One of the things that every blogger knows is that it’s vital to keep readers on your blog. If you want to build a brand and an online presence, whether it’s to complement your business or if the blog is your actual business… your readers are what make it worth the while. Your readers are your customers. So in the same way that a retail store does its best to keep customers in the shop, browsing the products and chatting amongst themselves and with the store’s friendly and helpful staff… so a blog needs to keep readers on the blog, browsing the content (and maybe an online store), and – you guessed it – interacting in a social way.
Social media has gone far beyond the days of teenagers mucking about on MySpace. Nowadays, a website smacks of the Luddite if it does not have some social media elements incorporated. And the great thing is that you don’t need to be a programmer to implement this stuff anymore. All you need is the right know-how on your blogging platform and on the plugins that you can install, generally for free…
Today we’ll assume that you’re using WordPress, because, like it or not, WordPress is the biggest Web 3.0 blogging platform today. But don’t be disheartened if you’re running an alternative blogging platform – many very similar plugins are available for other platforms, or maybe even the same plugins rewritten for other platforms. Even if you can’t find the exact same plugin you’re after, learn about what the plugin does, and you’ll be able to find a similar one that does the same sort of thing. WordPress users, that goes for you too – if you can’t get a plugin to work for you, don’t hesitate to try another one. Some plugins will simply be more compatible with your blog, depending on the other things you’ve got installed.
Let’s get onto it, then: 10 plugins you must have to keep readers on your blog.
1. The WPtouch iPhone Theme Plugin
Everyone’s doing it these days – browsing the web on their smartphones, that is – so don’t miss out on this huge market sector by failing to install a mobile phone blog-optimizer plugin. This plugin will optimize your site for the smaller mobile browsers that many people will be using to view your site. Sites that don’t have this plugin will be awkward to read on the iPhone and other smartphones – sideways scrolling and text falling off the right side of the screen are an instant turn-off to modern blog readers. Do your blog justice on the mobile phone screen by setting up your smartphone plugin so that your blog looks good on the mobile’s browser.
2. UpPrev NYTime Style “Next Post” animated button plugin
Gone are the days of paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for clever and professional blog design. These days, you can simply install a free plugin to get the interactive “next post” button which pops up at the bottom of each article on the NYTimes website. With this button popping up when readers scroll to the bottom of each post, you’re sure to capture the attention of readers who would be interested in reading more – or those who scrolled quickly to the end because they weren’t really interested in the current page. Don’t lose readers – keep them on your blog, pushing them through to the next page until they find something they’re interested in, and getting them more interested in your products – or having them leave via one of your relevant, paid ads.
3. Broken Link Checker
How many times have you clicked “close” on a tab where the website contained broken links? One broken link is one too many in our modern and informational age. People don’t have the time and patience for sites with broken links, and one broken link suggests the presence of more. A blog with broken links loses its visitors’ trust very fast. So make sure that your links are in top shape and that you’re not sending your precious readers to ugly error pages. You’ll build trust in your readers when your links are never broken.
4. Google Friend Connect
No longer just a widget for Blogger, Google Friend Connect can easily be installed on any blog to achieve the same connected feel for your readers. Google’s clever algorithms will display, in the Google Friend Connect box, a mixture of random profile pics together with the profile pics of contacts of the person viewing your site. So if their friends are also publicly following the site through Google Friend Connect, your reader will see this and these connections build trust. Also, it adds the images of faces of real people to your blog, and it’s a known fact that the sight of real faces helps us to trust a website over sites which contain cartoons or no faces at all. By getting your reader to sign up to follow your blog through this plugin, it will help them return to your blog, again and again. After all, whoever deletes a feed from their RSS reader? Not many people. Your blog will keep coming up in their RSS reader on their Google Homepage, time and time again.
5. Thank Me Later
This little plugin allows your to have an automatic email sent to your commenters, wishing them thanks for the time they spent on your blog and for contributing to the discussion on a post. It’s a great way to build your brand as a business that cares – how many times have you been thanked for making a blog comment? Not often – and yet, this small gesture can encourage people to return to your blog… and it also sends them an email with a clickable link to your site, making it even easier for them to hang around on your blog.
Have you seen blogs lately with that cool little sharing doodat that slides up and down on the right side of the page when you scroll up and down? Sharebar is one of the most popular sharing plugins that will give you this facility and it is easy to customize, too. For instance, if you know your readers are more likely to be into Twitter or Stumbleupon, you can select those; if they are more likely to be Facebookies, then make sure the Facebook button is there in a prominent place on the sharing bar. It’s a neat and clever plugin that works so simply to retain visitors and it’s also an attractive and appealing gadget for your site.
7. Facebook Comments for WordPress
These days just about everyone is on Facebook. Let your posts go viral with this plugin, allowing people to make comments via their Facebook profiles. That way, not only do you get blog comments, but your readers will be inadvertently sharing your blog with their Facebook friends, every time. Score! And it looks great, too.
With this plugin your readers will feel connected to the other readers of your blog. WP-UserOnline will enable your blog to display a user-online count at all times. You can also set up a “Who’s online?” page on your blog that will detail visitor statistics and display where they come from, what they’re viewing and who they are. This plugin will make your blog feel so much more alive and the intrigue/curiosity factor alone will help retain readers each session.
9. WP Socializer
If you’re feeling snowed under by social media plugins, then just get this one and be done with all others. This plugin will allow you to stick social media buttons wherever you want on your site. Icons and links are also available, so you can customize the plugin to your exact specifications, making it streamlined with your blog. Your readers will be able to share your blog with their friends in any number of ways with this all-in-one plugin.
Forget “Older posts” and “Newer posts” – here comes WP-PageNavi with clever page buttons that get users clicking around your site to whichever pages they want to see. Buttons look better than plain text links and the added navigation will encourage readers to stay on your site, rather than click away in frustration if they can’t get around your blog easily enough. You can’t miss this plugin – it’s a gem.
As you can see, it doesn’t take much to help keep readers on your blog. Which plugin appeals to you the most? Which one do you think you’ll install first?
This is a guest post by Cathy.