So you’ve invested in a content strategy, employed some great creative, and you’re publishing new blog posts regularly. You’ve got traffic arriving on your site, you’re converting some of that traffic from casual reader into converted customer and things are looking up.
But, wait: have you ever stopped to wonder why people are reading your blog anyway?
I’m not talking about where the readers come from – Google Analytics will tell you that – but why they are arriving on your site.
And, no, I’m not talking about keywords, clickbait headlines, or the SEO strategies that you and your team have put in place to attract clicks.
Go more basic: what motivates people to read blogs generally, and why do they choose to read your blog specifically?
It’s a different question and one that content marketers don’t often reflect on, instead assuming that people will go looking for content and that good content will attract more of those seekers.
But it is actually a little more complicated than that, and answering the question for your blog can help you create better content, serve the readership more effectively, and keep people coming back.
In this post we’ll explore the nine reasons that people read blogs – which one brings in your readers?
The Science Behind Reading Blogs
When it comes to determining what attracts people to blogs the best research has been completed by Professor Barbara Kaye at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. In 2010 she published a peer-reviewed article titled Going to the Blogs: Toward the Development of a Uses and Gratifications Measurement Scale for Blogs in the Atlantic Journal of Communication wherein she outlined the nine reasons that readers seek out information on blogs.
This study, since widely cited in the academic and online discussion of blogs, clearly identified different motivations behind the clicks of blog readers. For the first time blog owners – including businesses – could have a clear understanding of the reasons that people were arriving on their sites and what they were hoping to find when they arrived.
Yet what it did not do was seek to pigeonhole the readers into nine groups. Indeed, some of the reasons that readers arrived on a blog seeking out information were conscious and related to their use of the internet, while others were unconscious and related to the wider lifestyle and life assumptions of the readers. What’s more, some of the reasons were decidedly proximate (having something to do with the specific action of seeking information on a blog this specific time) while others were more general, perhaps defining blogs as a preferred source of information about a subject in comparison with competing media sources.
For marketers, acknowledgement of the nine reasons a reader chooses to seek out information on blogs and consideration of the specific factors that are driving readers to their blog specifically is an important step in developing, launching, and maintaining a blog and content creation strategy.
The Nine Reasons People Read Blogs
We’ll run through the nine reasons people read blogs one by one.
1. Convenient Information Seeking
Blogs are regularly updated, quickly indexed by search engines, and usually maintained by masters of the particular niche the blog is focused upon. This makes a blog a convenient source of information for readers who want to find out what is happening in a certain domain now, as the best and most recent information is just a Google search and a click away.
2. Anti-Traditional Media Sentiment
Blogs represent a sort of citizen media. They might be funded by a company or be the work and sole means of raising revenue for an individual blogger, but they remain far removed from the multi-billion dollar enterprises that are the traditional or mainstream media. When a blog reader has reason to distrust traditional sources of information, blogs fill the gap.
Blog readers often come to affiliate themselves with and identify as a member of a community related to a certain blog or blog topic. When a blog is grouped around a theme, or a sporting team, or a political candidate, for example, blog readers arrive not only for the content on the blog but also for the opportunity to be a member of the space the blog encapsulates.
4. Guidance/Opinion Seeking
Bloggers are part of the citizen media, but they are more aligned with the op-ed column that the strict, no-nonsense news gathering arms of the traditional media. As a result, bloggers are likely to share their opinions freely and some readers arrive not only to find out what the blogger believes, but also why they believe it. The combination of opinion and explanation is the driver here.
5. Blog Ambiance
When a blogger creates an environment that is welcoming, enjoyable to click around, and positive for the intended audience readers arrive, and stay. The ambience of a blog might not be immediately apparent, but to dedicated blog consumers it is easy to separate the blogs they read regularly into ‘information only’ and ‘information + community’ blogs with their own separate ambiances.
6. Personal Fulfillment
Less about the fulfillment that comes from finding the perfect information, by ‘personal fulfillment’ Kaye is referring to entertainment and enjoyment. Some blog readers enjoying reading blogs because…reading blogs is something that is enjoyable. When a blog is fun, when it is amusing, when the author or content creator offers something enjoyable to readers, they come back.
7. Political Debate
For certain types of blogs in certain niches, political debate is where it is at. Whether red state versus blue state, liberal versus conservative, or democratic youth versus ingrained autocrats, political debates – both watching and participating in – are a significant factor driving readers to blogs. The freedoms that blogging embraces compared to traditional media outlets only amplify this debate.
8. Variety of Opinion
When you go to the editorial page of the New York Times you know what you’re getting. The same applies to MSNBC, and politically inversely for Fox News. The blogosphere, on the other hand, has a variety of opinion and viewpoints that the mainstream and traditional media could never offer. If you want one opinion, read the Times; if you want every opinion, read blogs.
9. Specific Inquiry
Finally, the ninth reason that readers turn to blogs is when they have a specific inquiry. Perhaps they are seeking out a certain fact, looking for information that Wikipedia just couldn’t offer, or are looking for an expert opinion offered gratis by someone well known in the field. Whatever the reason, when a reader has a specific inquiry, there is almost always a blog with an answer.
Why Do People Read Your Blog?
So which of these nine reasons describes why people read your blog?
For many businesses – and especially businesses that have taken on the advice of SEO consultants and content marketing experts – the trend is to imagine that blog readers arrive strictly for specific information. Hence, it is important to develop blog posts around keywords, semantic terms that will appear high on search engine response pages, and that are directly related to the business and its domain. Blog posts are not about creating community as much as they are about developing the ‘juice’ that will help push the business page to the top of Google’s hallowed ‘Page One’.
This focus on the ninth reason, though, might be blinding you to the opportunities that the other eight motivating factors can offer. Review the list above and ask yourself questions like:
- How can I position my blog in relation to traditional media sources to win a bigger audience share?
- How can I provide a way for my readers to feel a part of a community?
- How can I encourage interaction on my blog and generate discussion?
- What is the ambiance of my blog? Is this the ambiance that works for my audience?
- Do I have a variety of voices and issues on the blog? Do I need to offer readers more?
- Should I bring a political angle to the blog posts I publish, or is it better for the business to stay neutral?
By understanding all of the potential drivers behind the decision that a reader makes to visit your blog, it is possible to craft a more effective blogging strategy, deliver the content that reader want and expect, and develop and audience of readers that will keep coming back day after day because of the value you offer.