It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game, but I think what’s really important in building a high quality mental health blog is engagement with the mental health community. This has little to do with numbers and a whole lot to do with human connection. I’m by no means an expert on any of this, but here are some strategies I’ve stumbled across in my time blogging that hopefully you might find useful when it comes to engagement.
Interact with the blogging community
This is my biggest recommendation. Read other blogs that are in your niche, and like and comment on those blogs. Search in the WordPress reader for blogs in that niche that you’re not following yet. Also, check who else is commenting on the blogs you’re following; that can be a good way to connect with some new people who are interested in the same kind of topics. Be genuine about trying to engage, because if you get spammy about it, you’re only likely to generate eye rolls.
Make sure your gravatar is connected to your blog site. Click on your gravatar image on the top right corner of the WordPress reader website, and scroll down to profile links. Make sure your correct blog address is there. Sometimes I’ll see someone has followed me and I’m interested in checking out their blog, but I can’t get to it because I get a message saying the blog no longer exists.
If you get an idea from someone else’s post for a topic you want to write about, run with it. Just make sure to include a link to their post in your own post. It’s a good way to show you appreciate other bloggers and are part of the community dialogue.
Make your blog easy to read
I think this is particularly important in the mental health blogging niche, since a lot of us have problems with concentration related to our illnesses. Pay attention to the length of your paragraphs. With really long paragraphs you run the risk that the reader (such as me) won’t be able to maintain focus through a long unbroken wall of text and will give up on reading that post. That doesn’t mean you can’t have long posts; just break them up into smaller paragraphs, and maybe throw an image in there somewhere.
Also, think about whether your choices of font and background colours are are easy to read. Bright colours may add visual interest, but if they’re making it harder to focus on the text readers may be less likely to finish the whole post, which means they’re not going to be interacting with what you have to say.
Include some evergreen content
Evergreen content doesn’t go out of date, and people will continue to read and engage with it well after it’s first published. A sign that you’ve got some evergreen content is when you keep getting a trickle of views/likes/comments weeks or months after you’ve published a post. Consider doing follow-up posts on those topics or doing similar kinds of posts every so often to get a mix of evergreen and right-now kind of content.
Use social media
I’m not on Facebook or Instagram, so I can’t comment on those. On Twitter, you definitely get back what you put in. I tend to find Twitter overwhelming so I’m not very active on it, and that’s reflected in the amount of traffic that it directs to my blog.
With Pinterest, I used to pin straight from my published blog posts, and got very little traffic. At some point I started creating designs on Canva and using those to make pins connected to my blog posts. This bumped up my traffic from Pinterest considerably. It’s hard to say how many of those people are actually engaging with my posts, but at least there’s the possibility.
I’m certainly not a search engine optimization (SEO) guru. Wordpress doesn’t offer advanced SEO tools on the free plan, so I have no experience there, but there are still some things you can do. I got almost no traffic from search engines in the early days, and it wasn’t until my blog had grown substantially that I started to see that it was reaching people doing mental health-related searches Still, I think it’s worth getting a foundation of some basic SEO strategies in place right from the get-go.
Google loves external links to your site; these show that not only are you active on your blog, but you’re out there in the broader online community. These links can be hard to accumulate, but guest posting on other sites (see the next section) can definitely help. Internal links also matter; this refers to links you include in a post to other posts on your site. These links can also help your readers to refer back to your other content they may have missed originally. Google Search Console is a useful tool for keeping track of all this.
Google (and of course blog readers) pays attention to your post name and headings, so make sure those accurately reflect your content. You can also use tags for your posts, although keep in mind WordPress allows a maximum of 15 tags, after which it will just ignore all your tags. Making sure your tags are relevant helps people to find your posts. Google can’t see the images on your site, but what it can see is the “alt text” for each image, so you should enter a descriptive alt text for every image you use. This is also helpful for any of your readers who are visually impaired.
Share your story
If you share your story with popular mental health sites like Stigma Fighters and Time to Change you can reach a much broader audience, and that can bring some brand new readers back to engage with your blog. You can find listings of a variety of sites you can submit your writing to in my posts Spreading your writing wings and Ways to share your story.
Another option is to keep an eye out for fellow bloggers looking for a guest poster, or talk to a blogger you engage with regularly about doing a collaboration. It can help you connect with other bloggers you might not have encountered yet.
Other sources of information
There are countless sites and articles with tips about increasing blog traffic. Probably the most useful I’ve come across is a post on Startbloggingonline.com. It has an extensive list of options, and while some of them are more business-oriented, many are also useful for the casual blogger. A lot of sites focus on monetization, and it’s easy to start feeling like you’re drowning in the sea of information when it comes to that. Keep in mind whether tips on a given site are geared toward a blog with the same purpose as yours, because pushy marketing strategies are probably not going to be very successful with a smaller-scale mental health blog.
There is no one right way to blog. The most important thing is that it feels right for you. Having engagement on your blog, whether that’s 10 loyal followers or 1000, can help make the blogging experience more meaningful.
What has helped you to generate engagement on your blog?