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Build an Authority Blog That Will Engage With Your Target Audience

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This post is part of a series called Build a Profitable Authority Blog.
The Top WordPress Plugins You Need for Your Authority Blog
How to Create Unique Content for Your Authority Blog

The blogging world is full of noise.

Extremely low barriers of entry have enabled just about anyone to dip their toes in the world of blogging. The web is overflowing with low-quality blogs and low-quality content. Getting heard (or read) is no easy task.

It's not just enough to create a blog with great content -- that content needs to be presented in the right manner in order to attract people's attention.

If you've been following this series on creating an authority blog in WordPress then you will have come a long way already. By now you will have thought of a topic for your blog and decided upon the approach you will take with that topic (i.e. either authoritative or "watch me learn").

You will have installed the Canvas theme on your WordPress blog as well as a bunch of awesome Wordpress plugins. You may have even had a stab at creating some content (although I will be covering content creation in the next post, there's nothing to stop you from getting started now).

Now it's time to focus on moulding your site for maximum engagement. You want to grab your target reader by the scruff of the neck when they hit your site and leave them with zero doubt as to what you're all about. In this post I'll be taking you through my recommended step-by-step process for doing exactly that.

A Selective Approach to Blogging

Although the blogosphere is full of noise, it is possible to carve out a corner of the web for yourself if you take the correct approach. What you need to do is create a policy of exclusion.

I appreciate that exclusion may seem like a counter-intuitive approach when it comes to attracting and engaging with a large number of people, but bear with me, and all will become clear.

Don’t be afraid to engage with your target audience and alienate the rest.

Here's the thing: You don't want to attract everyone to your blog. There are plenty of people on the internet to go around, trust me. By creating a blog for "everyone" you are effectively creating a blog for no one -- you message will be so vague and amorphous, it will get lost in the aforementioned noise.

On the other hand, if you create a blog for a very specific type of person, you will be able to engage with them on a meaningful level. You want to create a website that compels your ideal reader to remark, "This blog was made for me!"

So get specific. Don't just create another health and fitness site -- create a health and fitness site just for nerds. Don't create another web marketing blog -- create one based upon psychology studies and research. Don't create a parenting blog -- create one specifically for new dads.

Don't be afraid to engage with your target audience and alienate the rest. Some will stay on board in spite of your very specific approach, and those who leave were never any good to you anyway. You'll get far more out of a relatively small group of highly engaged readers than a larger group of people who do not truly connect with you.

So before we start with the step-by-step guide below, make sure that you have clearly defined your target reader. How old are they, where are they from, what do they want? What motivates them? How are you going to change their life for the better? Those are the kind of questions you need to be asking yourself.

Alright, with that done, let's get onto the key steps for building engagement on your blog!


1. Create a Signup Incentive

In my opinion, an email subscriber is far more valuable than any other type of subscriber (RSS, Facebook, Twitter, etc). Getting into someone's email inbox is a far better place to be than in their social media feed or any other constantly moving communication medium. Email is personal.

A lot of people will tell you to create some kind of incentive for people to sign up to your blog's email list on the basis that it will increase subscription rates. The logic is obvious -- if you create something of value and give it away in return for an email address, more people are likely to subscribe.

However, there's a second reason to create a signup incentive -- to make it absolutely clear to your readers what your blog is about and what you can deliver. To that end, I recommend that you create a manifesto -- a document that clearly outlines who your blog is for and how your blog can help.

Step 1: Create a Title

Your manifesto must have a compelling title. It should resonate with your target audience -- don't worry about whether or not it will interest anyone else.

A couple of my favorite manifestos of all time have the following titles:

Not only are these great manifestos, they are compellingly named. That's what you're looking for.

The best way to effectively name your manifesto is to hone in on the primary fear or desire of your target audience. What is it that they fear or want the most? Your manifesto should promise either to release someone from their fear or provide the object of their desire.

If you want to learn more about the art of writing headlines and titles, check out this superb free resource from Copyblogger.

Step 2: Write the Manifesto

There is no word limit when it comes to manifestos. It could be 300 words or 10,000. For instance, consider these two very different examples:

So don't worry about word count -- worry about your message. Your manifesto forms the foundation of your blog's message. If someone asks you what your blog is about, the first thing you should point them towards is your manifesto. The two manifestos I linked to above are superb examples of how to do it correctly.

Don't get too carried away with making your manifesto "perfect" at this stage. You can always go back and change it in the future. The key is to have a clear message. Whether that message changes in the future is not something that should concern you at this point.

If you're interested in learning more about how to put together a compelling manifesto, read this.

Step 3: Package the Manifesto

The manifestos linked to above are both beautifully designed. You may in fact feel intimidated by the quality of their design -- I know I was when I first read them and asked myself if I should be producing something similar.

However, you don't have to mortgage your house to create something of value. A plain Word document can be sufficient if your message is compelling enough (if you don't believe me, read this). However, if you're willing to spend a little on creating a slightly more colorful manifesto, my recommendations is to hire a trusted designer. If you're having trouble finding one, you can drop by Microlancer and examine freelance designers offering eBook design services. The services are listed as package prices and easy to choose from.


2. Create a Feature Box

Generally speaking, blogs aren't great for delivering a message. The traditional reverse chronological display of posts helps to promote your most recent content, but the message of your blog can get lost in the noise.

That's where the feature box comes in -- a prominent area on your blog that serves as a huge neon sign, promoting exactly what it is that you have to offer. This is where you ask for people's email addresses in return for a free copy of your manifesto.

Fortunately, creating a feature box in Canvas (our theme of choice) is a piece of cake.

Step 1: Create Your Feature Box

First you need to install the Features by WooThemes plugin on your blog.

Once you have done so, navigate to Features > Add New from your WordPress sidebar. This page is where you will create your feature box.

As you can see, I've added a headline, some copy, a signup form and an image -- just like you would for a normal blog post. Make sure that you wrap any paragraphs you create in this box with <p></p> tags from within the Text tab of the editor.

Finally, wrap all of the above in a <div>. Doing so is simple: Just click on the Text tab within the text editor and ensure that your content is wrapped in a <div> tag as follows:

This will ensure that we can style the feature box later on.

If you don't know what you're doing when it comes to setting up an email list and creating signup forms, check out my post on email marketing best practices.

Step 2: Implement Your Feature Box

Now we need to make that feature box appear on your home page.

Navigate to Canvas > Hooks from your WordPress sidebar and select Main from the options at the top of the screen. On the resultant screen, enter the [woothemes_features] shortcode as shown in the screenshot below:

As you can see, the Enable Shortcodes on this Hook option should also be checked.

Now if you load up your home page you will see something like the following:

Everything's in the right place but it's not exactly pretty, is it? Let's work on that.

Step 3: Style Your Feature Box

Remember that we wrapped the feature box content in <div> tags earlier on? Now we're going to make use of that <div> tag to make some stylistic changes to the feature box.

Start by navigating to Appearance > Editor from your WordPress sidebar and click on custom.css in the right hand column. Now paste the following code into the file, below the Global Styles section:

.feature-title {
display: none;
}

.manifesto {
border: 1px solid #dbdbdb;
padding: 1em;
background-color: #C6DEFF;
overflow: auto;
}

.manifesto h2 {
font-size: 42px;
padding-bottom: 10px;
}

.manifesto p {
font-size: 18px;
}

Here's the end result:

It's already looking much better, right? And we're just scratching the surface here -- you can do a lot with CSS to make your feature box more dynamic and interesting.

Consider for instance changing the background color -- just refer to this enormous list of HTML color codes and replace the background-color under the .manifesto section of your custom.css file; for example:

.manifesto {
border: 1px solid #dbdbdb;
padding: 1em;
background-color: #FFF5EE;
overflow: auto;
}

If you want to learn more about CSS and how you can use some very simple code to drastically change the look and feel of your site, check out this comprehensive CSS Beginner Tutorial.


Other Options

Too many people make the mistake of making their authority blogs far too "busy." If you were to create just a single column design with the above feature box at the top and your blog posts below, your chances of engaging with your visitors would be far better than the majority of blogs out there.

So if in doubt, adhere to a strategy of keeping it simple. Less is more when it comes to blogging -- don't overwhelm your readers with an abundance of choice. You want them to read and enjoy your content then sign up to your email list -- that's your primary goal.

You should approach adding new elements to the design of your site with two questions in mind:

  1. Does this new element increase my chances of engaging with visitors?
  2. Does this new element benefit visitors?

The answer must be yes to both questions in order for you to add the new element. And believe me, most of the time the honest answer will be no. Always bear that in mind as you tweak your site in the hope of increased engagement.

Please feel free to fire away via the comments section below with any thoughts or questions!

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