What Do Your Readers Want? Find Out Online

Authors do not write only for themselves but for readers. A great way to find out what your readers are interested in, so you can write about those topics and attract more readers, is to analyze online search results and then capitalize on the information you find. Using search engine and keyword results, questionnaires, and Google Alerts can lead to giving readers what they want.

Once an author writes a book, he needs to promote it online. The two most important ways to market online are through your website and your blog. While a blog may be incorporated into a website, it is important to remember they are two separate entities, though connected, that have two separate groups of content and may also provide you with different search results. Your online presence should also include having your books listed at online bookstores like Amazon, being a guest blogger at other people’s blogs, having online interviews, and numerous other places where you post or are talked about, but only your blog and your website are going to allow you to find out what is attracting your potential readers to your site and whether or not they are staying. Another resource, Google Alerts, can help you find ways to attract people to your website.

Use Your Stats to Find Out What Readers Want

Your website provider should allow you to access stats for your website, usually on the control panel. It’s important to look at your stats regularly, even daily. Your blog provider will also provide you with a stats page. These pages will usually have nice graphs showing details by day, such as that you had 20 hits on Monday, 27 on Tuesday, 33 on Wednesday, 197 on Thursday and 14 on Friday. While the rest of your traffic is pretty steady, it’s important to find out why your visitors skyrocketed on Thursday. Did you post a blog that day or the day before that people were really interested in, and if so, why were they interested? Sometimes you’ll post a blog and find your visits skyrocket, but the visitors were looking for something you posted two weeks ago, not the most recent blog; therefore, you have to look beyond the numbers to the details of the search engine results.

If you stay current and anticipate what your readers will be searching for, you usually can attract a large number of people to your website. For example, my friend Tyler Tichelaar blogs about the King Arthur legend at http://childrenofarthur.wordpress.com/. Recently the new Starz series “Camelot” premiered so he wrote a blog about one of the characters, Leontes, in the show who is not usually in the legend—the result is that viewers were looking online to find out more about this character and whether he belonged to the legend. My friend’s blog results skyrocketed the night the show premiered and the day following. He also capitalized on the recent Royal Wedding by writing blogs about the British royal family’s claims to being descended from King Arthur. He regularly posted blogs about the royal family and King Arthur for a few weeks before the wedding and had his highest day of visits to his website the day of the royal wedding. Of course, in these cases, he was anticipating what his potential readers would want.

Other times, you may not know what your readers will want. For example, you might have published a book about raising children, and you are posting a blog about being a parent. Each time you look at your blog stats, you find you are getting only a handful of visits each day. In that case, a good idea is to look at what is usually called something like the “Search Engine Results” or “Search Engine Terms” or “Keyword Searches” page. This information will give you a list of keywords or terms people typed into Google or another search engine that led them to your website.

For example, your visitors might have typed in “raising autistic children” or “single mothers.” The search engine will lead them to your site if you have words on your site similar to what they are looking for. Some terms might be obvious like “child-raising” but others you might not have ever anticipated such as “lawyers for divorced parents.” You may have nothing on your website about lawyers or divorce but the word “parents” is on your blog or website in numerous places. If you repeatedly see your top search engine terms include “single parents,” “divorce,” or “family law,” you may want to capitalize upon them. That’s writing for your readers. You now know a lot of people want information about how to be a good single parent, or how not to hurt their children when they are getting divorced. You might be selling a book that is only slightly relevant to those topics, but if you do a little research, talk to some divorced friends, and write a few blogs about children of divorce, you could attract more visitors who then may decide to read the book you have written. You might also discover you have now found the topic for your next book.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts are a great way to find out what people are saying about you online and also to keep up with what people are saying about your topic so you can join in the conversation and attract more visitors to your site. Signing up for Google Alerts is easy and free, although you can pay for more in-depth information if you want it. Just go to http://www.google.com/alerts and sign up for the terms for which you want to receive alerts, and decide how often you want to be notified—daily or weekly. Google Alerts will give you updates via email of whatever search terms you enter.

For example, if your name is Joan Roberts, and you wrote a book called “Decorating Celebrity Homes,” you would want to get results for the search terms “Joan Roberts” and “Decorating Celebrity Homes” so you can find out where your name and book are being mentioned online. But you will also want results for search terms you can use to find out what your readers want to read about and then capitalize by writing about those topics. You might choose terms like “celebrity,” “movie star,” or “famous homes.” You might also choose terms for a celebrity who is “hot” or being talked about a lot at the moment such as “Charlie Sheen” or “Arnold Schwarzenegger” as well as more general terms like “decorating Hollywood homes,” “interior decorating for movie stars” and “decorating million dollar homes.” These terms might help you find out which celebrity homes people are talking about, or which celebrities are in the news. A blog about Charlie Sheen’s house may get you a lot of visits. Granted, you may never have been to Charlie Sheen’s home, but when you see him on TV being interviewed, you can check out the wallpaper and furniture you see in his home and then post about it—what does how Charlie Sheen decorated his home say about his personality? I bet you’ll get a lot of visits on that topic—it’s an interesting way to analyze his recent odd behavior.

Other Online Ways to Find Out What Readers Want

You can find out what your readers want in many other ways online. Here are just a few additional suggestions:

  • Engage with readers in conversations online in forums on your website, Amazon, or other places to talk about books, and ask readers to propose new topics for you.
  • Have a questionnaire on your website.
  • Hold a contest with a free book giveaway on your website for the best new topic for your next book.
  • Make sure your email is accessible. A lot of people will write to you about your books and give you suggestions or additional information or ideas for your book. Be sure always to reply to the emails so you build up rapport with your biggest fans.
  • When you put up a new blog, tweet it, or post a link on Facebook. The more “Likes” or comments you get on a blog, the more you know that topic interests your readers.

A writer who doesn’t pay attention to what her readers want will soon discover that she doesn’t have any readers. By using the Internet and search terms, you can find out what is most interesting to your readers and capitalize on those topics by writing about them on your blog and website. The Internet provides authors with feedback about their topics and writing without their readers even knowing they are participating in a type of online questionnaire or survey. Take advantage of that information so you get more visitors, which can turn into book sales.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.