10 Tools To Make Your Blog Shine

sharethis Having a blog is only step one if you are trying to provide any kind of content. Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote the post 5 Social Tools To Help You Spread Your Awesomeness Outside Your Site in which I talked about coming out to spread your content and generate some traffic back to your site. This week we’ll go over some tools to implement inside.

The objectives of implementing these tools are:

  • Build a better user experience.
  • Promote user interaction, after all, a blog is a conversation platform.
  • Make it easy for your visitor to share and promote your content.
  • Make you look like a real pro.

So here is the list of tools, they are all fairly easy to install:

1. Facebook and Twitter Sharing Buttons

retweet While you want to provide the possibility to share to a wide variety of networks, it has been proven that displaying individual buttons for the two most popular sites increases the chances of getting your content shared. Also, if you have been active on Facebook and Twitter and other sites, you have already experienced that most of your traffic is coming from these two sites.

Facebook provides its own code to install directly into your content and while Twitter doesn’t provide its own, you can use Tweetmeme, which is the one you have probably seen already in the majority of sites.

2. Sharing To The Rest Of The Web

Of course Facebook and Twitter are not the only sites and your visitor very well can move in other circles, make it easy for them to share your content to any network. Applications such as ShareThis or AddThis make very easy to implement, usually through a plugin that you can install from your dashboard and a little configuration.

Look for a service that can give a little more, in this case, both services provide analytics.

3. “Follow Me” Links

Another very common practice and a great way to stay connected to your tribe when they are not on your site. If a new visitor likes your content, he/she would most likely love to network with you in other places. Make it very visible on your site and include only the main ones, if you have profiles in 15 different networks it can get a little confusing.

4. Commenting Systems

Commenting systems are a great way to take the conversation to the next level. Services like Disqus or IntenseDebate are now very popular and their installation is as easy as creating a profile and adding a plugin on your blog dashboard. The main feature is that they take the conversation out of your blog into common places making it easier for your visitor to keep the interaction flowing instead of being just a single comment that they can otherwise forget.

Another great tool in this field is Echo, integrating activity from different social networks.

5. Facebook Widgets

Leverage form the most popular network in the planet. Facebook now allows you to display different widgets inside your blog. These widgets include commenting boxes, fan page badges, live streams, fan boxes and, in case you didn’t know, you can now connect your Facebook status to update your Twitter.

6. Promote Inside Navigation

One of the things bloggers usually watch is their “Bounce Rate”, visitors that come in, read one article and surf away from your site. A great way of engaging the reader into navigating your blog a little more before he/she leaves is by promoting related articles. LinkWithin is a plugin that inserts links with images to other content inside your blog at the bottom of each post.

Your visitor mostly likely go for a couple of more clicks if he/she enjoyed your article and is presented with similar stories.

7. Crowdsourcing

uservoice If you use your blog to promote a product or a service, social media allows you to give your customers a voice. Crowdsourcing is a fairly new concept that allows a community to become part of the development process by sharing their ideas, feedback and even voting for the best ideas on how to make your services better.

If you are concerned about having a complaint made public think about this, social media is about honesty and transparency, and there is nothing better that solving a problem in front of everybody…

UserVoice lets you create a forum where your customer can express that feedback and easily integrate it into your site.

8. Polls

Another way to provide different kind of content and engage your reader to participate. PollDaddy is a free and very user-friendly service you can use to configure any kind of poll and generates the code to just grab and dump right into your content. The truth is that people love expressing themselves and finding out what others think about the same topic.

Create a post that features a poll or display one to your blog’s sidebar.

9. Social Toolbars

You have probably seen them at the bottom of a blog, they not only add sharing capabilities to networking sites but can also integrate external tools such as your Facebook Fan Page or a Twitter feed come live in your site. Great examples of these bars are Gigya and Wibiya, both free and made available through simple plugins you can install directly from your blog’s dashboard.

Another popular toolbar is Meebo, which integrates instant messaging right on your site. Just be careful and make sure these services are not making your site too slow to annoy your readers.

10. Use Of Other Media

User other forms of media when possible, video for example has proven to be an excellent way to engage the user. Other ways are to use clever photography or even add podcasting to your site. Blogging platforms have made it very easy to add these types of files to your content and you can probably add some rich content with just a couple of clicks.

Don’t limit yourself to text, give your visitor a more visual experience.

Final Thought

Content will always be king, focus first on providing value through it. Having the latest technology will not compensate for not having it.

  • dianreid

    Thanks for this. Just installed LinkedWithin on my site…I'd seen it around, so thanks for sharing what it is and how to get it =)

  • I see it on your site… cool!

  • I see it on your site… cool!

  • carriekish

    Thanks for the ideas! I am just getting ready to start posting videos on my blog and facebook (challenge from my coach). I love the idea of using polls in the sidebar. I hadn't even thought of that! Love, Carrie

  • Hey Carrie, let me know what kind of videos because I have a couple of tools I can recommend…

  • Thanks for this. Just installed LinkedWithin on my site…I'd seen it around, so thanks for sharing what it is and how to get it =)

  • I see it on your site… cool!

  • carriekish

    Thanks for the ideas! I am just getting ready to start posting videos on my blog and facebook (challenge from my coach). I love the idea of using polls in the sidebar. I hadn't even thought of that! Love, Carrie

  • Hey Carrie, let me know what kind of videos because I have a couple of tools I can recommend…

  • Thanks for the post. These are insightful ideas.

  • kenharperii

    Nice collection of ideas; Thank you. I had already added Facebook and Twitter buttons, and a share to the web button, and WP comments, but hadn't thought about adding Discus as a different platform for comments, or adding internal navigation links to related blogs to reduce bounce rate, or polling visitors to add more discussion of the topic. Good stuff !! Should make for a better experience.

  • Thanks for your comment Ken. I gotta say that Disqus is one of those tools that once you start using and getting comfortable with, you start seeing all the potential and hopefully you get the most out of it.

    I'm glad you found the post helpful and hope to see you again.

    Francisco

  • Great roundup of tools and practical tips, I'll be implementing most of these (well, the ones I haven't already. Kind of hard not to notice that you've implemented most of them here too… and as usual, everything is presented in a clear, straightforward way – showing as much as telling. Thanks for that, I'll be back…

  • Hey Tobias, glad you find it helpful. I have tested everything and I think the only one I have removed was the Gigya toolbar because I was taking too long to load…

    Thank you and happy new year!

  • Thanks for this post, Francisco! I was already using some of these tools, but I wasn't aware of LinkWithin — I just installed it and it's a terrific plugin. I know I should make the leap to Disqus in order to generate more conversation, and I'll take the plunge soon.

    I just love the design of your blog. I know you're using Thesis; I am too, but I'm obviously not a design genius. πŸ˜‰ I started blogging last October and I still have a lot to learn. I'm curious — what font are you using? And are you using a skin? I've seen that there are some popular Thesis skins out there, and I'm thinking that one of these could help spruce up my design.

    Thanks again for all your great posts!

  • Hey Pam, the fonts I'm using are Rockwell for headlines and Cambria for the content. The blog is on Thesis but there is no skin. I love getting Thesis naked and start creating something from scratch, it's really a blank canvas. Let me know if you need help…

    BTW, Disqus will be as easy to install as the LinkWithin plugin.

  • But what about the Web-safe font caveat? I *love* the way your fonts work with your design — but have you had any feedback from users who don't have them installed?

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