to see a picture of Curly from City Slickers when you said “there’s just one thing…” 🙂

    • Michael Noker Reply

      Curly is the single best person (living, dead, or fictional) I have ever been associated with!

      And I completely, 100% get what you’re talking about with the bloggers who just start teaching blogging. It feels almost like a pyramid scheme, sometimes, doesn’t it? I’d hazard a guess that most bloggers make most of their earnings off of their monthly income reports. Their most pinned posts aren’t their fashion/lifestyle/food/whatever posts. It’s their social media tips – and usually nothing new.

      (I’m guilty of supporting those kinds of posts. Blog income reports, planners, and Miley Cyrus are my guilty pleasures.)

      And I’m not gonna lie, it feels really, really good to get validation on this post – you know, before it falls into the wrong stadium and I get vilified, haha.

  3. zozieposie Reply

    Great post again! – a continuation of the last and it really hits the point – and although I DO think already the way of putting the right post in front of the best audience where I get the chance. .(and try to create chances)…you have made me feel as if focusing on that EVEN more is a good thing…and although as a newbie I get most excited generally if people email sign up ( vote of confidence ) I do lifestyle blogging and it covers a variety …so some sign up as they enjoy my book reviews ….some like my strolls around England…etc…I don’t know which subscribers like which best usually as you can’t tell from email addresses.
    I think I will focus less on numbers – although fun (sometimes lol) to track – and more on each post which brings it’s individual flavour.
    I thought about a niche as it’s popular in blogging circles but I have so much I love to chat about and I have more enthusiasm this way – as I see it at this point anyway – hopefully as I once read – when you cover a lot of topics your niche is your ‘voice’ – that reassured me …and I put my blog topics into categories so book readers can head there and things…
    I don’t think I have ever commented as long as on your last two posts so THANK YOU – you have a recognisable voice .
    Ps found your blog through FB group so they can help.

    http://www.whimsyandcosy.wordpress.com

    • Michael Noker Reply

      I love that these posts are getting people to talk so much! The conversation is half of why I do social media in the first place, so the fact that people are typing out paragraphs upon paragraphs is super exciting to me. Thank you for being part of that conversation!

      As a side note, as far as getting your email list built across multiple topics, how are you going about building your list? Have you considered using multiple email lists and using unique sign-up forms for each topic? For example, one sign-up form on all your lifestyle posts, one for, say, travel, one for people who enjoyed a particular book review, etc.? Then you know what each person was actually interested in so you can target your email campaign accordingly? And if they just seem interested in everything (it’s easy to tell when you’re smaller), you can always take their email and add it to a ‘master’ list of general subscribers.

      Food for thought, at least. Let me know if I need to explain that a bit better. I know it sounds kind of clunky.

  4. womanpulse Reply

    Interesting post and yes I just said recently I am not going to take blogging advice from a fashion or mom blogger. But and this is a big but for those of us who have been doing it we do know a little something. I make it a practice to only heed advice from people and blogs where I know firsthand that said bloggers have a proveable backround in the field they are writing about. As a group owner on F cebook I agree and disagree with you. When I started I was spending 10 hours a day on facebook and now I really only participate in two groups. The share threads do work. Social Media does work and the truth is many don’t put in the work and it also reaches organic traffic but of course you can’t do that alone. Let’s get real though, our blogs are not going to reach stardom, it just wont happen, not by itself. I get alot of views on a lifestyle blog, are they followers, probably not. We could go round and round on this for hours lol, I don’t think the same thing works for everyone.

    • Michael Noker Reply

      I will definitely agree that the same thing doesn’t work for everyone. I have to say – I love being a member of Crazy 4 Blogging and I’ve found a lot of great new blogs and bloggers because of it. I do wish I had a bit more free time for it!

  5. Kelsie Reply

    Thanks for these tips! It can feel overwhelming, but I agree that we have to be the ones who make sure that they see our content!

    • Michael Noker Reply

      Hm, I don’t know that I can help just yet by virtue that I think you may be at a plateau that I haven’t hit yet (does that make sense?), but if you ever want to toss some ideas around, feel free to hit me up on Twitter or email or smoke signal. I usually have weird, scattered enough thoughts to trigger something!

  6. Pingback: Is Anyone Else Fucking Sick of Jim Rohn Quotes? - Michael Noker

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