Readers come to your blog for its content, so it’s important to show them straight away what you have to offer.
Your recent posts will hopefully go some way towards doing this, but to rely on them alone is to short-change the long-term effort you’ve put into building your blog. This post contains 9 blog hacks you can use to show new (and regular) visitors the best that your blog has to offer.
1. Introduce highlighted content. This could be a list of reader favorites, popular posts, most commented posts, and so on. Most bloggers handle this with a ‘Popular Posts’ widget. This is one of the most important elements of your sidebar, as it shows new visitors straight away why your site is worth exploring.
2. Take control of your highlighted content. Though most bloggers handle ‘Popular Posts’ with a plug-in there are plenty of benefits to doing it manually. You can choose which posts you want to highlight, and mix up new and old content. If you’ve got a guest-post at another blog, or if one of your posts makes it big on social media, you can tailor your ‘Popular Posts’ to suit the incoming audience.
3. Make your highlighted content unmissable. Your list of killer posts is probably more useful and interesting to new visitors than anything else in your sidebar. The perfect place for it is right under your feed button, towards the top of your sidebar. If you want to be more inventive with your placement you can, but keep it above the fold.
4. Use images to draw attention to your best posts. Images are eye-contact magnets. Rather than displaying your best posts as text links, why not create images for them? The strategy I use on my own blog is to make a medium-sized button from the image I included with the post, and add the headline as text over the image. It’s something a lot of readers seem to enjoy interacting with, and it adds some more visual interest to the blog.
5. Regularly change your highlighted content. Don’t forget about regular readers when highlighting content. If your list is static then visitors will engage with it once and forget about it, thinking they’ve seen everything it has to offer.
If you regularly change your highlighted posts you give new and old visitors a reason to engage with the content you’ve highlighted. One advantage to using images to highlight your content, as suggested above, is that it’s immediately clear when you’ve added or subtracted an item from the list.
6. Give readers somewhere to go when they’ve finished reading. Many bloggers use a ‘related posts’ plug-in, and while I do like this plug-in, I suspect that it suffers somewhat from being outside the content of the post. Firstly, feed readers miss it. Secondly, readers turn down their attention levels once they’ve finished an article. One way to best ensure readers explore your related content is to recommend it at the end of your article. For example:
Interested in this topic? You might enjoy another article I’ve written called …
Adding the suggestion to your article will catch readers while they’re still in ‘reading mode’ and devoting maximum attention to your words. However, I’d suggest using this only when you’ve written something else directly related to the topic. If your recommendation is spot-on, readers are likely to listen to other recommendations you make in future.
7. Weave targeted internal links into your posts as you write. This can be done badly, or it can be done well. A good guide is to make sure your links are highly relevant to the keywords you’re making a hyperlink. Linking a specific match (for example, linking the words ‘writing with clarity’ to an article you’ve written on the same topic) will be appreciated by your readers. Linking vague terms (like ‘blogging’, or ‘making money’), however, is not good usability because it’s simply too unclear where the link will lead.
8. Mix up posts linking out with posts linking in. A great way to draw readers deeper into your blog is to highlight great content in dedicated posts. You could highlight a selection of the best posts last month, or the most popular posts on a specific topic. You might highlight posts from this time last-year, as Lifehacker does, or list some undiscovered gems from the early days of your blog.
9. Give readers a birds-eye view of your blog. Your archives present the perfect opportunity to allow readers to view your blog from a top-down perspective, with everything it has to offer on one page. The SRG-Clean Archives plug-in presents all your post headlines under sub-headings for each month, and displays the comment count besides each. This allows readers to browse through your headlines and explore those they’re interested in.