I’ve made a few improvements to my blog over the weekend, and I share them with you [including screenshots and resource links] so you can get ideas for improving your own blog.
1. Remove clutter from your blog.
Before blogs became popular most web sites were pretty focused. With the rise of content management systems [like WordPress] all kinds of unnecessary stuff started to clutter web sites.
Clutter comes in 2 forms:
- Unimportant meta information
- Unimportant widgets
2 real life examples for blog clutter
Until today my blog had 2 useless pieces of meta info.
a) The blog post titles were preceded by the date.
The date is pretty useless for reading the article, especially given that the year was not included. So you couldn’t even figure out whether the post was from this year or 10 years old.
Removing the publish-date makes it easier for readers, and it moves the content up.
b) There was a clickable category link below every article.
Why was it useless? Because my blog has only one category. So the category link gave readers the same content that the Blog page already presents.
Removing this unnecessary link
- Prevents the reader from clicks with frustrating results.
- Frees attention for the actual content.
Consider a big clean-up for your blog and rigorously remove everything that does not serve a clear purpose.
Clutter is bad!
- Unnecessary items make it harder for readers to quickly ‘get’ the important parts of your page.
- A cluttered pages is visually less attractive. [uuugly]
- It distracts readers from the actions you want them to take. I.e. from your marketing goals.
The 2 examples above required editing the WordPress theme, which is not doable for most people. It’s quite easy, however, to find someone on Freelancer sites or forums who can make these changes in minutes.
Often clutter can be removed through easy-to-use theme settings, and through removing useless widgets by going to “Appearance – Widgets” in your WordPress dashboard.
It’s as easy as drag and drop.
2. Enhance your blog comments.
Comments are the most fun aspect of blogging. [Hint!] But the rise of social media and the rise of spammers makes it harder to build a commenting community on your blog.
Many people will comment on Google Plus or Facebook or Pinterest instead of writing on your blog. Like many things blog commenting is getting more and more fragmented.
Jim Connolly, one of my favorite bloggers, took it to the extreme by completely disabling blog comments and sending readers to social media sites for commenting.
One the other end of the spectrum is Mark W. Schaefer who enjoys an awesome community of commenters on his blog, despite Facebook & Co.
I’m going the Schaefer-way, at least for comments, and hope one day my blog community is just as busy and enthusiastic.
There are numerous ways to enhance the blog comment section of your blog.
- You could integrate comment systems from social media sites like Facebook or Google Plus.
- You could add a comment notification systems that emails commenters when follow-up comments are published.
- You could add features that reward commenters with do-follow links and additional goodies.
Beware that each “enhancement” can also increase complexity for your readers and for yourself. That’s why I kept my update simple.
For now I avoid integrating external comment systems. I rather have as much conversation as possible on my blog.
I installed the free version of the popular CommentLuv plugin.
Then I adjusted the settings to remove as much plugin clutter as possible. For example I removed the CommentLuv logo, and provided a clearer description next to the CommentLuv checkbox.
What does it do?
CommentLuv looks up the blog of every commenter and allows you to add one of your blog posts to your comment.
Why do I like the idea?
- It’s a great reward for commenters, because the chance that a reader clicks an actual post title is higher than clicking the blog link that’s attached to the commenter’s name.
- It’s interesting for me and for readers, because seeing the post title gives you an immediate idea what the commenter is writing about.
3. Keep readers on your blog by adding different ways for content discovery.
Many readers will read or skim one post and, even if they like it, click away to other web sites.
You goal, however, is to keep readers on your site. That’s why I added 3 ways to discover more blog posts to my sidebar.
- SocialMetricsPro [afflink] displays the most shared posts. It includes post thumbnails.
- The native WordPress latest post widget shows the newest posts.
- The Better WordPress Recent Comments plugin shows the latest comments and a pic of the commenter.
I don’t know yet, whether this change will have the desired effect. I will find out in a few weeks when checking if the average number of pages viewed per reader has increased.
Other popular methods to help readers discover content are hover popups presenting post topics, often combined with info from social media. For example: “Your friend John Doe like post XYZ on Facebook.”
Since, as a reader of other blogs, I hate those hover popups getting in my way when reading, I decided to not use them.
Now it’s your turn.
If you want to improve your blog consider these 3 options:
- Remove clutter.
- Enhance commenting.
- Facilitate content discovery.