I add a few “engagement” features to this site.
Blogging is more than just using blogging software to create and edit posts. After all, if someone shouts in an empty room, does her voice make a sound? An important part of blogging is to attract and retain readers. That’s where content, SEO, and site design come into play.
I’m a strong believer that once you get a visitor to your site, the site’s overall design can help keep them there, at least for longer than the average 30 seconds. (Read Jakob Nielsen’s books for the sad truth about site/page visit lengths.) You can do this by making sure the site is legible and by including navigation features that make it easy to find interesting content.
I read an excellent article on Connected Internet today: “Best WordPress Engagement Plugins: Make Users Read More Posts“. The author lists several plugins — some of which I already use or have tried in the past — that’ll help keep site visitors on your site, reading more content. I added two of them today.
Readers Posts is a plugin that offers three features:
- Within The Loop, indicate how many readers have read a post before you.
- List the most recently viewed posts.
- List the most viewed (i.e., popular) posts.
I installed the second of these three options in the sidebar of aneclecticmind.com. It began working immediately, drawing information from the WordPress database to list the ten most recently viewed posts. Refresh the page after a few minutes and the list changes. This site has, on average about 5 visitors online at any time and they don’t always come to the site’s Home page. That, of course, is the drawback of any plugin that lists recently read posts — it only lists the posts that have been read on their own page — not on the Home page or archive page. In a way, that’s a good thing. It means the person reading a post is reading it because he found it via a search engine or used a link on the site to read it. He’s reading it because he wants to read it (or thinks he does; as we all know, search engines don’t always display desired results). That’s more meaningful than Home page reads, which could include lots of articles that the visitor just isn’t interested in at all.
The benefit of this: site visitors are shown a list of articles that other visitors have found interesting. I love this feature because it shows me what people are coming to the site to read and it helps me write more content of interest to visitors.
If you try this plugin, don’t be alarmed when you click the link above and arrive at a German-language site. Scroll down on that page and you’ll find an English-language translation. Although it isn’t perfect grammar (what is?), it’s certainly good enough to understand the installation and configuration process.
Landing Sites is a very cool plugin that does a bunch of things, when installed correctly:
- It checks to see if the visitor was referred to the page from one of several popular search engines. It the visitor has not, it stops working.
- It displays a message with the name of the search engine and the search word(s) or phrase used to find the page.
- It displays a list of links to posts on your site that also match the search criteria.
What I like about this plugin is that it only displays content if a visitor has arrived at the site by clicking a link in a popular search engine’s results list. I put it at the top of the sidebar, where visitors are most likely to see it when they arrive at the page.
Installing the plugin isn’t difficult, although you really do need to follow the instructions on the page you download it from. If you copy and paste the code right from that page, you’ll need to modify all the single and double quote characters so they’re straight quotes when pasted into your template file. (I didn’t notice this at first and got PHP errors. It was an easy enough fix.) The result is what you see if you happened to arrive at a page on my site via popular search engine results link. You can try searching for Hermosa Ranch Insanity (the test link I used) and clicking the link to content on my site to see what I mean.
The benefit of this, of course, is that if the article the visitor came to read isn’t enough for him, he’s given other possible articles to try. He may or may not follow the links, but at least they’re there for him. You could keep him on the site longer.
Read the Connected Internet article. It tells you more about these two plugins, as well as others I currently use or have tried in the past. You might find overlap among features; pick the plugin you like best. Give them a try and see how they affect your visitor stats.