Over the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve gone about growing my blog. I’ve taken a look at what I’ve done that has worked well for me and what I’ve done that hasn’t.

And you know what? I realized that there’s one thing I do — one simple principle — that gets me huge results with relatively little work on my part.

What is it?

I bribe offer incentives to my readers.

How I’ve harnessed the power of incentives

I wanted a lot of comments on my blog when I was first starting out, so I added the “You Should Comment!” thing in the sidebar. And it had an immediate effect. I know several readers here have implemented the comment policy and reported similar results.

I wanted more newsletter subscribers. In the early days of this blog (like, way back in November 2010), my newsletter freebie thing was my 101 Ways to Battle Blogger’s Block ebook. But while I know that blogger’s block is a problem a lot of us can face from time to time, it wasn’t enough of a pressing issue to make the incentive (the ebook) super effective. I spent a day writing the 101 Ways You’re Killing Your Blog ebook (enter your email address in the sidebar form to get a copy) and my number of opt-ins increased instantly. The right incentive made all the difference.

I wanted people coming back to my blog on the days that I don’t update it (I update every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), so I added first the Daily Blogging Diary and then the Blog Directory.

I had a goal to get more backlinks, so I set up the Mentions page (and sidebar widget) to thank the people that linked to me. I’ve been getting at least a couple mentions/backlinks every day since then!

How else I plan to use the power of incentives

I want more RSS subscribers, so I’m going to come up with an ebook that you can download only if you’ve subscribed to the feed.

I’m going to launch a Facebook fan page soon, and I’ll give away some books, ebooks, Amazon gift cards, domain names, or something else to entice people to “Like” the page.

I want more people to buy the products I’m an affiliate for, so I’m going to offer free bonus products or services to those who buy through one of my affiliate links. This will help encourage them to buy through me rather than through someone else who’s hawking the same products.

What else could you incentivize?

IncentivizingWell…

  • You could pay people to guest post for you, or give them a free copy of your product or service.
  • I’m sure there’s something you could do on Twitter (other than an annoying auto-DM saying that you have a wonderful FREE gift for me!) to get more followers. Maybe a Twitter contest every so often?
  • If you write an awesome guest post on a big blog, maybe throw out the boring author bio like “Tristan blogs about blogging over at Blogging Bookshelf.” Instead, make it be something like “Tristan is offering FREE consulting (a $79 value) to everyone who subscribes to his blog within the next 24 hours.” Much more powerful, isn’t it?

There’s undoubtedly more you could do, and while I can’t think of anything else right now, I’m sure YOU have a few brilliant ideas, so make sure you enlighten us in the comments.

The bottom line

Now, I can imagine someone leaving a comment that says something like, “Well that’s all well and good that you’re getting more newsletter subscribers from your new ebook, but how valuable are they really? Aren’t you just bribing them to get them to submit their email address? Aren’t they low quality leads?” Well, yes and no. Yes, not every person who signs up to my mailing list will stay on it. I know some sign up just to get the free ebook.

But I’d rather have 10 people sign up and have 6 of them stay on than having just 3 people sign up. (My actual ratio is better than that, I just threw those numbers out there.)

The underlying assumption that I make here regarding every incentive you offer (and really the bottom line) is that it is valuable. As long as you create value, your readers don’t care that they’re being bribed.

Here’s an example. I am currently subscribed to the single most annoying email list EVER! It’s the Borders (bookstore) newsletter. I get SO many emails from them, and I kind of hate it. But you know why I’m still a subscriber? Every once in a while I’ll get a 50% coupon. And that’s just too good to pass up. Yes, they’re bribing me and I’m fully aware of it, but I don’t care! I get books for half off!

Provide great value and no one will see it as a bribe. They’ll think about how lucky they are that they got/found something so good… for free :)

  • Do you agree that offering incentives is important?
  • What incentives do you offer your readers on your blog?
  • What kinds of blogging goals do you have that could be reached by incentivizing?
  • Is there anything you’d like to see from me that would make Blogging Bookshelf a better hub for bloggers?

This is one of my favorite posts that I’ve written recently. If you liked it, please share it via whatever social bookmarking/media service(s) tickle your fancy.

Also, be sure to check out my new MakeMoneyBlogging.net site (and subscribe to the RSS feed) if you haven’t already.