If you’ve ever wondered how to increase traffic, gain followers, and keep readers on your blog, here are nine easy steps you can take right now to make your blog a better experience for your readers.
1. Turn off “Word Verification” for comments
Word verification discourages comments. If you want comments and engaged readers, make it easy for them to communicate and share their thoughts with you – you’ll be surprised what you learn! :) If you’re worried about trolls or spam, just turn on comment moderation. No comment will be posted without your approval.
From your Blogger Dashboard, go to Settings > Comments. Scroll down and find Show word verification for comments? Check No, then click Save Settings.
2. Use Linkwithin
This gets me every time! You’ve probably seen it before, but the LinkWithin widget shows similar posts from your blog underneath each post, with a thumbnail image. It gets me every time. I keep seeing interesting titles with enticing thumbnail images. And I click. And click. And keep clicking.
3. Optimize your RSS feed.
If I had to guess, I would say that 99% of the blog reading I do is from Google Reader. But Google Reader doesn’t give me the option to leave a comment down at the bottom of the post, when I’m done reading, and would naturally want to comment on the post. In order to leave a comment, I have to scroll at the way back up to the top of the post to click on the blog so I can leave a comment.
But you can make it super easy for your readers to comment by adding a link down at the bottom of your RSS feed that will encourage them to leave a comment or even share on Facebook or Twitter. I love this. I’m definitely more likely to comment if a blogger makes it easy for me! :)
Create a Feedburner account. Click on your feed, and go to Optimize > FeedFlare. Check Email This, Comments Count, Share on Facebook, and Stumble It! and Activate the service. You want at least those four, but not so many that your readers are overwhelmed and don’t know what to click.
Next you’ll need to redirect your Blogger feed to your new Feedburner feed. From your Blogger Dashboard, go to Settings > Site Feed. Look for the Post Feed Redirect URL box and type in your complete FeedBurner feed address. To find your feed address, go to your Feedburner account, and click on the little gray RSS button to the left of your blog’s name. The address that appears in the address bar at the top of the screen is your feed address. Save your new Blogger settings and you’re good to go!
WordPress users, check out the Ozh’ Better Feed plugin.
4. Allow Full Blog Feed
This is a highly debated topic. Should you allow readers to read your blog in an RSS reader? It might discourage them from coming to your site, right? But not allowing them to read your feed through their preferred method (an RSS reader) might discourage them from reading it altogether. For example, I prefer to do all my blog reading and browsing from one convenient location, Google Reader. All my favorite sites are bookmarked in one place, and I can easily see the newest posts as soon as they are posted. I check it several times a day, just like email. But if a blog doesn’t let me subscribe to its full feed, I don’t subscribe at all. And I hardly ever check it. The other blogs, I check several times a day. I’m definitely more likely to visit, engage, and comment on the blogs I check several times a day! :)
From your Blogger Dashboard, go to Settings > Site Feed. Confirm that Allow Blog Feeds is set to Full and save.
If the previous topic was highly debated, this one is just downright controversial! Keep in mind that taste in music is extremely personal and subjective, and think twice about having music playing in the background of your blog. At least think twice about having the music automatically start as soon as the page is opened. Some readers may already be listening to music in the background, and your site will be competing with whatever they’re listening to. It may deter some readers.
Alternatively, consider blogging a list of your favorite songs – songs that are inspiring you right then. Energetic songs for exercise. Upbeat songs for roadtrips. I would LOVE to read a post like that! :)
6. Take Advantage of your Sidebar
Your sidebar space is prime real estate. Use it to draw readers in and keep them engaged. Add links with photos to your favorite & most interesting posts to keep readers clicking. Our Best Bites is a really good example of this. They change the links seasonally and every time I visit there’s something new from their archives that I haven’t seen yet and want to click. I get drawn in every time!
7. Make Searching Easy
Help your readers find what they’re looking for, quickly and easily. They may remember a specific post of yours, but didn’t bookmark it. When they come back to your site, make it easy for them to find it. The best way to do this with a Blogger blog is to keep the navbar up at the top – don’t remove it! Your readers have no other way to search your blog without it. If you’re worried that it clashes with the design of your blog, you can change the color for a more professional look.
From your Blogger Dashboard, go to Design. Under Add and Arrange Page Elements, find the light blue navbar and click Edit to choose a new color.
8. Use Labels
Another way to keep readers clicking is to use Labels (aka tags and categories for WordPress users). If you write about a specific subject frequently, label it with a descriptive word or short phrase. Then if your readers want to see more posts on that topic, all they have to do is click the label at the bottom of the post, and all the posts you’ve written on that topic will come up. For example, a few of my labels are Scarves, My Favorite Things, and Kayaking.
9. Use Descriptive Hyperlinks
There are two ways to include links in your posts.
1. Click here for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes recipe.
2. Here is the Brownie Batter Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes recipe.
The benefits of the latter are twofold.
1. It stands out more. It’s easier to see. The eye is drawn to it. You know you’ll be taken to a post about Brownie Batter Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes.
2. Search Engine Optimization. If you link to another site and use a descriptive hyperlink, they will love you forever. The next time someone searches for something similar to the descriptive link you used, the more likely the page you linked to will be at the top of the search results. Love it!
So these are a few quick steps you can take right now to keep your readers happy, engaged, and clicking. I love to see these implemented on blogs I visit! What do you love to see on a blog? What makes you close the screen? Share you tips in the comments, and we can all improve. :)