Image by Paola Kizette Cimenti, via Flickr
I’ve said this before, but the number one question people ask me about blogging is this: “How to I get more readers?”
Usually, the question I ask in response to this question is “Why do you WANT more readers?”
Some bloggers want those readers so they can get more comments, enjoy people witnessing what they make, and build some online friendships. Other bloggers want more readers because they want more customers.
…And this second group is often making a pretty big leap of logic: More Traffic = More Business. (Which always reminds me of The Underpants Gnomes, but that’s another story.)
But Traffic=Business is just not an automatic relationship. Let’s talk about what a large readership can and cannot do for you.
Image by epSos.de, via Flickr
Eyeballs vs. Compadres vs. Customers
The first assumption to debunk is, “Anyone who shows up on my blog stats is automatically a fully attention-paying customer with a big wad of cash to spend on my stuff.” In fact, people come to your blog for all kinds of reasons, with all kinds of intent. You can have lots and lots of readers and still have few sales.
This touches on what I see as the number one stumbling block crafters find when they’re trying to make a business through blogging – they write their blog to attract fellow crafters instead of actual customers. (This is natural to do – blogging started as a personal medium, after all, and in many ways, it still is.)
If you sell craft supplies, this blogging-for-crafters approach makes sense – fellow crafters are also your customers. But if you make finished handmade goods, then fellow crafters really don’t represent the market for your product. People who need what you sell are your customers.
If you make jewelry based on internet memes, then internet nerds are your customers. If you make sets of coordinated bags to organize stuff for traveling, then people who love to travel are your customers. Can you see either of those customer groups tuning into a purely crafty blog?
So, you can share craft tutorials and pretty pictures with fellow crafters all day long and get lots of traffic and wonderful comments, but if you don’t sell something crafters can use, then that traffic may not lead to much in the way of sales.
Image by hotdogger13, via Flickr
How DOES a big audience make money, then?
Now, there are ways you can build a huge audience of crafters and still make money. You can sell exposure to those crafters to advertisers. You can use the attention of all those crafters to prove to a mainstream publisher that you’re a good bet for a book deal. Similarly, you can use the attention of all those crafters to convince a craft company to hire you to design fabrics, craft supplies, paper goods or whatever.
…But do you see the hidden factor here? In all those cases, traffic does not automatically equal business. Traffic equals something you use to go out and create business for yourself. (And sometimes, that business comes to you, but less frequently these days.)
Image by mikefats, via Flickr
…And, to refer back to the earlier point, if you’re building an audience of people who actually need the thing you sell, then lots of traffic actually can equal lots of sales. But getting that audience requires more than making nice content. It requires getting very clear about who you need to be reaching, and writing content specifically for those people.
Remember when I decided to stop doing free craft tutorials last year? That’s a good illustration of what I mean here. Tutorials, although they’re huge traffic-drivers, don’t reach the people who need what I actually sell. That decision has had a very positive impact on my business in the past year.
Image by Stephanie Kilgast, via Flickr
Is a Big Blog Audience Necessary for Business Success?
Nope. What’s necessary is a well-targeted audience. Which is, in fact the audience Tara and I will teach you to create in our ebook: Crafting an Effective Blog: How to make a blog that actually improves your business (without being spammy). Follow that link and take a look!