Optimizing Blog Readership: Reading off the Net

By . Filed in Web 2.0

There’s no doubt that reading a book is distinct from reading an e-book. The same applies for reading text on paper and reading a blog online. Faced with different mediums altogether, readers form different expectations depending on what they are reading off. The written word may have been the first tool to promote the spread of knowledge, but it was the Internet that had revolutionized the spread of info with fast-paced and widespread access to knowledge all over the world.

optimizing blog readership
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Such significant differences separate the kinds of expectations we have for each medium. Amazingly, they are so powerful that they could even shape the way we think and behave online and offline. As our reliance on the Internet grows, a whole new culture of immediacy may have been adopted – we want our information in a flash, from many sources. Such cultural change affects the way we read online blogs, so much so that we no longer write the way we used to write on physical paper.

We have to understand such disparity to improvise on our existing blogs. When we go along with the whims and desire of these Internet readers, we optimize our blog readership. Below are fundamental differences of reading online and its optimization methods, full tips at the jump!

Non-Linearity

The presence of hyperlinks on web blogs mean that readers are not constrained to one article of information, but rather are able to jump from link to link to find out more. To be fair, written articles do have such ‘links'; we call them footnotes. Nonetheless, the inconvenience of having to search for that other source through a physical library means that readers would probably stick to what they have in their hands.

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Such non-linearity allows for a flow of thoughts from one site to another. Sometimes, blog readers do not stay on the same site to finish the entire article, unlike in the case of written articles. Reading an online article is more of a journey through different articles from different sites rather than simply just the one.

Styles for Blogs

One common theme of online blog readers is that they get distracted easily by the massive amount of information out there. Now that we are aware that they practise a different reading style, how can a blogger adapt to such a reading characteristic? Here are a few tips:

Since reading online is a rather ‘scattered’ affair, it means that readers may easily lose their attention or focus in wordy blogs. They wouldn’t want to see chunks of words lumped together in a single big paragraph. Instead, they want paragraphs to be concise and interesting enough to keep them captivated enough keep reading.

Again, their short attention spans mean that they wouldn’t want to waste time figuring out what your point is. Rather, you should organize your points in a form of sections and listings to make your article more ‘readable’. The moment your readers start to wonder what you’re talking about, you risk losing them to another site in the search engine results.

Scattered Reading

As a result of the wealth of information available online, online readers are spoilt for choice. Such choices may exist for written articles as well, in the form of a visit to the physical library. But once we factor in the ease of quick access, online reading seems to offer so much more than its offline alternative. Each new site, with new ideas and information which we can draw upon, is just a click away. Your quest for knowledge never seems to end.

scattered reading
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Now, how would such an abundance of options affect the reader? For one thing, the reader no longer relies on what he or she is reading, because the reader knows there are other equally good or better sources. Sometimes the reader might take bits from one source and pieces from another source. The reading style becomes scattered and unfocused. They would prefer to have a diversity of views, digest them and form their own unique opinion about the issue.

Immediacy

It is much easier and less time-consuming to publish an article on the Web than in print media like newspapers. Therefore, blogs are generally in competition with each other to be the first to produce a certain article topic in order to gain an advantage in the amount of readership.

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Knowing all too well that the Internet has every information you need upon demand, online readers expect blogs to be ready with articles that follow with the trends. If Apple iPhone 5 has just been released into the market, they’ll seek for any site with reviews. Such expectation of immediacy is so much higher online on the Web than it is in print media. You can say that it qualifies as a basic difference between the two media.

Fresh from the Oven

Referring to the point made about online readers wanting a greater level of immediacy with online sites, it is even more crucial that articles must be ‘fresh’ or ‘newsworthy’ enough to lure readers to click on the link listed in the search engine. You wouldn’t want to be giving tips on Windows Vista when the ‘in’ thing now is Windows 7, or talk about the iPad when everyone is switching to iPad 2.

Make sure that you keep yourself abreast with the latest trends, even more so if your blog entries are technology-based. Even if they are not, you should keep yourself informed with the latest development or what the ‘talk of the town’ is. Online readers expect your blog to furnish them with new facts and arguments, not what they already know. That being said, your article must also be well-written and be inspiring.

Quality Links

Having good links on your blog can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you might be providing relevant and useful information to support your blog entries. On the other hand, you could lose your readers to the very same sites which you linked them to.

Having quality links within your content is an essential component of a quality blog. The idea of establishing your blog as a high quality one through such links is to get the typical scatter-brained online readers to follow your blog instead of being transient. Once you establish for yourself a fan base, your blog’s readership will level-out or increase. All you need to do is to keep up with the quality of your blog and draw in more readers to stick to your entries.

One way to prevent the loss of your readers to other sites is to have only informative links that will help readers understanding your topic of interest. Links to blogs that can serve as an alternative to yours should be minimized; they are your competition after all. These alternatives which I speak of are those blogs which are more or less similar to what you’re offering.

Easy Navigation

Blog readers have hundreds and thousands of alternative sources out there to gain knowledge from; you wouldn’t want to turn them off with a cluttered blog full of advertisements, pictures, messy links and such. You need to strike a balance between being visually attractive and being reader-friendly.

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WIth a well-written and well-organized blog, any visitor should be able to figure out the structure of your blog intuitively. Just as having sections and listings would make it easier on their eyes, grouping different types of information into separate links would also be helpful to your readers. Direct them to where the information are, and they will be happy to keep coming back to your blog.

Author:

Michael is a freelance blogger and regular contributor for Hongkiat.com. He graduated from the National University of Singapore with a double major in Psychology and Communications & New Media in 2011.He believes in the power of the written word to influence and inspire. An enthusiastic video gamer, Michael is also actively engaged in various physical activities in his spare time.

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