Dear Abby: Advice Columns for Bloggers

Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers were pen names for twin sisters, women that supplied advice columns to newspapers, and earning tens of millions of loyal readers along the way. Ann passed away in 2002 and Pauline (Abigail) died in 2013. Both women left a legacy for providing “salty advice” and have been copied by others on- and off-line. The way that these sisters reached their audience is something that you can incorporate in your blog too, attracting fresh readers and building a solid audience.


Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer, better known ...

Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer, better known as Ann Landers, newspaper advice columnist.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abby and Ann built huge followings for themselves because they answered the matter by getting to the heart of the matter. Ann started her column in 1955 and Abby in 1956, by the 1970s both women claimed tens of millions of readers daily with their columns syndicated and often appearing side-by-side in newspapers large and small.

The columns were simple with two or three brief letters or excerpts from readers provided with each woman providing answers that were pithy, brutally honest and entertaining. The writer’s anonymity was guaranteed unless they preferred to have their own names shared. Often, it wasn’t what was asked that turned out to be controversial and the talk of the office, rather it was the witty advice Ann and Abby shared.

Your Blog

Incorporating an advice column to your blog can be a great way to attract and building your following. The questions you welcome should, of course, be related to your blog and your answers must demonstrate at least minimum topic proficiency. Don’t think for a moment that you can con your audience — always provide helpful advice for the letters you choose to publish.

Schedule your column to run regularly, perhaps once per week. Remember, your columns will always be available to your readers, therefore once you get started you will assemble a collection of articles that will get read time and again. Provided that you stick to a regimen and offer solid, helpful and even entertaining advice.

Column Particulars

Unlike the newspaper columns, your readers can offer feedback too. This means that you will want to keep the comments section open, perhaps ending your advice with a “Readers, your thoughts?” statement to elicit further comments. Share the link love too by making it easy for people to leave comments and receive links back to their site.

An advice column can reward your readers in a variety of ways. Consider the person that supplies a question: if this person does not want to remain anonymous, then you can use his name, link to his site and “shout out” his contribution on Facebook, Twitter and other social sharing sites. Essentially, you provide a format to showcase an individual or two, allowing your other readers to chime in and offer their own advice as well.

Fielding Questions

There are several ways that you can field questions from your readers. First, you can ask for assistance by posting an article to your site. That move alone will likely trigger interest. Expect to spell out more details, if necessary. Second, approach individual readers directly. Ask for their help to get the ball rolling. Third, modify your contact page to make it possible for people to send in their questions. Include a note that not every question can be read or posted.

What will an advice column do for your blog? A few things including broadening your audience, adding an entertainment to your site, demonstrating your versatility and enhancing your authority. Naturally, you will want to carefully research your responses and provide correct information at all times. Your advice column should be run consistently, not overwhelm your site and add value to your readers. Do all this and your traffic will flow.

See Also5 Reasons Why Every Freelance Writer Should Blog

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  1. Completely agree, advice column is one way to reach out with the audience and somehow an effective way to build relationship.