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The Blog Loyalty Ladder

Every blog needs a loyal audience. How do you stop your blog becoming a revolving door and instead keep visitors on board for the long term. Let’s take a look at the blog loyalty ladder and how it helps us think about converting visitors into advocates.

A few blogs have picked up on the conflict between creating the best blog possible and gaining the maximum income from the blog. They see it as a paradox, in order to create good revenue streams you need to annoy your visitors with massive amounts of intrusive advertising. This isn’t necessarily the case and this post will explain why.

The Blog Loyalty Ladder

This concept will be familiar to the marketing people amongst you. I have adapted it for our needs but the idea is pretty much the same. The theory is that your audience can be grouped based on their level of awareness of your blog and their loyalty to it. Your very best people are at the top of the ladder. While you aim to get as many people from the bottom to the top realise that a minority will get there but they are to be cherished and nurtured. It is another case where the 80-20% rule works, these top 20% (or “quintile” as it is called in the trade) are pure gold.

  1. Advocates/Ambassadors – love you so much they tell others and evangelise on your behalf. They lap up whatever you put out right away and tell the world how great it is. Wind them up and let them go, reap the rewards. Incredibly loyal but woe-betide you if you cross them! They produce 80% of your success so give them the majority of your love and attention.
  2. Member or Customer – these people like you enough that they read your blog every day, comment, take part and generally contribute. They may have bought one or two of your products and are generally happy but not in love yet.
  3. Subscriber – probably a where lots of blogs are at, a healthy subscriber list. Subscribers attention will go up and down and could take or leave your blog. The fact you are on their OPML is a good sign though.
  4. Visitor – not taken the plunge into committing you to their subscriptions, they are checking you out. They might have arrived from a search engine or another blog. Depending on which would be a factor in how easy it would be to convert them up, recommendations work far better than random visits.
  5. Prospect – while they are target audience these people do not even know much about you but you might be on their RADAR, you need to work hard on awareness and branding for these people to take notice.

There is a lot of movement in the ladder. At any one point the people in each category might be moving up or down. You need good stats and to keep a careful eye on them to spot growth or defection.

Measuring Loyalty

The obvious signals to look for are the number of subscriptions, members and an individuals page view count. Someone who consistently views a lot of pages and is a fully signed up member is bound to be higher on the ladder than someone who has visited twice. If you sell a product then repeat or upgrade sales will tell you a great deal.

Unfortunately I don’t think any of the tools on the market cover everything to do this purely on the numbers so it is even more critical that you talk to your audience and make sure they are happy and giving you lots of feedback.

The Ladder and Monetization

For maximum income you need lots of people to visit, to visit often and who generate a lot of income. In Direct Marketing and CRM this is described as Frequency and Monetary Value. On top of these two metrics would be Recency, a person who interacted recently is a better prospect than one who last interacted a while ago (more likely defected).

In the introduction I mentioned many bloggers are confused. They think the only way of monetizing their traffic is to build up masses of ads and make them almost impossible to avoid. Well, sadly while that might generate some cash now it is likely to kill your blog. You see what we are after is Lifetime Value rather than short term value.

So what is the alternative? As Nick recommends you can alter your approach to how you display your advertising. Fresh content can have no adverts at all, or slimmed down, while archives can have more. You can selectively show ads based on traffic source as another idea.

My personal favourite though is to not rely on advertising at all but produce a product that your target audience will love, particularly your loyal members. Information products are ideal for this but others such as tools would also work. As someone becomes more involved in your blog they will trust you more and be more inclined to buy from you.

Converting up the ladder

As someone moves from the bottom to the top of the ladder they become more predisposed to agree with what you have to say, to tell others and to buy from you. This is so easily abused. Do not burn out your loyal members with hard sell and by taking them for granted.

To move people up the ladder takes consistency and care. Each person needs to feel like they are getting value from your blog and that you are an approachable human being with their best interests at heart. I think you genuinely do need to care about your audience and most people can sniff out a fraud. Respond to comments and feedback. Answer emails. Thank people. Congratulate them. Link out. Be polite and courteous. Be generous.

While a one-off killer post can draw people in at the bottom of the ladder, only regular good stuff and interaction can keep them and move them up. Ensure you do not have a spike of activity then a lull otherwise you will undo all your hard work.

Bottom Line

If you take away one point from this post it should be this; what the visitor experiences will be their lasting impression. Make sure their experience is ALWAYS a good one. Don’t just meet expectations, exceed them.

Summary

It’s hard work this blogging business isn’t it? I hope I have given you some ideas for how this loyalty stuff works. Please let us know if this matches your experience?

Author: Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.

6 thoughts on “The Blog Loyalty Ladder

  1. Yeah…I go to some blogs and can’t hit the back button fast enough.

    4000 ads and 10 words of content’ (mostly spun gibberish). The whole “monetize” at all costs, adding no value at all to the visitor, blogging model is a waste of web space.

    Very interesting to be able to get to the
    Advocates/Ambassadors level. I’m way off the mark, however it’s good to see where to aim for, and how to achieve that. Think value.

  2. Reader engagement is key. Ask your readers pointed questions and expect answers. The more engaged they are, the more loyal they’ll be. I’ve noticed that keeping my readers engaged and delivering excellent content is the key to readers that return over and over again. Make sure they’re always left wanting more and will return to get it.

  3. I like what you said about not just meeting expectations but actually exceeding them. Offering true value in your blogging will most definitely keep readers going up the loyalty ladder.

  4. Another way to keep them coming back is doing case studies. I have noticed a lot of the good blogs with loyal following perform case studies quiet often.

    ~ Corey

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